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The counting-rooms of H. C. Thacher & Co. were at 13 Central Wharf before the days when Fort Hill had been dumped into the sea to form a part of Atlantic Avenue. Many of the boys of Boston used to prowl around this wharf and those near by, to see their fathers' vessels from foreign ports discharge their cargoes. Another interesting event was to see the Yarmouth and Cape Cod packets tie up to their docks, which were directly opposite the office of the Thachers. H. C. Thacher was born at directly opposite on the Cape in 1829, at a time when most of the people of Cape Cod drew their livelihood from the sea. At one time he used to tell his family that he knew over fifty sea-captains who lived along the main street of Yarmouth within a distance of less than two miles.
He organized his firm in 1852 and for almost half a century he was engaged in the Mediterranean trade.
There is not a Cape Cod family that has not had its sea tragedy as well as its romance, and the Thacher family was no exception. There were two brothers in Yarmouth, called Bartlett and Chandler Thacher. Bartlett was only thirteen years old when he shipped as cabin boy on H. C. Thacher's bark "Mimosa," which plied between Boston and Smyrna and which was captained by a live Yankee skipper named Hall. She was a clipper, and her captain used to crowd on all the sail he could. Bartlett made his first trip to Smyrna and returned safely to Cape Cod and was on the point of sailing on his second trip to the same port. On the very day that he was to leave, his younger brother, Chandler, who was only ten years old, was drowned while playing at the Yarmouth wharf. Word was immediately sent to Bartlett, who was already aboard his vessel at East Boston, to give up sailing, but there was some delay in delivering the message and the "Mimosa" had already put to sea. She made a fast trip to Smyrna and with a large cargo on board started as usual on her homeward voyage. This was her last trip, as neither the vessel nor any of the crew were ever heard of again. The two nephews, Thomas Chandler Thacher and Lewis Bartlett Thacher, who are living in Boston to-day, were named after their uncles, who died so tragically in their youth.
This house traded to a large extent with Sicily and Italy, bringing home quantities of oranges and lemons, as well as macaroni and sulphur. It is surprising that Boston got as good fruit as it did in those days when one reads in the log books that some vessels took thirty days to come from Gibraltar. The firm also imported hemp from Russia, sending ships to Riga on the Baltic, and in the summer season to the port of Archangel, on the White Sea; logwood, indigo, and tortoise shell from Honduras; and from Fayal, through their relatives, the Dabneys, wine, fruit, and whale oil, the latter commodity being left at that port by Nantucket and New Bedford whalers. The firm also traded with the West Indies, Central and South America, and Cape Town, and during the later years imported teas from China.
Both partners were men of very methodical business methods and were at their counting-room at seven o'clock in the morning, which was the custom of the day; in fact, they were typical representatives of the old-time merchants. The late Aaron Sargent, in a recent paper read before the Boston Society, on the old merchants of Boston, described Andrew and Charles as "dignified and severely polite." After the "Beacon" was removed and Beacon Hill was dug down to make room for the new State House, Mt. Vernon Street was laid out, and here were the residences of both the Cunninghams, Andrew residing at No. 25, behind the State House, and Charles at No. 48, near Walnut Street.
Many fine vessels were owned or managed by these two merchants, including among others the ships "Morea," "Adrian," "Helen"; the barks "Francia," "Matilda," "Adelaide Metcalf," "Elizabeth Leavitt," "Fame," and "Peru"; the brigs "Spartan," "Boston," "Swiftsure," "Wave," and "Pico," the latter being shown in a cut on the opposite page.
From a photograph Kindness of Frederic Cunningham
Brother of Andrew and partner of the well-known Boston house of A. & C. Cunningham.
From a painting owned by Henry W. Cunningham
Kindness of Frederic Cunningham
At the time of the death of Andrew Cunningham, in 1861, Captain John Codman, who had sailed many voyages for him, wrote a letter to a Boston paper, in which he paid warm tribute to his ability and sterling character, relating also the following incident in his career. Long before the days of cables, when much of the business in foreign ports was transacted by the captains, John Codman was about to set sail for China with a large cargo, and, as much money had recently been lost by Boston merchants in importing tea, he was especially instructed not to invest in a pound for his return cargo. When the ship arrived in China conditions had so changed that tea seemed like the most promising purchase, and Captain Codman loaded his ship entirely with that product. When he arrived in Boston his cargo of tea showed a handsome profit, but Mr. Cunningham nevertheless called the captain into his private office and severely reprimanded him for disobeying orders. As he left the office, however, the old gentleman remarked that the voyage had been a successful one and handed Captain Codman, to his great surprise, an envelope containing a check for $1,000.
Another one of the Cunningham captains was Jonathan Edwards Scott, who was well known in Boston. It is related of him that on one of his voyages to Boston he had lost both his anchors, and was afraid that any towboat which he took to bring him in might claim salvage, so he piled a lot of rubbish in the bows to hide the deficiency, and when the towboat hailed him and asked if he wanted a tow, he said he guessed not, adding that he thought he could sail up. "Well," said the towboat captain, "I'm going up anyway, and may as well take you up," and he named a very small sum. "All right," said Captain Scott, and threw out his line. When nearing the city the towboat hailed him to know where he wanted to anchor. Captain Scott replied, "Put me right in at Rowe's Wharf," which was done, and the captain thereupon paid his towage and took a receipt in full. Upon leaving the ship the towboat captain saw she had no anchors, and said, "Where are your anchors, Captain?" and when Scott told him he had lost them the other exclaimed "Good Lord, Captain, if I had known that, I would not have towed you up for less than $500."
In 1849 Charles Cunningham retired from business, and, as his brother's two sons, James Henry and Charles West Cunningham, had grown up and were ready to take a hand in the business, the younger members of the family were admitted as partners, the firm name being changed to A. Cunningham & Sons. At about the same time Charles Cunningham's son, named Frederic, formed a partnership with his cousin. Charles W. Dabney, Jr., under the name of Dabney & Cunningham, with offices at 59 Commercial Wharf, taking over a part of the business which the other firm had transacted with the Western Islands. Their vessels included "Harbinger," "Pomona," "Grampus," "Melita," "Io," "Mermaid," "Lotos," "Azor," "Fredonia," and "Newsboy." Still another firm was Cunningham Brothers, which was composed of two nephews of Andrew and Charles Cunningham, John A. and Loring Cunningham, brothers of the late Edward Cunningham, who was an eminent merchant of China, and partner of Russell & Co. Mr. Edward Cunningham's place was in Milton, and the children thereabout were wont to wonder at the great Chinese dragons which served as gateposts at the entrance to his driveway. They were brought from China, were sunk on the way, but were recovered with great difficulty and landed in this country.
From a painting Kindness of Chester Guild
THE KING'S YACHT
This graceful Yacht was called "Kamehameha III," after one of the rulers of Hawaii and as fitted out by him as a man of war. She was sailed out to the Sandwich Islands by Captain Fisher A. Newell of Boston, and was captured by the French a few year, later. She was the Pride of Hawaii, and was called "Kammey" by the islanders. The painting from which this picture is taken was brought, ion, Honolulu to Boston by Captain Richard Mitchell of Nantucket, who landed at the Islands to ship home sow, whale oil. Captain Mitchell gave the Painting to his son-in-law, Sell, A. Fowl,, who had it hung h, his office for many years. It then descended to his cousin, Chester Guild, and it was through his kindness that it was possible to obtain this photograph. The studding sails on the foretop and foretop gallant yard are very unusual. Her Boston owners were Deming Jarvis, Benjamin Howard, and John D. Lambree.
From a photograph --Kindness. of Edwin F. Atkins
Founder of the house of E. Atkins & Co., one of the first firms to develop the Cuban sugar trade. Mr. Atkins was one of the most capable merchants of his day. His well-known firm is still in existence, and has a very large sugar business in Cuba.
E. ATKINS & CO.
Elisha Atkins started in the Cuban business for himself in 1835. In 1866, John W. Cummings, who had been his chief clerk for many years, was taken into partnership, forming the firm of P:. Atkins & Co. The senior member, Mr. Atkins, was taken when a boy from Cape Cod, where the family had lived since 1639, to Roxbury, where his parents hoped there would be less chance of his being tempted to go to sea. In spite of this precaution he entered the office of Dennis Brigham on Rowe's Wharf, and went out as supercargo to Caracas on one of his employer's vessels, a few years later going into the sugar business for himself.
In 1837, during the panic brought on by the failure of the United States Bank, his business was unprofitable. The following year the firm of Atkins & Freeman was formed, William F. Freeman being admitted as partner. The firm had offices on India Wharf, its neighbors being Thomas Wigglesworth, W. F. Cunningham R Co., George T. Lyman, Bullard C Lee, the Higginsons, R. B. Storer, W. Windsor Fay, E. A. Homer, B. Burgess, Minot, & Hooper, Boardman & Pope, all well-known merchants of their day. To those offices the rich planters came, and then spent their money at Saratoga Springs, and along the wharves could be seen cargoes from all parts of the globe. Here also were the consulates of Sweden, Norway, Belgium, and Russia. "Here," as described by William Howell Reed, who wrote the life of Mr. Atkins, "were the quaint old offices with their ancient furniture, the blazing open fires in winter, the pictured walls with ship; sailing in every ocean, the models of favorite vessels, the courtly manners of the old merchant princes of that day, the counting-house decorum, the quiet respectability, the aroma of the lofts above packed with the merchandise of the East."
R. G. Shaw & Co. once joined Mr. Atkins in making up a cargo on one of the earlier voyages, while Joshua Scars, one of the large retail purchasers of sugar in Boston, assisted occasionally in times of tight money. The first shipment to Cienfuegos was in 1843, at which port Columbus landed on his first voyage. There was little going on here at this time, Trinidad being the centre of business and society; but gradually this port grew, owing to the large amount of business transacted there by Mr. Atkins and Mr. Benjamin Burgess. In these early days the mills were run by oxen and were called "Bull Mills." Mr. Atkins's letters home give a good idea of the life on the plantations. One letter describes a night spent on top of some sugar-boxes on board a very small vessel, while another one mentions his disgust on seeing for the first time a very pretty Cuban girl light a large cigar.
In 1849 Mr. Atkins again conducted business alone, Mr. Freeman retiring. The business, however, continued to prosper, and his vessels visited not only Cuba, but the Windward Islands, St. Thomas, Jamaica, Guatemala, and occasionally Rio Janeiro. Boston now became a great sugar market. John S. Emery, ship owner and broker, chartered over four hundred vessels to Mr. Atkins. It was at this period (1866) that Mr. Cummings was admitted to partnership.
Some of the vessels owned were the well-known "Adelaide," "Chatham," "Marine," "Tom Corwin," "W. B. Stetson," "Jacinta," "Clotilde," and "Neptune," the latter being the favorite ship. A few of the shipmasters in whom Mr. Atkins took a great interest were Captains Burt, Bassford, Harding, and Beal.
Mr. Edwin F. Atkins, the son of the founder of the business, was admitted to partnership in 1874, and is now the head of this well-known house, conducting the business with his son, Robert W. Atkins, who was taken into the firm in 1915, being the third generation in a business of over eighty years' standing, as commission merchants, planters, manufacturers, and refiners.
The Bay State Sugar Refinery of Boston, owned and operated by E. Atkins & Co. for many years, entered the consolidation which comprised many of the sugar refineries of the United States, then known as The Sugar Refineries Company, just before the death of Elisha Atkins in 1888; and Edwin E. Atkins later became prominent in the management of its successor, the American Sugar Refining Company.
Elisha Atkins was considered one of the most capable merchants of his day. He was one of the builders of the Union Pacific Railroad and active in its management up m the time of his death. He was also connected with many enterprises, both in New England and throughout the West.
Enoch Train was so popular with his employees that when he failed during one of the panics prior to the Civil War, one of his Portuguese stevedores, taking his own bank book, placed it on his employer's desk, saying, "Take it; I have made the money out of your ships." This anecdote well illustrates the fine relations that existed between himself and his employees, to whom he was always kind and considerate. He was likewise the soul of honor and integrity, and was generous and public-spirited in every worthy cause. Aaron Sargent in his "Recollections of Boston Merchants" best describes his popularity: "To receive a bow or a 'Good-morning' salute from Enoch Train, as, tall and erect and with manly step, he walked down State Street and along Commercial Street to his counting-room, was something not to be despised by any one, whether a merchant or one holding some other position in commercial Boston." He was also foremost among the merchant ship-owners of his day, and at one time owned the largest number of ships of any firm in Boston, thirty or more of his vessels plying between this port and Liverpool. Having been brought up in the hide and leather store of his uncle, Samuel Train, his earliest ventures after he went into shipping on his own account were in the Russian and South American trades, importing principally hides. A few years lacer, in 1844, he established the well-known Train line of packets to Liverpool, the first ship built being the "Joshua Bates," named after the American partner of Baring Brothers at that time. This vessel was built for him at Newburyport by the celebrated ship-builder, Donald McKay. Mr. Train was so much pleased with this first vessel and with the skill of the builder that on the day she was launched he said to McKay, "You must come to Boston; we need you, and if you want any financial assistance in establishing a shipyard let me know, the amount and you shall have it." The rest is too well known to repeat. In rapid succession were launched the "Anglo Saxon;" "Anglo American," "Washington Irving," ''Ocean Monarch," "Parliament," "Star of the Empire," "Chariot of Fame," "Staffordshire," "Cathedral," and "John Eliot Thayer." The "Staffordshire " was lost at sea not far from this coast and many passengers were lost. It is stated that there were so few boats and panic-stricken people clung so desperately to the gunwales of the rowboats that one of the officers was obliged to chop off their fingers with a hatchet in order to save even a few of the passengers. Another ship, the ''Ocean Monarch," was bullied at sea with a loss of four hundred lives, and George Francis Train, a representative of the firm, in an account of his life, describes the pathetic scene he witnessed when the news was first announced in Boston. It was customary for the captain of each inward-bound vessel as she approached her dock to shout from the rail the latest news. On this occasion the "Persia" under Captain Judkins was about to dock, and hundreds of people were waiting to hear tidings of some friend or vessel. The captain shouted the sad fate of the "Ocean Monarch'" and within a few minutes the announcement was made in the Merchants Exchange. The Train firm on another occasion believed the "Gov. Davis," which ran on their Boston, New Orleans, Liverpool triangular route, had also been burned at sea, as word was received that "The 'Gov. Davis' is burned up." While those in the counting-house were grieving over their losses of friends and cargo, another message was handed to them, changing the message to "The 'Gov. Davis' is bound up." The vessel was safe in Boston Harbour and there was great rejoicing in the Train office. Another ship belonging to the firm, called "Break of Day," came into Boston Harbour on a winter's day without a spar standing. "The Chariot of Fame" was Train's favorite vessel, her master being Captain Knowles. She had a reading-room on her quarter-deck for cabin passengers, a great luxury in those days.
Donald McKay also built for Mr. Train the "Flying Cloud," "Empress of the Seas," "Plymouth Rock," which was half-owned by George B. Upton, and the "Lightning." Some of Train's captains were Caldwell, Thayer, Murdock, Brown, Richardson, Howard, and Knowles.
In 1855 the Boston & European Steamship Company was incorporated, with Enoch Train; George B. Upton, Donald McKay, Andrew T. Hall, and James M. Beebe as sponsors, "for the purpose of navigating the ocean by steam." The plan was to build a splendid line of steamers, rivalling in every respect the well-known Collins line of New York, the English port to be Milford Haven in Wales. The remarks made by Enoch Train at that time are especially interesting to took back upon, as they show his ideas in regard to the steamship which was then just beginning to replace the sailing-ship. It had been expected that Train would oppose the suggested company, as being antagonistic to his own, but instead he was so broad-minded that he lent it the strength of his right arm, as he expressed it.
Photograph from an original Kindness of Stephen G. Train
TRAIN & CO.'S POSTER
Kindness of J. Chany
PLEDGE OF THE SAILORS' HOME TEMPERANCE SOCIETY
Showing the Sailors' Home, and men on the wharf destroying barrels of rum. The remark, "You've given me many a broken head, and now, I'll give you one," is amusing.
"There is a vast difference," he said, "between steam and sailing vessels," and steam would not interfere with his regular business, the transportation of coarse and weighty commodities, and passengers who could not afford the luxury of steam passage. A large committee was appointed, but the panic of 1857 put a stop to all plans.
Frederic W. Thayer, a partner at one time of Mr. Train, established an office in Liverpool. Later he and Mr. George Warren formed a partnership under the name of Thayer & Warren, succeeding to the business of Enoch Train & Co. It a still later date the name was changed again to the well-known firm of Warren & Co. This latter firm still flies the Train private signal, a red ground with a white diamond, and was one of the first houses to appreciate the commercial importance of iron screw steamers.
Enoch Train at first had his counting-house at 37 Lewis Wharf, and later, about 1852, he bought Constitution Wharf for the use of his ships, moving his private office to State Street.
The two cuts as the frontispiece of this pamphlet show in the first picture an Irishman in straitened circumstances carefully examining one of Enoch Train & Co.'s shipping announcements of a sailing to Boston; the second one depicts the same individual about to return from Boston on the same line to the "Old Country," having become prosperous in the United States.
From a painting in the Nantucket Library
THE "SAMUEL RUSSELL"
Named after the founder of the house of Russell & Co., the largest of the American firms in China. The "Samuel Russell" was built in 1846 for A. A. Low & Co., was commanded for many years by Captain A. L. Palmer and was lost off the Cape of Good Hope. She was one of the fastest clippers of her day.
ONE OF THE BEST KNOWN SHIPS OF BENJAMIN C. CLARK & CO.
CAPTAIN ARTHUR H. CLARK
Captain Arthur H. Clark quotes Thomas Appleton as Saying that no Boston family was quite Complete that could not claim at least one retired sea-captain! and if one examines the names of Boston captains, one finds that this statement has much truth in it. Captain Clark had many friends in the same trade, and a list made by him furnishes further proof that Appleton was right in his assertion. Robert Adams, of the "Rocket" and "Golden Fleece," was a son of the Rev. Nehemiah Adams; John Boote succeeded Captain William C. Rogers in the "Witchcraft"; Robert Airily was captain of the "Nor' Wester"; Henry Sargent, of the "Rockland," "Phantom," and "Emily C. Starr," was an older brother of Daniel and Prank Sargent and Mrs. Goodwin Whitney and Mrs. William Appleton of New York; Captain Gannett, of the ship "Benares," was a younger brother of the Rev. Dr. Gannett; Frank Haskell, who commanded the "Norseman," was an elder brother of Thomas and Frederick Haskell; Captain Frank Dale, who sailed the "Fleetwood," was a brother of Dr. Dale, and uncle of Eben Dale and Mary Dale, who married Colonel Charles Turnbull; Putnam Upton, of the "Dragoon," was a son of George B. Upton, the well-known ship-merchant; James Dwight, of the "Cutwater" and "James Freeman Clarke," was a cousin of Howard and Wilder Dwight; and Montgomery Parker, captain of the ships "Judge Shaw" and "Lord Lyndhurst," was a son of Richard G. Parker. All of these names and many more were, according to Captain Clark, the pride of Boston, and will go down on the records of the maritime history of the city.
From a photograph Courtesy of Captain Arthur H. Clark
Founder of the Boston firm, Benjamin C. Clark & Co., which was long engaged in the West Indian coffee trade and the Mediterranean fruit and wine trade. Mr. Clark was the father of Captain Arthur H. Clark.
CAPTAIN ARTHUR H. CLARK
A splendid seaman, good business man and excellent writer of maritime history. He is one of the last of the captains of the old school. His residence is in Brooklyn. N.Y., and he is the New York representative of Lloyd's.
Captain Clark, who is now Lloyd's representative in New York, has an extraordinary record as a Boston shipmaster. His first sailing experience was with small model yachts on the Frog Pond, which was opposite his father's house, No. 36 Beacon Street, and later he learned to navigate his father's yacht off Nahant. After leaving the Latin School he determined to adopt the sea as his calling, and shipped before the mast on the clipper "Black Prince" around the Horn to San Francisco, Manila, Foochow, and other distant ports. When this ship returned, two and one-half years later, he had been advanced to the position of third mate. He then became second officer of the famous "Northern Light," returning to the "Black Prince " as chief mate. In a short time he rose to be chief mate of the ship "J. C. Humphreys," then master of the "Agnes," and the "Verena," in the China trade. His next adventure was to command the yacht "Alice," only forty-eight feet long, on a voyage from Boston to England, one of his companions being Mr. Charles Longfellow, son of the poet. Up to this time this was the smallest yacht to cross the Atlantic and the first American yacht to sail from America direct to England. Upon his return to Boston, Captain Clark was appointed by J. M. Forbes & Co. to take the steamship "A. J. Ingersoll" to China. He subsequently commanded the "Manchu," "Suwo Nada," and "Venus" in the China Seas, and received a service of silver from American and British underwriters for his wonderful feat in bringing the "Suwo Nada," owned by Augustine Heard & Co., into Hong Kong in such a sinking condition that she sank in the graving dock before the gates could be closed, having struck an uncharted rock on the Chinese coast. Captain Clark subsequently commanded the American Mail S.S. "Indiana," between Philadelphia and Liverpool, and retired from the sea in 1877, but made one more ocean voyage in 1894-1895 when he brought the steam yacht "Sylvia," owned by Commodore Edward M. Brown of the New York Yacht Club, from Queenstown to New York during the months of December and January.
This yacht was 138 tons gross. The "Alice" and "Sylvia" are the two smallest sailing and steam yachts respectively that have crossed the Atlantic under the burgee of the New York Yacht Club. Both made the passage in nineteen days.
Captain Clark is a very familiar figure of the down-town shipping community of New York, and is one of the last of that fine type of gentleman sea-captains of the old school. He is not only a splendid seaman, but also a business man of sound judgment, and a writer of maritime history of first importance. He is the son of Hon. B. C. Clark, who was the founder of the firm of Benjamin C. Clark & Co. of Boston. This well-known house from 1830 to 1848 owned a number of clipper brigs and topsail schooners which were engaged in the West India coffee trade and the Mediterranean fruit and wine trade, some of these vessels being the "SeaEagle," "Water Witch." "Silenus," "Red Rover," and "Sea Mew." Benjamin C. Clark built and owned the schooner yacht "Mermaid," which was then -- 1832 -- the first decked yacht owned in Boston, and a few years later he built the "Raven," which won the cup in the first regatta sailed in Massachusetts Bay, at Nahant, on July 19, 1845.
to hear the Lascars' rousing "chanty" in the morn,
When we broke away the anchor to sail home around the Horn!
Oh, to see the white sails pulling, feel the lift beneath the keel,
With the trade-mind's push behind her and the roll that. made her reel!
The old Clipper days are over, and the white-winged fleets no more,
With their snowy sails unfolded, fly along the ocean floor;
Where their house-flags used to flutter in the ocean winds unfurled,
Now the kettle-bellied cargo tubs go reeling around the world.
But 'twas jolly while it lasted, and the sailor was a Man;
And it's good-by to the Lascar and the tar with face of tan;
And it's good-by mother, once for all, and good-by girls on shore;
And it's good-by brave old Clipper-ship that sails the seas no more!
(From Boston Transcript.)