Lot of Five Clipper Ship Sailing Cards for Vessels Departing from Lewis Wharf, Boston. 1861 – 1866.
The historic waterfront property known as Lewis Wharf was inherited by John Hancock in 1764. The Lewis family took control of the wharf in 1793, and used it as a commercial property. In 1834, under the auspices of the Lewis Wharf Company, the family further developed the site, constructing some of the earliest granite masonry buildings in Boston as warehouses and stores. This made the wharf one of the most active mercantile centers in the area. Vessels of all sizes loaded and delivered all sorts of cargoes, primarily from Europe and the Caribbean. By the dawn of the clipper ship era, Lewis Wharf had become a dominant depot along the Boston waterfront. In the 1970s, the old granite and timber warehouses were renovated for commercial occupancy at street level, while upper stories became residential condominiums. The firm of Glidden & Williams was also based on Lewis Wharf in the 19th century. They were the owners for whom these ships sailed. Beginning in the early 1850s, clipper ship sailing cards were circulated among commission merchants by ship owners hoping to attract consignments of cargo to their speedy vessels. They were attractive, sometimes gaudy productions, competing for the attention of potential shippers. As such, they are among the earliest forms of color advertising, and are collected as much for their beauty as for the wealth of information they provide about the clipper ship trade. The five cards offered here are all for Glidden & Williams clipper ships departing from Lewis wharf. Each vessel has a Boston or New England connection. The “Forbes” was launched in 1851. This sailing card is for an 1861 voyage to the East Indies. Robert Bennet Forbes was a Massachusetts native, and a legendary China trader. (It may be only a coincidence, but the grommet in the corner of the card is an exact match for the R.B. Forbes card pictured on p. 21 of “Yankee Ship Sailing Cards” vol. I. The “Wild Rover” was built in Maine in 1853. This card is for her 1862 voyage under Crowell to San Francisco, which she reached after a passage of 121 days. The “Guiding Star” was built by Currier in Newburyport in 1853. According to the “Boston Post,” the voyage advertised on this card departed Lewis Wharf for San Francisco on October 22, just 2 days after her advertised sailing date. “Grace Darling” was built in 1864 in South Boston. Neither sharp nor particularly fast, she was a favorite with skippers because, per Howe & Matthews, “she was singularly free from the accidents so common with clipper ships of her day.” This card was from her 1860 voyage from Lewis Wharf to San Francisco, which she accomplished in 129 days. The “Thatcher Magoun” was named after the man who built her in Medford, Mass., in 1856. This voyage, under Peterson was made after 1866. Interestingly, the Boston printer, Watson & Co., misspelled the ship’s name. The cards offered here are in good condition only, offered more for their historical interest than for their collectible condition, and priced accordingly. The lot