The Shark (MA-CA, 1849)

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Publication History:

Place of Publication:  Shipboard Duxbury en route to California gold fields from Boston

Frequency:  Weekly

Volume and Issue Data:  “Issued on The Duxbury throughout the spring of 1849” (Lewis)

Size and Format:  Unknown

Editor/Publisher:  Unknown

Title Changes and Continuation:  Possibly continued by The Petrel, after departure from Rio De Janeiro

General Description and Notes:

The Shark seems to be the first handwritten newspaper aboard the Duxbury.  Extant copies of The Petrel, published on the Duxbury apparently during the same voyage, were possibly published after the ship’s layover at Rio, although the issue numbering suggests that both papers may have been published contemporaneously.

According to Lewis, the Duxbury left Boston for the California gold fields in February, 1849, carrying the Old Harvard Company, one of the hundreds of New England joint-stock companies organized to capitalize on the gold of California.  One writer states that during 1849, 102 joint stock companies sailed from Massachusetts alone, the number of their members ranging from five to 180, the average being around 50, and their total exceeding 4,200.  Each member paid an equal sum into the common treasury.  Each had an equal voice in its management and stood to reap an equal share of the profits.  Often there was also a board of directors, chosen from among the town’s leaders, older men who helped finance the expeditions, but who remained at home. (Lewis, p. 22).

One passenger observed that there was “too much praying on board.”  Each morning the Duxbury’s preacher, the Rev. Brierly, read a chapter from the Bible, offered a prayer, and delivered a brief sermon.  On Wednesdays he presided over a prayer meeting; on Sundays he preached “a full-length sermon” and followed this with a class discussion group; on Tuesdays and Fridays he conducted a lyceum.  This was during the early stages of the voyage; later this comprehensive program collapsed, as it did on so many other ships, and during the final weeks of the Duxbury’s company seems to have been without religious instruction of any kind.

Hard feelings developed between officers and passengers aboard the Duxbury on the first leg of its voyage.  The chief complaint was against the food and the manner of service.  The Duxbury, an ancient three-masted craft, so hard to maneuver that she was said to require all of Massachusetts Bay in which to turn, left Boston so loaded that the galley space was inadequate.  After a week of subsisting on two sparse meals a day, the passengers met and made known their grievances.  For a long time their protests were disregarded.  “Petition after petition was sent in to the captain without producing any other effect than the reply, ‘If it is not enough, go without.'”  The group continued on short rations–“we were allowed one-half pint of weak tea a day and three pounds of sugar a month’–until the Duxbury reached Rio.  There a committee of passengers related their troubles to the United States Consul.  The result was that the capacity of the galley was ordered enlarged and the passengers thereafter fared rather better.

Lewis notes that this and other shipboard newspapers (see, e.g., Barometer, The Emigrant, and The Petrel) “lacked the formality of print but more nearly approached conventional journalism” than the various travel journals and diaries kept during the voyages.

Information Sources:

Bibliography:  Oscar Lewis, Sea Routes to the Gold Fields:  The Migration by Water to California in 1849-1852 (New York:  A.A. Knopf, 1949), pp. 22-29, 89-92

Locations:  Four numbers at the Huntington Library, Manuscripts Division, San Marino, CA; accompanies the published Journal of the Duxbury Voyage, Boston-San Francisco, by William H. DeCosta, 1849, Feb.-June 23 (HM 234)

The Petrel (MA-CA, 1849)

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The Petrel (MA-CA, 1849)

Publication History:

Place of Publication:  “On board Ship Duxbury,” clipper out of Boston en route to the California gold fields)

Frequency:  Weekly; irregular; “published every Monday morning”

Volume and Issue Data:   Vol. 1, No. 1, March 26, 1849; Vol. 1, No. 2, April 2, 1849; Vol. 1, Nos. 3-7 and 9, no dates; Vol. 1, No. 8, lead article dated June 10, 1849; Vol. 1, No. 10, no date, but article on “Celebration of American Independence.”  The third number has no title or volume-number.  The term “petrel” apparently refers to various sea birds.

Size and Format:  8 x 10 in.; oil cloth-like paper; two columns; pen and ink; illustrated; 2-4 pp., variable

Editor/Publisher:  Unknown (“Smike, Jr.”?)

Title Changes and Continuation:  Continuation or contemporary of Shark (See Shark) published aboard the Duxbury on same voyage

General Description and Notes:

The Petrel (MA-CA, 1849)

The Petrel was published onboard the Duxbury apparently during the same voyage as produced the Shark.  The issue numbering suggests that both papers may have been published contemporaneously.

The Duxbury left Boston for the California gold fields in February, 1849 carrying the Old Harvard Company, one of the hundreds of New England joint-stock companies organized to capitalize on the gold of California.  One writer states that during 1849, 102 joint stock companies sailed from Massachusetts alone, the number of their members ranging from five to 180, the average being around 50, and their total exceeding 4,200.  Each member paid an equal sum into the common treasury.  Each had an equal voice in tis management and stood to reap an equal share of the profits.  Often there was also a board of directors, chosen from among the town’s leaders, older men who helped finance the expeditions but themselves remained at home. (Lewis, p. 22).

The first issue, published March 26, 1849, contained the following introduction:

 “Ourselves.”  We appear before our readers to-day, for the first time, with our weekly budget of fun, fact, and fancy, for the particular edification our amusement of the passengers on board of the Ship Duxbury now on her voyage from Boston to San Francisco.  We shall continue its publication as often as circumstances will admit, and should be pleased to receive well written communications upon any subject that may be thought interesting to the “crowd.”  All communications must be handed in as early as Friday morning.–Smike, Jr.

The Petrel (MA-CA, 1849)

One passenger observed that there was “too much praying on board.”  Each morning the Duxbury’s preacher, the Rev. Brierly, read a chapter from the Bible, offered a prayer, and delivered a brief sermon.  On Wednesdays he presided over a prayer meeting; on Sundays he preached “a full-length sermon” and followed this with a class discussion group; on Tuesdays and Fridays he conducted a lyceum.  This was during the early stages of the voyage; later this comprehensive program collapsed, as it did on so many other ships, and during the final weeks of the Duxbury’s company seems to have been without religious instruction of any kind.

Hard feelings developed between officers and passengers aboard the Duxbury on the first leg of its voyage.  The chief complaint was against the food and the manner of service.  The Duxbury, an ancient three-masted craft, so hard to maneuver that she was said to require all of Massachusetts Bay in which to turn, left Boston so loaded that the galley space was inadequate.  After a week of subsisting on two sparse meals a day, the passengers met and made known their grievances.  For a long time their protests were disregarded.  “Petition after petition was sent in to the captain without producing any other effect than the reply, ‘If it is not enough, go without.'”  The group continued on short rations–“we were allowed one-half pint of weak tea a day and three pounds of sugar a month’–until the Duxbury reached Rio.  There a committee of passengers related their troubles to the United States consul.  The result was that the capacity of the galley was ordered enlarged and the passengers thereafter fared rather better.

The Petrel (MA-CA, 1849)

Lewis notes that this and other shipboard newspapers (see, e.g., Barometer, The Emigrant, and The Petrel) “lacked the formality of print but more nearly approached conventional journalism” than the various travel journals and diaries kept during the voyages.

Greever reports that Easterners frequently chose to go to California via ship around Cape Horn.  “Between December 14, 1848, and January 18, 1849 [probably about the time the Duxbury embarked on its voyage], sixty-one ships with an average of fifty passengers each sailed for California from New York City, Boston, Salem, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Norfolk.  In the month of February, 1849, . . . seventy [ships sailed] from Boston  . . . .” (pp. 21-22)

“The trip around from the East Coast around the Horn and up to San Francisco often took more than six months; the average time was 168 days” (p. 23)

“If Thanksgiving, Christmas, or the Fourth of July occurred during the trip, there would be quite a celebration” (p. 22).

The two highlights of the journey around South America were stops in Rio and at Juan Ferdnandez island. The Petrel recorded the pleasures of shore leave and even illustrated the events in later issues (see The Petrel figures).

Captain DeCosta also imitated newspapers of the day with an entry that read:  “By telegraph–We have, says a New York paper, just received intelligence from a California-bound vessel, stating that they have a very rare animal on board, which was caught crossing the line . . . .”  While the story was a hoax, the joke could only have worked if the passengers were familiar with the “telegraph news” system of the day, and took the practice of ship-borne intelligence for granted.

Information Sources:

Bibliography:  See Oscar Lewis, Sea Routes to the Gold Fields:  The Migration by Water to Californiain 1849-1852 (New York:  A.A. Knopf, 1949), p. 89.  See also G.B. Worden letter to Ira Brown:  Rio de Janeiro, ALS 1849 April 23, University of  California, Berkeley, Bancroft Library, Manuscript Collection, Mss C-B 547:138; and William S. Greever, Bonanza West:  The Story of Western Mining Rushes,  1848-1900 (University of Idaho Press, 1963), pp. 21-23

Locations:  Eleven numbers:  Huntington Library, Manuscripts Division, San Marino, California; accompanying the journal of the Duxbury voyage, Boston-San Francisco, by William H. DeCosta, 1849, Feb.-June 23 (HM 234); 10 numbers:  University of California, Berkeley, Bancroft Library, Manuscript Collection, Mss C-F 147; three numbers: (no dates, circa Feb.-July, 1849) Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

The Kentucky Spy and Porcupine Quill (KY, 1849)

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Publication History:

Place of Publication: Frankfort, Kentucky

Frequency:  Unknown

Volume and Issue Data:  January 1849

Size and Format:  Unknown

Editor/Publisher:  Unknown

Title Changes and Continuation:  None

General Description and Notes:

None

Information Sources:

Bibliography:  None

Link:  American Antiquarian Society, Amateur Newspapers, Kentucky

Locations:  American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA

The Emigrant (LA-CA, 1849)

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Publication History:

Place of Publication:  Shipboard Alhambra en route to California gold fields (1849)

Frequency:  Weekly; irregular

Volume and Issue Data:  The Alhambra departed New Orleans in the fall, 1849; only four numbers issued; known dates:  No. 3, Sept. 5; No. 4, Sept. 20, 1849

Size and Format:  “Two sheets of foolscap, closely written out in full”

Editor/Publisher:  “Mr. Moss”

Title Changes and Continuation:  None

General Description & Notes:

The Emigrant was published aboard the Alhambra, a ship which embarked for California from New Orleans in the fall of 1849.  The ship’s paper was supposed to be published weekly during the voyage, but lasted only four numbers.

The Ship Alhambra

The Alhambra’s master, Captain George Coffin, filled more than half of each issue with his own compositions of rhyme and verse.  In his privately printed memoirs, Captain Coffin noted, “On Saturday, August 23rd, appeared the first number of ‘The Emigrant.’  It consisted of two sheets of foolscap closely written out in full by Mr. Moss.”

Coffin claimed the paper “was well received, the reading matter was various, to please all tastes, and the croakers were silenced.”  He also claims audience response was so enthusiastic that when the second installment was ready on August 30, measures had to be taken to preserve order among the passengers.  “So great was the desire to get hold of it that it was voted that one of the passengers should read it aloud to the rest.”  A freshly minted medical school graduate, Dr. Clark, was selected to read the poem.  Captain Coffin noted the doctor “placed himself on the capstan, and the rest of the company gathered round, some standing, others seated about on spare spars, water casks, or whatever else they could find.”  The Captain-author, however, found that his work was not read with proper fire and feeling.  This lack of force and ability, according to Coffin, explained why the young doctor had no doubt failed in his chosen profession.

The Emigrant’s third issue, published Sept. 5, 1849, featured another of Captain Coffin’s poems, “Simon Spriggin’s Soliloquy.”  The issue also contained an advertisement:

WANTED:  A few degrees of south latitude.  Any person being able to furnish them shall be installed an honorary member of the Committee on Navigation.  Apply at the Surgeon’s office.

The Committee on Navigation was the title ironically given a group of the Alhambra’s passengers who were in the habit of offering the ship’s officers unsolicited advice on how to improve the operation of the vessel.

The Alhambra’s newspaper struggled through one more issue, then died.  Captain Coffin noted its passing:  “From this time ‘The Emigrant’ languished for want of sustenance; it did not appear the next Saturday.  It made one more effort on Saturday, September 20th, and then gave up the ghost.  The editorial valedictory had some reference to ‘casting pearls before swine . . .'” (p. 50).  Simon Spriggins bowed himself out with a final poem, the inspirational character of which may be gathered from this stanza:

“Your saddle bags shall yet be filled

With Sacramento’s glittering ore.

Your doubts and fears shall all be still’d

And troubles come not near you more.” (p. 51)

Lewis notes that The Emigrant and other shipboard newspapers (see, e.g., BAROMETER, THE PETREL, and SHARK) “lacked the formality of print but more nearly approached conventional journalism” than the various travel journals and diaries kept during the voyages.

According to Captain Coffin’s accounts published after the voyage, (41) On Saturday, August 23, appeared the first number of “The Emigrant.”  It consisted of two sheets of foolscap closely written out in fully by Mister Moss (Mr. Sam Moss, Jr.  “ super Cargo) [p.12].

(43) The first number of “The Emigrant” was well received, the reading matter was various, and the croakers were silenced.

(45) Saturday, August 30–The second number of “The Emigrant” appeared promptly by this morning.  So great was the desire to get hold of it, that it was voted that one of the passengers should read it aloud to the rest.  The selected Doctor Clark as the reader. . . .  He placed himself on the capstan, and the rest of the company gathered round, some standing, others seated about on spare spars, water casks, or whatever else they could find.

(49) September 6–The third number of “the Emigrant” appeared this day

Information Sources:

Bibliography:  George Coffin, A Pioneer Voyage to California and Round the World, 1849-1852, Ship Alhambra (Chicago:  privately printed, 1908); Oscar Lewis, Sea Routes to the Gold Fields:  The Migration by Water to California in 1849-1852 (New York:  A.A. Knopf, 1949), pp. 89-92; Roy Atwood, “Shipboard News: Nineteenth Century Handwritten Periodicals at Sea,” Paper Presentation to the History Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Annual Convention, Chicago, IL, 1997.

Locations:  None located

The Chugg Water Journal (WY, 1849)

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Chugg Water Journal (WY, 1849)

[Post updated August 17, 2011; thanks to Andrew Tucker for information about Fort Laramie’s Commanding Officer William Scott Ketchum]

Publication History:

Place of Publication:  Fort Laramie, Wyoming; “office under the hill, but still within hearing of the Juvenile Infirmary, when the wind is favorable” (November 1849, Vol. 1, No. 4)

Volume and Issue Data:  October-December, 1849; “will appear occasionally, and sometimes oftener, if not sooner” (Oct. 1849, Vol. 1, No. 2)

Size and Format:  7.75 x 11.5 inches, two columns, with cursive writing and ink illustration with captions

Editor/Publisher:  “The Quartette”

Title Changes and Continuations:  None

General Description and Notes:

The editors describe the paper as “the largest paper printed at Fort Laramie.” .

According to Andrew Tucker (see bibliography below), William Scott Ketchum, one of the names mentioned in the Journal, was an officer of the 6th Infantry stationed at Fort Gibson and later Fort Laramie. He was the commander at Fort Laramie when the Journal was published.

In the October 1849 issue (Vol. 1, No. 2), a joke mentions Ketchum: “Why is the Commander of the Infantry Company at this Post a terror to evil-doers? ‘Cause he Ketch-um.”

Chugg Water Journal (WY, 1849)

Tucker reports that Ketchum was a West Point grad and served as an Army officer in the Second Seminole War, and had frontier duty at Fort Gibson and Fort Laramie. He went on to become a brigadier general by the end of the Civil War. After he retired, he was allegedly poisoned by Elizabeth Wharton, the widow of one his fellow officers. The trial afterward gained international attention. Wharton was apparently acquitted.

Information Sources:

Bibliography: Michael L. Tate, The Frontier Army in the Settlement of the West (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2001), pp. 264-265; thanks to Andrew Tucker, a relative of William Scott Ketchum, for the citation of the Tate book and the background information about Ketchum (via email exchanges with the HNP editor, August 16-17, 2011)

Links:  Michael L. Tate, The Frontier Army in the Settlement of the West (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2001)pp. 264-265; Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

Locations:  Wyoming Department of Commerce, Division of Parks and Cultural Resources, Historical Research and Publications Unit, Cheyenne, WY (microfilmed)

Barometer (MA-CA, 1849)

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Publication History:

Place of Publication:  Shipboard Edward Everett (1849)

Frequency:  Weekly, every Saturday

Volume and Issue Data:  The Edward Everett departed Boston Jan. 13, 1849

Size and Format:  Four pages, handwritten

Editor/Publisher:  “A board of five editors was responsible for the journal” (Lewis); members of the Boston and California Joint Mining and Trading Company en route to the California gold fields

Title Changes and Continuation:  None

General Description & Notes:

According to Lewis, the first organized contingent to leave Boston for the California gold fields was the Boston and California Joint Mining and Trading Company.  The group sailed from Boston aboard the Edward Everett, a 700-ton “fast-ship,” on January 13, 1849.  The company of 150 men, included eight sea captains, four doctors, a clergyman, a mineralogist, a geologist, merchants, manufacturers, farmers, artisans and medical and divinity students.

The Edward Everett was a relatively new ship (approximately six years old) and well equipped.  The bunks below deck were named after Boston localities.  To combat boredom at sea, numerous regularly scheduled activities were organized, including a musical band, a weekly newspaper, Sunday and mid-week church services, and lectures.

The ship’s newspaper Barometer was intended to circulate the ship’s news among the passengers and the crew, and to publish “original contributions in prose and verse.”  Lewis calls the Barometer, “probably the earliest of the gold-ship ‘newspapers'” (p. 89).  According to Lewis, the Barometer was

a four-page hand-written sheet issued every Saturday during the voyage of the Edward Everett.  A board of five editors was responsible for the journal, the columns of which were filled with daily happenings on the ship, together with a record of her position and speed, and a leavening of lighter fare in the form of “original prose and poetical matter.”

Lewis notes that this and other shipboard newspapers (see, e.g., EMIGRANT, THE PETREL, and SHARK) “lacked the formality of print but more nearly approached conventional journalism” than the various travel journals and diaries kept during the voyages.

Information Sources:

Bibliography:  Oscar Lewis, Sea Routes to the Gold Fields:  The Migration by Water to California in 1849-1852 (New York:  A.A. Knopf, 1949), pp. 89-92; Roy Atwood, “Shipboard News: Nineteenth Century Handwritten Periodicals at Sea,” Paper Presentation to the History Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Annual Convention, Chicago, IL, 1997.

Locations:  Bancroft Library, CA?

 

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