Geoffrey M. Footner

Geoffrey Marsh Footner (September 1, 1923 – April 5, 2018[1]) was a maritime historian[2] who wrote articles and books about the wooden sailing yachts and commercial sailing vessels indigenous to the Chesapeake Bay.[3]

Geoffrey Marsh Footner
Born(1923-09-01)September 1, 1923
Baltimore, Maryland
DiedApril 5, 2018(2018-04-05) (aged 94)
Towson, Maryland
Alma materLoyola College
RelativesHulbert Footner (father)

Early life and educationEdit

Footner was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Gladys Marsh and (William) Hulbert Footner, a fiction and nonfiction writer.[4] His academic education at Loyola College was interrupted by enlistment in the United States Navy on 1 July 1943. He served in the Pacific and Atlantic theaters, and resigned his lieutenancy on 19 January 1954. He reentered Loyola College and received its liberal arts diploma following a period of further study.


In 1950 Footner established an international cargo brokerage firm, Footner & Company, with offices at the ports of Baltimore and New York and satellite air cargo offices at New York and Baltimore’s international airports. Footner and cargo broker Rolf Graage formed a company named Intermodal Transports, Inc., to containerize cargo for export by plane or ship.[5][6] Cargo container shipping was new at the time, and his port management company, Bay Shipping Agency of Baltimore and Norfolk, grew rapidly,([7] routing container vessels of the Dart Container Line between New York, Norfolk, Antwerp and other northern European ports, and moving them by barge and overland under one bill of lading. The firm contracted with several foreign-owned container lines. He sold Footner and Company in 1972, and his shipping company to the Evergreen Line of Taiwan in 1979. He then left the shipping business, returning occasionally as a consultant.

Footner began farming in the 1980s. Although the term "organic" was not yet in common use, he avoided using artificial fertilizers and pesticides. He sold grapes to Maryland winemakers and Eastern Shore and produce to Baltimore restaurants. Footner began writing articles about the degradation of the estuaries of the Chesapeake Bay, and promoting sustainable agriculture to stem the deterioration. He recommended the organization of a Chesapeake Bay Authority.

Career as a Writer HistorianEdit

Footner continued to write papers on Bay pollution, sailing and articles about the Chesapeake Bay and the history of the sailing craft. His first published book, titled The Last Generation: A History of a Chesapeake Shipbuilding Family, is the story of five generations of the Davis family shipwrights, and in particular the M. M. Davis & Company of Solomons Island, Maryland, whose owner Clarence E. Davis built yachts for many designers of the 1920s and 30s, including Philip Rhodes, Charles D. Moyer, John G. Alden, and Sparkman & Stephens. The book contains the photographs of Morris Rosenfeld, Edwin Levick and Robert Knudsen.[8][9]

Footner's second book, Tidewater Triumph: The Development and Worldwide Success of the Chesapeake Bay Pilot Schooner., concerns a small 18th Century wooden ferry and pilot boat which grew into a family of sailing vessels at the close of the age of commercial wooden sailing vessels, including private armed cruisers and naval brigs and schooners for the American, British, French, Swedish and Danish navies, merchant, slave and opium schooners. Footner relates finding the plans of USS Enterprise at the Arsenal (shipyard) in Venice where it underwent an overhaul in 1805.[10] The book contains illustrations and extensive documentation.[11]

Footner's third book is USS Constellation: From Frigate to Sloop of War, a history of the frigate USS Constellation,[12] including three centuries of operational history, and four major rebuilds of its hull at naval yards.[13] Footner argued that the Constellation of today is essentially the same ship that was launched in Baltimore Harbor in 1797.[14][15]

Footner's A Bungled Affair: Britain’s War on the United States, the Final Years 1814-1815, concentrates on the four theaters of war in the years of 1814 and 1815 in the War of 1812. It follows the growth of Fell’s Point, the harbor of the city of Baltimore, into a prominent port and the development of the Chesapeake pilot schooner used by its merchants. He discussed the effect of Britain's maritime policies on the development of America’s commercial shipping fleet, as well as a study of Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane’s period as commander-in-chief of the Royal Navy's North American fleet during that period.[16][17][18][19]


  • "Changing Times, and the Port: Who Really Needs a 50 Foot Channel". Baltimore Sun. August 8, 1978.
  • Footner, Geoffrey (1983). "Towards an Autonomous Bay Authority". Chesapeake Country Life.
  • Footner, Geoffrey (1984). "What the Thames Can Teach Us". Baltimore Evening Sun.
  • Footner, Geoffrey M. (1991). The Last Generation: A History of a Chesapeake Shipbuilding Family. Solomons, Md.: Calvert Marine Museum Press.
  • Footner, Geoffrey M. (1998). Tidewater Triumph: The Development and Worldwide Success of the Chesapeake Bay Pilot Schooner. Mystic Seaport Museum.
  • Footner, Geoffrey M. (2003). USS Constellation: from frigate to sloop of war. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press.
  • Footner, Geoffrey M. (2013). A Bungled Affair: Britain's War on the United States, the Final Years, 1814-1815. Baltimore, Md.: Tidewater Book Company.


  1. ^ Rasmussen, Frederick N. "Geoffrey M. Footner, a Baltimore shipping executive and author who wrote about historic Chesapeake Bay vessels". Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  2. ^ Jacqueline Greff (20 July 2005). Fell's Point. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 69–. ISBN 978-1-4396-1309-2.
  3. ^ T.J. Stiles (21 April 2009). The First Tycoon. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. pp. 599–. ISBN 978-0-307-27155-6.
  4. ^ Bready, James (July 21, 1985). "Like Father, Like Son". Baltimore Sun.
  5. ^ "Two Freight Handlers Give Port a Container Center". Baltimore Sun. November 7, 1967.
  6. ^ "Footner's Speech". Baltimore Sun. December 2, 1967.
  7. ^ "Debate & Discussion, "An Autonomous Port Agency"". Baltimore Sun. February 18, 1978.
  8. ^ Henderson, Richard Henderson (1983). John G.Alden and his Yacht Designs. Maine.
  9. ^ Fallow, Robert (1992). "Photographs of Edwin Levick". American Neptune.
  10. ^ Bobbitt, John (September 1999). "-". Nautical Research Journal. 44–3.
  11. ^ Middleton, Arthur P. (October 1998). "-". Mystic Seaport Magazine.
  12. ^ Craig L. Symonds (2012). The Civil War at Sea. Oxford University Press. pp. 212–. ISBN 978-0-19-993168-2.
  13. ^ Jonathan R. Dull (1 December 2012). American Naval History, 1607-1865: Overcoming the Colonial Legacy. U of Nebraska Press. pp. 140–. ISBN 0-8032-4471-1.
  14. ^ Spencer C. Tucker. "Review of 'USS Constellation'". Maryland Historical Magazine. Autumn, 2003.
  15. ^ Basil Greenhill. "Book review:USS Constellation". Maritime Life and Traditions. Spring, 2003.
  16. ^ Parliamentary Debates. Peabody Library. 1814. pp. Vol. 27, 28 & 29.
  17. ^ Alexander Cochrane Correspondence and Letter Books. National Library of Scotland.
  18. ^ Adams, Henry. The History of the United States During the Administration of Jefferson and Madison and the Life of Albert Galatin.
  19. ^ Mackenrot, Anthony (1814). Secret Memoirs of the Right Hon. Vice Admiral Sir Alexander F.I. Cochrane. London.