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Sea Captains: San Francisco 1800s

Alexander Sinclair Murray was born in Scotland in 1827.

Upon reaching the age of fourteen, he entered a lawyer's office, leaving it eighteen months later to sail for Australia, where, after his arrival, he worked with a brother until the news of the California gold discoveries reached him, when he set sail for the El Dorado of the day, reaching San Francisco in April 1849 on the Eleanor Lancaster, 438-ton barque, built at Maryport in 1839, owned by London shipowner Robert Brooks. The Eleanor Lancaster left Sydney January 21, 1849. Arrived in San Francisco on April 2 (71 day passage). Captain: Francis W. Lodge.

After remaining there ten days, he chartered a ship's longboat and began business on the Sacramento, exchanging his first craft for a larger one after making a few trips. With the money made in this venture he bought a 175-ton brig, and sailed for Sydney via Honolulu. On the return trip the brig called at Navigator's Island, and in getting away from there was wrecked.

Murray had no insurance on the vessel. After remaining at Upolu forty days, he returned to Sydney, going from there to San Francisco, arriving at the Bay City on August 9th.

From there he went to Portland on the schooner Urania in September and spent the winter at Salem, going below in the spring and purchasing the Washington, which he brought up on the Success and placed above the falls. He ran her between Canemah and the Yamhill River, making the first trip June 6th. As she did not prove profitable in this trade, he brought her down the following year and operated her on the Portland and Oregon City route.

Murray was one of the most noted characters who had yet appeared in marine circles in the Northwest, and for several years after his arrival was regarded as the king of the steamboat fraternity.

The following year, in company with William Irvine, he constructed the steamer Colonel Moody. His roving disposition again asserting itself, Captain Murray disposed of his interests to his associates and with the proceeds purchased the bark Sea Nymph, 240 tons, and set sail for Melbourne, where, on arrival, he sold the bark and began steamboating on the Murray River.

San Francisco Bay. 1899.

Topographic Map. San Francisco Bay. 1899.

His first boat, the Settler , appeared on the river in 1861. He followed it with the Lady Daly in 1862 and the Lady Darling in 1865. He then went to the Clutha River in New Zealand, where he built the Tuape Ka.

After leaving the Northwest, Murray invested about $200,000 in the construction of steamers. He took a very important part in the early marine business; the Northwest owes much to his enterprise. He was also running one of his steamers out of Sydney, New South Wales.


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BARSKA Anchormaster Spyscope.

High power viewing with zoom magnifications from 15x to 45x and large 50mm objective lens in a polished brass scope on a mahogany floor tripod.

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The Sea Chart

The Illustrated History of Nautical Maps and Navigational ChartsThe Sea Chart.The Sea Chart.
John Blake
The sea chart was one of the key tools by which ships of trade, transport and conquest navigated their course across the oceans. John Blake looks at the history and development of the chart and the related nautical map, in both scientific and aesthetic terms, as a means of safe and accurate seaborne navigation. This handsome work contains 150 color illustrations including the earliest charts of the Mediterranean made by thirteenth-century Italian merchant adventurers, as well as eighteenth-century charts that became strategic naval and commercial requirements and led to Cook's voyages in the Pacific, the search for the Northwest Passage, and races to the Arctic and Antarctic.

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Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers, and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; Maritime Library, San Francisco, California, various Maritime Museums around the world.

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