With all the talk about the 19-odd wharfs of Newburyport, you would have thought someone would have brought up one of our City’s great contributions, the Newburyport Bollard.
Now a bollard is a short, thick post on the deck of a ship but more often on a wharf, to which a ship’s rope may be secured. A bollard located on the ship are often called the Knighthead. The knighthead, rising just within the stem in a ship, on either side of the bowsprit, is used to secure its end. Today’s recreational boaters use them on ship and dock all the time and they come in a small rope clinging version.
On much larger ships and ship docks, these come in a variety of forms but most often with a bulbous shape.
Interestingly enough, the term bollard came to be used right around 1775 and is derived from the Middle English word for tree trunk, a ‘Bole’.
The rumor was that the Newburyport Bollard was an improvement in which cannon were up-ended and seated into the wharf. The cannon opening would keep its cap. These caps were used to keep the bore dry and to protect the gunpowder from becoming damp.
If you look at the design, you will notice that the top is just like the cap on the top of a cannon. The Newburyport bollard appears as a stout beam in which ships of all sizes could securely be tied to.
You would think the original use of the bollards was long gone but now they have been re-introduced in multiple designs all over the country as traffic guards to direct automobiles and to protect delicate things such as buildings and pedestrians.
But I think the most exciting thing about the Newburyport-style is that it has been resurrected as ubiquitous with the Bank of America financial empire.
Every time they put up one of their stand alone, ATM machines; they use our bollard to protect the money! How fitting that even though most of America has long-forgotten our City and its many important contributions; they pay unknowing tribute as they do transactions.