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Square-riggers on schedule; the New York sailing packets to England, France, and the cotton ports

Robert Greenhalgh Albion

Reproduced 2001 with permission of the publisher, Princeton University Press

© 1938 (renewed 1966) Princeton University Press

   Table of Contents    |    Index    |   Catalog record and links to related information from the Library of Congress catalog


BiographyPrevious Work on Subject
Manuscript SourcesSea Routes and Sailing Conditions
MiscellaneousShip Building
New York Port-General Shipping Lists
Newspapers Travel
THIS will be limited to works which bear particularly upon the
packets. A more comprehensive bibliography, dealing with the
various aspects of New York's marine activity between 1815 and 1860,
will be found in the author's forthcoming volume on that subject.

PREVIOUS WORKS ON SUBJECT. Nothing has been written on
the coastal packets. For the ocean lines, Lieutenant Matthew F. Maury
gave a brief but able analysis of the New York packet development to
1839 in an article on "Direct Trade with the South" in the Southern
Literary Messenger, III, pp. 3-12 (1839). A later and similar article
by the same author appeared in J. D. B. DeBow, Industrial Resources
. . . of the United States, 3 v. in I, 3rd ed. (1854), v. III, pp. 1-13.
Following that, there was a long interval to G. W. Sheldon's well
illustrated article on "The Old Packet and Clipper Service" in Harper's
Magazine, LXVIII, pp. 217-237 (1884). As indicated in the text, this
has been drawn upon heavily by most of the later writers, who have
taken over most of its errors, particularly the starting date of 1816.
Using the packets as a sort of running start for the clippers, chapters
were devoted to the subject in A. H. Clark, The Clipper Ship Era (1910)
and C. C. Cutler, Greyhounds of the Sea (1930). Cutler also discussed
the packets in his introduction to the Descriptive Catalogue of the
Marine Collection at India House (1935); his accounts were more
accurate than the previous ones but were by no means complete. The
only book devoted entirely to the packets is Basil Lubbock, The Western
Ocean Packets (1923); readable and well illustrated, it is essentially
a collection of separate articles which he had written for the Nautical
Magazine. It incorporates all the old Sheldon errors, in one instance
giving a dozen to a page, and it has added relatively little to the general
knowledge of the subject. Quite different is the exhaustive Harvard
doctoral dissertation, as yet unpublished, by C. P. Wright on The
Origins and Early Years of the Transatlantic Packet Ships of New
York, 1817-1835, briefly condensed in the annual summary of Harvard
theses for 1932, pp. 218-221. Dr. Wright calls his study "a biography of
ships and men," for, with painstaking research in genealogical and ship-
ping records, he has presented in minute detail the elements brought
together to form the early lines, together with the early development
of the service. His studies have been very helpful, particularly in
portions of the chapter on operators, but it has not seemed desirable to
follow him in the minuteness of detail, for it is to be hoped that his
work will before long be prepared for publication. While this book was



in proof, an article on "The Yankee Packets" by H. P. Martin, appeared
in the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, v. LXIV, pp. 389-394, March
1938, reproducing numerous pictures, chiefly from Lubbock, and con-
taining many of the old Sheldon errors.

MANUSCRIPT SOURCES. With the newspapers, the records pre-
served at the New York Custom House have been the most important
source for this volume. Most useful of all were the hundred-odd volumes
of Registers of shipping, together with the companion series of Enrol-
ments for vessels in the coasting trade. There is a full quarto page for each
vessel whenever it was registered or enrolled, totalling about five hundred
in each series each year during the packet period. Each certificate gives
the vessel's tonnage and dimensions, the place where she was built, the
master, and the owners at the time of registry. Only the original registry
includes the name of the builder, and only from 1848 onwards are the
proportional shares of ownership indicated. Unfortunately, there are
several serious gaps in each series, so that for a few of the ships, which
were not re-registered, information is not available. The Marine Division
manuscripts also contain annual lists of arrivals and departures, giving
the tonnage of each vessel, the name of the master, and also, in the
earlier years of the period, an indication of the incoming and outgoing
cargoes. These records in the custody of the Marine Division have been,
during the past few years, rebound in canvas and stored in dust proof
steel cases.

Most useful of the manuscripts in the custody of the Records Division
are the crew lists, which are fairly complete for the period. Each list
gives the name of the master and for all the rest indicates birthplace
and residence by state or foreign country, citizenship, age, height, com-
plexion and color of hair, together with remarks about desertion and the
like. The lists are folded and are tied in bundles by months or years with
end boards and red tape. The packets are all in the bundles marked "T.P."
indicating "this port," rather than in the "O.P." series for ships from
other ports. Coastal voyages are not included. Cargo manifests are not
available for this early period, having been destroyed by fire.
The correspondence of the Liverpool, London and Havre consulates
in the manuscripts of the State Department at Washington gave occa-
sional information concerning the packets, particularly for the analysis
of cargoes arriving at the port and the transmission of official despatches.
In the extensive collections in the Manuscripts Division of the New
York Public Library the only papers bearing on the packets to any extent
are the papers of Major Thomas Williams of New London who received
frequent reports from his New York correspondent concerning packets
and other "used ships" suitable for purchase as whalers. The papers



of the father of Herman Melville, an importer of French goods, throw
some light upon the materials brought by the Havre packets.
In the numerous collections of private manuscripts consulted in
connection with the port history, those most pertinent to this study are
the papers, cited in the text, dealing with the estate of Captain John
Williams, in the possession of Blair S. Williams, Esq. A manuscript
journal of William Pate, describing a packet crossing, was loaned by
his grandson, Carlton O. Pate, Esq., of Greenwich, Conn., and quoted
in the text.

The records of the Marine Society of the City of New York are not
open to the public, but a search was made by the staff for this study for
biographical details concerning the packet captains who were members.
Further biographical details were obtained from a search of the wills
and records of administration in the surrogate and probate courts of
New York County, Kings County (Brooklyn), N.Y., Westchester
County, N.Y., and at various places in Connecticut. These indicated at
least the approximate date of death and sometimes showed the relation-
ship between the captains.

NEWSPAPERS. The marine news section in the New York daily
newspapers was perhaps the most valuable single source for the work,
since only there can be found an indication of the length of each passage.
By tabulating the records of each trip from this source, it was also
possible to learn the service of each ship and captain, as well as the
duration and regularity of each line. Up to 1827, there is little to choose
in this respect between the Commercial Advertiser, Daily Advertiser,
Mercantile Advertiser, and Evening Post. The Mercantile Advertiser
is available only at the Library of Congress in an unbroken file; the
Evening Post was perhaps the most satisfactory for general news and
comments, but its packet advertisements were not as full as those in the
other papers. The Daily Advertiser contained more statistical material
than the others. From 1827 to 1835, the Journal of Commerce is the
most satisfactory and after that the Herald. Along with the daily papers,
it has also been necessary to consult constantly the semi-weekly Shipping
and Commercial List and New York Price Current, of which there is
an unbroken file at New York Public Library, available in the general
reading room rather than in the Newspaper Division. Except for the
fact that its lists of arrivals do not indicate the length of the trip, it
contains most of the necessary information, and generally gives a more
complete analysis of incoming cargoes than do the daily papers. The
Liverpool Mercury, the London Times, with its useful index, the
Charleston Mercury, and other papers from the cotton ports have been
used from time to time, while the weekly Albion, published at New York
for Englishmen, occasionally had information not available elsewhere.

The pertinent passages from Lloyd's List were generally copied regularly
in the New York daily papers.

SHIPPING LISTS. Lloyd's Register of Shipping in its annual vol-
umes contained occasional notices of the New York packets, giving the
details of their construction, but such entries were not frequent enough
for a systematic analysis. For the latter days of packet service, several
American descriptive works gave details concerning the packets still
afloat. The first of these was H. J. Rogers, Marine Telegraph List of
Merchant Vessels of 150 Tons or Upwards (1855), giving the tonnage
but little else. More complete details of dimensions, draft, materials, state
of repair, place of construction, hailing port, managing owners and
masters can be found in the American Lloyd's Universal Register of
Shipping, published at New York by the American Shipmasters' Asso-
ciation in 1866 and at frequent intervals thereafter. These lists are
more useful than the annual List of Merchant Vessels of the United
States published at Washington by the U.S. Bureau of Statistics from
1868 onwards.

Details of the ex-packets in whaling service are in A. Starbuck, History
of the American Whale Fishery in the Report of the U.S. Commissioner
of Fish and Fisheries for 1875-1876 and also published separately

BIOGRAPHY. The most voluminous source is J. A. Scoville, The
Old Merchants of New York, written during the Civil War under the
pseudonym of Walter Barrett and published first in 5 parts in 3 vols.
(1863-1865). It is rambling, disorganized and frequently inaccurate
but it contains a wealth of information not available elsewhere. The Dic-
tionary of American Biography contains the most complete and up-to-date
accounts of some of the more prominent packet operators, owners, build-
ers and captains, with articles by R. G. Albion (J. Bell, E. K. Collins,
P. Fish, J. Goodhue, C. H. Marshall, R. B. Minturn, C. Morgan, N. B.
Palmer, T. L. Servoss, T. Tileston, W. H. Webb, and J. A. Westervelt,
in addition to E. Train, the Boston operator), by C. C. Cutler (R. H.
Waterman), by H. W. H. Knott (the three Grinnells), by S. E. Morison
(D. McKay), by W. B. Shaw (C. Bergh), by C. P. Wright (B. Mar-
shall, J. Thompson) and by E. Yost (T. P. Cope, the Philadelphia
operator). Each of these articles contains a bibliography of sources.
Accounts of several operators are included in the Portrait Gallery of the
Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York, compiled by George
Wilson (1890). Briefer biographical notes, with reproductions of the
portraits, several of which are included in this book, are in the Chamber's
Descriptive Catalogue of the Portraits (1924). The Marine Society,
which was composed of shipmasters, published on several occasions a
list of its members from the beginning in 1770, giving the dates at which



Bibliography                       351
each joined the society; similar lists for the Chamber of Commerce can
be found in its published annual reports, beginning in 1858-1859. A
considerable number of the later packet captains are listed in the appendix
of the reports of the American Lloyd's during the 'seventies. H. C. Kit-
tredge's admirable Shipmasters of Cape Cod (1935) devoted a chapter to
"The Liverpool Packets" with full accounts of Ezra Nye, John Collins,
and the Eldridges. Mrs. Bertha C. Trowbridge discusses fully the
shipmasters of Old Lyme in her forthcoming volume on that town which
was so prolific of packet captains. Two individual studies are W. A.
Butler, A Memorial of C. H. Marshall (1867) with an autobiographical
sketch of his early life, and E. W. V. Radcliffe, Captain Edward Rich-
ardson, a Memorial (1923). There is a good account of Captain W. G.
Hackstaff, with illustrations, in R. Macdonough, The Macdonough-
Hackstaff Ancestry (1901), pp. 26-53. Estimated fortunes over $100,000
are in successive editions of M. Y. Beach, Wealth and Biography (Pedi-
gree) of the Wealthy Citizens of . . . New York (1845-1855). Robert
Kermit and Charles Carow are discussed in Edith K. C. and Kermit
Roosevelt, American Backlogs (1928).

C. P. Wright's unpublished study of the early New York packets,
already cited, is perhaps the richest mine of information concerning the
early operators, owners and captains. The author's forthcoming study
of New York Port, 1815-1860 will contain detailed biographical informa-
tion about most of the operators among other New York merchants, and
also about the New York shipbuilders, similar in scope to the notes on
the packet captains in the appendix of this work. Numerous local his-
tories and genealogical studies were consulted for that material.

NEW YORK PORT-GENERAL. There is as yet no adequate de-
tailed study of the middle period of the port's activity. The author called
attention to such wholesale unacknowledged plagiarism in R. C. McKay,
South Street (1934) that the publishers withdrew the book. Short
accounts, in which the packets figure briefly, are three articles by
R. G. Albion: "New York Port and Its Disappointed Rivals, 1815-1860"
in the Journal of Economic and Business History, III, pp. 609-629
(1931); "Yankee Domination of New York Port, 1820-1865" in the
New England Quarterly, V, pp. 665-698 (1932) and "The Primacy of
the Port of New York" in the History of the State of New York, ed.
A. C. Flick, VIII, ch. 5 (1936); as well as C. C. Cutler's Introduction
to the Descriptive Catalogue of the Marine Collection at India House
(1935). Occasional references to the packets will be found in I. N. P.
Stokes, Iconography of Manhattan Island, 6 vols. (1915-1928), and in
C. H. Haswell, Reminiscences of New York by an Octogenarian, 1816 to
1860 (1896). Scoville, already cited, contains much general information
about the port's activities.

SHIPBUILDING. An able and comprehensive modern analysis,
which places the packets in their proper perspective, is H. I. Chapelle,
History of American Sailing Ships (1935). Much useful material and
interpretation is also to be found in J. G. B. Hutchins' unpublished
Harvard doctoral dissertation, The Rise and Fall of the Building of
Wooden Ships in America, 1607-1914, which, it is to be hoped, will be
published shortly. Details about the New York yards and builders of the
period, somewhat sketchy and not always reliable, will be found in
J. H. Morrison, History of the New York Shipyards (1908) and in
G. W. Sheldon's well illustrated article on "The Old Shipbuilders of
New York" in Harper's Magazine, LXV, pp. 223-241 (1882). The
theory and practice of the period are embodied in two books by the
able and original New York designer, J. W. Griffiths: A Treatise on
Marine and Naval Architecture (1850) and The Ship-Builder's Manual
and Nautical Referee, 2 vols. (1855). The folios of W. H. Webb,
Designs of Wooden Vessels, 2 vols. (n.d.), include the plans of several
packets, one of which is included in this book. The few packets built
by McKay for the New York lines are described in R. C. McKay,
Some Famous Ships and their Builder, Donald McKay (1928), a more
substantial work than his South Street.

TRAVEL. Some general descriptions of conditions are included in
F. C. Bowen, A Century of Atlantic Travel, 1830-1930 (1930) but the
packet section simply repeats many of the old Sheldon facts and errors.
A large number of travel accounts naturally describe packet crossings.
These are too numerous to list in detail, except for those quoted in this
work: Frances Anne Butler (Fanny Kemble), Journal, 2 vols. (1835);
Tyrone Power, Impressions of America during the Years 1833, 1834,
and 1835, 2 vols. (1836); Harriet Martineau, Retrospect of Western
Travel, 2 vols. (1838); Sarah Mytton Maury, An Englishwoman in
America (1848); Frances Wright (D'Arusment), Views of Society
and Manners in America (1821); Reminiscences of Carl Schurz, 3 vols.
(1907-1908); and Robert C. Leslie A Waterbiography (1894). The
episode of the telegraph's birthplace on the Sully is best described in
Samuel F. B. Morse, His Letters and Journals, ed. E. L. Morse, 2 vols.
(1914). Cobbett's letters concerning his "blackballing" are quoted from
L. S. Benjamin (Lewis Melville), Life and Letters of William Cobbett
in England and America, 2 vols. (1913).

tailed information, including particular reference to the packets, is con-
tained in the successive editions of Lieutenant M. F. Maury's Sailing
Directions, published by the U.S. Naval Hydrographic Office. Out of the
thousands of abstract logs assembled by Maury for his studies and still
preserved by the U.S. Weather Bureau at Washington, the log of an



eastbound and westbound passage of the Roscius in 1854 is photo-
graphically reproduced in the 7th edition and quoted in Lubbock. Maury's
Physical Geography of the Sea (1855) is also useful. Minute details
of the coastwise routes and part of the ocean routes are given in the
successive editions of E. M. Blunt, The Atlantic Coast Pilot. For the life
of officers and crews, there is little dealing with the New York packets
themselves, but three books come close enough to the subject to be
useful. Herman Melville's Redburn, quoted in the text, describes a
New York-Liverpool voyage in a regular trader in 1837. Captain
Samuel Samuels, From the Forecastle to the Cabin (1887), describes
conditions on the New York-Liverpool run in the Dreadnought, a clipper-
packet in a line not regular enough for formal inclusion in this study.
The journal of a Gloucester mariner, published under the title The Sea
Made Men and "presented" by R. W. Babson (1937) devotes one
chapter to his experiences as first mate of a Boston-Liverpool packet in
1828-1829. The shanty "Blow the Man Down" is quoted from Joanna C.
Colcord, Roll and Go (1924), and "Reuben Rango" from Frank Shay,
Deep Sea Chanties (1925).

MISCELLANEOUS. The question of the general commerce on the
packet routes, with considerations of cargoes and the like, will be treated
fully in the bibliography of the general port volume. It is enough to
mention here N. S. Buck, The Development and Organization of Anglo-
American Trade, 1800-1850 (1925), which ably analyzes New York's
trade with England and also with the cotton ports. Specific information
concerning the major and minor packet lines and freight rates will be
found in E. Williams, The New York Annual Register, in its various
editions; the information for 1836 is included in the appendix of this
work. The directories of New York and Brooklyn for the period have
also been useful in tracing the numerous individuals and firms involved.
Among the numerous shipwreck anthologies which include the loss of
the Albion is R. Thomas, Interesting and Authentic Narratives of the
Most Remarkable Shipwrecks, etc. (1850), but the same material was
also available in contemporary newspaper accounts. Details of the John
Minturn wreck are in the New Jersey Legislature Report of the Commis-
sioners to Investigate the Charges Concerning the Wrecks on the Mon-
mouth Coast (1846). Information about the relation of "high finance" to
the packets will be found in J. C. Brown, A Hundred Years of Merchant
Banking (1909), and in R. W. Hidy, The House of Baring and American
Trade, 1830-42 (1935), another able Harvard doctor's thesis which
deserves publication. The Boston packet lines are discussed in S. E.
Morison's classic Maritime History of Massachusetts, 1783-1860 (1921).


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