Item #11461 Unpublished Manuscript Account of an 1850 Voyage Around Cape Horn to California
Unpublished Manuscript Account of an 1850 Voyage Around Cape Horn to California
Unpublished Manuscript Account of an 1850 Voyage Around Cape Horn to California
Unpublished Manuscript Account of an 1850 Voyage Around Cape Horn to California
Unpublished Manuscript Account of an 1850 Voyage Around Cape Horn to California

Unpublished Manuscript Account of an 1850 Voyage Around Cape Horn to California

No Place of Publication: Circa 1900. Notebook binding of brown paper wrappers with black cloth spine, 8.75 x 7.25", titled to front cover "Wm. H. Stockwell's Account of a Trip to California, Around the Horn in 1850," containing 81 pages of ink manuscript. A later copy (circa 1890s to 1900s, based on the appearance of the binding), of an unpublished account of a voyage to California undertaken in 1849 and 1850 by William H. Stockwell of Shaftesbury, Vermont. The account takes the form of two extremely long letters Stockwell sent to his parents while stopped in Valparaiso, Chile on February 16, 1850. Stockwell traveled aboard the Reindeer, under Captain Lord, which left Boston on November 23rd, 1849, and arrived in San Francisco on April 2nd, 1850, a voyage of 130 days.

The first letter, 58 pages, provides a detailed and vivid account of the Reindeer's harrowing voyage from Boston to Valparaiso. Stockwell begins with lengthy descriptions of stormy weather off the coast of Massachusetts, the initial seasickness experienced by the passengers, and a bout with scurvy, after the ship ran out of vegetables. However, while the other passengers became discouraged, his expectations of California remained high (“California appeared to me as bright as ever although we heart some unfavorable reports before we started for that golden land.” He also describes the food the passengers ate (“The prescribed food is salt meat and hard bread. Yet we have various names applied to our different dishes. From a mixture of salt meat and hard bread is made a dish called ‘Lob House’…”); a fight between the violent first mate and a crew member (“a number of people jumped upon Hardy and held him while the mate recovering jumped up and beat Hardy over the head with the iron most unmercifully”); an equator crossing ceremony in which crew members were tarred and shaved, and his subsequent reaction ("On that day the observer might see here and there an old man, or one that could not be called young, stowed away in some secret corner…with his ink and paper before him and his pen in his hand, noting down the horrid scene with caution to send to his far distant home in New England…that they would not have believed that human beings were so cruel, so hard hearted…”); a brief encounter with a pirate ship; and shark, albatross, and other wildlife caught by the passengers. The travelers end up killing the albatross, which the crew believe to be bad omen that led to subsequent violent storms while rounding Cape Horn: “Here I have sat many an hour clinging to some part object, to hold myself down…while the wind blew so violently that it would fill the air so thickly with water that the scenery appeared like a squall of snow in March….it would be thrown so nearly upon its side, that I could jump from where I was standing into the sea the opposite side…these are some of the beauties of Cape Horn.”

The next letter, meanwhile, provides a 23 page account of Stockwell's time in Valparaiso. He provides a bad review of a breakfast eaten at an American lodging house (“We from thence repaired to an American house called the ‘Star Hotel’ which was kept by a Vermonter…After taking breakfast there of food not much resembling our New England dishes…”), describes a sightseeing trip through the city on horseback, and writes about a visit to a nearby town, where he visits an American run public house and has several run ins with the locals (“In the city you have protection from the officers, but back where there are none the people are bold and commence a quarrel with an American…While driving by them, they would rise up grab hold of you and try to pull you off from your horse…). Throughout, Stockwell's low opinion of the city is apparent; he notes that “I I have seen dumb beasts that seem to manifest more brilliance of perception than these people seemed to manifest" and writes about “Children lying in the sand by the side of the street with a calf’s head in the dirt by their side for sale, Blind men and women walking in the streets in every part with a young child leading them about to every foreigner they see to beg from….” Overall an engaging and vivid account of a California voyage. We found no record of this account ever having been published, either in OCLC, or via internet searches. Overall in nice condition with offsetting to covers, hint of musty odor present. Item #11461

Price: $1,500.00