† 337R Commercial Street

McGuire’s Sail Loft

James A. “Mack” (or “Jimmie”) McGuire (1873-1960), was the last sail maker in Provincetown. The Rose Dorothea was among the many vessels for which he’d made a full suit of sails by hand: 240,000 stitches over 1,600 yards of canvas. From a personal perspective, I’m astonished to think that McGuire was still in business within my lifetime, though just barely; 1952 was the end of his career. That was the year Joseph E. Macara replaced the sail loft, which he owned, with the marine supply annex to Lands End. (The photograph shows the sail loft in relation to the front building of Lands End.)

McGuire was a native of St. John’s, Newfoundland. He moved to the United States, married Emily Healy (d ±1955) and found work in Fall River, Mass., making sails for the Crawley Fleet of three- and four-masted coal boats until a protracted coal strike at the turn of the 20th century. That was when he came to Provincetown, where he made sails, awnings and other canvas goods for the next half century. (Steve Barrie, “Steve’s Own Corner,” The Advocate, 13 September 1956.) Some of the fabled Grand Bankers he outfitted were the Rose Cabral, the Jessie Costa and the Philomena Manta, subject of the monumental painting at Town Hall. The loss of the Grand Bank fleet and the advent of motorized vessels all but doomed his trade between the years 1916 and 1931, but he continued to supply canvas to the Coast Guard. “His loft continued to be an attraction for visitors and artists,” The Advocate said, “and ‘Jimmie’s’ genial Irish personality fitted into the scene admirably.” (“Sailmaker Passes, Funeral Friday,” The Advocate, 17 November 1960.)

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