By the President of the United States of America, Suffer the Ship Gold Hunter of Fall River, Clark Estes Master…
Broadside. Ship's Passport.
Folio sheet, 15 x 10 1/2 inches.
The “Gold Hunter” was a 281 ton ship built in Wells, Maine in 1824. On this voyage, her fifth, she departed Fall River in June 1839 for New Zealand, and returned September 1840 with 340 barrels of sperm oil, and 1560 whale. This document is an interesting mess. The tonnage is wrong, at 180 rather than 280 tons, and it appears the name of the ship and the captain have been erased and re-written. At the bottom of the document the date, “twenty eighth” has been scratched out and replaced by “fourth.” Apparently someone started to make this passport for another vessel, then changed it to “Gold Hunter.” Was this the last passport in the Collector’s office before the ship sailed? The numeral “2” above the seal indicates this is only the second such document signed from Fall River that year. At any rate, President Van Buren and Secretary of State Forsyth had no second thoughts, as their signatures are strong and clear, with no sign of erasure or alteration. Of course, they signed these papers ahead of time, so the cock-up, whatever its reason, is the fault of Collector P.W. Leland, who has also signed the passport. The scalloped top of the document indicates that this is a so-called “Mediterranean Passport” intended to keep ships from being molested by Barbary pirates after the treaty with Algiers in 1795. Why a whale ship bound for New Zealand would need one is beyond me, but I’ve seen several of these issued for whalers who were not going anywhere near the Mediterranean.