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Fathers and Sons of the American Navy

Posted for William Robinson, Spring 2014 Digital Library Intern.

The Digital Library at Villanova continues to digitize and transcribe the Barry-Hayes Papers, owned by the Independence Seaport Museum. The papers remind us that in the 19th century, sons often followed their fathers into a certain line of work. The collection has many letters written by the relatives of Commodore John Barry, considered a “father of the American Navy”, that discuss the naval and merchant careers of the sons of Revolutionary War era naval officers. In “Letter, To: ‘My Dear Son’ From: Mother Elizabeth Hayes, February 21, 1815”, Elizabeth Keen Hayes, the daughter-in-law of John Barry, tells her son Thomas Hayes, a midshipman at Boston Navy Yard, about the injuries of Richard Dale Jr. Dale Jr. was the son of Richard Dale, one of the original commodores of the Continental Navy who had fought under the command of John Barry and John Paul Jones during the Revolutionary War. In January 1815, serving aboard the U.S.S. President in the War of 1812, the British took him prisoner after he was struck by a cannonball in a sea battle off the coast of Bermuda. Elizabeth Hayes has received news from Richard Dale that Dale Jr. has been injured, but still hopes for his recovery: “the report is that is most relyd on he has lost his leg his father is in some respects prepared for it but his mother flatters herself it is not so. I pray sincerely it may only prove a slight wound, the day the President was captured Richard was twenty years old”. Hayes also discusses a letter from Stephen Decatur Jr. to Mrs. Dale describing her son’s injuries. Decatur Jr. was a celebrated naval commander in the Barbary Wars, the Quasi-War with France, and the War of 1812, and his own father was a naval officer who had fought in the Revolutionary War. Hayes reports that “Mr Dale wounded and doing well was all Decatur said respecting Richard”.

Letter, To: "My Dear Son"

The letter gives an interesting glimpse into the generational influence of naval warfare, the pace of communication in 1815, and the anxiety felt by a mother over her son’s work. The letter has references to three descendants of Revolutionary War era naval officers; Thomas Hayes, Richard Dale Jr., and Stephen Decatur Jr. Elizabeth Hayes can only speculate about the injuries of Richard Dale Jr. and must wait for more information. She expects that Dale’s mother will not admit the severity of her son’s injury, but his father is more prepared to accept bad news. Elizabeth Hayes also expresses worry about Thomas coming to harm in the war as a midshipman. She writes “you may judge my dear son of my feelings when I had you constantly before my eyes and did not know how soon it might be your lot, but thank God, Peace the sweet sound has revived my drooping spirits and giving me the hart felt pleasure that I will see my see my son again ere long”. The Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812, was signed in December 1814, but it was ratified in Washington only days before Hayes sent the letter to her son. In the time the Treaty of Ghent reached Washington, Richard Dale Jr.’s injuries worsened and he died in captivity in Bermuda.

Stephen Decatur, commander of the USS President, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Stephen Decatur, commander of the USS President, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Read more manuscripts from the Barry-Hayes Papers.

Find out more about the collection in the Barry-Hayes Papers finding aid, developed by the Independence Seaport Museum.

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Sent mail

Today in electronic communication, when an email is composed and sent, an automatic copy is routinely placed in a “Sent” mail folder. In the manuscript era, however the only way for an author of a letter or memo to keep a copy of the correspondence was to manually scribe a copy. This may have been a “fair copy” – a nearly exact copy of the sent letter, or a draft copy, which would included revisions and edits. Some authors kept these fair and draft copies as individual sheets, while in other cases, a bound book of blank pages was used.

Cullen

The two letter books kept by Peter Cullen, during the 1832-1934 years, are good examples of the bound format of sent mail and document his ongoing commercial correspondence. These were draft copies as the numerous corrections and emendations can attest.

Cullen

Over 90 leaves of letters are present in the 1832-1833 volume; the 20 leaves of the 1834 volume are newly available in a transcription by library staff member Frances DiLenge.

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Bringing to Life a 19th Century Ship Master’s Cargo

Posted for Susan Ottignon, Digital Library Team:

With each passing hour, as I scrutinize the scanned images found in the Barry-Hayes Papers–Series 58 Ships’ Papers, and begin to build a ‘metadata catalog’ by identifying and labeling each slip of paper, a picture emerges of early 19th merchant ship owners contracting, with a variety of merchants, to load cargo and to sail between the ports of Philadelphia and a foreign destination, in this case, Havana, Cuba. The Ship’s Papers series is a voluminous collection comprised of ‘bill of lading,’ accounts and receipts for specific schooner, sloop, ship or brig all related, in one way or another, to Patrick Hayes who was a ship owner and, on many occasions the Captain, aka ‘Master,’ of the ship. These business transactions provide us, in one sense, with a 19th century ‘paper trail’ into the rich history of commodities, either exported or imported, through the port of Philadelphia.

Receipts list of 1811 voyage

Receipts for cargo destined for Havana, Cuba, on the Brig Commodore Barry in 1811.

beaver cargo

In October of 1811, the Brig Commodore Barry, anchored in Philadelphia, and destined for Havana, Cuba, clearly illustrate the types of consigned merchandise that filled the ship’s cargo hold, and transported in all kinds of containers like kegs, barrels, jugs and boxes, all transacted over a few short days, between the 9th and 13th of the month. We can see Patrick Hayes, the assigned Master for the voyage, affixed his signature in receipt for merchandise. I successfully confirmed, on this occasion, each merchant’s name and trade by reviewing several city directories, from 1801 and 1813, like The Philadelphia Directory and Register, 1813, for Samuel Beaver whose entry read, “Beaver Samuel, cabinetmaker 155 n. Front,” and comparing the receipt, which read in part, “Ten boxes of furniture, seven and a half boxes chairs. . .” The other merchants’ items and their trade, were confirmed through review of directories from various years, like a cart, from a wheelwright merchant, Benjamin Newport, as well as a box of saddles from Matthew Lyons, Blacksmith, confirmed in The Philadelphia Directory, 1801.

This is just one instance from all the many voyages by Hayes, on the Brig Commodore Barry as well as all the other ships’ papers found in this collection. Every ‘connected dot’ I make, when confirming a person and his trade with an historical account, brings to life, once again, the steps taken by a merchant, a ship owner and its master to recreate that one voyage from the many transactions, bound to Havana, and realize it all took place over 200 years ago. The Villanova Digital Library’s many collections offer like experiences from its myriad of individuals and events that transcend the digital image to create a window to view history in a new light.

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A Maritime Voyage to China

Posted for Jennifer Pilling, Spring 2010 Digital Library Intern:

Situated between two major rivers, Philadelphia finds its rich history formed by a bustling merchant trade shipping industry. The document collection of Barry-Hayes offers a first-hand account of trade practices in the 18th and 19th centuries. Commodore John Barry, founder of the United States Navy, began and ended his career as a merchant ship captain, sailing the globe. Toward the end of his service to the industry, Barry brought his adopted son Patrick Hayes on a journey to China, which marked the beginning of Patrick’s maritime career. Quite fortunately, Patrick Hayes kept an extensive journal of his journey, giving us a glimpse into the adventurous life of a sailor.

Journal Introduction

Hayes practices his seafaring skills by tracking his latitudinal and longitudinal location upon The Asia, while en route to each port for trading, making note of the wind directions:

“Longitude 17° W then we met the SE trade wind which blew mostly betweene SSW and SSE from the account nav-igation gives of them we expected to meet fresh breeze at SE if those accounts are true then winds have shifted Considerably within those few years the weather betweene the Equator and the tropick of Capricorn is very ples ant”

Journal Clip

Many of Hayes’s entries also note his experience on board, not all of which were as pleasant as the weather. Early on in the voyage, Hayes learned a tough lesson about the darker side of seafaring when one of the sailors took his life with a shot of his pistol through his heart. The man left no note behind to explain his suicide, and he was committed to the sea, a sailor’s funeral. Later, Hayes notes after an abundantly successful fishing endeavor that “in a few Days fresh fish became nauseous to us all” and “in a day several of our people was poison-d by eating some of those fish that lay in the sun moon all night which was attended with no foul Consequences”.

As instructed, no doubt, by Barry, Hayes also kept notes while in port. The ship’s first stop was Cape Town, a Dutch settlement at the time. Hayes describes his observations:

“the people are general-ly well dressed [agod] complexionce the Town is well fortifyed the dutch always keep a large body of troopes in the Town the small Sword and Cockade complats the dress of every Man who wishes to appear like gentleman they take a great deal of pains to kepp their Houses Clean and el-egantly furnished and well painted”

Hayes’s journal is an excellent resource for understanding a worldly view from the early American perspective. It is a glimpse into the life of a sea merchant, and is well worth a closer look. This journal represents only a small portion of resources available about American trade in the 18th Century. The Independence Seaport Museum hosts artifacts and documents that remind us of this nation’s independent embark into international trade. One document, a letter from congress introducing an American captain to the Chinese government, depicts an abundant display of respect in an attempt to show their dedication to international trade. Another series of documents from Captain John Green documents tips on how to trade in Asia, and with whom.

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‘Politicks Avaunt’: Thomas Hayes Shines a Light on the Petticoat Affair

It’s clear that the Barry-Hayes Papers collection, owned and housed by Independence Seaport Museum, offers a unique perspective on the early nineteenth-century shipping trade in America. Occasionally in the course of transcribing these fascinating documents we come across one that also has the potential to serve as primary source material for the biography of a famous American or some topic in American political history. Here I’d like to report on a letter I recently transcribed which will be of great interest to scholars of the Jacksonian era in American politics. (Take a look at it here.) It also includes a reflection on the final years of the namesake of a major thoroughfare in South Philadelphia, and quirky riddle for you to solve.

Series X, Letter 23.
Top of “Letter, To: Isaac Austin Hayes and Patrick Barry Hayes, From: Thomas Hayes, June 8, 1831″.

The Namesake

In 1831 brothers Isaac Austin and Patrick Barry Hayes were in Brazil using their maritime skills and connections to run an import/export business. Their elder brother Thomas Hayes occasionally wrote from Philadelphia with news of home, and several of his communications are gathered in Series X, the papers of Isaac Austin Hayes. Thomas’ letter of June 8, 1831, was an especially long one, full of news of friends and acquaintances both prominent and obscure.
Among his famous relations was Commodore William Bainbridge, naval hero of the War of 1812, and father of his wife Susan. Commodore Bainbridge had his share of ups and downs throughout his four decades of service, and at the time of this letter he had recently suffered the double shock of the death of his only son and his abrupt removal from duty after a brief disagreement with the current Secretary of the Navy, John Branch. In this passage, Thomas refers to his father-in-law as “the old gentleman” as he provides for posterity a first-person account of the famous naval pioneer’s decline:

poor Mr Bainbridge died last friday and was buried on Sunday. This event has caused much affliction in the Commodres family, and join’d together with his late unceremonious dismissal from the Command of this Station, weighs heavily on the old gentleman, and I should not be at all astonish’d if it seriously affects his health, which you well know, was already seriously impair’d.

Politicks Avaunt!

Secretary Branch figured into another major event of the Spring of 1831 mentioned in script by Thomas Hayes, this time receiving explicit mention of his role in the controversy. President Andrew Jackson was at the time suffering the political fallout of his non-adherence to the mores of Washington society, a tidal wave of opposition culminating in the resignation of his entire cabinet in what is now commonly referred to as “The Petticoat Affair”. Branch was one of the ministers who demonstrated his support for Vice-President John C. Calhoun by stepping down, but Branch’s public and private correspondence from the period directly following the cabinet crisis suggests that the circumstances of his resignation were not so clear cut. Thomas Hayes refers to Branch’s letters and the tense relations between the Secretary and the Jackson camp in this excerpt:

The Jackson cause is falling fast. Don’t think I say so because I am anti jackson, but tis really the case. Many of his original friends have left his ranks and are hurraing for Clay now. This of course was to have been expected but the recent resignation of his entire Cabinet has caus’d all his friends to open the […missing word…] Some letters letters that have pass’d between Mr Branch ex Secretary of the Navy and his friends in North Carolina seem to implicatey that the President wanted him to go further in forwarding his views, than the laws of honor would prompt him. Politicks avaunt…

Series X, Letter 23.
Politicks Avaunt!

The Riddle

And occasionally in the course of transcription work some word or phrase will appear that is so odd that it stops the whole endeavor in its tracks. Not just illegible—which is all too common—but odd! In the following passage Thomas is thanking his brothers for a “likeness” of themselves that they sent home to Philadelphia:

We never until yesterday recv’d the box containing the birds and illusting likeness, which I believe was forwarded some time last December. We all think the likeness excellent. lufwa der sreksihw dna riah. the old lady I believe has already shewn to all friends far and near Tommy Natt with his der eson now has it expos’d in his window and has promis’d mother that it shall be fram’d by tomorrow.

Series X, Letter 23.
Can you decipher the odd words of Thomas Hayes?

It took a bit of puzzling before these weird obfuscations came into focus. I figured it out—can you?

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Philadelphia Firemen on Tour

fire2a.jpg

In November 1858, the firemen of Hibernia fire engine company no. 1 of Philadelphia went on tour of New York, Boston, Brooklyn, Charlestown and Newark with their state of the art equipment and a desire to bring the knowledge of this state of the art technology to their fellow fire fighters along the East Coast. Upon their return they created a commemorative volume filled with a history of the company, illustrations of the current members, and recounting the experiences and equipment of the trip; this has now been digitized as part of the Pennsylvaniana Collection.

fire1a.jpg

The history of the Hibernia fire engine company is interesting. Incorporated in February, 1752, and reputed to be the oldest organized fire company in America, the Hibernia fire engine company no. 1 served as the premier fire fighters of Philadelphia vowing:

“upon hearing of a fire break out repair to the same with our buckets, bags & Baskets & there employ our utmost endeavors to preserve the Goods & Effects of such of us as shall be in danger; and if — more than one of our Goods, Houses and Effects be in danger at the same time, we will divide ourselves as near as may be, to be equally helpful, and such of us as may be spared may assist others in like danger; and to prevent as much as in us lies suspicious persons from coming into or carrying any of the Goods out of such of our houses as may be in danger, two of our Number shall constantly attend at the doors, until all the Goods & Effects that can be saved, are pack’d up and convey ‘d into some place, where one or more of us shall attend until they are delivered to or secur’d for the owner. — And upon our first hearing of Fire, we will immediately cause two or more Lights to be placed in our windows, and such of our Company whose Houses may he in Danger shall place Candles in every Room to prevent Confusion & that their Friends may be able to give the more speedy & effectual assistance. — And further as this Association is intended for General benefit, we do mutually agree, that in case a fire should hereafter break out in any other of the Inhabitants’ Houses and when none of our own Houses, Goods and Effects are in Danger, we will immediately Repair thither with our Buckets, Bags & Baskets, and give our utmost assistance to such of our Fellow Citizens as shall stand in need thereof.”

Notable among the early members of the Hibernia fire engine company No. 1 was John Barry, listed, according to the commemorative volume, on the membership rolls for 1785. Barry was the celebrated Irish naval officer and the first Commodore in the American navy who lived in Philadelphia after the Revolutionary War until his death in September 1803.

fire3a.jpg

Few print copies of the commemorative volume have survived the vagaries of time but now this rare peek at the daily lives of Americans from 1859 is available to all. One of the first titles scanned and made available in the Digital Library, added September 8, 2006, this title has also just been scanned (August 2008), by the Internet Archive.

The future progression of technology and the advancement of new and superior file formats makes it difficult to be certain that any particular copy of a file will be migrated to the new, usable, and likely superior contemporary format. As few print copies of this work have survived to 2009, making multiple digital copies of works helps ensure the enjoyment of future generations of readers and researchers.

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Last Modified: January 30, 2009