The US Maritime Industry, The Rodney Dangerfield Of World History

The Maritime Industry is the single most important driver for the world as we know it today. Before maritime commerce was established, trade consisted of horses and carts on bad roads, and since horses and carts can only move limited amounts of product trade was inherently deeply restricted.

Before sailing ships, it was impossible to move more than about 1 ton of product over more than 100 miles unless the product was extremely valuable (gold and spices). Sailing ships allowed the transport of thousands of tons of manure (Guano) over a distance of 5000 miles by a total of 12 people.

While motor ships have increased transport efficiencies even more, it was shipping, not motor shipping, that made the big leap.

More than most other countries the United States’ history and continued existence is a product of maritime commerce, but this is completely ignored in the country’s historical outlook. While there are historical icons such as Johnny Appleseed (farming), Paul Bunyan (logging), Casey Jones (railroading) and John Henry (mining), there are no maritime equivalents.

It would take a full length book to lay out the misconceptions about our country that result from ignoring the maritime angle, but here is a simple question that should shake up any doubter.

Which 20th century US presidents have maritime backgrounds?

Hopefully some of you will know of some, but you’ll be surprised about how many there were. But if there were so many, why do we not know about it? My theory is related to success; when something works without problem year in and year out, you do not pay any attention to it, and that is fine, but that does not mean that it does not deserve credit and that is where the maritime industry needs to get out of Rodney Dangerfield mode. The Maritime Industry is just fine, thank you very much, but when we are talking about world problems it would certainly pay for the rest of the world to take a closer look at what really works instead of chasing all types of flavors of the week.

So here is my list of 20th Century US Presidents with maritime backgrounds:

Teddy Roosevelt – Wrote: The War of 1812, Ass’t Secretary of the Navy

Franklin Roosevelt – Ass’t Secretary of the Navy
John Kennedy – Navy Officer
Lyndon Johnson – Navy Officer
Richard Nixon – Navy Officer
Gerald Ford – Navy Officer
Jimmy Carter – Navy Officer
George Bush Sr. – Navy Pilot
Bill Clinton – Taught Admiralty Law

Why so many leaders with maritime backgrounds? What did they learn that others didn’t?