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"California" (Full-Rigged Ship)

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The ship “California” was built at Medford, Massachusetts in 1830-31 under the direction of master carpenter George Fuller for the Boston shipping firm of Bryant and Sturgis (and associates). She was used in the hide trade, making passages to California with general cargos, returning with cow hides and large profits from these voyages. (1)

Richard Henry Dana encountered “California” during his voyaging days on the West Coast in 1834-36. Viewing her on her arrival at San Diego, he commented:

“She was a good substantial ship, not quite as long as the Alert, and wall-sided and kettle-bottomed, after the latest fashion of south shore “cotton and sugar wagons;” strong, too, and tight, and a good average sailer, but with no pretensions to beauty, and nothing in the style of a “crack ship.” (2)

“California” worked the California trade constantly from Boston until 1855, when she was sold to George H.Rogers, who put her in the Surinam trade from Gloucester, bringing salt fish to Paramaribo for feeding the slaves who worked the plantations, and returning with rum, molasses, and a multitude of fine Dutch domestic wares. In January, 1857, when anchored off Ten Pound Island, off-loading cargo to a schooner, a blizzard struck, sweeping her out of Gloucester Harbor and southerly across Massachusetts Bay, driving her ashore on Cohasset, a total loss. (The two men on board surivived.) (3)

-Erik Ronnberg


1. Hall Gleason, “Old Ships and Ship-building Days of Medford” (West Medford, MA: Hall Gleason, 1936), pp. 26, 37, 59.

2. Richard Henry Dana, “Two Years before the Mast” (Los Angeles, CA: The Ward Ritchie Press, 1964), pp. 259, 478.

3. Alfred Mansfield Brooks, “Gloucester Recollected: A Familiar History” (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith and Cape Ann Historical Association, 1974), pp. 67-69.

Related tables: Burnham Brothers Marine Railway »  //  Rogers, George H. »  //  Ship (Full-Rigged) »  //  Surinam Trade »

Description of the wreck of the "California" in 1857
Alfred Mansfield Brooks (Joseph E. Garland, footnote editor)
Book excerpt
Joseph E. Garland, "Gloucester Recollected: A Familiar History," (Gloucester, Massachusetts, Peter Smith Publishers. 1974), 69, n. 9.
"The Way They Go to California"
Published by N. Currier, New York
Library of Congress catalog number 91481165
Gold rush cartoon, showing dock crowded with men with picks and shovels, and men jumping from the dock to reach departing ship; a crowded airship and a man on a rocket fly overhead; and a man with a pick and shovel parachutes from the airship.
Two Years Before the Mast (1964 edition: The Ward Ritchie Press)
Richard Henry Dana (1964 notes by John Haskell Kemble)

Frequent mention of "California," then in the hide trade, as was "Pilgrim."

Citation: "Historical Materials." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. (accessed July 23, 2024).
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