The wavy weather-beaten name plate from a ship called Julie Michels was donated to the Åland Maritime Museum 25 years ago, where it’s been in storage until now. According to the accession notes, it had been hanging upside down in a boathouse in Föglö “since way back”. Perhaps it drifted ashore and was found by someone who could not read.
The waters in Åland archipelago are notorious among seafarers. More than 500 known wrecks – and probably as many unknown ones – rest underneath the surface. Things have drifted ashore and come into use by handy islanders. Houses and sheds have been made from strong and durable wreck wood. Nails and bolts have been reused or sold as scrap.
We know nothing about Julie Michels’ tragic destiny. But what if?! What if the name plate is a clue in the story of the mysterious champagne that was salvaged from a wreck in the waters near Föglö in the summer of 2010? Local history researcher Johan Granlund is one person who has pondered that thought. In 2012 he wrote the following on his blog:
“According to the local newspapers the wreck has lost its stern and with it the ship’s name plate. Thus one can speculate that the name plate from this wreck can be found in a boathouse or shed in the archipelago. We know that the champagne bottles can be dated to 1831-1837. […] Is it possible that the ship was called Julie and sailed for Mitchell & Co? As it happens, at this time there was a merchant’s house called Mitchell & Company. […]. One can find a great number of ads between 1838 to 1845 in newspapers published in Viborg stating: For sale: Exceptionally good Champagne Vin directe from Widow Cliquot at the price of 10 ruble B:co. These ads did not appear before or after this period.”
Some objects in a museum’s collections remain enigmatic. Elusive clues exist in the background, ghostly, but if they can’t be confirmed how do we tell their story? It doesn’t render the objects useless, instead, they can spark our imagination! There’s nothing more interesting than a mystery!
Origin: unknown company. Probably driftwood from wreck.
Found: in Föglö where it hung in a boathouse.