To some folk who find a deep and solid satisfaction browsing through the annals of the past the old country general store with its cracker barrel and pot bellied stove might be their symbol of purest Americana.
To Oswegonians, however, who never cross the Lower Bridge without seeing the river and harbor jammed with every kind of craft - barges, packet boats, schooners,steamers - the Ship Chandlery is their storehouse of the richest American tradition.
Known now as the Oswego Marine Supply, located on Water street on the Oswego river, this store has been outfitting ships and filling marine needs of every kind for more than a century . . .a century during which America grew from a sprawling backwoods boy to the greatest man among nations.
John T. (Jack) Donovan is the proprietor of the Oswego Marine Supply, and has been since 1940, when he took over following the death of John S. Parsons who was ship chandler for fifty years. Before Mr. Parsons, Daniel Lyons & Son were ship chandlers in the same location.
Jack Donovan started work for Mr. Parsons in November, 1928. Though the business of the Oswego Marine Supply is naturally modernized to meet changing needs, Jack's letterheads and bullheads still carry the line, "Wholesale and retail dealer in tarred manila cordage, anchors, chains, capstans, winches, pitch, tar, rosin, oakum, canvas, blocks, paints, oils, etc."
For the most part now steel cable has taken the place of manila rope on our modern steel ships. And there is no more call for pitch, tar, rosin oakum as there was in the days of wooden ships.
There was a time also when ship chandlers provisioned ships, also, with meats and groceries, as well as nails and sail - axes, winter sperm oil, lamp black, Holland duck, even cognac, Madeira and Malaga wine, Holland gin and St. Croix rum and the hundred and one other items necessary for the craft that sailed the lake and the barges that plodded down the canal.