Marple Deconstructed:  The Evolution of a Master

October 3, 2015 – January 3, 2016

Opening reception Saturday November 7, 2015 3 – 5 pm


Explore the career of Edward Marple, arguably one of the most talented ship model makers in the world. As a hobby chosen to pass the time made available due to illness, Marple immersed himself in the craft of model making. This exhibit explores the legacy of a man who began as a hobbyist and ended up creating some of the most stunning ship models ever crafted. Also featured will be an installation of the workshop and tools owned and used by Marple. The Channel Islands Maritime Museum is honored to display his entire collection, several pieces of which are featured in this exhibition.

One of Edward F. Marple’s favorite childhood pastimes was whittling miniature cars to race with his friends. Nearly forty years would pass before he began crafting ship models as a second recreational career. Although he approached the occupation as a hobbyist, the nine models he created in his leisure time are considered by many to be the most exquisite examples of ship model craftsmanship in existence.

Marple was born on May 7, 1919 in Charlotte, Michigan. Shortly after enrolling at Michigan State University, his draft number was drawn prior to World War II. Marple became an army instructor, but never saw combat after sustaining a leg injury. He became an assistant in a dental laboratory, where he served the entirety of World War II. In 1945, Marple was hospitalized with a case of pneumonia so severe that one of his lungs was removed. These ailments would follow him throughout his life, eventually cutting his career short.

After the war, Marple returned to Michigan, where he worked at a dental laboratory. A year later, he and his new wife Dorothy moved to Arizona, where he opened his own dentistry lab. Although he did not pursue model ship building during his career, twenty-eight years as a precision master dental technician allowed him to use small dentistry tools and hone his hand-eye coordination. This would prove instrumental to Marple as he crafted his model ships.

As Marple was forced to reduce his workload due to illness, he looked for a hobby to help pass the time. In 1966, he purchased a model kit for the Clipper Swordfish, which would become a his first completed model. Marple was fortunate to have a wife who was enthusiastic about his hobby. Dorothy was closely involved in the creation of the models, her role pertaining primarily to research and correspondence. She was instrumental in Marple’s detail-oriented life philosophy; this attention to detail is part of what makes his body of work so extraordinary.


“There are more than 8000 dowels in the hull, not counting deck planking -

I know because I counted them.”

(Edward Marple referring to his model of the Royal Katherine)

Marple worked until his death on October 24, 1993 at the age of 74. He crafted nine scale models that are world-class, museum-worthy examples of ship modeling. Five of these models are on view in this exhibition; the remaining four can be seen in the Seascape Gallery on the Lower Deck of the Museum. Marple’s legacy of work is a testament to the standards of a master craftsman.