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Zeemanscolleges (The Netherlands)

Last modified: 2011-06-11 by andrew weeks
Keywords: zeemanscolleges |
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Other Zeemanscolleges: See also:

Zeemanscolleges: introduction

Before Napoleontic times the boatmen, like most professions, had their guilds. And like most guilds, these had acquired a monopolies in their trade. It's therefore no wonder that those guilds, like all others, were abolished when the revolution came. However, new organisations soon began to fill the gap the guilds had left behind.
For one thing, a large number of "compacts" was started; mutual insurance companies, which were dearly needed as the risks at sea was large, and insurance houses were unwilling to insure boatmen, as institutions of charity we unwilling to support a seaman's widow and children. The seafaring members were indicated as "vlagleden" (flag members), but I'm not yet sure
whether they did indeed fly a flag to signal their membership.

For another, as the boatmen still gathered in the wintertime, when they were all at home, they created "Zeemanscolleges" as a way to see after the boatman's interest. Also, they were a means of education and support, and most organized compacts as well. Though called Seaman's college, all but one were aimed exclusively at captains, who were referd to as the "effectieve leden", member in effect. Besides these, there were honorary members, non-seamen who were members only in name. They were donors, often the local notabilities, often those who's lifelyhood was connected with the marine, but also agents or other relations in foreign parts.

Most, if not all, of these Zeemanscolleges had a flag for their organisation, and separate, flags for each captain. Apparently the
regulations of the Zeemanscolleges gave specifications for the dimensions and colours of these flags, however each effective member had to bear the the costs for the manufacture of his personal flag, which bore his memberships number.
During their travels the members flew these flags from their ships, which allowed recognition at some distance. Even if communication wasn't always possible, home-coming ships would still often be able to report the position of other members' ships to family and shipping companies, be it with some delay.
Even after retirement a member, now honorary, would keep his flag and number, and the flag often covered the coffin when the captain went to his grave. This sad occasion would also see flag of the college flown at half-staff from the t as well. One year later the number could be reused for a new member, but a flag was never reused; the new member would have to pay for the manufacure of a new flag.

The ascent of the Zeemanscolleges lasted until approximately 1865. Subsequently, towards the end of the nineteenth century, mechanisation and the accompanying economy of scales severly reduced the number of captain-owners, and hence the membership of especially the small town college dwindled and all but the largest disappeared. Most of the compacts apparently either collapsed with the dwindling number of members or merged into insurance companies, though I believe at least one still exists today on one of the Frisian isles. As neither the rates nor the compensation has risen over the years, however, its main purpose is now the gathering of its members during meetings.
Sources:
Veenkoloniale Zeevaart - Koldam, Van der Veen, Wilkens; Schuur Veendam - Veendam, 1979. Includes a reproduction of two pages of flags as recorded by Leen Smit in December 1935.
Flaggen aller seefahrenden Nationen - J.W Norie, J.S. Hobbs, 1971 [noh71].
Nederlands vlaggenboek - Kl. Sierksma, 1962 [sie62].
A postcard of a painting titled 'De schoenerbrik "Willem" onder kapitein J.H. de Weerd varende in de Golf Van Napels, ca. 1855.' (The brigantine 'Willem' under captain J.H. de Weerd, sailing in the Gulf of Naples, ca. 1855.)
"Scheepskapitein Thomas Lange".
"Gemeente vlag uitleg" from Delfzijl municipality.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 6 Dec 2001


De Blaauwe Vlag, Amsterdam

"De Blaauwe Vlag" (The Blue Flag), established 14 march 1795 in Amsterdam. This was apparently the first Zeemanscollege, but it died a quiet death in the troubles of the Napoleontic era.
Flag: I have no information on its flag, other than the name of the college.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 6 Dec 2001

Tot nut der Zeevaart, Rotterdam

Maatschappij "Tot nut der Zeevaart" (Society for the Benefit of the Marine), Rotterdam. I do not know exactly when this was established, but I expect this was fairly early. For one thing, in 1848 it is pictured in Norie & Hobbs. For another, like the other early colleges it is named in the way customary for societies at that time: "Society for the Benefit of Whatever Purpose". The later ones appear to mostly have followed the example of Dordrecht, and call themselves "College", and they no longer state
a specific purpose. Also, had this been established much later than Veendam, it might not have picked the exact same name. Leen Smit pictures number 105. It was still in existence by 1859, but by 1979 it had disappeared
Flag: Green over white over green, with on the white stripe in black an "R" followed by the number. Leen Smit shows a flag with number, and with the stripes in proportion 1:1:1. OTOH, noh71 shows just the R, and has the ratio 1:2:1. I don't know whether that  means that the flag of the college itself had a different ratio, or whether either of the sources is in error.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 6 Dec 2001

l'Union, Stadskanaal

"l'Union" (French for "The Union"), established 1859 in Stadskanaal, which at that time was still a young peat colony. By
1979 it had diappeared.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 6 Dec 2001

Eendracht maakt macht, Nieuwe Pekela

"Eendracht maakt macht." (Union is Strenght). As towards the end of the nineteenth century the tide was against the Zeemanscolleges, Collegie "Voorzorg" took the initiative for the merger of a number of colleges into this single new college. However, the new college was unable to turn the tide, and by 1979 this too had disappeared.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 6 Dec 2001

Stuurmansharmonie, Veendam and Wildervank

Stuurliedencollege "Stuurmansharmonie" (Steersman's college "Steersman's harmony"), in Veendam and Wildervank. This is the only college not aimed at captains, though the influenced of the captains colleges could be recognized in the name, and in its president, who also was reader at the Veendam School of Navigation. This suggests it's years were limited to the existence of that School, but all I know is that by 1979 this too had disappeared.
Flag: I don't know whether they had one. The college may have had one, but even if the members had a flag they would might not have been able to fly them aboard ship.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 6 Dec 2001

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