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Builder: William H. Webb, New York, 1848. Engine: Side-lever by Novelty Iron Works. Launch: October 25, 1848. Original Owner: Savannah Steam Navigation Company. 1,275 tons (one source cites 1,194-tons, which may be the second Tennessee built in 1853 for J. Hooper.), 211 feet. Wooden side-wheel steamer, 2 decks, 3 masts. Accommodations for 200, enlarged in 1849 to carry 200 cabin and 350 steerage.

The SS Tennessee was initially to run weekly service between New York and Savannah, but she was bought by Howland & Aspinwall/Pacific Mail Steamship Company for the California trade. The Tennessee was the first American steamship whose service was interrupted to be used in the Panama run. She was provisioned for a Pacific voyage by way of the Straits of Magellan and on her first run, because of storms, she carried only 15 passenger, passing the equator on December 23, 1849. When she reached Panama on March 12, 1850 after 57 days at sea from New York, she was met by 3,000 people waiting for passage to San Francisco.

She brought thousands of gold-seekers to the City before sinking just outside of San Francisco's fog-shrouded headlands on March 6, 1853 in an area which is now named Tennessee Cove in her honor. Her passengers, mail and baggage were saved, but she was a total loss. She is but one of dozens of shipwrecks located near the Golden Gate. Other ships include The Lewis (1849), City of Chester (1888), City of New York (1893), and the City of Rio de Janeiro (1901).

More on the Wreck.

List of Passengers.

Engraved Brass Pocket Sundial CompassBrass Pocket Sundial.

Brass Pocket Sundial Compass.
  • Polished solid brass reproduction of an antique pocket sundial with magnetic compass.
  • Top of the sundial is hinged and a curved scale is used to set your local latitude angle top of the sundial is hinged and a curved scale is used to set your local latitude angle and the magnetic compass allows the sundial to be oriented North.
  • The sun's shadow cast by the sundial's vane marks the local time.
  • The top of the sundial can lay down flat, and both the latitude scale and the sundial vane are hinged to lay flat for compact storage.
  • A leather case is included.
  • The sundial measures a maximum of 2 3/4 inches (7.0 cm) tall, 7/8 inches (2.3 cm) tall when collapsed, the body of the compass is 2 5/8 inches (6.6 cm) in diameter, and the sundial weighs 3.8 ounces (109 grams).

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; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; Maritime Library, San Francisco, California.

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