The Maritime Heritage Project

World Harbors from The Maritime Heritage Project in San Francisco.

San Francisco Stories

Letter from New York

Daily Alta California, Wednesday Morning, October 5, 1853

The California Steamship Lines
Interesting Synopsis of Local Matters
The News, Foreign and Domestic.

New York, September, 4, 1853

The Northern Light of the Nicaragua Line, arrived on the 24th August with dates to the 1st, making, in connection with the Sierra Nevada, a flying trip, and giving us for the first time a round communication with your city within fifty days.

Her freight of $1,100,000 of gold has created a stir in the street, and Transit stock has gone up three or four per cent.; quoted at 28 @ 28-1/4 cash I question whether it advances much further at present, however, under the presumption that the first large shipment via Nicaragua, is in consequence of the arrangement with the agent of the Mail Line, made in San Francisco. That agreement not having been sanctioned at head quarters, it is feared that the next shipment will fall back to the old mark.

Crossing the Isthmus of Panama on mules during the Gold Rush.
Prospectors traveling to the California gold fields cross the Isthmus of Panama on mules

The Panama Line must bestir themselves, however. That Railroad must be "hurried up" — and meanwhile, I have long wondered why the Company have not laid down a plank mule-track from Cruces or Gorgona to Panama. This would immensely facilitate the Transit of passengers and freight, and shorten the trips, while the tolls which would willingly be paid by passengers and muleteers would not only defray all cost but furnish a fund toward the completion of the Railroad. Be that as it may, however, it is only "my notion," they must hurry up somehow, as the Nicaragua Line is after them just now "with a sharp stick." I have a suspicion though that the Transit Company are only making hay in their sunshine. Low water in the San Juan river will soon bother them again and a nine days transit, or more, will again lengthen their trips and set their passengers to growling. Our last accounts from Panama state that $100,000 has been appropriated by the Government for improving the Cruces road. Ran Runnels, Esq., an old resident, has the contract, and his Yankee energy and enterprise will doubtless "tell" to the advantage of future passengers by that route.

Our Crystal Palace is, as the phrase goes, "in the full tide of successful experiment," although not yet complete in all its parts. The Machinery Arcade is announced as ready for occupancy, and the Painting Gallery is in process of arrangement. It is an immense room, extending nearly the whole length of the block, and will contain specimens of all degrees of art, from the handsome to the hideous. The Palace is now lighted and open in the evening till 10 oclock, an arrangement which will much increase the receipts. The visitors number about 7,000 daily.

Col. Fremont is off again to the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada, exploring on his own account the Pacific Railroad route.

Mr. Depau's yacht Sylvia, which left here to join the English yacht squadron in their regatta this year, has not maintained the honor won for us by the America last year. She came off second best in the race, but has challenged the winner to another trial. McKay, the builder of the famous Sovereign of the Seas, is reported to have received orders for several clippers on English account.

In political matters, there is little stirring, and if there were, as I have but small pretensions to sucking statesmanship, I should trouble you but slightly with my opinions, preferring to leave pork, politics and percentages to heavier men, while I forage for the smaller, but in a general way more palatable game, of gossip, general news, and items of interest to the self-banished Jasons of your sun-set coast. Conventions are rife just now throughout the different States' political, woman's rights and temperance. To the Democratic Convention of this State, delegates were thronging in pairs; but "paired, not matched" — Hunkers and Barnburners each organizing a gathering on their own hook.

It is still doubtful whether R.J. Walker goes to China; despatches from Washington to-day say that he will. I question it. The rumor tuns here that he has been in close consultation with the New York and Pacific Railroad Company, and they have made it worth his while to go to England as their financial agent. It is a case of "quien sabe" yet.

By the last accounts the fever in New Orleans was declining, both in number of cases and malignity. The efforts to raise funds for the Howard Benevolent Association of the afflicted city, have been very successful. Up to the 1st instant there has been contributed in this city alone, $48,000, while to the same date, throughout the principal cities, the collections have amounted to over $160,000. All the musical celebrities here have volunteered their aid in the good cause. Sontag, Ole Bull, Madame Thillon, and others. Well might Collins style music the "Heavenly Maid" when her noblest votaries are so constantly found rallying promptly and nobly under the banner of her Heavenly Sister Charity.

Talking of music, the long expected Jullien, "the" Jullien, is with us at last. He commenced his monster concerts at Castle Garden on the 29th ult., and advertises them every evening for a month. I have not heard him yet, but to borrow an idea from the old Greek joker, who carried a brick as a sample of his house, I have seen an instrument of Jullien's band, and no small sight either, — the Ophicleide, an enormous brazen article, standing some 7 feet high, and equal in capacity, I should think, to a 68 pounder Paixhan, with keys or valves, like soup plates, and a mouth like the sun in a mist. If his band is proportionate in order instruments and numbers, he may well talk of "monster concerts."

A site has at least been secured for our Assay Office. Government have leased, with right of purchase, the white marble building on Wall Street, adjoining the Custom House, formerly occupied by the U.S. Bank, and latterly by the Banks of Commerce and of the State of New York.

Howard & Son's noble steamer the Golden Age made her engineer's trip on the 1st instant, to the satisfaction of her owners, and now lies at her berth receiving the finishing touches preparatory to her departure on the 28th for Australia, via the Cape of Good Hope. She will return from Australia to Panama, and run thereafter on that route. Her regular trip will take place in a few days.

The Mexican and Ocean Inland Company are making some stir again. Colonel Ramsay, their agent in Mexico, is making large promises. The mail, he writes, is now carried from Vera Cruz to Acapulco in eighty hours — forty hours less than contract time. That will soon be reduced to sixty hours, and we shall have the news regularly from California in fourteen days. This also he promises shall be brought down to nine days from California, thirty-four from Australia and thirty-six from China, and that, before the Pacific Railroad is even surveyed. Ojala! as the Spaniard says: but I doubt it, or at least the feasibility of making it a paying route. The mails may be so transported possibly, but when it comes to carrying numbers of passengers and their luggage "c´est toute autre chose."

The Atlantic arrived yesterday, P.M., in ten days, four hours from Liverpool. Her news you will receive in detail by the "Steamer Editions" of to-morrow; there is nothing of startling moment. The Turkish question is still "in statue quo ante-bellum," and whether England and France will yet "see" that ante and go enough "better" to "bluff" the Czar, is still undetermined. "Clubs," (represented by "clubbed" markets, is case of need), are evidently "trumps," and Nicholas has a good hand, and seems quite inclined to "play it out." Austria, in some respects the "pilot fish" to the Russian shark, seems rather inclined to "take Turkey" a bit, and if not careful may find a small bill brought against her for "kicking up a d´d fuss generally." She has addressed a "manifesto to the various foreign ministers, protesting against Capt. Ingrahams course, in the Kossta affair, as a gross violation of international law," -- of course. I doubt, though, whether her "manifest" will at all expedite a clearance from the difficulty.

Another of those heavy robberies of Bank Messengers, of which we have heretofore had several instance, has just occurred. On the 1st, the messenger between the Providence and Newport Banks, a Mr. Remington, was robbed on board the steamboat Perry, of his bag containing nearly $50,000 belonging to the banks of Newport. He had laid his bag down beside the water jar, in the ladies’ cabin, and was promenading the saloon. While his back was turned for a moment in walking a perfect duplicate, in appearance, was substituted for his own portmanteau, and the theft was not discovered until he came to open it for delivery in Providence. There were about $21,500 in checks, and over $24,000 in bills, mostly of small denominations . . .

. . . A convocation, under the grandiloquent title of the "Whole World’s Temperance Convention," has been in session here for a few days past. There was a strong cross of "Women’s-rightsism" about it. Rev. Miss Antoinette L. Brown (as the Tribune regularly reports her) and "other such," figuring largely. They wound up yesterday with a Vegetarian Banquet, at Metropolitan Hall, luxuriating on such an enticing bill of fare as Graham bread, stewed squashes, wheaten grits, and pure cold water. Horace Greeley was chairman and grant carver, or, to be more in keeping with the materiel of the "carte," perhaps I should say Spooney-in-Chief. . .

The Maritime Heritage Project.

Site Search


Ships in Port






World Seaports


Research Sites


Ship's Store

Books & Publications

Your story goes as far back
as you can imagine.


For Advertisers

Monthly Updates

* indicates required

Gold Rush Saints: California Mormons and the Great Rush for Riches (Kingdom in the West: The Mormons and the American Frontier)
Find Windstar cruises through Expedia.

China Tea Clippers

George Frederick Campbell
The history of the China tea clippers is examined in this book, especially their struggle in the 19th century for economic survival in the face of the steamships. It also details the advances made in design, hull construction, rigging, sail plans and deck arrangements.

A Chronological History of the Origin and Development of Steam Navigation

George Henry Preble

Travel the world with One Travel. Kindle Fire.

Read History on Your Kindle Fire

Many of the books featured on this site are available free or at low cost for a Kindle reader.

The Maritime Heritage Project provides free information on world migration and exploration during the 1800s. Please consider supporting The Project by purchasing from our sponsors and advertisers or


Maritime History: Rare and Collectible Books