The Maritime Heritage Project

World Harbors from The Maritime Heritage Project in San Francisco.

Ships arriving at the Port of San Francisco



Arrivals 1856

Please note: Generally, these arrivals are merchant ships, included to give a sense of the volume and type of goods into early San Francisco. If you had the money in San Francisco during the 1800s, you could have anything your heart desired. They are by no means complete, and passenger lists for these vessels are often unavailable. Click here for lists of passengers.

° 1846-1848 ° 1849 ° 1850 ° 1851 ° 1852 ° 1853 ° 1854 ° 1855 ° 1856
° 1858 ° 1860-1862 ° 1863 ° 1864 ° 1868 ° 1870s ° 1880s ° 1890s

JANUARY

  • January 4: Clipper ship Morning Star, Foster, 135 days from New York. Merchandise to W.T. Coleman and Co. Memoranda: Had heavy weather off the Horn, was 35 days from east end of Staten Land to 50 in the Pacific; crossed the Equator Dec 14th, long 113, thence had light winds from WE; for the last 3 days have had light winds from N.W.
  • Clipper ship caught in stormy weather.
    Stormy Weather on the High Seas
  • January 4: Clipper ship Winged Arrow, Bearse, 125 days from Boston. Merchandise to Flint, Peabody & Co. Memoranda: Was off Cape Horn 25 days in very heavy gales; had three gales of wind, in which the ship lay to 32 hours at a time; split sales, broke chain plates, and sustained other damage; crossed the equator Dec 16th, lon 119 30; has been off the coast, within 100 miles, for the last five days; anchored on the bar on Thursday night.
  • January 9: Clipper ship Black Warrior, Murphy, 121 days from New York. Merchandise to D.I. Ross & Co. Memoranda: From New York to Cape Horn had light winds, crossed the Equator on the Atlantic Oct 6, lon 31, was off the Horn 35 days, with strong westerly gales lost foretopsail yard, split sails, and crossed the Equator on the Pacific Dec 15, long 112; from thence had light N.E. winds and calms; have been ten days within 280 miles of this port with continual calms and head winds. Dec 18th to 22d, was in company with a large clipper ship with full figure head, supposed her to be the Defender, from Boston for this port. Died at sea Nov. 16th, David Atkins Stuart.
  • January 10: Clipper ship Samuel Appleton, Deshon, 149 days from Boston. Merchandise to Flint, Peabody & Co. Memoranda: Was off Cape Horn 35 days with strong westerly gales; stove bulwarks, split sails, stove quarter boat, and done other damage; crossed the Equator Dec 16th, lon 113; from thence had fine weather; have been off the coast the last 7 days, in light winds and calms.
  • January 10: Bq. Emily Miner, Metzger, 50 days from Valparaiso. Merchandise to Crosby & Dibbles. Memoranda: Left in port ship Simoda, Knight, uncertain; ship A.M. Lawrence, do; ship Louisa Erskine do; ship Magelan, King, to load on the coast for Boston; ship John Cummings, Adams, to sail on the 23d for Hampton Roads; ship Elizabeth Ellen, Brightman, in distress, repairing; barque Milford, Corry, to load for Australia; brig Boston, Hutchins, to sail for Iquiqua to load for this port, had fine winds from S.E. and south up to 7 north, crossed the line Dec 6., lon 95, in 15 days 21 hours from Valparaiso, had the Doldrums on one day and then took light breezes from the W. and E. from 8 to 20 north, had light baffling winds from 20 to 34 N, had moderate breezes from E. and N.E., was becalmed one day in 35 N. and took light breezes from the S; since then have experienced short severe gales from S.E. Dec 31 passed in sight of Socorro Island, this Island is laid down in the old chart (that is 1849) a degree east of its true position, but on the chart dated 1852 it is correct; navigators sailing on this route would do well to notice the two dates.
  • San Francisco History.January 10: Ships Golden West and Wild Rover have anchored in the steam; brig Wyandot, for Valparaiso, have anchored off Meiggs' wharf.
The early days in San Francisco.
San Francisco, California 
Panoramic map from the 1800s 
(Quality images are available by clicking on the image.)

April, 1856

  • April 30: Clipper ship Osborne, Howes, Kelly, 123 days from New York. Merchandise to Annan, Embery & Co.

May, 1856

  • May 4: Barque Live Yankee, Reed, 46 days from Hong Kong. Mdse to S. Merritt
  • May 4: Mexican brig Carmelita, Randall, 30 days from Guaymas. Mdse to Bolton, Barrn & Co.

November 1856

  • November 20: Daily Alta California. There are a number of first-class clippers in port at present; among them the Norseman, Black Prince, Flying Cloud, B. F. Hoxie and Romance of the Sea. A villainous but, fortunately unsuccessful attempt was made to sink the steamship Orizaba on the night of the the 9th. The scoundrels entered the ship at low tide, opened the stops in the engine room, and allowed the water to run until she grounded. In the morning there was two or three feet of water in the hold, but by hard pumping the vessel was speedily free. No clue to the perpetrators of this fiendish act.
December 31, 1856, Sacramento Daily Union
Sacramento, California

In looking about our wharves the other day, I was forcibly impressed with the change that has taken place in regard to the character of our commerce within two or three years. There are now comparatively few large vessels in our harbor, either from foreign or Eastern domestic ports. In place of these, numerous small — ranging from five to fifty tons are to be seen, which are mostly engaged in island commerce. As the productions •of the State ore developed, means have to be provided for their transportation, so that the producer may realise from his labor by the exchange of his commodities for others which bis requirements may demand, or for cash.

In order to facilitate this, hundreds of small vessels have found employment. They are generally of light draught, and many of them can penetrate any river, stream or inlet where water can be found to the depth of a foot. They come here loaded with the productions of the farmers — with grain, hay, vegetables, wood, charcoal, etc. These, together with some larger vessels that are employed in bringing lumber from the northern part of the State nnd from Oregon, and some others engaged in trading up and down the coast, make up the bulk of our commerce at this time.


Recommended Reading

If you cannot find recommended books locally, consider the links provided to Amazon.com or AbeBooks
both of which have proven to be reliable on service and delivery.

The Mammoth Book of Life Before the Mast:
Sailors' Eyewitness Stories from the Age of Fighting Ships
Life Before the Mast.Ships, Life Before the Mast.
Jon E. Lewis, Editor
Firsthand accounts of the real-life naval adventures behind the popular historical sagas of Patrick O'Brian and C. F. Forester. Twenty true-life adventures capture the glory and the gore of the great age of naval warfare. They epitomize that era from the late eighteenth to the early nineteenth century -- the age of the French Revolutionary War, the Napoleonic Wars, and the War of 1812 -- when combat at sea was won not by the impersonal power of technology but by sheer human wit, courage, and endurance. Culled from memoirs, diaries, and letters of celebrated officers as well as common sailors, the collection includes exciting accounts of such decisive naval engagements as Admiral Horatio Nelson's on the Battle of the Nile in 1798 or Midshipman Roberts' on the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and also offers revealing glimpses into the hardships suffered daily aboard a man-of-war: scurvy, whippings, storms, piracy, press gangs, drudgery, boredom, and cannibalism.

Life of a Sailor (Seafarers' Voices)Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.Life At Sea.Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.
Frederick Chamier
Chamier went to sea in 1809 as an officer in the Royal Navy. Like his contemporary, Captain Frederick Marryat, he enjoyed a successful literary career and is well remembered for his naval novels. This book, his first, is usually catalogued as fiction, although it is an exact account of his naval experiences, with every individual, ship, and event he described corroborated by his service records. Told with humor and insight, it is considered an authentic accounts of a young officer's service. From anti-slavery patrols off Africa to punitive raids on the American coast during the War of 1812, Chamier provides details of many lesser-known campaigns. His descriptions of British naval operations in America, which reflected his objection to bringing the war to the civilian population, were highly criticized by his seniors.

The Nagle Journal: A Diary of the Life of Jacob Nagle, Sailor, from the Year 1775 to 1841Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.
John C. Dann

Great Stories of the Sea & ShipsSea Stories and the history of America.
N. C. Wyeth
Sea Stories and the history of America.More than 50,000 copies of this collection of high-seas adventures are in print. Not only does it showcase the fiction of such classic writers as Daniel Defoe, Jules Verne, and Jack London, but the entries also feature historic first-person narratives including Christopher Columbus’s own account of his famous voyage in 1492. Every page offers vivid tales of heroic naval battles and dangerous journeys of exploration to the stories of castaways and smugglers. The variety of works includes “The Raft of Odysseus,” by Homer; Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Mermaid”; “The Specksioneer,” by Elizabeth Gaskell; Washington Irving’s “The Phantom Island”; and “Rounding Cape Horn,” by Herman Melville. Eighteen extraordinary black and white illustrations by Peter Hurd add to the volume's beauty.

The Rebel Raiders
The Astonishing History of the Confederacy's Secret NavyShips, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.

James T. deKay
The Rebel Raiders.During its construction in Liverpool, the ship was known as “Number 290.” It was unleashed as the CSS Alabama, the Confederate gunship that triggered the last great military campaign of the Civil War; yet another infamous example of British political treachery, and the largest retribution settlement ever negotiated by an international tribunal: $15,500,000 in gold paid by Britain to the United States. This riveting true story of the Anglo-Confederate alliance that led to the creation of a Southern navy illuminates the dramatic and crucial global impact of the American Civil War. Like most things in the War between the States, it started over cotton: Lincoln’s naval blockade prevented the South from exporting their prize commodity to England. In response, the Confederacy came up with a plan to divert the North’s vessels and open the waterways–a plan that would mean covertly building a navy in Britain, a strategy that involved a cast of clandestine characters.

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Recommended Reading

Merchants of Grain.
Merchants of Grain:
The Power and Profits of the Five Giant Companies at the Center of the World's Food Supply
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Dan Morgan
Details how a handful of families have controlled the worlds grain trade for centuries. A great piece for families that till the soil, but one that is even more important to the people who live in the city; and have no idea of the power and control that these families wield.
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Your story begins as far back as you can imagine.