(Tucker Family Letters)
Correspondence of the family of Ship Captain and Owner, Richard H. Tucker, Sr., of Wiscasset, Maine and his sons Captain Joseph Tucker and Captain Richard H. Tucker, Jr., dated 1843-1859

Collection of 90 letters, 246 manuscript pages, mainly quarto, folding stamp-less letter-sheets, dated from December 17, 1843 to February 1, 1871. Only four letters are from the 1860s and 1870s, the bulk (86 letters) date from 1843 to 1859. Also included are two printed circulars, a "Warren & Thayer's" 1857 Weekly Freight Circular (2 pp) and an 1868 "Saint John Prices Current"(3 pp).

Tucker Family of Wiscasset, Maine

Richard Hawley Tucker (1791-1867) was a successful ship captain and owner who had built a fortune shipping goods (cotton and other goods) from New England and Charleston, South Carolina, to Europe via Liverpool and Le Havre. The Tucker family's shipping business was founded by Richard Hawley Tucker in 1827. His two sons, Joseph Tucker (1821-1889) and Richard Holbrook Tucker (1816-1895), both served as captains in their father's fleet of ships, Joseph from 1843 to 1859 and Richard from 1838 to 1848. After his tenure as captain, Richard looked after the family's interests in Charleston, S.C., (1848-54), then returned to Wiscasset where he engaged in various businesses. Between the father Richard, Sr. and his two sons, the "Tucker Ships" amounted to 25 vessels that they owned or operated between the 1830s and 1870s. A number of the ships the family owned were built at Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

R. H. Tucker, Sr., and his wife Mary Mellus, lived in a small house on Main Street in Wiscasset, Maine, where they raised their three children, their two sons and a daughter Mary, who married Oakes Rundlett, of another well-known merchant-shipping and ship building family from Maine. The Tuckers later built a large brick home in the best neighborhood in town on High Street.

Richard Tucker Jr. was born in 1816 and died in 1895. He was educated at Bowdoin College. By 1857, he was forty-one years old, had retired from active sailing after commanding several ships, and was a successful shipping agent. He married 16 year old Mary G. "Mollie" Armstrong in 1857 and purchased the old "Elm Lawn" estate, renovating and expanding it to become the Tucker Castle. Today the home is a historic home museum. Tucker was too old to serve in the Civil War, Richard, Jr. participated in civilian war efforts and served in the Maine State Legislature as a senator in 1861.

Joseph Tucker was born about 1821 and died in 1889. He married Frances A. Lennox, daughter of Patrick Lennox and Nancy Hathorn. Joseph acted for a time as chairman of the selectmen of the town of Wiscasset. Wm. P. Lennox, one of Joseph's correspondents, was the treasurer of Wiscasset at the same time Joseph was the chair of the selectmen. Lennox was the half-brother of Joseph's wife. William P. Lennox's other half-brother was Alfred Lennox, a well-known sea captain of Wiscasset, Maine. The Lennox family was a prominent family in the area. During the years 1876-1878 Joseph Tucker was also the town treasurer.

        Description of Collection:

The collection is comprised of 90 letters (246 manuscript pages) and 2 printed circulars, with almost half of the correspondence written by Richard H. Tucker, Sr, to his two sons Joseph and Richard as follows:

44 letters of Richard H. Tucker, Sr., written to his sons Captain Joseph Tucker (31 letters) and Capt. Richard H. Tucker, Jr. (13 letters), dated 1843-1849 (24 letters) and 1851-1859 (20 letters). The letters from the 1840s are addressed to Joseph in care of his brother Richard, while Joseph was at sea. Richard appears to have been stationed at Charleston, South Carolina, caring for the family's business interests in that town. When Richard wasn't in Charleston, Joseph's letters would be in care of various merchants or men (T. J. Roger & Co., A. W. Black, Esq, Thaddeus Stout, Esq, or George A. Locke, Esq., all of Charleston, SC). Some letters for Richard are also addressed to Roger & Co. Some of the letters to Richard are addressed to him in the care of Messrs. Taylor & Merrill, or Thomas Wardle, Esq., both of New York City, as are some letters to Joseph. Both Joseph and Richard are at times at sea, so letters are sent to the ports where they are sailing to, usually Charleston, New York, Savannah, or Liverpool, England, and Havre, France. Usually they are posted in the care of merchants from those towns. Richard H. Tucker, Sr., the father, is at home, in Wiscasset, Maine, when he is writing these letters to his sons.

The letters from Richard H. Tucker, Sr. are filled with considerable detail about the family's shipping business, so much so that one gets a full picture of the operations that the family are carrying out at sea and various ports. As well, Tucker gives advice and instructions to his sons:

                "Wiscasset 28 Jan 1844,

Ed has just returned from the P. Office and no letter again. What is the meaning of this? Either letters have miscarried or you have neglected writing and as I notice per price current arrived on Friday last you are up for N. York, and I am surprised I have not rec'd notice by letter of this engagement, I am charitably disposed and think you must have written and the letters miscarried as I have nothing but papers and price current for the last fortnight. As regards your present engagement I can only say that if you have dispatch and are fortunate in passages, there may be something left, and upon the whole if you go and return safe, perhaps it will be better than laying idle. You may or may not have a hard cold time of it. I hope for the best. You must have great care on the passages to & from N.Y. while on soundings practice often, lessons with the lead and when you arrive in the bay between the Hook and City, endeavor to impress it on your pilot to keep the ship clear of the drift ice, and when at the City get her into some dock, so that the drift ice will not come a force of her and by no means allow her to lay at the end of any wharf or pier..."


                "Wiscasset, 12 Nov 1848,

Notwithstanding I have written Rich'd a long letter that leaves this day, yet I felt as if I should be doing injustice to my feelings did I not say a few words to you. Yesterday I saw you spoke with a ship in to Boston, & she reported you in Latt 39o, Long 70o, which is probably correct, yet I hardly think your passage will be shortened by being so far North, & as I believe you are in parallel of Latt of the Delaware, you must of course be in the Stream in that Long, but if the wind allowed you to cross it to the Westward, I think from appearances here you must have had a favorable time and are now safely moored at "Boyce's Wharf" getting ready for Church. Tomorrow is the last day of grace, I give you on this passage after seeing the report of so many short passages made by ships that sailed a few days before & after you. The Devonshire from London to N York had only 18 days, & several others in 21 & 25 days, so that you must have participated in those good winds. It is mysterious how the Alliance got out in 25 days, when ships bound West have had such short runs, & the Capt. of her says he had 20 days strong easterly winds!!!!"

"Wiscasset, 17 March 1849,

...I have been most anxiously looking your arrival, and on each day met with disappointment. I cannot conceive the cause as there has been many arrivals at the North that sailed 10 days after you & the Harwood....that sailed only a few days before you & she arrived on the 7th & is now probably half loaded at Charleston....I am mortified in the extreme in not finding you here on the 11 inst., as I this day rec'd Richard's of that date which informed me you were still absent, & that the above ships was coming around....I shall have a most unhappy day tomorrow if I do not hear of your arrival..."

The other half of the collection includes letters written by the Tucker brothers or letters written to them from business associates, or in the case of Joseph Tucker, the collection contains letters written to him by his wife. This half of the collection is as follows:

4 letters of Mary Tucker Rundlett to her brother Capt. Joseph Tucker, 1854. Mary writes four letters to her brother dated June 1854, announcing the birth of Joseph's son, how the family misses him, how his wife Fanny (Frances) is bearing the brunt of her husband's absence (he's at sea). The whole family was waiting for him to show up, but he did not.

8 letters of Frances Lennox Tucker to her husband Capt. Joseph Tucker, 1854-1858. Fanny, as she is called, writes her husband while he is away at sea, at various ports. As might be expected she misses him and lets him know about her loneliness:

"I wish I could see my Joesy laying without any coverings. What a nice chance I would have to slap him.. It wouldn't be quite so comfortable to have your Fan round such hot nights for there might be danger of our sticking together hard & fast, that would be rather bad don't you think so Josey?"

Frances also writes about the new born (Jun 1854) boy, how that father has not seen him yet (Joseph was in Europe), etc., both mother and baby miss him. There is much talk of domestic affairs back home, the daily events of her life and her loneliness. Good insight into the hard life of a woman whose husband is at sea.

8 letters of William P. Lennox to his brother-in-law Capt. Joseph Tucker, 1853-1861. Joseph's brother-in-law writes to him about mainly about business, but also family matters including some local history:

                "Dec 30, 1853,

...We had an unusually high tide yesterday covering all the wharves & flowing into the store houses - causing lime, in the storehouse on Boyd's wharf to set fire the building & contents. - 60 casks lime to S.L. Young & furniture amount $500 belonging to Wm. Lowell - were consumed in about an hour - the chains of the vessels at the wharf were cut & cleared them from the fire..."

Other news from Lennox concerns the business of Joseph's father:

"October 3rd, 1855,

...I called on Portsmouth on the 7th Sept & found your father in good health having just launched the new ship "Othello" which is a well built vessel and superior in every respect - cabin well planned & I suppose she is now about ready for sea and should you arrive in time to take her out to Charleston I am afraid we shall not see much of you in Wiscasset at present, the present rates of freights ruling high at our southern ports it is an object to secure them as speedily as possible..."

And another:

                "Oct 31st, 1855,

...Yours of the 25th inst has been received our business of the new Barque is progressing slowly - she is being square spiked in ceiling - hooks & painters forward & aft in the lower hold - ballasting - Bobby Hatch - hatch house - & sundry other jobs are going on in readiness for launching as soon as possible perhaps on Saturday or Monday next...We have named her the Barque "Windward." Please advise us per return mail after your arrival at Charleston what freights are or likely to be the last of Nov at Charleston & Savannah think she will carry 26000 Bush of 60 pounds wheat or 28000 Bus of 56HS or about 700 tons gross..."

4 letters of Capt. Joseph Tucker to his wife Frances Lennox Tucker, 1854. Joseph writes to his wife concerning work and business, his family, whereabouts of his brother Richard, plus in one letter, written from France, he mentions sending to Paris for an order of dresses, trying to get a photo of her painted by an artist in Paris, etc. Two letters are from Havre, France, and two from Portaferry (Northern Ireland). One letter from Ireland Joseph recounts his thoughts about the ship that he crashed, probably the first ship named the Richard H. Tucker.

"Portaferry, Ireland Oct 9th, 1854

We sold out on Friday and all tho value of my late command scarcely brought $2000, the rest of my crew are at the door on their way to Belfast. I shall go there tomorrow and will have to return here to get things all settled up. I am tired and sick of Ireland, have lived in filth and dirt but shall have to remain here sometime yet. This accident is a bad one for me, my interest was not insured for its full value have lost many things which together would amount to quite a large sum. My primage for the homeward passage was $200, & I am thrown out of employment in a foreign land but thank God it is no worse. I have my health and the disposition to apply myself to something with what I have left & if life is spared to us both, the past twelve months may be so healed over that we may become reconciled to such reverse."

3 letters of Capt. Richard H. Tucker, Jr., to his brother Capt. Joseph Tucker, 1853-1858. Richard writes to his brother Joseph about business, one letter gives us some insight into the friction that exists between the brothers and their father:

"Wiscasset, Aug 7th, 1854,

...Father does not know what to do with the Moulton. She is about finished, he grows more strange and disagreeable every day - consults no one but [Stone]. He positively refuses to let Alfred Lennox go mate although Chapman is willing and has now got a new mate that cannot see across the ship he is so near sighted."

1 letter of Capt. Joseph Tucker to his brother Capt. Richard H. Tucker, Jr., 1849.

19 letters written to Capt. Joseph Tucker (10), Capt. Richard H. Tucker, Jr. (5), and others (4), by various individuals, dealing with the family's shipping interests, dated 1845-1871. These letters are written by Geo. Wood, David Stone, Packard Merrill, J. Homans, Geo. A. Locke, G. C. & R. W. Fox, S. P. Baker, Wm. Hunter & Co., etc. These letters concern business between the writers and the Tucker brothers.

2 printed circulars:  "Warren & Thayer's" 1857 Weekly Freight Circular (2 pp) and an 1868 "Saint John Prices Current"(3 pp). These two circulars were mailed to the Tucker brothers.