Merchant Ships in Port

Please note: Merchant ship arrivals are included to give an idea of the volume and type of goods into early San Francisco. If you had the money, you could have anything your heart desired. Listings are by no means complete; names of passengers on these vessels are often unavailable.

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Arrivals 1880s


  • January 1: Daily Alta California. Just landed ex. brig Tahiti: 40,000 cocoanuts. Also desiccated cocoanuts, in bulk and fancy packages.
  • February 11: Arrived: Brig Tahiti, Turner, 29 days from Tahiti. Mdse to Matthew Turner. Memoranda: Left Tahiti Jan 12 at 2:30 p.m., had 9-1/2 days light northerly winds to the equator, which was crosed in lon 146 30 W; took the NE trades strong in 2N and carriedthem to 35N, 142W; thence to port light baffling NE and N breeze. Sighted the high land of the north shore 69 miles distant. February 21: the brig Tahiti came out of Merchants Dry Dock yesterday where she had been repairing and cleaning, and docked at Mission street wharf, where she will load for Tahiti.
    Tuesday, March 1, 1887, The Daily Bulletin, Hawaii: The brig Tahiti, Captain Turner, arrived in San Francisco lately, after a passage of thirty days from Tahiti. She brought up a number of passengers, among them being Captain J. T. Jensson, the carpenter, boatswain, sailmaker and two seamen of the ship Astracan, which struck on a coral-reef off Maturaivavo Island, one of the Tuamotu group, in the South Pacific, on the night of the 17th last, and became a total loss. At the time the vessel stuck a stiff breeze was blowing and one of the boats was smashed. The captain used every exertion to get the vessel off the reef, but finding it impossible, he provisioned the remaining boats and ordered all hands in and set sail for Tahiti, where he arrived nine days later. When the natives there saw the boats approaching the captain says they refused to allow the crews to pull any further, but insisted on towing the boats in, and afterward were very kind to them. The American Consul sent ten of the crew up on the schooner Greyhound, and the remainder, as stated, came up with the captain on the Tahiti. The Astracan was a bark-rigged vessel of 1,041 tons register. She was owned by Burgess & Co. of Liverpool and sailed from Astoria Novemer 16th last, wheat laden, for Queenstown for orders. Her cargo was insured in the Commercial Insurance Company for 9,000 pounds; of this amount 3,000 pounds was reinsured in the Thames and Mersey Marine Insurance Company and 3,000 pounds in other companies having agencies in this city. (San Francisco Bulletin)
  • San Francisco during the 1800s.
  • March 1: Cleared/Sailed: Brig Tahiti, Turner; Mathew Turner. Importations per Tahiti: 1642 logs and knees, 27,000 cocoanuts, 105 bags pearl shells, 2 tns vanilla, 13 cs. cocoanuts, 8 cs. coin.
  • March 9: Daily Alta California. Captain Turner has launched the new schooner for Tahiti. She is named the Papeete, and is 65 feet long, 29 feet beam and 6-1/2 feet depth of hold. Her registered tonnage is 41.
  • March 20: Arrived Schooner J. C. Ford, Le Ballister, 80 days from Honolulu. Rice and sugar to J. D. Spreckels & Bros.
  • March 25: The barkentine Tropic Bird moved from the sea wall to Mission street yesterday, where she will load for Tahiti. Captain Burns has his vessel in vine order.
  • April 7: Arrived Schooner W. H. Stevens, Hansen, 43 days from Tahiti. Mdse to A. Crawford & Co.
  • May 15: Brig Tahiti, Turner, 31 days from Tahiti. Passengers and mdse to M. Turner. Memoranda: Sailed from Tahiti April 14; had light winds from NE; crosed equator 11 days out in long 150 41; took NE trades in 6 N and carried them to lat 28 N. lon 154 43 W; then had winds light and variable for 3 days; then took wind from NW to port. Consignees: A. Crawford & Co; Wilkens & Co; J. Pinkt; I. E. Thayer; Whittler, Fuller & Co; L. Blum; Martenstein & Deming; M. Turner; Order.
    May 16, Daily Alta California: The brig "Tahiti" arrived from Tahiti yesterday and docked at Mision street wharf to discharge. She returns to Tahiti, sailing on June 1st.
  • July 28, 1883, Daily Alta California: The following passengers arrived yesterday from Tahiti per bark Paloma: T. Magee, T. Young, G. Goddeffry, Captain J. Mills, B. Noel, C. Krimphof, E. Mossen, and nine natives for the new barkentine City of Papeete.
  • September 4, 1883, Daily Alta California: The brig Tahiti, Captain Turner, cleared yesterday for the Society Islands with a cargo of merchandise valued at $35,145, including 713 bbls flour, 58,722 lbs bread, 1062 mats rice, 26,694 lbs sugar, 462 de Tes, 165 c. kerosene, 148 cs canned salmon, 22 pkgs salt salmon, 12 coils rope, 57 pkgs dry goods, 437 sls beans, 138 do barley, 4 do wheat and 62 do feed. In transit - $9073, principally dry goods.
    The Java Earthquake struck on August 26, 1883, beginning on the Island of Krakatoa; it then extended to every island and sea for 100 miles in either direction. This quake caused tidal waves, the first over 100 feet in height, which swept the coast of adjacent islands and the country for 500 miles, destroying every living thing in its course. Estimated deaths: 80,000 people. The brig Tahiti rescued the crew of the bark Oswingo, from Newcastle, N.S.W. for Wilmington, Cal., near Apar Island which was affected by the earthquake.
  • October 25, 1883, Daily Alta California: The following passengers arrived yesterday from Tahiti on the barkentine City of Papette: J. Laharragus, Miss Pater, J. Smith and three others.


July 21, 1884, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Vessels on the Way to and Loading for San Francisco, July 21st

Vessels for San Francisco, July 21, 1884, Daily Alta California.
  • August 2, 1884, Daily Alta California, San Francisco: British bark Carleton, 1299 tons, wheat to Cork, U.K.
  • September 15, 1884: Daily Alta California: British Bark Carleton, Lowe, Queenstown.


July 6, 1884, Daily Alta California: A NARROW ESCAPE. About 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon a longshoreman named Joseph Dougherty was loading the ship W. R. Grace at Howard street wharf when a heavy case slipped from the slings and struck him on the left shoulder. He also received a severe cut in the back of his head. He was brought to the City Prison and treated by Dr. Dennis. His injuries are not serious.

March 21, 1885, Daily Alta California reported the American ship W. R. Grace, 1893 tons, was enroute from New York for San Francisco, Consignees D. Williams & Co.

On May 1, 1887, the Daily Alta California reported that "The United States Marshal his arrested J. S. Thompson, mate of the ship W. R. Grace, on a charge of assaulting a sailor named Philip de Foutville. He was admitted to bail in the sum of $250."


June 16, 1885

Too Much Opium.

Arrivals in the Port of San Francisco 1885.

The steamer City of Peking arrived from China shores yesterday afternoon with a large cargo of coolies, one of whom was dead.

An investigation by the Morgue officials proved that on the trip the dead coolie had indulged so much in smoking opium that his supply gave out.

Being unable to procure some more of the drug, he was attacked by the "habit," as it is called, which was so severe that it killed him before he could be relieved.

From the Colonies.

The War Feeling in the Colonies Strong
Career of the Forger, S. W. Green,
While in Sydney His Flight.

Among the passengers who arrived in this city on the Australian steamer City of Sydney yesterday was Mr. G. D. Kahlo, whose father for the past four years has been United States Consul at Sydney. Mr. G. D. Kahlo is a young man, not only very affable in address, but also abounding in interesting reminiscences of his sojourn in Australia. An Alta reporter, who sent up a card, was at once granted an interview by Mr. Kahlo. In response to the first query put by the reporter, Mr. Kahlo replied:

"So you want to know what I can tell you about Australian affairs, do you? Well, I'm afraid I haven't any very valuable information, but I shall be pleased to tell you whatever I can."

"I suppose, just at present,'' said the newsgatherer, "that the principle topic of interest in the colonies is the probability of an Anglo-Russian war."


"Yes; there is no little excitement in that respect, and the British Government is now engaged in fitting up the O. and O. steamship Massalia and the Orient steamship Lusatania as cruisers, to patrol the Australian coast. There is also a very great interest taken in the militia, and, in fact, all the volunteer military organizations. On the 3d of last March, you perhaps remember, some 750 troops left Sydney for Egypt. That was one of the greatest days ever seen in Sydney. The people fairly went wild with excitement, and thousands and thousands of spectators crowded the streets all along the line of march to the transport ships. The troops consisted of 500 infantry and 250 artillerymen. Nearly all these volunteers were from the local military companies. The enthusiasm was intense, J and I think the Russian difficulty coming upon the people while yet in an excited and warlike frame of mind, there would be but one sentiment and that for war. At Melbourne for a time no strange vessel was allowed to enter the Heads between the hours of sunrise and sunset, and they enforced a similar rule at Sydney for two days, I think. Measures for defence were taken at Sydney by stretching alone: one side of the harbor a line of torpedoes. In regard to those troops which went to the Soudan, I believe they saw no fighting, and there were but two deaths among them. As to a future confederation of the colonies, I think that, judging from the tone of the prevalent sentiment, if it occurs at all, it will be in the remote future.

Passenger arrivals.

Passenger lists from Sydney and Honolulu.

From Sydney and Honolulu into San Francisco.

The Duke of Edinburgh was daily expected to arrive at Auckland from Australia, via New Caledonia, in the Galatea.


  • November 10, 1886, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

    The Missing Cashier.

    No trace of Wells, Fargo & Co.'s missing cashier, Charles W. Banks, has yet been found. It is now thought that Banks took passage on barkentine City of Papeete, which sailed from this port on the Ist of the month, bound for the Tahiti Islands, in the South Pacific, and that he did not go to British Columbia as was at first supposed.

  • November 29: Daily Alta California. British bark Carleton, Lowe, 74 days from Sydney; 1326 tons coal, to Balfour, Guthrie & Co. Memorandum: Per Carleton - Sailed September 15; had light E NE winds to New Zealand; had light E NE winds to the Equator; crosed in lon 161.15 W October 24; from thence to port light E NE winds.


  • April 17, 1887, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California.

    The Captain's Story of the Destruction, of His Vessel.

    Two Hundred Miles in an Open Boat Without Food or Water— A Passenger Dies of Fright— ln Port at Last— The Insurance and Value

    Early yesterday morning the little barkentine City of Papeete entered the harbor after a pleasant voyage of thirty-two days from Tahiti. On board were Captain Viereck and ten others of the crew of the ill-fated steamer Raiatea, which was burned at sea on February 13th while on her way to Tahiti. All told there were twenty-four persons on board the Raiatea when she left port. Of these the seven Kanakas were left at Tahiti, while the names of the ten others who came up on the City of Papeete are as follows: First officer, C. Louis Leithoff; second officer, E. Guenther; chief engineer, Fritz Matirn; second engineer, T. C. Anderson; third engineer, Gustav Hoitz; cook, Louis Fassin; steward, Juliua . Heinz; firemen, Wilhelm Kirste, T..0. C.Wertheim and Fritz Hessler.

  • Captain Viereck was seen by a reporter directly he got ashore. He said that after leaving San Francisco, and up to 2 o'clock on February 13th, fine weather prevailed. On that day, when sitting in his chartroom, he was aroused by the cry of "Fire!" He ran on deck and found the flames raging amidships." The fire had started on the starboard side, in the room of the second and third engineers, but how it originated is not known. As it had been very hot everything burned like tinder. There were 800 casks of oil aboard, and this was soon ablaze. "Nothing could be done," said Captain Viereck; "the starboard lifeboat and the hose of the pumps was burned, and we were powerless to prevent tbe spread of . the flames. The port lifeboat was lowered and the passengers hurried into it, and Chief Officer Leithoff put in charge with thirteen men, while I left the burning ship in the dingy with eleven men. There was no time to get charts or food or water but in the lifeboat were fifty pounds of biscuit, a cask of water and a compass. It was about fifteen minutes from the time the alarm was given until the steamer was abandoned."

    As was surmised in the Alta of March 25th, the mariners shaped their course for the Touomoton group, which, according to the bearings taken by Captain Viereck the previous day, was 200 miles away, bearing south. After five days and five nights in the boats, daring which Mr. Briel, a passenger, died of fright, the wanderers reached Rairon, of the Touomotoa group, where there is a native settlement called Tipiti. Here they stayed for twelve days, when learning from the Kanakas that there was a French trading cutter lying off at Avatona, they hastened thither and embarked on the cutter for Tahiti. They reached the chief town, Papeete, on the morning of March 3d, and almost immediately re-embarked on the City of Papeete for this city.

    The stories of the other men corroborate that of the captain. At Tahiti the German Consul held an inquiry and exonerated Captain Viereck from all blame.

    The Raiatea was an iron screw steamer of 528 ton burden gross, and was built at Labeck three years ago. She arrived in this city first in 1885, and was at once engaged for the island trade. She was 164 feet long, 25.3 feet beam and 12.9 feet depth of hold, and was nicely fitted up for carrying passengers. Her owners were the Societe Commerciale de I'Oceanic of Hamburg and Wilkens & Co., of 109 California street her agents. The loss on the vessel is about $50,000, partially insured. The vessel cleared on January 27th with a fall cargo of general merchandise valued at $23,857, insured for $20,000.

  • December 31, 1887, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

    Loss of the German Bark Johanna -- The Captain's Story

    The British bark Carleton, 128 days from Maryport, arrived last night. On September 30th the Carleton picked up the captain, mate, second mate, and five seamen of the German bark Johanna, which had burned off Cape Horn. They had been afloat in a small boat for three days when rescued. Annexed is the account of the burning of the Johanna, taken from the captain's log... As the ship was on fire, they had to take to the boats at 7 p.m. On lowering the port boat, she capsized as soon as reaching the water. The next boat was lowered at 9 p.m. with seven of the crew and the cook. This being the mate's boat, the Captain asked him if he had any water on board. The mate came on board ot get some water and while he was on board the crew cut thepainter of the boat and left the ship. The Captain ordered them to come back, but they were so excited from the heat, they took no notice of the captain's order. The captin's boat left at 1:30 a.m. on the 27th, the ship being then a mass of flames. They saw nothing of the other boat after leaving the vessel. They sighted the Carleton, Captain Howe, bound for this port from Maryport, England, on October 30th. The names of the men who were in the missing boat are: Cook, E. Anderson; seamen E. Lescheck, C. Brag, A. Miller, A. Jansen, B. Behrons, E. Behahn, and one unknown. C. Burwarat, one of the crew, speaks in the highest terms of Captain Lowe and his officers. . .The list of the officers and crew picked up by the Carleton is Captain Burgwarst; First Officer Thompson; Second Officer F. Falen; Carpenter, E. Schacht; sailmaker E. Crendalh; sailors Lars, Christense, Homer, Hageen and E. Gunael.


  • February 2, 1888, Daily Alta California: Starr & Company have chartered the British bark Carleton, 1299 tons, to load Wheat to Cork, for orders, at 23s6d and 2s6d less if direct.

The Earl of Pembroke, who was cruising among the South Sea Islands, was wrecked. He was picked up together with the captain and crew by a passing vessel.


  • May 5, 1889, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

    A Storm at Tahiti
    Arrival of the City of Papeete After a Long Passage

    After a long passage of 45 days the barkentine City of Papeete arrived safely from Tahiti yesterday. As surmised by the Alta, the Papeete's long passage was only due to light and variable winds. The reports of a hurricane having devastated the islands were not confirmed by Captain Berude, but he says a gale of some magnitude did great damage there. On March 15th the storm struck the island. The falling barometer had warned everyone of its coming, and the vessels in the harbor were all snug and ready to meet the storm when it came. In the city of Papeete the gale was very violent, blowing down trees and houses everywhere. The trading stores were not injured. The streets were flooded with the sea. The most damage was supposed to have been done on the island of Maitea, which was exposed to the full fury of the gale, and the weather side of Tahiti. The plantations in all the islands of the group were more or less damaged. Captain Berude had heard nothing at Papeete of any loss of life, and he doubted if any occurred, while the story of the tidal wave was pure fiction. The French Government vessels Aviso la Vere and Le Volta put to sea when the gale was at its height. The City of Papeete left Tahiti on March 20th, four days after the gale. Among the passengers on the City of Papeete was Dr. G. W. Ludger of the French navy.
  • October 24, 1889, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.: City of Papeete, Berude, 31 days from Tahiti, passengers and merchandise to J. Piuet. Memorandum per City of Papeete: Left in port loading for Europe Fr. bark Tahiti from Boideaux; Dan. bark Puck from Ilamburg; Nor. bark Solveig from Sydney. Sailed September 18, Fr. man of war Duquesne, for Noumea. Importation from Tahiti per City of Papeete: 35,000 cocoanuts, 17 pkgs shells, 7 tins vanilla beans, 100 this desiccated cocoanuts, ICI bags coffee, 55 bags fungus, 54 bags bicha de mere. Consignees per City of Papeete: J. Pinet, Willcens & Co.; W. O. Badger, Mr. Wolkuetele.

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; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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