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San Francisco Stories Harbor Masters

April 1835 Captain William Richardson Port of Yerba Buena.
April 1849 Edward A. King San Francisco's first "Official" Harbor Master (approved by Jonathan Geary.)
1850   Daily Alta California, September 20, 1850, "This office, for some time past vacant by the disappearance of its former incumbent, has been filled by the appointment of Capt. George E. Simpson by Gov. Burnett."
1851 Capt. George E. Simpson Daily Alta California, May 3, 1851: "The Senate concurred in the amendments of the Assembly to the bill entitled, an act creating the office of Harbor Maser for the port and harbor of San Francisco, and for other purposes."
May 1851 to May 1852 James Hagan  
Oct 1853 to July 1855 Captain Robert Haley Also spelled R. W. Haly in Daily Alta California, August 31, 1853
July 1856-
Nov 1856
J. B. Schaeffer  
1856 H. A. Cheever  
1856 to 1858 Amos Noyes  
1859 to 1861 W. T. Thompson Location: R.S. Haven's, Battery Street, Opposite Custom house
1862 to 1865 Captain Charles Miner Goodall $3,000/pa
1865 to 1867 Marcus H. Harloe $10,000/pa
1868 to 1869 J. S. Houseman  
1870 to 1871 Martin Bulger  
1872 to 1873 L. B. Edwards  

May 29, 1850, Daily Alta California, San Francisco


AN ORDINANCE regulating the powers of the Harbor Master, passed by the Common Council and approved by the Major, May 16, 1850.

The people of the City of San Francisco do ordain as follows:

SECT 1. The harbor master shall have all the power and authority vested in the corporation of the city to regulate and control the position of the steamers, sailing vessels, or other craft lying and situated in the harbor and within the limits of the city of San Francisco. He shall, whenever it is deemed advisable, cause any steamer, sailing vessel, or other craft to change its position, and may have such change of position made at the expense of the city, and cause suit to be entered against the owner, master, captain, or agent of said vessel for the costs of such removal.

Sect. 2. It shall be the duty of the harbor master to keep an open and free passage to all the wharfs of the city, and to effect and accomplish said purpose, and carry out the provisions of the first section of this ordinance, shall have power to call upon the Mayor, Marshal, and Police of the city, to aid and assist him.

September 28, 1850, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Election for San Francisco Harbor Master September 28 1850 from the Daily Alta California.

General Notices

HARBOR MASTER'S OFFICE, 28th March, 1851--For the convenience of ship-masters, merchants, and others connected with Shipping, an Office has been opened at Messrs. Hoff & Owner's store, on the wharf at the foot of Sacramento street, where all orders and applications may be left at any hour of the day. The Harbor Master can be found at this office between the hours of 10 and 12 M., and at the office on Cunningham's Wharf from 3 until 5 P.M., and at his dwelling on the wharf, foot of Broadway, at all other hours.

GEO. SIMPTON, Harbor Master

April 4, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

For the convenience of ship-masters, merchants, and others connected with Shipping, an Office has been opened at Messrs. Hoff & Owner's store, on the wharf at the foot of Sacramento street, where all orders and applications may be left at any hour of the day. The Harbor Master can be found at this office between the hours of 10 and 12 M., and at the office on Cunningham's Wharf from 3 until 5 P.M, and at his dwelling on the wharf, foot of Broadway, at all other hours.

July 17, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

As a large number of vessels are lying about the principal wharves unoccupied in loading or discharging; and as there exists almost a certainty of their destruction in the event of another fire, together with their great detriment to merchants and shipmasters generally, as endangering all other shipping, notice is hereby given to all parties interested therein, that they are required to call at this office between the hours of 9 A.M. and 12 M from this date to the 24th inst., and receive instructions to haul into berths north of Law's wharf, or south of Market street and Rincon Point, or in the stream. Merchants and others interested in store ships known and recognized as such, showing good cause for their non-removal, will be exempted from the above requirement. All vessels at present laying without any person on board, win be removed forthwith, the numerous applications at this office personally and by memorials from merchants requiring my immediate action. Therefore, masters of vessels and others concerned will govern themselves accordingly.

Harbor Master's Office, foot of Sacramento street.
San Francisco, June 18, 1851

August 19, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Candidates for Harbor Master 1853 include: Wm. McMichael, Capt. Wm. C. Nye, Capt. Wm. H. Griffin, Capt. Joseph M. Douglas, Captain Matthew Hale (currently Deputy), John M. Taylor, Esq., Capt. Geo. S. Porter, J. L. Fowler, Nathaniel Bassett . . .

Ads for Harbor Master Elections 1853 in San Francisco.

March 19, 1854, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

AN IMPORTANT DECISION -- Captain Nye was charged by the Harbor Master with a refusal to comply with his order for the removal of a storeship. The storeship William Gray, lying off Shaw's Wharf, with her stern within 18 feet of the wharf. She was lying in deep water and was in a public thoroughfare, and was not properly moored. She had been lying in that vicinity for some time.

The defence set up was, That the ship had been lying where she was for three years, and that she was inside of the water lot line. They claimed to have been in possession of the lot for three years, and therefore on their own lot, and denied the jurisdiction of the Harbor Mater, which extends only over the harbor of San Francisco.

Judge Baker thought there should be a line of distinction established between the water lots and the city and the harbor of San Francisco. The question was, What jurisdiction the Harbor-Master could have over private property? Vessels lying on private property would be so far under the jurisdiction of the Harbor-Master as to allow him to regular the manner in which a vessel was placed upon it so it should not be liable to injure other vessels. he thought, however, the Harbor-Master had no right to order a removal of a vessel from a private lot. The owner of a water lot had a right to pile it up or put a building or vessel on it.

The defendant was discharged.

Daily Alta California, September 19, 1854, San Francisco

San Francisco Port Charges - The Whaling Trade

Considerable conversation was indulged in last evening, at the Merchants' Exchange, in relation to the port charges of San Francisco. From a statement made by a merchant engaged in the shipping business, it does not appear that the charges are onerous. The only charges American vessels are subject to (other than entering and clearing) are the pilotage and Harbor Master's fees. The charges for pilotage are: for vessels under 1800 tons, eight dollars per foot; and over that tonnage, ten dollars per foot. If a vessel is brought in by the master, half pilotage is charged. The Harbor Master fees are four cents per ton, which is forty dollars on a thousand ton ship. Add to this the pilotage say twelve feet at eight dollars per foot, is ninety-six dollars, or a total of one hundred and thirty-six dollars on a vessel of a thousand tons. The most onerous tax is the wharfage, which would not effect vessels engaged in the whaling trade, as they would most probably discharge their cargoes in the stream from the ship's side, providing It was intended for shipment to the East. Smooth water can be found in the harbor for vessels to lay side by side to take cargo from one to the other.

Whaling Scene. 1800s

That San Francisco is the most desirable spot on the Pacific American coast for whalers to refit, repair, &c, is unquestionable; and now that seamen are plenty, and the same inducements for desertion which existed some years since have to a great extent ceased, there is apparently no good reason that we should not have the benefit of their presence.

The Project

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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