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THE PIONEER STEAMER

CALIFORNIA

 

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SHE SAILS

 

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FRIDAY, the 6th of October, 1848, dawns a crisp and cloudless day. As the sun rises upon the horizon, the shimmering waves of the majestic harbor of New York gleam with myriads of scintillating jewel-like points. To the eye of the observer there are revealed hundreds of stately masts with white billowing sails catching the stiff offshore breeze so anxiously prayed for by those who must gain the open sea today. A goodly number of ships are skimming over the water, with their snowy canvas filled, their braces strumming harmoniously under the ever-increasing strain, while their sharp prows fling high sparkling spray in the morning sunshine. The wharves, at all times scenes of intense activity, are today crowded with multitudes, eager to witness a great historical event – the sailing of the first side-wheel steamer of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, the famous California, destined to carry the first direct United States mail between New York and San Francisco and thence to Astoria, Oregon.

 

Old weather-beaten salts, observing the dense column of black smoke pouring from the tall smokestack of the California, silently wonder at the temerity of Commander Cleveland Forbes, commissioned to sail his ship through seventeen thousand miles of desertness of tumbling billows and necessitating the passage through the dreaded storm-swept Straits of Magellan. So far but two small English steamers had dared this hazardous adventure, the Peru and the Chile, neither of which exceeded seven hundred tons. Compared with these, the California of ten hundred and fifty tonnage was a large steamer, and on account of her size she would run a greater risk battling the fierce tides that race from Cape Virgins to Cape Pillar.

 

Moreover, among the miles and miles of lanes of leaping waves and wild confusion of wind that intervene between the Atlantic seaboard and the Pacific shores, there were yet vast stretches of unchartered waters, a dire challenge to the courage and skill of the most experienced navigator. No wonder, then, that, in the minds of the multitude who had come to bid farewell to their kinsfolk and friends, there lurked the disquieting thought: Will success crown the maiden trip of the California, or will it terminate in failure and disaster? And judging from the accident that befell the Panama, such fears were not entirely ungrounded.

 

Now the bell of the pioneer steamer sounds the last warning, the decks have been cleared, and the California as she sails proudly away, laying her course for the little hamlet on the Pacific shore – Yerba Buena – the future mighty Empress of the West – San Francisco!

 

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EASTERN NEWSPAPER COMMENTS

 

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ON THE 6th of October, 1848, none of the prominent New York dailies commented on the sailing of the California, excepting the Daily Tribune, which had two lines under the caption MARINE NEWS: 'Cleared – Steamship California – Forbes – Valparaiso, etc. - Pacific Mail Steamship Co.’

 

However, on the following day three of the leading metropolitan journals¹ carried intensely interesting accounts of the departure of the pioneer steamer. Those published in the Morning Courier and the Journal of Commerce are very similar, and to avoid duplication the Journal of Commerce article is here omitted.

 

THE DEPARTURE OF THE CALIFORNIA

(New York Herald, Saturday, October 7, 1848)

 

The splendid ship, named after the most important of our territorial acquisitions, left port yesterday afternoon (Oct. 6) under the command of Captain Forbes, for the shores of the Pacific, her future field of action, where it is expected she will be joined in her course of useful services by two vessels of equal power, now fitting out. She went to sea under the most favorable auspices, well manned and provisioned for her long and interesting voyage, carrying with her the best wishes of many warm friends of this great and noble enterprise. We have already alluded to the power, capacities and build of this vessel, and can only add, at present, that the working of her engine, and the speed attained on her passage to Sandy Hook, gave the utmost satisfaction to a numerous party, consisting of her owners, builders, and a host of naval officers. The machinery is from the works of Stillman, Allen & Co. of this city, who have spared nothing within reason to render it in every feature, powerful and effective. The project now about to be consummated was set on foot, fostered, and matured by Mr. Aspinwall, of this city; and of all those yet attempted for the advancement of the commercial interests of the country, none have greater or more legitimate claims upon the aid and encouragement of our government and the public generally. It should be borne in mind that this is almost an individual enterprise and only receiving the partial patronage of the government. The undertaking is indeed a great one for a few private citizens involving a capital of more than $500,000 which amount more than doubles itself in the credit it adds to the importance of the country. In this light at least should the project receive its just estimate. It remains to be seen whether our citizens will second the efforts of the spirited organization in this great and laudable undertaking, which is pregnant with so many great results, not only to this continent, but to the world at large.

 

¹New York Herald; Morning Courier and New York Enquirer; New York Journal of Commerce.

 

THE STEAMSHIP CALIFORNIA

(Morning Courier and New York Enquirer, October 7, 1848)

 

This fine vessel, the first of the U. S. Pacific Mail Steamships, sailed yesterday for her destination. At eleven o'clock, quite a number of persons invited to accompany her during the passage down the Bay and a short distance to sea, were collected at Whitehall, and were conveyed by the towboat Gen. Lincoln to the steamship, which after sweeping in gallant style around the Battery from the East River, lay to near Bedlow's Island.

 

When all were on board, the start for sea was made from opposite Bedlow's Island, at eight minutes after twelve o'clock, and, with the engine making thirteen and a half revolutions, under a pressure of nine inches of steam, Sandy Hook was passed at forty-five minutes after one, and the Light Ship at seventeen minutes after two o'clock – thus making, under a slight head of steam, a comparatively rapid trip, and proving the capabilities of the vessel as a fast sailer.

 

Soon after passing Sandy Hook, the guests were summoned to a bountiful entertainment, at which good speeches were made, more especially by some gentlemen who narrated reminiscences of navigation twenty years ago, and still later back, as compared with the opportunities of the present period. Among those at the table, were a number of ladies, Mr. ASPINWALL, one of the owners of the line, Captain SKIDDY, the Government Inspector under whose observance the California was built, and several eminent gentlemen who have visited California, or are now connected with it by business relations. The entertainment was much enjoyed, and when the party rose from the table and proceeded to the deck, it was found that the steamer, having rounded the Light Ship, had been headed towards New York, and was again near Sandy Hook Light.

 

In accordance with previous arrangement the steamboat Orus came up about 4 o'clock and took on board all the guests who were to return to the city; and after each had bade 'good-bye' to the Captain and ship they assembled on the upper deck of the Orus and gave enthusiastic cheers as the steamer sped seaward toward her destination.

 

The California measures, 200 feet in length, 34 feet beam, and 20 feet depth of hold, and her engine, built in the best manner by Messrs. STILLMAN, ALLEN & Co., is rated at 250 horse power but can easily be worked up to 300 horse power.

 

Her commander, Capt. FORBES, is an able and skilful seaman, as well as a true gentleman; and those who have travelled on the Camden and Amboy railroad line cannot fail to remember him as the attentive and urbane commander, for many years, of the steamer which forms the connection of the line between this city and South Amboy. The enterprising owners of the California could not have made a better choice; and we feel assured that the mail packet service on our Pacific coast will acquire consequence and value from the prompt attention to, and great ability for, the discharge of all duties connected with it by Capt. Forbes.

 

Messrs. HOWLAND & ASPINWALL, the owners of the California, have had her built for service – not show; and though her cabins have a richness of adornment which challenges great commendation, still there is no useless luxury in her appointments. Comfort, not display, has been the object desired to be attained, and we think it has been achieved entirely.

 

Two days later, the New York Daily Tribune¹ adverted to the sailing of the California. This article certainly deserves to be preserved on account of its valuable technical data and the list of prominent people who had been invited to celebrate the departure of the pioneer steamer. Of special interest is the statement that she had accommodations for from fifty to sixty passengers in the first cabin, and from one hundred to one hundred and fifty in the steerage or forward cabin.

 

The STEAMSHIP CALIFORNIA, Capt. FORBES, sailed Friday at 12 o'clock for California and Oregon. The California is the first of a line of three steamers to run between Panama and Oregon City, and to carry the U. S. Mails. It is the design of Messrs. Howland & Aspinwall, who are establishing this line to have the second ship ready to sail by the 1st of November and the third by the 1st of December. A line will soon be established to run in connection with this, either from New-York or New-Orleans to Chagres via Havana, when it is expected that passengers from this City will be able to reach San Francisco, in California, in 30 to 35 days. They hope to run from here to Chagres in ten days, cross the Isthmus (50 miles by canoe and 20 by land) in three days, and then run by steamer to San Francisco in 18 to 20 days more.

 

¹New York Daily Tribune, October 9, 1848

 

 

The California is the first steamer to bear the American Flag to the Pacific Ocean, and we have no doubt but this enterprise will form the nucleus of what in a comparatively short time will grow into a mighty commerce.

 

The California is a ship of 1,100 tons burden, with 200 feet keel, 34 fee beam, and 20 feet depth of hold. She is one of the most staunch built vessels we ever saw – perhaps the strongest ever built in American waters. She draws 14 feet water – has an upright stem and no bowsprit. William H. Webb was the builder. Her engine is from the 'Novelty Works' of Messrs. Stillman, Allen & Co. It is a 'Side Lever' of 250 horse power and 8 feet stroke. The steamer has accommodations for 50 to 60 passengers in the first cabin and 100 to 150 in the steerage or forward cabin. After the complete establishment of the line from there to Oregon City, passengers will probably be taken in the state-rooms for $300 or $350, and emigrants in the forward cabin for about half that sum. The ship has over 500 tons of coal on board, and takes out provisions enough to last one year. She takes along, also, a complete set of spare machinery.

 

Capt. Forbes will touch at Rio Janeiro, Callao, Panama, one or two ports in Central American and the West Coast of Mexico, and thence sail to San Francisco and Oregon City, taking out mails to our squadrons on the Brazil and Pacific stations. Several passengers will leave here in time to meet the California at Panama as she comes round Cape Horn, and take passage in her for California and Oregon.

 

One great advantage this route will afford over the land route is that it will present facilities to emigrants during the cold as well as warm season, while experience has shown that it is extremely dangerous to attempt to cross the mountains during the Winter.

 

A company of invited guests numbering perhaps 100 or more, and including several ladies, went down the Bay a short distance in the California. She sailed from opposite Bedlow's Island at 12 o'clock. The day was as fair as the ladies on board the noble ship, and she glided so graceful and quietly through the smooth surface that there was scarcely a perceptible jar to be felt in any part of her, notwithstanding her machinery was entirely new. With about 10 inches of steam she ran from Bedlow's Island to Light Ship, 24 miles, in 2 hours and 17 minutes, against a flood tide which is equivalent to about 4 miles, so that in fair sailing she would have made about 12 miles per hour.

 

Her performance on this occasion was regarded by the gentlemen on board as entirely satisfactory. When in the vicinity of Sandy Hook the guests sat down to a bountiful repast, to which they did ample justice. - Among the guests we noticed the Presidents of several Insurance Companies, Mr. Aspinwall, on of the Proprietors of the Line, Capt. Skiddy, the Government Inspectors under whose supervision the boats of this line are being built, J. Quinn Thornton, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Oregon under the Provisional government, and we believe now a Judge for that Territory by the appointment of President Polk; Mr. Townsend, formerly of the Express, and others. After the removal of the cloth, sentiments were given and responded to with great good feeling and hilarity. Wit and wine equally sparkling passed round the board till the guests were summoned on deck to pass on board the steamer Orus, which by previous arrangement was to bring the party back to the city. Among the speakers were Messrs. Townsend, Blunt, Thornton and others.

 

After individually giving Capt. Forbes a shake of the hand and a 'God bless you,' the party passed on board the Orus, and between 4 and 5 o'clock, after giving three times three for 'Capt. Forbes and the California Line,' the boats parted, the California seaward and the Orus toward New York, and the Pioneer steamer, with her noble Commander, were soon lost in the distance. Between 6 and 7 o'clock the Orus landed her passengers at the foot of Fulton-st. full of delight with the day's excursion and hope for the prosperity of Capt. Forbes and the California.

 

Capt. F. is well known here as the worthy and able commander, for eight or nine years past, of the steamer John Potter, running between this City and Amboy. He has, by his own industry and perseverance, raised himself from an apprentice in a ship-yard, and then a common sailor, to the command of a National Ship. Success attend him.

 

Eleven days later, the Tribune¹ took up the subject so dear to all New-Englanders, namely, 'Eastern Ship Yards and Shipbuilding.' As that portion of this review which deals with the California only restates the technical data found in the prior article, there is no need to reproduce it here, excepting a single paragraph:

 

The first of this line (Panama steamers) the California, under the command of Capt. Forbes, sailed on the 6th inst. For her destination.

 

¹New York Daily Tribune, October 20, 1848

 

 

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SOURCES OF INFORMATION

 

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ALTHOUGH all records of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company in New York and San Francisco have been lost, a fact that has recently been corroborated by correspondence with the officials of that company - en passant we may include in this statement the records of the United States Mail Steamship Company – fortunately, there remain other valuable sources of information concerning the steamers built by these two companies and operated between New York and Chagres, and between Panama and San Francisco, during the years 1848, 1849, and 1850.

 

First and foremost, the student who is delving into the events of those bygone days, so full of romance and of intense strife, should consult the great dailies of the East, the West, and the South. Veritable treasures of information are buried in the time-stained columns of such papers as the New York Herald, Daily Tribune, Commercial Advertiser, Journal of Commerce, Sun, Courier, New Orleans Picayune, etc. These, and other equally important publications, are filled with letters and communications, not only from their correspondents, but also from many travelers. Collectively, they are a stirring tale of the times when the thirst for gold ravished the souls of men. Indeed, even if manuscripts and other printed records were not available, it would be possible to reconstruct the story of the California from these long-forgotten letters and news items, and no history appeals with greater force to the reader than that constructed largely from the resuscitated voices of the past.

 

In addition to the daily newspapers, however, there are extant three important documents dealing specifically with our subject. The first of these is the joint Report of the Secretary of the Navy and the Postmaster-General, issued in response to a Resolution of the Senate asking to be advised about the compliance of the two great steamship companies with their contractual obligations. This report is dated March 23, 1852.¹ Appended to this document is a series of statistical tables, both for the United States Mail Steamship Company and the Pacific Mail Steamship, showing the mail service actually performed by their steamers during the period December 1, 1848 to December 31, 1850. For the vessels of the United States Mail Steamship Company the tables give the dates of departure from New York and of their arrival at Chagres, and for the vessels of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company the dates of clearing from Panama and of entrance into the harbor of San Francisco.

 

Another rich source of information is a rare book, of which only one hundred copies were published in 1874 in commemoration of the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the First Steamship Pioneers. This publication contains a daily record of the voyage of the California from New York to Panama. About the passage of the steamer from Panama to San Francisco, it has only a few paragraphs, and thus, historically speaking is missing.

 

Finally, we have the Crosby Manuscript, at present in the Templeton-Crocker Loan Collection of the California Historical Society. Entire portions of this record will be found in a later chapter of our story. This manuscript bears the title 'Memoirs and Reminiscences of Henry R. Robinson,' by Elisha Oscar Crosby. Despite the fact that it was written as late as 1880, its contents are of permanent historical value because the author seems to have been the only passenger on the California who has left to future generations a complete story of the incidents that occurred during the passage of the steamer from Panama to San Francisco.

 

When the California left New York, she carried no through passengers for the future capital of California. However, at Panama the steamer received several hundred through passengers for San Francisco. An examination of the roster of the California, prepared at San Blas, Mexico, February 14, 1849, by Stephen H. Branch, makes it apparent that the majority of those Argonauts had previously sailed from New York on the Falcon, the first steamer dispatched by the United States Mail Steamship Company on December 1, 1848. In other words, through the passengers taken on at Panama the story of the pioneer steamer is intimately connected with the first voyage of the Falcon. Therefore, in the interest of an adequate understanding of the events to be related later on, it seems expedient to advert briefly to the reasons which caused the establishment of the two great American mail steamship companies, both subsidized by the United States Government.

 

¹Executive Document No. 50, 32nd Congress, 1st Session.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE PACIFIC MAIL STEAMSHIP COMPANY

AND THE UNITED STATES MAIL STEAMSHIP COMPANY

 

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OWING to the anticipation of new interests on the Pacific Coast Territories and also to the threatening attitude of Great Britain in the Northwest, President Polk had laid before Congress a plan for rapidly increasing the population of these Territories by transporting American emigrants via the Isthmus of Panama by means of sailing vessels. Acting on this request, Congress had passed an Act on March 3, 1847, authorizing the Secretary of the Navy to advertise for bids to carry the United States mail by one line of steamers between New York and Chagres, and by a second line between Panama and Astoria, Oregon. The contract for the Atlantic side demanded the construction and operation of five steamers of fifteen hundred tons burden, to ply between New York and New Orleans twice a month, touching at Charleston, Savannah, and Havana, thence to Chargres and back, twice a month. For the Pacific line the contract required the construction of three steamers, two of not less than one thousand tons, and the other of six hundred tons. These vessels were to travel from Panama to Astoria once a month each way, it being understood that the steamers should connect with the United States mail brought from Chagres across the Isthmus to Panama.

 

For the Atlantic side of the contract was assigned to Albert G. Sloo on April 20, 1847, who in turn transferred it, on August 17 of the same year, to a syndicate consisting of George Law, M. O. Roberts, and B. R. McIlvaine, all of New York City, the contract stipulating further that the first two ships should be completed by October 1, 1848. These men formed the United States Mail Steamship Company.

 

For the Pacific side the Government originally made a contract with Arnold Harris in November, 1847, who transferred his rights to William H. Aspinwall on November 19, 1847. The latter, together with Gardiner Howland and Henry Chauncey, then incorporated the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, April 12, 1848.

 

The first steamers placed in service by the United States Mail Steamship Company were the Falcon, the Georgia, the Ohio, and the Illinois. On the other hand, the earliest steamers of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company were the California, the Panama, and the Oregon.

 

The California sailed from New York on October 6, 1848, and the Oregon, December 8 1848. The Panama originally sailed December 1, 1848, but returned disabled on December 26. She was laid up for repairs for two weeks, and then sailed the second time on February 17, 1849. Meanwhile, the United States Mail Steamship Company had bought the Falcon and had advertised the steamer to sail on December 20, so as to reach Chagres in time for transportation of the mail and passengers across the Isthmus to connect with the California at Panama.

 

¹Oregon left New York October 8 for San Francisco. New York Daily Times, January 20, 1849; February 19, 1849; March 21, 1849.

Oregon left this port December 8, 1848. New York Herald, February 27, 1849.

 

 

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THE GOLD FEVER

 

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IN THE book entitled 'First Steamship Pioneers,' the writer furnishes the reason for the advanced sailing date of the Falcon:

 

The real cause of this change was a rumor which had gained credence in a few minds that gold had been discovered in California. But this was not sufficiently confirmed to counterbalance the 20 days less time in which to prepare, and the number of through passengers (to California) was quite limited.

 

This rumor of gold discovery was of so little force that probably not half a dozen of the entire number of passengers had ever heard of it, and not one had any faith in it. Hence it is due to the 'First Steamship Pioneers' to say that they did not start for California for the purpose of digging gold, for they knew nothing of it when they sailed. When they had been three days at sea the gold discovery was officially published at Washington, but the passengers on the Falcon did not hear of it until their arrival at New Orleans on Dec. 5, 1848.

 

Equally ignorant of the discovery of gold were the passengers of the California, a fact confirmed by Bancroft:

 

When the California left New York the discovery of gold was known in the States only by unconfirmed rumors which had attracted little attention so that she carried no passengers for California and only four or five passengers for way ports.¹

 

Nearly all – and their number is legion – who have rendered an account of the discovery of gold in California refer but briefly to the publication of the Message of President Polk, the spark that started the general conflagration. Indeed, they assume that this famous document was well known to their contemporaries. Perhaps they were right, but how many of the present generation have either seen or read President Polk's Message of December 5, 1848? Owing to the startling results which it produced throughout the whole world over eighty years ago, that portion of the document affirming the finding of large quantities of gold is subjoined:

 

¹Bancroft's Annuals of the California Gold Era, volume 6, page 129.

 

   It was known that mines of precious metals existed to a considerable extent in California at the time of its acquisition. Recent discoveries render it possible that these mines are more extensive and valuable than was anticipated. The accounts of the abundance of gold in that territory are of such an extraordinary character as would scarcely command belief, were they not corroborated by the authentic reports of officers in the public service who have visited the mineral district and derived the facts which they detail from personal observation. Reluctant to credit the reports in general circulation as to the quantity of gold, the officer commanding our forces in California visited the mineral district in July (1848) for the purpose of obtaining accurate information on the subject. His report to the War Department of the result of his examination and the facts obtained on the spot is herewith laid before Congress. When he visited the country there were about 4000 persons engaged in collecting gold. There is every reason to believe that the number of persons so employed has since been augmented. The exploration already made warrant the belief that the supply is very large and that gold is found at various places in an extensive district of country. ¹

 

Doubtless people of the present day can recall the news of the Kimberly diamond fields and the discovery of gold in the Klondike, but no one can adequately picture the emotional tidal wave that swept over the world after the publication of President Polk's Message.

 

In 1848 the annual supply of gold in the world was small, and consequently the yellow metal represented a much more highly prized commercial commodity than it is today, when people talk so glibly about billions. No wonder, then, that the news of the discovery of fabulous and apparently inexhaustible supplies of gold – for a time, at least – unsettled the mental equilibrium of all classes, rich and poor, the highest and the lowest. Bancroft aptly describes this condition as a 'mental St. Virus's dance.' Moreover, fresh fuel was constantly added to the general conflagration by pamphlets and books emanating from persons who claimed to be well informed about the facts. Thus, in the 'Emigrant's Guide to the Gold Mines' (New York, 1848, H. L. Simpson), the public was told of the existence of river-beds 'paved with gold to the thickness of a hand'; also that 'from twenty to fifty thousand dollars gold were picked out almost instantly.'

 

¹From Message of President Polk, December 5, 1848.

 

Turning from writers of myths to sober business men and officials in the employ of the United States Government, there is the Report¹ of Colonel R. B. Mason² to the Secretary of War, dated Monterey, California, August 17, 1848. The very fact that the language used to describe the wondrous wealth of the Golconda of the West is simple and straightforward makes the following statement much more impressive:

 

I have no hesitation now in saying that there is more gold in the country drained by the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers than will pay the cost of the present war with Mexico a hundred times over.

 

On January 23, 1849, the New York Daily Tribune brought out a letter from Thomas O. Larkin, with the following headlines in extra heavy type:

 

HIGHLY IMPORTANT

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FROM THE CALIFORNIA GOLD REGION

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OFFICIAL REPORT TO GOVERNMENT

OF GOLD FOUND IN LUMPS OF 16 AND 25 POUNDS

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GOLD TO AN IMMENSE AMOUNT OBTAINED BY

DIGGING AND WASHING

 

Finally we must not overlook the fact that even Horace Greeley, in an editorial in the New York Daily Tribune of December 9, 1848, placed himself on record as follows:

 

We are on the brink of the Age of Gold. We look for an addition within the next four years, equal to at least one thousand million of dollars to the general aggregate of gold in circulation and use throughout the world.

 

¹New York Daily Tribune, December 8, 1848

²Report of Mason, Appendix G.

 

A billion dollars added to the world's supply of precious metal, the life-blood of commerce and industry, predicted by one of the best-known and best-informed newspaper writers of the United States!

 

In consequence of such propaganda a veritable avalanche of ships and men rushed to the gold-fields during the closing months of 1848 and throughout the entire next year. To satisfy the demands of the public, both the New York Daily Tribune¹ and the New York Herald issued regularly lists of vessels and passengers who had sailed in quest of gold from the various ports of the United States. The earliest of such statistical tables was appended to an editorial in the New York Herald² entitled 'The Gold Excitement – The Extent of the Emigration to California.' It showed that from the outbreak of the 'gold fever' to the 11th of January, 1849, a total of 2212 persons had sailed for the California mines.

 

THE GOLD EXCITEMENT – THE EXTENT OF THE EMMIGRATION TO CALIFORNIA

 

The excitement relative to the gold mines of California continues with unabated fervor. It is daily fed with all sorts of reports. Every statement is caught up and swallowed with the greatest avidity; and even that asserting that the government at Washington had despatches from the gold region too 'brilliant and glowing' to publish, is amplified to an extent that throws the Arabian Nights Entertainments completely into the shade.

 

All this indicates the height of the gold excitement. It runs high throughout the Union. It is wild enough, without false statements being thrown in to make it more so. The correct accounts from California are as rich and as gorgeous as the most ardent gold-hunter need desire. It is useless, therefore, to enlarge on the reports from Colonel Mason and Captain Folsom; it is useless to assert that the government have received despatches that they are afraid to publish; it is useless to invent stories, in order to fill up the ships, when the truth from California is sufficient to decrease the population full fast enough in the cities on the Atlantic seaboard.

 

¹New York Tribune, Appendix H.

²New York Herald, January 16, 1849.

 

To set the public aright, however, in all matters relative to the gold territory, we will state – and we do so on the highest authority – that the government are not in the possession of any despatches, or any facts, that the public have not been made acquainted with. After all that has been said, it turns out that there is not one word of truth in the report that they have suppressed important and startling information. They have had none to suppress. We will also lay before our readers the latest movements of the gold seeking parties, to show the extent of the emigration.

 

There has been, and there still exists, a great diversity of opinion as to the number of persons who have left for California since the beginning of the excitement. Invariably it has been given as very large, and the general impression is, that upwards of ten thousand have started. In order to form a more correct idea, we have had recourse to our files, where the sailing of every vessel for the Gold Region, from the various ports in the United States, with the passengers of each, is recorded; and from which we have been able to arrange the following table, giving the names of all vessels, and the date of sailing from their respective ports, with the number of passengers and crew on board. So far, it will be seen that only about 1156 have gone by sea via Cape Horn; about 530 via Chagres; and thus far, to our knowledge, only about 30 via Vera Cruz. Our table commences with the sailing of the bark John Benson, for Chagres, on the 11th ult., which was, in fact, the first vessel that started from the United States, under the present excitement, with emigrants. The steamer Falcon, sailed on the 3d but had no passengers, except government officers, for Chagres, from this port; at New Orleans, however, she received about 200. But here is the table:

 

¹She actually sailed on the 1st.

 

VESSELS SAILED FROM THE UNITED STATES FOR CALIFORNIA SINCE THE EXCITEMENT

 

Whence sailed

Names of Vessel

Date of sailing

Number of Passengers

Officers and Crew

New York

Ship Florence

Dec. 14

10

20

 

Ship Sutton

Dec. 29

50

20

 

Bark Express

Jan. 2

25

14

 

Bark Ocean Bird

Jan. 2

10

14

 

Brig New Castle

Jan. 4

10

12

 

Ship Chris. Colon

Jan. 6

30

20

 

Ship Albany

Jan. 9

50

20

 

Brig D. Henshaw

Jan. 7

15

12

 

Bark Josephine

Jan. 9

30

14

 

Bark Harriet Newell

Jan. 10

20

14

 

Brig George Henry

Jan. 10

10

10

 

Brig Orbit

Jan. 13

35

10

 

Schr. Anthem

Jan. 13

10

7

 

Ship Brooklyn

Jan. 13

150

23

 

Ship Tarolinta

Jan. 14

130

24

 

Bark Croton

Jan. 14

50

14

 

Brig Isabel

Jan. 14

20

10

Boston

Brig Satillo

Dec. 22

17

10

 

Bark Carib

Dec. 28

11

15

 

Bark Elvira

Jan. 6

12

16

 

Bark Maria

Jan. 10

30

15

 

Brig Forest

Jan. 11

16

12

 

Ship Edw'd Everett

Jan. 12

150

25

 

Bark Oxford

Jan. 12

36

14

 

Bark Atilla

Jan. 12

40

14

 

Brig Pauline

Jan. 13

13

10

Nantucket

Ship Aurora

Jan. 11

20

24

Norfolk

Brig John Petty

Jan. 10

14

10

Baltimore

Bark Paoli

Jan. 11

5

14

 

Ship Greyhound

Jan. 10

56

20

 

Schooner Eclipse

Jan. 11

8

7

Salem

Bark Eliza

Dec. 23

7

12

 

Brig Sterling

Dec. 30

10

10

N. Bedford

Schooner Favorite

Dec. 13

8

8

Philadelphia

Bark Louisiana

Dec. 20

40

12

 

Brig Oniota

Jan. 11

16­­­___

10_

Total

 

 

1,164

518

 

 

 

 

1,164

Aggregate via Cape Horn

 

 

 

1,682

 

 

 

This gives us a list of 36 vessels already on their way, via Cape Horn, with about 1164 persons as passengers, and over 518 belonging to the ships. The vessels which have left for Chagres, are as follows:

 

Whence

Vessels

No. of Passengers

New York

Bark John Benson

60

 

Brig Mary Pennel

10

 

Brig Henrico

20

 

Steamer Crescent City

130

 

Steamer Isthmus

60

 

Steamer Orus

50

New Orleans

Steamer Falcon

200

Total to Chagres

 

530

Total via Cape Horn

 

1,682

Total thus far

 

2,212

 

 

The associations, or companies, organizing, make the slowest progress.

 

 

There are, at least, on the tapis, through the country, twenty-five or thirty which are open for applicants. Two or three days only have started for their destination:

 

New Jersey Mining Company (by sea)

17 persons

Newark Mining Company (by land)

12 persons

Bunker Hill Company (by sea)

30 persons

 

 

Of these, many are on board some of the vessels mentioned above, and may be included in the aggregate number sailed.

 

The bark Eugenia, for Vera Curz, and the Harriet T. Bartlett, for Chagres, were to have sailed yesterday, each having large parties destined for San Francisco. The steamship Crescent City is expected here on Sunday or Monday next, and will return to Chagres, touching at Vera Cruz, on the 5th of February. A large portion of her fine accommodations has already been secured. The Falcon will leave on the 1st, stopping at Savannah, Havana, and New Orleans. The elegant steamship Panama Captain Comstock, leaves on the 15th, via Rio Janeiro, Valparaiso, Panama, etc. The number of sailing ships up for California is growing large; so soon as one leaves, another is up and in her place. We are glad to notice that a better class of vessels is now in the market; those that were found to have been wanting in character and capabilities are withdrawn, and such vessels as the Morrison, Ann & Eliza, Orpheus, and South Caroline, are substituted. These vessels are worthy of the confidence of those who are shipping or taking passage. The accommodations on board the Morrison are particularly worthy of inspection – Messrs. Spofford, Tileston & Co. are the owners.

 

Thus they go. At this rate California will not long remain a wilderness, nor the gold be allowed to glitter in the beds of the streams and brooks running through the valley of the Sacramento.

 

 

THE EMIGRATION TO CALIFORNIA²

 

VESSELS SAILED DIRECT FOR CALIFORNA

 

Whence sailed

Name of Vessel

Date of Sailing

Number of Passengers

Officers and Crew

Before reported, in 141 vessels

 

 

6,756

1,728

New York

Steamer Hartford

Feb. 20

57

18

 

Bark Vernon

Feb. 22

7

12

 

Bark Nautilus

Feb. 22

74

12

 

Bark St. Mary

Feb. 22

30

12

 

Brig Brothers

Feb. 22

24

10

 

Schr. Gen. Morgan

Feb. 22

27

6

 

Ship J. G. Coster

Feb. 24

93

18

 

Bark J. A. Jessuran

Feb. 24

56

12

 

Bark Eliza Ann

Feb. 24

4

12

 

Schr. J. W. Ryerson

Feb. 24

20

8

 

Ship Belvidere

Mar. 1

80

12

 

Ship Courier

Mar. 3

66

14

 

Ship Jas. L. Day

Mar. 3

25

6

 

Ship Loo Choo

Mar. 8

139

16

 

Bark Mallory

Mar. 8

72

12

 

Bark Hy Barbeck

Mar. 8

96

12

 

Bark Palmetto

Mar. 8

41

12

 

Bark Griffon

Mar. 8

49

12

 

Bark Mouram

Mar. 8

54

12

 

Bark Inea

Mar.

20

12

 

Bark D. G. Godfrey

Mar.

 

16

 

Bark Horatio

Mar. 9

40

12

 

Ship Helena

Mar. 10

100

16

 

Steamship Senator

Mar. 11

80

20

 

Ship Salem

Mar. 13

165

16

 

Bark Susan

Mar. 16

25

14

 

Steamship Spitfire

Mar. 17

40

20

 

Bark Clarissa

Mar. 17

28

12

Boston

Ship Sweden

Mar. 1

176

16

 

Bark Orb

Mar. 1

21

12

 

Ship Regulus

Mar. 5

124

16

 

Ship Charlotte

Mar. 5

 124

16

 

Bark Edw. Fletcher

Mar. 5

30

12

 

Brig Sea Eagle

Mar. 5

71

10

N. Bedford

Schr Emeline

Mar. 6

25

8

 

Bark Russell

Mar. 8

56

10

 

Schr Horace

Mar. 10

21

6

Nantucket

Ship Henry Astor

Mar. 12

67

 

Salem

Bark Lagrange

Mar. 17

65

12

Providence

Bark Nahumkeg

Mar. 3

29

12

 

Bark Floyd

Mar. 5

50

12

Bristol, R. I.

Bark Anne

Feb. 18

57

 

 

Bark Winthrop

Mar. 9

48

14

Warren R. I.

Schr John A. Sutter

Mar. 8

26

6

New London

Schr Alfred

Mar. 11

28

 

 

Schr Willimantic

Mar. 17

21

 

Philadelphia

Ship Mason

 Feb. 22

102

16

 

Ship Levant

Feb. 26

72

16

 

Bark Algoma

Mar. 1

56

12

Baltimore

Bark Kirkland

Feb. 24

62

12

 

Schr Ferdinand

Feb. 25

25

8

 

Brig Arabian

Mar. 16

32

10

Norfolk

Bark J. G. Colley

Mar. 11

29

15

Richmond, Va.

Ship Marianna

Mar. 16

118

14

N. Orleans

Steamship McKim

Feb. 9

85

21

 

Schr Friendship

Mar. 9

25

6

 

Schr St. Mary

Mar. 10

19___

6­­____

Total

 

 

9,932

2,391

9,932_

Total in 198 vessels via Cape Horn

 

 

 

12,323

 

¹Advertised to leave February 15, 1849.

²New York Herald, Morning Edition, Friday, March 23, 1849.

 

 

 

VESSELS SAILED FOR CHAGRES

 

 

Whence Sailed

Name of Vessel

Date of Sailing

Number of Passengers

Before reported, in 24 vessels

 

 

1,760

New York

Bark Bogota

Feb. 22

40

 

Brig Alvaria

Feb. 22

33

 

Steamship Northerner

Mar. 1

150

 

Steamship Falcon

Mar. 8

106

 

Schr Splendid

Mar. 10

26

 

Steam. Crescent City

Mar. 15

338

 

Brig. Dr. Hitchcock

Mar. 16

45

 

Bark Santee

Mar. 22

57

Boston

Bark Thames

Feb. 22

34

 

Schr Edwin

Mar. 5

27

 

Schr Harriet Neal

Mar. 12

31

Baltimore

Brig St. Andrew

Mar. 12

24

Charleston

Brig Henrico

Mar. 3

21

Norfolk

Schr Viola

Mar. 10

10

New Orleans

Brig Perfect

Feb. 13

45

 

Steamship Galveston

Feb. 14

158

 

Steamship Isthmus

Feb. 20

45

 

Steamship Maria Burt

Feb. 28

82

 

Schr Crescent City

Feb. 28

58

 

Steamship Alabama

Mar. 2

30

 

Brig Major Eastland

Mar. 12

109__

Total in 45 vessels

 

 

3,229

 

 

VIA VERA CRUZ

 

Before reported in 5 vessels

 

 

449

New York

Brig Empire

Feb. 19

66

 

Brig Isabella Reed

Mar. 2

48

New Orleans

Brig Jennett

Feb. 19

31_

Total in 8 vessels, via Vera Cruz

 

 

594

 

 

VIA BRAZOS

 

Before reported in 6 vessels

 

 

406

New York

Schr Florida

Jan. 24

36

 

Schr Peerless

Mar. 2

30

New Orleans

Steamship Globe

Feb. 17

50

 

Steamship Globe

Mar. 4

188

Mobile

Schr. Princeton

Feb. 10

55_

Total in 11 vessels, via Brazos

 

 

765

 

 

VIA CORPUS CHRISTI

 

New York

Bark Norumberg

Mar. 8

36

Boston

Schr J. W. Herbert

Mar. 1

33

New Orleans

Steamship Fanny

Feb. 17

34_

Total in 3 vessels, via Corpus Christi

 

 

103

 

 

VIA SAN JUAN RIVER

 

Before reported in 1 vessel

 

 

2

New York

Brig Mary

 

116

Total in 2 vessels, via San Juan River

 

 

118

 

 

VIA TAMPICO

 

Before reported in 1 vessel

 

 

50

Philadelphia

Schr. Newton

Feb. 26

37

Total in 2 vessels, via Tampico

 

 

87

 

 

VIA LAVACA

 

New Orleans

Steamship Palmetto

Mar. 9

122

 

 

RECAPITULATION

Total in 198 vessels, via Cape Horn

 

 

12,323

Total in   45 vessels, via Chagres

 

 

3,229

Total in     8 vessels, via Vera Cruz

 

 

594

Total in   11 vessels, via Brazos

 

 

765

Total in     3 vessels, via Corpus Christi

 

 

103

Total in     2 vessels, via San Juan River

 

 

118

Total in     2 vessels, via Tampico

 

 

87

Total in __1 vessels, via Lavaca

 

 

122__

Total in 270 vessels

 

 

17,341

 

 

Besides the above, several vessels have cleared at this port for San Francisco, which have not yet sailed; and some few have sailed, the list of passengers in which, if any, we have been unable to obtain. If those who have gone out West, to go overland, were included in the above, it would swell the list to about twenty thousand.

 

The statistics of the United States Treasury Department¹ supply the most convincing proof that the quantity of gold poured out from California placers and mines was unprecedented in the annuals of the world. A glance at the following table tells the story:

 

PRODUCTION OF GOLD IN THE WORLD

 

Period

Ounces

Value

Annual average for period

Increase

1831 to 1840

6,522,913

$134,841,000

$13,484,000

   * * *

1841 to 1850

17,605,018

$363,928,000

$36,393,000

177 per cent

1851 to 1855

32,051,621

$662,566,000

$132,513,000

266 per cent

 

 

Naturally this, a veritable Mississippi River, swamping the entire United States with a flood of liquid gold, evoked grave misgivings in the minds of the financial and industrial magnates of the times. What effect would this enormous accumulation of precious metal produce in the values of all articles of commerce, in the prices of labor, etc.?

 

¹From Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1922, page 708.

 

 

In response to many anxious inquiries by its readers the New York Herald of January 31, 1849

came out with an editorial containing the following statistics:

 

 

Bank currency

Specie in Banks

Specie in Circulation

United States

$150,000,000

$75,000,000

$20,000,000

Great Britain

$150,000,000

$90,000,000

$75,000,000

France

$100,000,000

$40,000,000

$60,000,000

Rest of Europe

$200,000,000

$200,000,000

$200,000,000

Rest of World

$50,000,000

$40,000,000

$25,000,000

Total

$650,000,000

$445,000,000

$380,000,000

 

 

It appears by this that on a basis of $445,000,000 in specie there is a circulation of $650,000,000 in paper, or an excess in paper of $205,000,000. Taking the specie on deposit in banks as the basis of the paper currency, we must consider it immovable any further than necessary, to displace so much paper. The actual circulation of money and its representatives, in the world, so far as we can arrive at it, is ten hundred and thirty millions of dollars ($1,030,000,000) and that amount suffices to carry on the entire commerce of the world.

 

In the event of the mines of California producing one-half as much as estimated it will be seen that the amount of gold in circulation will be doubled within the next ten years. Fifty millions of dollars in gold added to the currency of the World in each year will create a revolution in financial and commercial affairs greater than ever before experienced.

 

¹See also New York Herald, December 28, 1848.

 

 

 

 

 

Transcribed by: Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.


© 2010 Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.

 

 

 

 

 

THE PIONEER STEAMER CALIFORNIA INDEX

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