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"Massachusetts" (Auxiliary Steam Packet Ship)
The packet ship “Massachusetts” was the third engine-powered vessel to be built for Robert Bennet Forbes, and the largest American auxiliary steamship for mercantile use. Built at the East Boston shipyard of Samuel Hall, she had the lines of a conventional packet ship, the hull being full-ended to accommodate a large cargo, but carefully modeled to achieve moderate speed. Fitted with an engine and two boilers by Ericson and Delamater, her Ericson propeller could be raised and secured to her stern overhang to eliminate the resistance it would otherwise impose when not in use. Her engine was limited in driving power, making it most useful when sailing in light to moderate winds or maneuvering in port.
The first voyages of the “Massachusetts" were between New York and Liverpool, therein exposing the weakness of her power plant; a third voyage to Vera Cruz as a military transport led to further problems. In 1848, under Army control, she went to the West Coast, and was transferred to the Navy the following year. Her performance under sail was quite satisfactory, but in 1853, having returned to Norfolk, she underwent extensive repairs and improvements to machinery. Returning to the West Coast in 1855, “Massachusetts” spent the next seven years on coastal patrol, protecting settlers from conflict with Native Americans.
By 1862, the Navy had acquired another steamship named “Massachusetts” and re-named the vessel the “Farralones”, which was then cut down to a bark rig and had her engine removed. Sold to a San Francisco shipping firm in 1867, she was re-named “Alaska”, was used for trading voyages in the Pacific, and finally shipwrecked at Callao, Peru in 1871.
Robert Bennet Forbes, “Personal Reminiscences” (Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Co., 1892), pp. 208-217.
Cedric Ridgely-Nevitt, “American Steamships on the Atlantic” (Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press, 1981), pp. 89 -97.
Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum
vol. 1, no. 1
Table within book
From R. B. Forbes, Personal Reminiscences (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., first published 1876).
University Press, John Wilson and Sons, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Second edition, 1882, contains "Rambling Recollections Connected with China." Google book version.