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Steamships at San Francisco

Ships in San Francisco Bay 1849.

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Lists are incomplete; information is added as located and as time permits.

Lists are incomplete; information is added as located and as time permits.

Steamships at San Francisco

SS Tennessee
SS Uncle Sam (SS Titana)
SS Unicorn
SS Union
SS Vaquero
SS Wapama
SS Washington
SS Wilson G. Hunt
SS Winfield Scott
SS Yankee Blade
SS Yosemite
SS Zealandia

SS Tennessee

Please click on the Tennessee's name to read her story, including the Wreck and List of Passengers

SS Uncle Sam

Builder: Perrine, Patterson & Stack, Williamsburgh, NY, 1852. Machinery: Allaire Iron Works, New York, New York. Launch: January 1853. Owners: Edward Mills, New York, NY 1852-53; New York & San Francisco SS Co. 1853; Cornelius Vanderbilt (Independent Opposition Line) 1853-54; Nicaragua SS Co. 1854-56; US Mail SS Co. 1856-59; Atlantic & Pacific SS Co. 1859-60; Pacific Mail SS Co. 1860-66; James S. Herman & Co. 1866-78; Hong Kong Owners 1878. .

January 12, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California

Marine Affairs

STEAMSHIP UNCLE SAM. -- In a description of the trial trip of this handsome vessel, which we take from a New York paper, a tribute is paid to the energy of her owner. From a personal knowledge of Mr. Mills' indomitable energy of character, we are free to say that it is well merited.

Through his untiring perseverance the successful navigation of the ocean by American steamships was first practically demonstrated in the establishment of the present New York and Bremen line of steamers.

"Mr. Edward Mills, who is justly entitled to the honor of being the Pioneer in Ocean Steam navigation, having completed another "floating palace," -- the Uncle Sam -- gave her a showing off, yesterday, by a trial trip up and down the River, and around the Light Ship.

The Uncle Sam was built by Messrs. Perine, Patterson & Stack, at Williamsburgh, and is intended to run in the California line. Her dimensions are as follows: -- Length of keel, 240 feet; deck, 250 feet; beam, 36 feet; actual tonnage, 1800, but owing to her peculiar construction the government measurement is 1435 tons. The accommodations are for first-class or saloon passengers, 150; second-class, 250; steerage, 458. The machinery is from the Allaire Works. The engine is 66 inch cylinder and 12 feet stroke; the boilers are 28 feet long, 12 feet shell, and 12-1/2 front: the wheels are of iron, and are 32 feet diameter.

A more beautiful model we have never seen; it is, perhaps, even an improvement on theEricsson, recently launched from the same yard -- a ship, by the way, upon which the eyes of the whole scientific world are just now turned. Her "trial trip," will come off next week.

We have not space to give a minute description of the internal arrangements and economy of the Uncle Sam; but they struck us as the very perfection of the noble art of marine architecture. Strength, speed, safety, comfort and luxury have all been provided in this beautiful vessel; and that, too, at less cost than in any other ship afloat of equal accommodations. She made yesterday 18-3/4 miles an hour, while carrying only 22 pounds of steam; and at this rate of speed there was less vibration to the ship than we have ever felt on board of any ship.

The Uncle Sam is now running to Aspinwall, but we understand she will come around to this side in the spring.

From The Daily Alta California's New York correspondent:"

. . . Among other marine items I can mention the departure of the fine steamer Uncle Sam. Mr. Edward Mills, her owner, has withdrawn her from the Chagres line and expended a large sum in order to maker her entirely acceptable to the California public. She is indeed a fine boat, well ventilated, and as we all know, fast. She leaves today for San Francisco via Cape Horn, and on her arrival in the Pacific will take her place between Panama and your city. Mr. Mills is building a larger and even finer vessel to connect with the Uncle Sam on this side, which he intends to call the Yankee Blade. She will be ready about December next. "

On June 22, 1853, she left New York for San Francisco. While she was at sea, she was taken over by the Independent Opposition Line. Upon arrival in San Francisco on September 20, 1853, theUncle Sam was put on the San Francisco-San Juan run. In September 1855, the Uncle Sam came into San Francisco with cholera aboard out of 650 passengers, 104 died at sea and nine more died after they had been landed.

January 3, 1856, Daily Alta California

TWO STEAMERS -- Rates of Passage -- Number of Passengers.

The Golden Gate, of the Panama Line, and the Uncle Sam, of the Nicaragua Line, are advertised to sail this morning at 9 o'clock, and will probably got off about noon.  The Golden Gate will take between four and five hundred passengers, and her rates of fare are in the First Cabin, $250; Second Cabin, $175; Steerage, $100.  The Uncle Sam will have about four hundred passengers, and her rates are in the First Cabin, $225; Second Cabin, $150; and in Steerage, $95.  There are a large number desiring to go down to Nicaragua, but up to a late hour yesterday, only twelve tickets had been sold.  The parties were holding back for a reduction in the price of passage, which has been fixed for this steamer at $75.  The Cortescarried down for $60.  Most of these who are negotiating for tickets to Nicaragua are from the interior.  The sad news received yesterday of the death of three well know young men from this city has cast a gloom over the wide circle of their bereaved friends, and this intelligence will have a tendency to dampen the zeal for those who may have been longing for the charms of Central America.

January 6, 1856, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

DEPARTURE OF THE STEAMERS. -- The steamer Golden Gate sailed yesterday, at half past 2 P.M., carrying about 400 passengers and $1,276,928 treasure.  The Uncle Sam, of the Nicaragua line, attempted to leave about the same hour, but was detained in consequence of the ship being aground, which delayed her until seven o'clock in the evening.  The latter carried about 300 through passengers and 120 for Nicaragua, and $565,304 treasure.  Of those who went down to Central America, sixty-five were provided with passage by the agents of the government, and the others went down upon their own account.  A search warrant was issued, and a cannon recovered and taken ashore.  There was also another small piece taken off in the early part of the day and restored to the owner. 

The US Mail SS Co., bought her, the Cortes and the Sierra Nevada to keep them out of Vanderbilt s hands. However, when the award of the mail contract of 1859 went to Vanderbilt, his Atlantic & Pacific SS Co. bought the Uncle Sam, the Cortes and the Sierra Nevada, all for Pacific service. In 1860, the three steamers went back to the Pacific Mail Co.

In March of 1861, the Uncle Sam s machinery had broken down and she was towed by the Golden Gate from Acapulco to San Francisco. Enroute north, the Uncle Sam s captain and a passenger on the Golden Gate played chess. The moves of the chess men were indicated on a blackboard held aloft on each steamer after each move. The Uncle Sam was defeated in 41 moves.

In February 1866, the Uncle Sam was purchased by the Panama firm of James S. Herman & Co., and in February 1878, San Francisco newspapers noted that she was purchased by a Hong Kong firm.

SS Unicorn

Built at Greenock, Scotland, 1838. Engine: Double. Wooden side-wheel steamer. 650 tons, 162 feet.

She operated as a coastal steamer between Glasgow and Liverpool until purchased by the British and North American Steamship Company (Cunard Line) and sailed from Liverpool for Halifax and Boston on May 16, 1840 as the pioneer of the service. She was chartered by the Aspinwall s Pacific Mail in 1849, purchased by him in 1850 and operated occasionally between San Francisco and Panama until 1853. She was sold again, sent to Australia, and her fate it unknown.

SS Union

July 21, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

LOSS OF THE STEAMER UNION. -- The Union, which left San Francisco July 1, with 250 passengers and $270,000 in gold dust, went ashore on the 4th inst., about 300 miles south of San Diego and will prove a total loss. The passengers and specie were saved, as well as the baggage and provisions. She lies in lat 29 45 N, long 115 50 W, 60 miles distant from San Quentin in a northwesterly direction. She stranded inside of an outer sand ledge, striking heavily, lying about 1-1/2 miles from the shore at high water, a heavy surf breaking over her, rendering approach dangerous.

July 21, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Loss of the Steamer Union.

We have received from Messrs. Haven & Co. the following statement, to which we cheerfully give place:

We communicate the following particulars relating to the loss of the steamer Union, as calculated to relieve the anxiety which naturally would be felt by those who had friends among the passengers.

The steamer sailed hence the morning of the 2d inst., and had a very fine run until the 5th, on the morning of which day at 3:30 A.M., the weather being very foggy, the vessel struck heavily upon a reef, distance one-half mile from the shore, near Point Baja, about 60 miles to the southward of the Bay of St. Quentin, and after beating over a portion of the reef, became stationary on hard sand, and distance 300 yards, at high tide, from the beach. Preparations were at once made to land the passengers, a task at once difficult and dangerous, owing to the heavy breakers. By 10 A.M. all the passengers were safely landed, and on the same day a supply of provisions, and also the specie, amounting to $270,000 were brought on shore.

A somewhat mutinous spirit having been manifested by a few disaffected persons, prompt and effectual measures were at once taken by a few of the passengers to preserve order and discipline, and sustain the authority of Capt. Marks; and a guard of thirty men were placed over the treasure. On the morning of the 7th, Dr. Hewett, U.S.A., who had kindly and nobly volunteered his services, started for San Diego, distant 400 miles, over a mountainous and rugged road, with intelligence of the disaster, and to secure the necessary relief. Upon the arrival of that gentleman at San Diego, after an arduous ride of four days, without sleep or rest, finding it impossible to secure at the place the means of transportation; and theTennessee fortunately making her appearance in the course of a week, he at once embarked on board, hoping to meet some of the steamers of the 15th from here and inducing them to touch in at San Quentin and take off the 230 passengers. Capt. Totten, in the true spirit of a sailor and gentleman, promptly acceded to the wishes of Dr. H. in maintaining a vigilant lookout for any vessel bound downward, and had a boat in constant readiness to place him on board of any of the steamers, neither of which was however seen.

It gives us great pleasure to state that upon a representation of the facts to Capt. E. Knight, the agent of the P.M.S. Co., that gentleman promptly, cheerfully, and in great generosity of spirit, consented to dispatch one of the company's vessels to take off the passengers and specie as soon as practicable. We avail ourselves of this opportunity in behalf of Captain Marks and the owners of the Union to express to Dr. Hewitt (Editor's Note: Second form of spelling), the deep obligation incurred by the tender of services in conveying the intelligence of the disaster, and his disregard of toil and danger in effecting the journey alone from the wreck to San Diego, as well as for the good judgment displayed in all the steps taken by him to furnish relief to the passengers and crew, all of whom were in good health and amply supplied with provisions. Dr. Hewitt speaks in warm terms of the courage, skill and energy exhibited by Capt. Marks and Mr. Berry, the first officer, from the first moment of the disaster and throughout the perilous landing of the passengers and treasure, and make very favorable mention of the Chief Engineer, whose name has escaped his recollection, in compelling the firemen to return to their duty which they had neglected in a moment of panic. At the time Dr. Hewitt left, the vessel had broken in two amid-ship and was fast becoming embedded in the sand.

Respectfully yours, HAVEN & CO.

August 3, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco 
San Francisco, California

RETURN OF THE TENNESSEE. -- This steamship, which left port ten days since for San Quentin, for the relief of the passengers and crew of the steam propeller Union, returned yesterday about 12 o'clock. Their errand of mercy was rendered useless, as the steamerNortherner had preceded them. For the annexed particulars of the trip we are indebted to Purser Isaacs: Steamship Tennessee, Captain G.M. Totten, arrived off San Quentin, 28th ultimo, but was prevented by fogs from entering the bay until the next day, when a boat was dispatched ashore with Messrs. Scott, Wethered, Emmett and Conner, who were selected to seek information concerning the passengers. After rowing along the beach for several miles the first officer, Mr. Burns, succeeded in landing the party through the surf. They at once proceeded in a southerly direction, and after traversing marshes and clambering over mountainous ranges discovered signs of the former encampment of the passengers.

Subsequently they encountered a half breed who informed them of the Northerner having taken off all the passengers, and saved what could be recovered from the wreck.

The party then retraced their steps for the vessel, and after passing the night in the open air and enduring much fatigue and exposure, reached the boat the next day and were brought off in safety.

The Tennessee sailed from San Quentin the 30th ult. at 12 M and arrived at San Diego 2 A.M., 31st ult. Thence sailed at 11 A.M., and off the Coronados Islands observed a steamer, supposed to be the California, bound into San Diego; on the 21st ult., off San Pedro, passed steamer Goliah bound southward; on the 1st at once P.M., 100 miles south of Monterey, theTennessee spoke the steamer Independence for Panama.

August 6, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Steamship Carolina, Captain Whiting, arrived at Acapulco on the morning of the 26th, at 5 o clock. On the 27th, at 8 A.M., steamer Northerner arrived from San Francisco, having on board the passengers, officers and crew of the steamer Union, wrecked near Cape Baja; theNortherner also had on board the specie saved from the wreck. Passengers generally saved a great part of their luggage; no lives lost.

SS Wapama

The Wapama Steam Schooner, a wooden-hulled steamer, was built in 1915 for the coastal lumber trade, is unique to the West Coast. Click to read her story.

SS Washington

Daily Alta California, July 21, 1851
Arrived in San Francisco from Baltimore on July 21, 1851

SS Wilson G. Hunt

January 25, 1851, Sacramento Transcript, Sacramento, California
Marine Intelligence: Port of San Francisco. Arrived: January 22 - Steamer Wilson G. Hunt, Bowne, from New York via intermediate ports; 26 days from Panama, Acapulco 13 days; in ballast, to Vassaulit & Co.

April 7, 1851, Sacramento Transcript, Sacramento, California

The Progress of Our City

We spent an hour on the Levee, Saturday afternoon, and were forcibly reminded of the vast difference it presents now from what it did when we stood on the banks of the river two years ago. About half past one o'clock, we observed a steamer rounding the point above, which soon came rapidly along as though it had been urged forward by electricity. Soon it was moored safely alongside the receiving hulk, and we found it to be the Gov. Dana, from Marysville, making the trip in an incredibly short time. A few minutes after her arrival, the noble New World soon began to toss backward and forward, like an impatient charger, which movement was speedily followed by that crack river boat, the Wilson G. Hunt, and soon these magnificent walking parlors "cast loose" and away they went with their "live cargo" for the Bay City. Before they had rounded the lower point in the river, we saw the smoke of a craft beyond the point, on its way up, and soon it came in full view. It proved to be the San Joaquin from San Francisco for Marysville. As the steamer drew nigh we found it crowded with up-river passengers, and loaded down with freight. This steamer hauled up to the Levee to discharge a part of her cargo, but before she could do so, out shot that swift and fairy-like specimen of a craft, the Union; away went the Union as though it had a notion of overtaking its illustrious predecessors, the Wilson G. Hunt and New World, but we rather guess 'twas no use, as half an hour's start is rather too much vantage. Quickly the Union was followed by that popular boat the H. T. Clay, which is furnished with excellent accommodations, and officered by gentlemen.

Thus, in less than an hour, did four boats leave and two arrive at our Levee, indicating that trade and travel are both in a progressing state.

March 20, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

The Wilson G. Hunt.

This fine steamer is now lying at the wharf, at the foot of Jackson street, and will be ready to commence her trips to Sacramento to-morrow afternoon. Since her arrival here, she has been undergoing thorough repairs, an is fitted up in magnificent style, like the Hudson river steamers. She has a splendidly furnished ladies' saloon, and about one hundred and thirty berths, together with a number of staterooms. She is strongly as well as beautifully furnished. The painting work, done by Mr. C. G. Howard, under the direction of J. N. Wilson, is some of the finest that we ever saw on a boat, and will bear the closest inspection. The glass in the cabin doors is stained with various colors, which throw a mellow light along the cabins. The staterooms are designated by the letters of the alphabet, beautifully painted in gilt. The joiner work was done under the direction of Mr. Lathrop. Capt. Bowne is well known as an agreeable officer, and we doubt not that the Wilson G. Hunt will be well patronized by the traveling community.

March 29, 1851, Sacramento Transcript, Sacramento, California

The Wilson G. Hunt. There are reasons why a boat should be known and appreciated by the public, and the Hunt offers them. Her superior accommodations and swift sailing are unsurpassed, and the urbanity and gentlemanly deportment of her officers unequalled at least the subscriber thinks so, from his experience on her last trip from San Francisco, and he believes it not amiss to to inform the public of it by this notice. --MINER.

May 21, 1851, Sacramento Daily Union

Editorial Correspondence.

San Francisco, May 18, 1851. 
My dear Friend L.: Thus far my visit has not lacked incidents of interest, and all surrounding scenes, combined with a brain crowded with thrilling anticipations, produce a degree of excitability almost unfitting me for the duties of a correspondent.

I do not indeed feel as if I should be able to do myself justice, or to afford a tolerable response to our mutual wishes in regard to our favorite "Union," to the prosperity to which we look with so much interest. As far, however, as thoughts under such circumstances can be collected and made subordinate to desire, so far will I endeavor to keep you advised. Some strange fatality induced me to take passage upon the Wilson G. Hunt, and after boarding her, and so far committing myself, that it would have been indelicate to change my determination. I found that I had unwittingly thrown myself into a completely galvanized circle of democracy.

There I was occupying an almost insulated position, and constantly liable to be charged and overcharged with this electro-optical fluid, to the "shocking"' tendency of which I am, as you are aware, so very sensitive. To break up the insulation, and accumulate neutralizing forces, I made an immediate search of the premises, in hopes of discovering a few equally unfortunate Whigs. In this I was fortunate, for I succeeded not only in finding a numerical force sufficiently strong to overcome the power of the combination, but what was most agreeable, the discovery of a regular little "Clay Whig," whose only political sin was a little recent electioneering for her esteemed friend Recorder W--n.

With such hastily marshalled elements of defence, we succeeded not only in repelling the broadside first discharged upon us, but a coincidently discovered source of attraction by their leaders, enabled us to keep the enemy at so great a distance, as to make their actions appear more illusory than real. In this attitude, they seemed to be fantastically employed in weighing adverse opinions, in estimating the probable results of personal conflicts, in defining the boundaries of inherent rights, in testing the strength of cohesive attraction where the bodies to be held in bondage had no natural affinity for each other, in fixing limits to official aspiration, and adjusting claims according to their priority and intrinsic merit. In achieving these latter objects, there seemed to be the greatest difficulty experienced. It seemed as if it were impossible to say to the spirit of aspiration, "thus far shalt thou go, and no farther," and to adjudicate the comparative claims of the aspirants, was to all appearance more impracticable than anything else. Indeed, the wisest of them fairly failed to exhibit the indices of full-fledged conclusions in this respect and we do not wonder at it, unless the medium through which we contemplated the scene was entirely deceptive and illusory. There was such an array of glittering virtues brought out to sustain the respective claims, that one could not reproach them on account of their indecision . . . . With such conflicting claims sustained by such an equalization of virtues, it is not wonderful that our enemies were seen now agitated now calmed now grouping now separating now drinking and anon fraternizing upon an incoherent and mutually pledged conclusion to refer the whole matter to the approaching Convention, and more sober senses.

By the time this reference of the subject was made, we were entirely relieved from our precarious position by a somewhat irregular and difficult retreat of the enemy's forces from the bottle-scenes of the Hunt, to an old receiving hulk at Benicia. After they left us, we received a fresh contribution of Whigs, and with the gallant craft set our faces towards the ill-fated City of San Francisco. Now, whether it was in punishment for having got into such a Democratic crowd whether it was because we received on board a modern Jonas at Benicia or whether it was because all the virtue did really belong to the Democratic branch, I will not at present decide. But this much is certain, that all hands were very near going into a salmon speculation, which I know would not have resulted pleasantly to expectant husbands.

Just as the swift gliding Hunt was turning out of the Straits of Carquinez, a gale of wind and the heavy tide struck her, and caused her to careen just enough to the other side to catch the full force of a huge wave, which, breaking its crest upon the wheel-house, tore the stern portion of it entirely away, and buried this side of the vessel's decks in an immense body of water. At this juncture, to increase the difficulty, the heavy chain-boxes used for trimming the boat, broke loose, and running across the bows with great force, one of them went overboard, and the other could not be moved back until the canted steamer was restored to its former position. Thus matters stood for about five minutes, much to the inconvenience of persons who have a constitutional objection to drowning. There was, of course, considerable excitement and confusion in the premises, and would have been much more, if there had been less decision and coolness manifested by the excellent officers of the boat. The most ludicrous features of the event were the devotional feelings of one gentleman, who having embraced a plank, seemed to be excessively anxious to find a good place for setting sail without the inconvenience of too much company and the strange hallucination of another one, who seemed determined to get a mammoth old grey horse into the Ladies' Saloon. The man with the plank seemed to hug it up to his bosom, as if it were the embodiment of all good qualities; and with a most devout expression of countenance, appeared to be murmuring a kind of soliloquy, in which one could infer the most touching and pathetic interjections strung together in this wise "Dear, dearest Plank! thou art my great supporter in tribulations and trials! Thou went constructed for my especial use! I've watched thee for the last three minutes with the intense agony of a frantic lover Thou know'st I love thee! thou art my bed and board! on thee are predicated life and happiness; and from thee do I derive sweet and sustaining counsel in the night of my adversity; buoyantly expecting by thee to be enabled to outride this terrific storm, and escape the dangers of the merciless deep! Dear Plank! I am thine, and thou'rt mine!"

During this temporary excitement, the Captain and Clerk were flying about all over the boat, singing out, "No harm done, gentlemen; keep quiet, be calm, all will be right in a few minutes and, true enough, all was right in a few minutes, and the Wilson G. Hunt, with a becoming equilibrium, was moving off as gallantly as though nothing had happened. In an hour and a half afterwards, we were safely moored alongside the Pacific Street Wharf, with the fullest confidence in this excellent steamboat, and its "exceedingly courteous and accomplished officers. The damage to the wheelhouse was trivial, and did not in the least interfere with its regular trip on Monday. Truly yours. J. F. M.

June 7, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
San Francisco, California

SACRAMENTO INTELLIGENCE: The Wilson G. Hunt ran aground in Cache Creek on her trip to Sacramento on Wednesday night, and was towed off on Thursday by the Senator, and proceeded on her trip to Sacramento. She left at an early hour yesterday morning and arrived in the afternoon.

July 31, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
A collision occurred in, or near "the slough," on the passage down of the Senator, between that boat and the Wilson G. Hunt. It it stated, we know not with how much correctness, that the Huntwas the intentional cause of the collision. She was the most injured of the two by the encounter, it appears. The Hunt "went aboard" the Senator about midships, tore away a part of too wheel house of the Senator, and damaging the bows of the Hunt considerably.

October 2, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

The Wilson G. Hunt

This beautiful steamer is yet undergoing repairs. When she comes again from the hands of the workmen she will not be surpassed in elegance by any boat on the river. Ten days more are required before she will be ready to resume her trips between Sacramento and this city. Meanwhile the Senator has an easy time of it, and in the parlance of her popular commander, "loafs" up and down. While, on the contrary, the New World and Confidence are each straining every shaft and walking beam to walk by the other. The consequence is, the passengers who come down on either of them arrive here in time to spend a pleasant evening. Opposition is the life of trade and when the Wilson G. is again placed upon the route the Senator will be steaming up to the wharf at a reasonable hour also.

December 1, 1851, Sacramento Daily Union
WE, the undersigned, have this day assumed the the agency of the Union line of steamers. "Confidence" and "Wilson G. Hunt." All business connected with said steamers will hereafter be conducted by us at the counting-room formerly occupied by F. Vassault & Co., on Pacific Wharf. All persons are hereby forbid contracting any debt on account of the following vessels and owners, viz : steamers "Confidence" and "Wilson G Hunt;" barques "Albree" and "Apthorp;" brig "Globe" and ship "Tuskina." 

San Francisco, December 1.1851. [dl 1w] Agents.

Business of the Union Line at Sacramento will be conducted, as heretofore, by John Bensley, on board brig Globe.

May 27, 1853, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California
We learn through Anthony & Co's messenger that the steamer Wilson G. Hunt broke her starboard crank while coming up last evening, in San Pablo Bay.

August 29, 1853, Sacramento Daily Union

A Quicker and the Quickest Trip Yet.

The steamer Wilson G. Hunt was advertised on Saturday morning as having made the quickest time ever accomplished between San Francisco and this city. We have now to record a quicker trip by the New World, on Saturday night, showing the time of the Hunt to have been beaten one minute, including three landings. The time of the Hunt was 7 hours and 19 minutes; that of the New World, (Capt. Hutchins,) is 7 hours and 18 minutes. Her landing was made here at 11 o'clock and 18 minutes.

February 12, 1881, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California, U.S.A.

Steamers Purchased

Victoria, February 10th -- It is announced that the Canadian Pacific Railway syndicate has purchased the Pioneer line of steamers on Fraser river, and it is also reported that negotiations are pending which in less than forty-eight hours will effect the ownership of the steamers Wilson G. Hunt, Cariboo, Fly and Maud.

June 6, 1890, San Francisco Call

The Wilson G. Hunt.

Victoria, June 5. The steamer Wilson G. Hunt, which ran on the Hudson in 1849, and later on piled on the Sacramento River and in British Columbia waters, was burned to the water's edge this morning. She was owned by Colin of San Francisco, who bought her for the old metal in her.

SS Winfield Scott

Builder: Westervelt and Mackay, New York. Superintended by Captain William Skiddy. Engine: Two side-level by Morgan Iron Works. Launch: October 27, 1850. Original Owner: Charles Augustus Davis, Sidney Brooks, Theodore Dehan, Jacob A. Westervelt, Philip Woodhouse, William Skiddy, Francis Skiddy. Wooden side-wheel steamer, 3 decks, 3 masts, man s bust figurehead. 1,291 tons, 225 feet. White oak, live oak, locust, cedar and Georgia yellow Pine. Double iron braced. Accommodations for 165 cabin, 150 steerage. The 96-foot-long dining salon could seat over 100 and had couches along each side running the length of the room. The staterooms were lighted and ventilated from the sides and from the deck above.

Her first voyage to San Francisco was April 28, 1852, where she was hailed as a remarkably fine vessel, superior to all the early lines. She made the run from Panama in fourteen days, and brought up 700 passengers. The Winfield Scott became a popular vessel on the Panama route, and was purchased in July 1853 by The Pacific Mail Steamship Company. She wrecked on Anacapa Island off the California Coast in late 1853. She struck in a dense fog, and though passengers, mail and treasure were safely landed, the ship filled and sank. Wrecked: December 2, 1853, Anacapa Island, California.

SS Yankee Blade

The June 15, 1853 New York Daily Tribune reported that the Yankee Blade was built for Edward Mills and was to be ready to launch on December 1.  She launched Friday, November 11, 1853 and was It was scheduled for Vanderbilt's Independent California Line, to run from New York to Chagres in connection with the Uncle Sam on the Pacific side.  She was 285 feet length, 38 feet beam, 22 feet deep, 2,000 tons burden.  The information presented below is from sources found in the collections of the California Historical Society.

San Francisco's Thouroughfares, 
San Francisco Chronicle
, Sunday May 16, 1920. 
By Edward A. Morphy (SF Streets 4:93)

"On October 1, 1854, she left for Panama with nearly 1000 souls on board. Other thousands cheered themselves hoarse in bidding them farewell and Godspeed."

Now it is timely to quote the letter of Clarence M. Burton, the president of the Title Company of Detroit:

"Early during the evening of the same day she was wrecked on a rock near Point Concepcion, west of Santa Barbara. There were more than 900 passengers on board, and many of them were drowned. In the early evening, in response to alarm bells and signals, the tug Goliathcame alongside and took off as many of the passengers as she could carry. Those of the remainder who could do so reached the mainland in the ship's boats. One boat, commanded by the second mate, capsized in the surf and eighteen of its passengers were drowned.

Half of the Yankee Blade cracked off and sank out of sight before 9 o'clock that night; but the other half remained on the rock until 2 o'clock next morning, when it, too, slid off its perch into deep water and disappeared. In addition to its passengers, the vessel carried a large amount of gold that returning miners were taking back to their Eastern homes. Nearly all of it was lost. My father and mother -- Dr. Charles S. Burton, and Mrs. Burton -- my elder brother and myself constituted our family, and we were all saved. My people who reached the land found only a broken coast; but they managed to live on whatever they were able to pick up on the shore and what floated to them from the wreck. They thus subsisted for ten days, when they were taken back by this same old tug, Goliath, on her return trip to San Francisco. It seems hardly conceivable that I am the only survivor of this wreck; yet so far I have been unable to find any other."

Ralston's Ring: California Plunders of the Comstock Lode
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1937, New York pp.29-30

Embarking on the Uncle Sam, Ralston arrived in San Francisco March 20, 1854, and was put in charge of Garrison, Fretz & Co.'s San Francisco office with headquarters on Sacramento Street adjoining the Chinese Salesroom. As agent of the Independent Opposition Line for New York, via Panama, Ralston had a fleet of magnificent ships under his charge, notably, the Uncle Sam and theYankee Blade. Of these the Yankee Blade, launched June 1, was the pride of the Coast. Built for speed, it was believed nothing on the Pacific could pass her.

On the 30th of September, when the Yankee Blade made ready to sail for Panama, Ralston was at the Jackson Street wharf to give final sailing directions to Captain Henry Randall. Competition demanded a speed record. On board were 800 passengers. In her hold was $153,000 in California nuggets. Ralston impressed the captain with what the company expected of him.

Several boats sailed out of the Golden Gate at the same misty hour that the Yankee Blade weighed anchor. Bets were freely laid, fog or no fog, the Yankee Blade would be the first into Panama. Almost immediately she outstripped her competitors and took the lead. As she disappeared through the Gate, some gambler made a $5000 bet that she would be the first ship into Panama. Ralston was delighted at the splendid way the Yankee Blade had gotten under sail.

In the dawn of a few days later a mounted expressman was pounding on the door of Ralston's Stockton Street home. Encompassed by dense fogs, the Yankee Blade had piled up on the hidden reefs of Point Arguello and had sunk in fathoms of water. Three hundred men, women and children and $153,000 in California nuggets and gold dust had been lost forever.

In the wake of the messenger, the survivors, aboard the Brother Jonathan, arrived in San Francisco and held an indignation meeting in Portsmouth Square. Ralston was roundly censured for sheer negligence in directing the Yankee Blade's course. Speed had been the main issue. The mob marched on Ralston's office demanding passage to New York. Police had to be called to quell the disturbance. Forever after, the sea tragedy palled upon Ralston.

Shortly thereafter, Ralston's firm went out of the shipping business.

Continuation of the Annals of San Francisco. June 1854.

This portion of the "Continuation of the Annals of San Francisco" is adapted from the "Monthly Summary of Events" in the Pioneer, Vols. II and III (California History Vol. 15 , p. 178)

October 9. News was received of the loss of the steamship Yankee Blade, while on her passage to Panama. She struck a reef of rocks off Point Arguello, about fifteen miles above Point Concepcion, and soon afterwards became a total wreck; about thirty lives were lost, and about $163,000 in treasure and specie. The steamship Goliath reached the scene of the disaster in time to save many of the passengers, some of whom she brought to San Francisco, while others remained on shore in the neighborhood, or found their way to San Diego, Los Angeles, and other places. It was said immediately after she struck, the notorious Jim Turner and about thirty of his confederates, who had been secreted on board, enacted a scene of murder and rapine too horrible to be described. As soon as possible after the receipt of the sad intelligence, the steamship Brother Jonathan was dispatched to rescue the unfortunate passengers.

October 10. A man named Samuel Kenny was arrested on a charge of being one of the robbers on board the Yankee Blade. Articles of jewelry to the value of $60 were found upon his person.

October 15. The passengers of the Yankee Blade, brought up on the Brother Jonathan, had a meeting on the Plaza, in which they passed several resolutions, condemning the conduct of Captain Randall and of the Independent Line, and others complimentary to the Nicaragua Line and Captain Seabury of the Brother Jonathan to whom they also made a present of a handsome gold chronometer and chain as a token of their appreciation of his kindness to them during the passage up.

SS Yosemite

In 1865, this river steamer's boilers blew up in San Francisco Bay, killing 50 people. The side wheel steamer Yosemite went aground in Orchard Narrows, near Bremerton, Washington, on July 9, 1909. She was a total loss.

RMSS Zealandia

October 7, 1875, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

The Zealandia, built expressly for the mail service by John Elder & Co., Clyde ship builders, who constantly employ over 7,000 workmen. Register: 3130 tons British measurement (about 4600 tons American), 375 feet in length, 38 feet, 6 inches beam, and 28 feet 9 inches depth of hold. Each is fitted with one of the new style three cylinder compound engines, the high pressure cylinder having a diameter of 45 inches, with 5 feet stroke, and the two low pressure cylinders having a diameter of 62 inches and 5 feet stroke. A sea speed of 14 knots is guaranteed by the builders. The passenger accommodations are on the same liberal scale as in the American ships 180 saloon, 60 second-class and 120 steerage. The dining saloon is of ample dimensions, 60 feet by 38, with 16 inch side ports, and a dome 16 feet in diameter. The Zealandia will leave London December 16th for Sydney, to take her place in the line. The price of passage through from San Francisco to Sydney, or to Port Chalmers, in New Zealand, a distance of over 7000 miles, will be $200 or 40 the cheapest rate on any ocean route in the world. Passengers will be allowed two stoppages one at the Eijis, and again at Honolulu; and, can, if they choose, remain over a mouth at each point.

February 10, 1876, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
The following will be interesting to our Australian neighbors and all intending passengers on the Australian route, as descriptive of the two British steamers of the service: The Zealandia andAustralia are sister steamships, built specially by the well-known firm of John Elder & Co., Glasgow, for the new mall service between San Francisco and the Colonies of New South Wales and New Zealand. For the purposes of the service five powerful steamships are required: three of these theCity of San Francisco, City of New York and City of Sydney, each 3500 tons, 600 horse power, have been built by the Pacific Mall Company, at Chester, Delaware, U. S. A. The Zealandia and Australiacomplete the fleet, and have to proceed by the Cape of Good Hope to Australia to take up their stations on the mail route. They are expected to make the voyage to Melbourne within 43 days.

The Zealandia sailed from Plymouth at noon on December 19th, and arrived at St. Vincent, Cape de Verde, on the morning of December 28th, making the run in 8 days, 17 hours, or at the rate of over 12 knots an hour.

Steamer Zealandia of the Spreckels fleet at San Francisco has been sold to C. L. Dimond, an eastern steamboat man, who will utilize his purchase to tow the steamer Olympian from this city to Boston, and thereafter the Zealandia will go Into the Atlantic coast trade.


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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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