The 1000 Islands Admiralty

Early Snowmobile & Group off Thousand Island Park circa 1910-15. Photo by Charles Cornell, from the photo album of May McCormick Cupernall (Courtesy of the Nellie Taylor Collection).  May McCormick Cupernall (2nd from left) was postmistress at Thousand Island Park for 50 years beginning in the early 20th century.

Although our sensibilities might have changed in the decades since the events told in the story, I present it in the hope that people will find humor in this history and not be offended.

At the same time, the story allows for the presentation of another more admirable history of the Admiralty, one involving a promotional gimmick that took Grant Mitchell to New York City to appear on a national radio show with Arthur Godfrey, a CBS radio star of the 1940s and 50s.

Unfortunately, the story was not recorded by any of the participants, but from pictures, news stories, and secondary sources, a colorful anecdote, with a significant long-term result, emerges (continued to right).

It appears to begin with a song recorded by Arthur Godfrey in the mid-1940s for a Broadway Revue, The 1000 Islands Song, one of the hits from “Angel in the Wings.” (See Above).

The song, a takeoff of Row, Row, Row Your Boat, describes a search for the missing “Florence.” In order to help Godfrey find the lost maiden, the Admiralty orchestrated a barge, literally, with a piano and what appears to be a chorus line of costumed sailors.  The barge and “tug,” festooned with banners and flags, belonged to Thomas Mitchell, Grant Mitchell’s brother, and was the construction barge for his company (See Pictures Below).

The publicity was successful. Grant Mitchell traveled to New York City where he appeared on the Radio Show and presented Godfrey with a deed to his very own island along with a map showing Godfrey where the island was located (Island 793 in the International Rift — a picture of which was turned into a post card indicating it as Godfrey’s Island.  It is also the name of an island mentioned in the song). 

Lore suggests that Godfrey never actually visited the island, but his ownership became a featured talking point on passing tour boats — irregardless of the fact that he never visited the island and the ownership itself was invented.  It was a marketing coup all around.

The 1000 Islands Navy, or the Admiralty, was established in 1940 by W. Grant Mitchell.  The “stated” and primary purpose was to promote the region, though the members also engaged in sometimes scurrilous activities, as told in Initiating the Neophytes into the 1000 Islands Admiralty (continued below left).

Postcard of Godfrey’s Island with inscription from back.  It is a Canadian island located in the International Rift between the stone bridge and Lake of the Isles.The words under “Island 793” on the sign read, “The Original Island Given to Arthur Godfrey,” though it is unlikely the island was actually named or numbered 793.  It is reference to a line in Godfrey’s song.  Grant Mitchell’s grandson, Tom Mitchell, believes the deed to the island, which belonged to Grant, was returned almost immediately to Grant, as he eventually sold the island years later.