Flat Stanley Visits San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

May 01, 2018 Posted by: Lucien Sonder
I think I can speak for many of my colleagues when I say that park rangers always love when we open an envelope and find a “Flat Stanley” carefully folded inside, eagerly awaiting his next adventure.  For those of you who are not familiar with the story, Flat Stanley is a children’s book, originally published in 1965 by Jeff Brown, with illustrations by Tomi Ungerer.  (Stanley has had many subsequent adventures published since, with illustrations by Macky Pamintuan.)

In the original story, Stanley is unfortunately flattened by a bulletin board which falls on him while he was sleeping.  Stanley realizes that his newfound flatness has its advantages; it enables him to have experiences and adventures that were not available to him before.  He visits his friends in California in a mailing envelope; he flies like a kite in the wind. 

In 1995, Mr. Dale Hubert, a 3rd grade teacher, from Ontario, Canada, got a bright idea.  He realized that Stanley could be used to help his students learn about other cultures.  His students mailed off the first Stanley, and Stanley has been traveling the world ever since.  (Mr. Hubert received an Award for Teaching Excellence from the Prime Minister in 2001.)

The most recent Stanley arrived in an envelope addressed to our park on January 28th.  It was mailed by a 2nd grader named Cooper from Alvarado, TX.

Image of Letter from Cooper Pinkerton

Glad for the diversion from my many projects, I started planning Stanley’s itinerary.  Here is my response to Cooper.

Dear Cooper,

My name is Lucien, and I am a park ranger at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.  Thank you so much for sending Flat Stanley to us.  I always love showing Stanleys around the park! 

You asked that I take a photo with Stanley, so here we are!

Image of Flat Stanley with Ranger Lucien Sonder

I know that Stanley likes art museums, because he stopped robbers from stealing a painting in the original book.  So I decided to show Stanley around our Maritime Museum, which has amazing and unique murals on the walls.  It is my favorite building in all of San Francisco!

This is what the building looks like from the outside.  Does it remind you of anything?

Image of San Francisco Maritime Museum

First I took Stanley into the lobby of the building, which features a colorful mural that looks like a magical underwater world, designed by an artist named Hilaire Hiler.  Stanley loved “swimming” in the mural among the fish.  The fish were painted with metallic paint by an artist named Anna Medalie.  Do you think those fish look real, or did the artists use their imagination?

Image of Flat Stanley with Hilaire Hiler Mural

Here you can see another part of the mural.  Stanley is posing on top of a display case which contains ceramic sea creatures.  These clay sculptures were designed to go along with the murals, and they were created by artists who are members of the Senior Center located in the basement of the Maritime Museum.

Image of Flat Stanley with Hilaire Hiler Mural 2

Stanley was particularly fascinated by a piece of a ship on display in the lobby.  The ship was named the Niantic, and it was built in 1832!  The Niantic sailed to San Francisco during the Gold Rush in 1849.  After many of the crewmembers deserted the ship to work in the gold fields, the captain did not have enough sailors to unload the cargo.  Soon after, the ship was brought aground and converted into a warehouse.  Between 1850-1852, the structure burned in several fires, and was rebuilt as a hotel and the original ship’s hull was buried beneath the ground.  When the Transamerica skyscraper was built in San Francisco in 1978, they found the Niantic’s hull when they were digging the foundation.  It still contained some goods that were for sale when it was a warehouse/store, such as champagne bottles and pencils! Can you find Stanley in the picture below?

Image of Flat Stanley with Rudder of the Niantic

Stanley wanted to play hide and seek in the old telephone booths we have in the Museum, so I let him.  (There are no phones in them anymore, unfortunately!)

Image of Flat Stanley in Maritime Museum Phone booth

Next I took Stanley into the “Prismatarium,” a circular room in the Museum, named by Hiler because he painted a color wheel (or “prism”) on the ceiling.  Stanley quickly made friends with some fishermen, by hopping into a historic photo which is on exhibit in that room.

Image of Flat Stanley with Historic Photo of Fishermen

Also, did you know that Stanley likes dogs?  I didn’t, until I turned around and I found him hiding in this photo!

Image of Flat Stanley with Historic Photo of a Ship Captain and his Dogs

Do you have a dog of your own at home?  If so, Stanley might want to play when he returns to your house!

Wow, Stanley really tired me out!  He was so energetic and wanted to see every nook and cranny of our Museum.  I hope you can come visit our park in person one day, Cooper!  Meanwhile, I will send you some materials so you can learn more about our park.  I hate to say goodbye to Stanley, but I know he really wants to return home to you, and get ready for his next trip!


Ranger Lucien Sonder

San Francisco, Maritime Museum, Junior Ranger, Flat Stanley, San Francisco Maritime NHP

Last updated: May 2, 2018

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