COLCORD, LINCOLN ROSS (1883–1947). Lincoln Ross Colcord, author of sea fiction and maritime historian, was born at sea aboard the bark
Charlotte A. Littlefield, commanded by his father, Lincoln Alden Colcord
of Searsport, Maine. Colcord spent much of his first fourteen years aboard
deepwater vessels, an experience that instilled in the boy an abiding love of
the sea and strongly influenced his interests and pursuits of later years. Fifthgeneration seafarers, Colcord and his sister are the subjects of Parker Bishop
Albee Jr.’s Letters from Sea, 1882–1901: Joanna and Lincoln Colcord’s Seafaring Childhood (1999).
By 1916 Colcord emerged as an important literary figure. Macmillan had
published three of his books, and some twenty sea stories and several poems
had appeared in magazines such as American, Bookman, McClure’s, and
Hampton. Bert Bender wrote in Sea Brothers: The Tradition of American
Sea Fiction from Moby-Dick* to the Present (1988) that the typhoon scene
that appears in Colcord’s sea novel The Drifting Diamond (1912) would
have been appreciated even by Herman Melville.* In reviewing Colcord’s
first book of short stories of the sea, The Game of Life and Death (1914),
the New York Times (1 November 1914) compared him favorably with Joseph Conrad, suggesting that “the spirit of the sea and the mystery of the
Orient” infuse the works of both authors.
Following another book of sea stories, An Instrument of the Gods (1922),
Colcord turned increasingly to the research and writing of maritime history.
He assisted his sister, Joanna Carver Colcord,* with her collection of chanteys, Roll and Go: Songs of American Sailormen (1924). Colcord also compiled Record of Vessels Built on Penobscot River and Bay (1932).
In 1926 he became acquainted with Ole Edvart Rølvaag, a novelist who
had spent his youth at sea as a fisherman off the coast of Norway. Working
closely with the author, Colcord translated Rølvaag’s first book, Giants in
the Earth: A Saga of the Prairie (1927), from the Norwegian. The friendship
between these two sailors led to Colcord’s biographical article, “Rølvaag the
Fisherman Shook His Fist at Fate” (The American Magazine [March
The late 1920s found Colcord reviewing maritime and naval books for the New York Herald Tribune. In this capacity he reviewed a purported
autobiography, The Cradle of the Deep (1929), by actress Joan Lowell, who
claimed to have spent her first seventeen years at sea; Colcord’s review exposed her work as fiction. His expose ´ caused a sensational literary controversy, and he emerged more firmly established than ever as a preeminent
authority on the sea. In 1936 he proved instrumental in founding the Penobscot Marine Museum in Maine. The American Neptune was in part Colcord’s creation, and he served as an editor and contributor until his death.