When New Bedford was the greatest of all whaling ports and hundreds of square-rigged vessels were owned or outfitted here, the sailmaker was a man of importance.
All the sails for New Bedford were made at home, and the common square-rigged vessels, required a greater sail spread than the present-day schooners. The whaling fleet has since departed, steam and the gas engine have superceded sail power, and of the dozens of busy and prosperous sail lofts of 1850, but one remained a half century later, T. M. Hart & Company. Employed with that firm was a young man, Charles Emil Beckman.
Mr. Beckman served a regular apprenticeship of three years duration with the sailmakers, after which he decided to go into business for himself. In 1905, James C. Briggs, a member of T. M. Hart since 1888, approached Charles with an offer of partnership, which he entertained and accepted.
Together they purchased the assets and the business of the old firm and in 1905, the new partners reorganized as Briggs & Beckman, sailmakers and ship chandlers, locating at 31-35 Commercial St.
Charles' son Carl later bought out James Briggs, and formed C. E. Beckman Co., which to this day resides at 11-35 Commercial St., in the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park. And although the whaling era came to a close in 1927, the Beckman firm continues to supply New England boatyards and retailers with everything for the boat.