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Swansea, Glamorgan

At one time Swansea was among the most powerful seaports in the world. The French Normans developed the sea-faring potential of Swansea's natural harbour, and were the first to establish a castle at the mouth of the river Tawe in 1106 and a watchtower at Oystermouth overlooking Swansea Bay from the west.

In 13th century Welsh King Llewellyn ap Gruffydd took Swansea castle in his campaign to force the last of the English invaders out of Wales. Oystermouth Castle was developed as a stronghold with strategic views of western Swansea Bay, however by 1405 both residences needed to be recaptured for the Welsh by Prince Owain Glyndwr - the last Welsh ruler of a true republic of Wales.

Ship building was established as early as the 14th Century, town walls were built and the rights to hold market was first granted by royal charter from across the border.

Huge reserves of coal, a major component in the development of the industrial revolution, were also discovered and extracted at this time.

The Bristol Company Copper Works
Near Swansea, Wales

Swansea's development as a port flourished as the trade to export copper and minerals grew significantly in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Swansea's huge fleet of ships travelled the Cape Horn and the "four corners of the earth", trading in its precious commodities of copper and other metallurgical products. The city had a worldwide reputation as "Copperopolis" or "Copper Kingdom." Swansea produced 60 per cent of the world's copper requirement, at a time when copper demand was equivalent to perhaps aluminium today. This prestige carried a heavy price: sea faring during the time was very hazardous and some men never returned to Swansea Bay.

Swansea also gained a reputation as a high-class seaside resort. During the 18th and early 19th century Swansea developed a fledgling tourist industry, at the time a reserve of only the wealthiest citizens. Swansea's cultural and scenic attributes charmed the gentry and gained itself the name of "Bath by the sea". This title acknowledged the fashionable name of the former Roman city of Bath, a playground for British high society which had coincidentally gained its fashionable reputation from Swansea-born Richard "Beau" Nash, the city of Bath's "master of ceremonies" - perhaps the world's first "spin doctor."

September 25, 1889, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California

Steel Works Burned

London, September 25th -- The Landore Steel Works at Swansea were destroyed by fire this morning. The loss is very heavy.

April 25, 1892, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

Tin Plate Works for America.

Swansea, April 24. It is stated that owing to depression in the British tin plate trade, resulting from the McKiney tariff, the proprietors of a number of tin plate factories intend to erect works in America.

August 8, 1893, San Francisco Call
San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Twenty-two Excursionists Drowned in Swansea Bay

Old Swansea Boat.
Old Swansea Boat
George Bryant Campion

London, Aug. 7. News of a sad accident to a party of excursionists was received this evening from Port Talbot, Wales. Twenty-eight pleasure-seekers took a boat at Port Talbot and put out into Swansea Bay. A heavy sea struck the boat, capsizing it, and twenty-two, including several women and children, were drowned. The others were saved.

October 17, 1894, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Times Are Good in Wales

SWANSEA, Wales, October 16. It is estimated that 5000 tons of tin plate was loaded her today on board steamers bound for America. Stocks of tin plate are lower than for months.

October 26, 1894, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Tin Plate From Wales.

Baltimore, October 25. A train of fifteen cars left Canton last night over the Pennsylvania Railroad for Milwaukee withtin plate brought from Swansea, Wales, by the Atlantic Transport Line steamers Maryland and Menantic. There were about 500,000 pounds of plate in the shipment.

January 11, 1899, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

Overdue Vessels

NEW YORK, Jan. 10. The transatlantic line steamers, namely, the Gera from Bremen; Pomeranian from Glasgow, and the Boston from Bristol and Swansea, arrived at quarantine this morning and reported unusually rouah and stormy weather on the Atlantic. Nothing was seen of the belated American liner St. Paul, now overdue from Southampton.

May 25, 1899, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California

Wreck of the Bark Marechal Lannes Found

LONDON, May 23. Advices from Saint Brides Bay, Wales, tell of the discovery there of the wreck of the French bark Marechal Lannes, Captain Lee Petit, which sailed on March 2S from Swansea for San Francisco on her maiden voyage. A body supposed to be that of the steward of the vessel has been recovered. The Marechal Lannes was a new vessel of 1711 tons. A few days after leaving Swansea she was reported lost, quantities of wreckage, Including boxes of guncotton and a board with the name "Marechal Lannes" on it being washed ashore at Broad Haven, Wales. It was thought at that time from the appearance of the wreckage that she had blown up.

September 3, 1901, San Francisco Call, San Francisco

Congress of Trades Unions.

Shipping.Shipping in Wales. SWANSEA, Wales, Sept. 2. The thirty-fourth annual trades union congress assembled here to-day under the presidency of C. W. Bowerman, M. P. About four hundred delegates were present, representing a million working people. Among the subjects which will be discussed are: "Higher Grade Education,""Housing of the Working Classes," "A General Eight Hour Day, Compulsory Arbitration in Trades Disputes," "Parliamentary, Franchise for Women," "Adult Suffrage" and "Old Age Pensions."

September 6, 1901, Los Angeles Herald

Welsh Fund for Fighting.

SWANSEA, Wales. September 5. The Trades' Union congress today voted to accumulate a fund with which to fight the house of lords picketing decision and other legal wrongs. The congress also agreed to convene a national conference of the representatives of all the trade and beneficial societies to formulate a practical old age pension scheme.

September 21, 1902, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

A Shipload of Anthracite Beaches New York

NEW YORK, Sept. 20. The first consignment of anthracite coal which large dealers and consumers have found i recessary to import on account of the coal miners' strike in the anthracite region of Pennsylvania, reached this port on board the steamer Devonshire, which left Swansea, Wales, on September 6. A second consignment is expected to arrive here in a few days on the steamer Glencoe, which left Swansea four days after the Devonshire sailed. These two shipments consist of about 8000 tons.

It is rumored that orders have been placed in Wales for hundreds of tons of anthracite coal, and that contracts have been made for the immediate shipment to this city of from 20,000 to 30,000 tons.

May 10, 1904, San Francisco Call

Ashore at Swansea

The British ship Vincent from Oregon is reported ashore at Swansea. It is expected that she will be floated oft on the next tide. The Vincent left Portland December 18. Her carso consisted of 67,045 bushels of grain, valued at $88,330.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



Merchant Shipping

Merchant Shipping.Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.  
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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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