Journal in the form of Letters written by a New Yorker while on the Steamer Cambria, including the author's thoughts on Fanny Kemble who was a passenger, and the Steamer Washington, written in a Letter Copy Book, dated 1845-1847

quarto, 37 pp., bound in half leather, embossed cloth covered boards, binding worn, rubbed, scuffed, small tear to spine, entries dated 16 October - 11 November 1845 and 23 September 1847.

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Copies of these journal entries-letters were made with a "Wedgwood's highly improved manifold writer." According to an online site at the Yale Center for British Art1, a crude form of carbon paper was patented by Ralph Wedgwood in 1806. The Wedgwood Patent Manifold Writer was patented in 1806 and initially intended as a means of helping blind people to write. But it was very quickly adapted for business use, and similar systems that were sold from 1806 until around the end of the 19th century enabled users to retain a copy of outgoing letters made with this carbon paper.


     The original Wedgwood system used manifolds consisting of a sheet of transparent paper followed by a sheet of ordinary writing paper. To write a letter and make a carbon copy simultaneously, the user would insert a sheet of double sided carbon paper between the transparent sheet and the writing paper. When the user wrote with an agate-tipped stylus on the transparent paper, he would produce an outgoing letter on the ordinary paper under the carbon. He would also produce a copy in reverse on the back of the transparent sheet, and because the sheet was transparent, the copy could be read from the front. Mark Twain wrote some of his stories on Manifold Writers in the early 1870s.


The item offered here does not include the "agate-tipped stylus," but does include some of the carbon paper and a piece of metal, the size of a piece of writing paper, that presumably was placed under the letter, carbon paper, and tissue copy paper, in order to have a hard surface to write on.


       Description of Journal-Letters

           While the manuscript is not signed, clues within the text tell us that the writer was from New York (" Yankees" & "I find myself as comfortable in London as I do in New York") and likely worked on the steamer Washington. In the first section of the journal, when our writer is on board the steamer Cambria, he mentions that he is sharing a room with a British nobleman. He does not necessarily know the man, but they are sharing a room on the voyage. Thus we can infer that the writer is a male, from New York who is of the upper class or upper middle class and knowledgeable about ships, but he also appears to be a merchant, as the journal shows him placing orders with commission houses in Liverpool, Leeds, and elsewhere in England.


            There are two different sections of this volume. The first section of the journal carries entries from 16 October to 11 November 1845 and consists of 32 pages, with everyday entries beginning while aboard the Steamer Cambria on 16 October followed by other entries while on board the steamer, and afterwards entries made during his trip to England, from the Waterloo Hotel at Liverpool on 27 October, followed by postings from Huddersfield (28 Oct.), London (6 Nov.), Dover (10 Nov)., and finally Brussels, Belgium on 11 November 1845.

           The Cambria left the port of Boston on 16 October 1845. Our writer states he will keep a journal for the amusement of the person he addresses it to, which is simply "My Dear..." On the second page of the journal our author writes that Fanny Kemble, the famous actress, is on board his ship:

            "We have as passenger Mrs. Fanny Kemble Butler - who has for the 3rd or 4th time parted from her husband & is now returning disconsolate without her children to her friends upon the other side of the Atlantic. It is said that her husband has weaned the affections of their children from their mother & that she is going back to England quite broken hearted, the truth of which I can not vouch for - But if the statement is true as regards her a circumstance that occurred today might by many be considered quite ominous. Mrs. B. has been reclining by the starboard side of the saloon on a mattress, part of the time engaged in reading, say Stearns Tristram Shandy, or some other work, no matter what & part of the time ensconced in the arms of that goddess yclept Morpheus. She was habitat in a velvet cloak which almost entirely covered her dress of red & blk fig'd cashmere. Upon her head rested a gentleman's blue cloth cap which was [destitute'] of visor, ornamented with a bank of fur which gave her quite a Lady Gay Spanker appearance. As it was she was fast asleep a few hours previous..."


           Adding to the Fanny Kemble story our writer goes on to state that a hawk was flying about the rigging of the ship. A young lad climbed up and caught the bird with his cap. He clipped the hawk's wings and let it run around the deck for the amusement of the children on board. Then at one point the bird got into the saloon where Fanny Kemble was sleeping:


       "...he at last in utter despair perched himself upon the shoulder of the unfortunate Fanny & so congenial to the feelings of this poor persecuted bird appeared his resting place, that it was with great difficulty that he could be compelled to vacate it - As poor Fanny lay in the above position, I could not but say to myself is that hawk an emblem of the workings of thy spirit..."


            The writer then tires of writing about Kemble stating, "No more of Fanny for the present...." He then writes about everyday shipboard events, a sermon he attended, people drinking in the ship’s saloon, etc. He mentions other ships he sees, the fact that "the captains of the packet ships detest the steamers." Our writer tells us the Cambria will make the transatlantic trip in "11 days," the shortest transatlantic trip prior was made earlier by the Cambria in "10 days and 18 hours."

             Our author gives a description of some of the people he meets on the ship; in particular he spends time with three Scotch parsons, one of whom, the clergyman that gave the sermon on the ship, he takes a liking to. The writer arrives in Liverpool, spends the night at a hotel, then in the morning takes a train to Manchester.  At Manchester he calls on the commission houses that he "does business with." On 30 October he writes:

       "Have done but little business today. Shall be compelled to wait here until market day which is next Tuesday when all the small manufacturers of the neighboring villages bring in their samples & goods, a large building having been provided for their accommodation by Sir John Ramsden, who in fact owns most all the Real Estate in the town..."

            The writer then takes a carriage trip to Leeds from Liverpool for the day, where he places some orders with different commission houses.  He mentions that Leeds is:


       "...the principal market for cloths, blankets, and stuff goods - aside from its manufacturers, it is a place of but little interest. It is a dirty smoky town & I hurried out of it at ½ pass 3 PM by the same coach upon which I went up..."


           He then goes to Barnsly, "the seat of the principal linen manufactories of England." He places his orders for "linen drillings, thus our author appears to be a cotton goods merchant, or textile merchant.


           After Liverpool, Leeds and Huddersfield, he takes a train to London where he tours the city with a friend from New York that he meets on the train. After a day or two transacting business, he takes a train to Dover, spends the night, and heads to Brussels, Belgium, in the morning. This is the end of the first section of the journal.


             The second section is much smaller and is headed: "Voyage of Steamer Washington" and dated for September 23-25, 1847 (4 pp.). This is only the second voyage of the Washington, her maiden voyage being back on June 1st, 1847. The entries are for the first three days of the voyage, the ship eventually arrived at Southampton on October 9th.


            The Washington leaves from "Pier 5 North River." A newspaper advertisement in the New York Evening Post dated 22 Sept 1847 (p.3) states that "Steamer Washington will positively start for Southampton and Bremen on...the 23d September..." It was a ship for the Ocean Steam Navigation Company, at 45 William Street in NYC. The "Washington" was a side-wheeler built by Westervelt & Mackay, and launched on 31 January, 1847 the two engines were built by the Novelty Works of Stillman & Allen, New York, NY. This entry mentions a "Mr. Stillman" and that he built the engines. Much of the four pages concern the engines of this ship, its speed, the amount of coal being used, the fact that the coal was no good, etc. The Washington appears to have been the first regularly scheduled connection between the United States and mainland Europe.


             The Washington was also involved in a very famous U.S. Maritime postal history event. The Ocean Line was established in the U.S. with the British & North American Royal Mail Packet Co., better known as The Cunard Line. As an American Packet line, the rating of letters was planned to follow the British plan, vis., and the prepayment of a 24 cent Packet Letter charge plus inland postage in the U.S. with the letters to be received in England as Ship Letters at the 8d. rate, where the captain would receive the 2d "Captain's pence" for each letter. However, when the Washington arrived at Southampton on her maiden voyage,  and the 1st voyage of the line, the British authorities declared that her letters were "Packet Letters" subject to the one shilling (24 cents) Packet rate, and not eligible for any "Captain's pence." This happened in spite of the fact that these incoming mails had been transported by a U.S. Packet. After all, Royal Mails coming into American ports were rated as Ship Letters. This infuriated the U.S. postal authorities and resulted in the Retaliatory Rate period whereby all letters by British Packets in or out of American posts were charged 24 cents plus inland postage in the U.S. as well as being charged 1/- (24 cents) in Britain. This lasted until a treaty was signed in 1848.


             It appears the writer is either on board to check the engines, or that he worked on the ship itself. The entries do not sound as if he is simply a passenger. On board with him are about thirty passengers, including a "Mr. McC and his lady and son," and many "Germans" heading to Bremen, and a "Miss Henick" who is going on a tour of Europe. There is much mention of the workings of the ship's engine, coal, breeze, wind, speed, etc.


1. Yale Center for British Art.