Melbourne: January 17; February 10, 1860. Captain William F. Howes commanded the Belle of the West (936 tons), built in Dennis (MA) by the Shiverick brothers, from her launching in 1852 to 1859, and was succeeded by his brother Allison Howes. Another Howes brother, Levi, commanded the Boston clipper Starlight from 1857 to 1863. (Knoblock, The American Clipper Ship 1845-1920).
Fascinating pair of letters from an American ship's captain signed John, and his sister Jennie, on board ship in Melbourne harbor, to their parents in New England. One letter mentions the arrival in Melbourne of the American Union ship, the "James Littlefield", which was sunk n 1864 by a Confederate raider as it tried to deliver coal from Wales to New York City.
The first letter, dated Jan. 17th, is written by both John and Jenny, with John writing the first part, which has addresses the current conditions in the shipping trade. He mentions "hard times" and that "the best business south of the line remains on the west coast of America".
He considers various options, including shipping Chinese passengers to Hong Kong as a colleague, Captain William Howes of the clipper ship "Belle of the West" is doing. (The "Belle of the West", an "extreme clipper" was built in 1853 in East Dennis, the only place on Cape Cod Mass where clipper ships were built*). John also considers sailing to India, but rejects it as already being "full of ships", and considers a run to London. He mentions a Captain Penhallow in London as a possible resource, and a Captain Robbins of the ship "Philadelphia". His ship in Melbourne is now half discharged, and in need of repairs.
Jenny writes the second half of the letter, and describes her seasickness on the voyage over, and celebrating Thanksgiving on board. She mentions meeting other American women, including Mrs. Grozier, wife of the captain of the ship "Commonwealth". She admires the ease of dress of Melbourne women, with "very little hoops" and the comfort of walking on Melbourne's wide streets. She hopes to go from Melbourne to China, but sees no chance of it; she reports that many captains say they will go "the way the wind blows when they reach the Heads". 15 1/2 x 9 3/4", folds to 7 3/4 x 9 3/4". 4 pp, period folds flattened, very good condition.
A letter from Jennie (sic) in Melbourne to her parents in America, dated Feb. 10th, 1860, announcing that she and her brother John are now sailing for Valparaiso, Chile. She wishes to come home, but is determined to help her brother John, although she thinks "times look dark" and that it is not easy to make money at sea. Captain Grozier of the ship "Commonwealth" has just sailed for Valparaiso, and the American ship "James Littlefield" has just arrived in Melbourne after 95 days voyage.
The "James Littlefield" was captured and sunk by the Confederate raider "Tallahassee" in 1864 as it returned from Wales with a load of coal bound for New York City. 10 x 8", folds to 5 x 8".
A window on the difficulties facing northern sea captains attempting to earn a living during the lead up to the American Civil War.
*Captain William F. Howes commanded the Belle of the West (936 tons), built in Dennis (MA) by the Shiverick brothers, from her launching in 1852 to 1859, and was succeeded by his brother Allison Howes. Another Howes brother, Levi, commanded the Boston clipper Starlight from 1857 to 1863. (Knoblock, The American Clipper Ship 1845-1920). Very good condition. Item #26273