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Guide to the Naval History Society Collection
1721-1995 (bulk 1781-1936)
  MS 439

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Processed by Celia Hartmann.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on September 09, 2019
Description is in English

Container List

Series 43. US Mail Steam Ship Company (1848-1868)

Scope and Content

The series consists of letter books (both transcribed and letterpress copies) of Marshall O. Roberts, New York agent for the US Mail Steam Ship Company; logs of ships on voyages between New York and Panama via New Orleans and Havana, and from Panama to California; a checkbook; a provision list; and both blank and completed tickets and contracts for passage aboard various ships on US Mail Steam Ship Company and other companies' vessels on these routes.

Robert's 1848-1849 and 1848-1850 letter books (Volumes 1 and 2) are indexed by recipients. Some of the logbooks document various commanding officers and multiple journeys back and forth along the same maritime routes between New York and San Francisco. They include details of weather, winds, other vessels passed, and crew actions, but do not otherwise document shipboard life. The provisions list is a preprinted listing of possible foodstuffs and other supplies needed for voyages, with blanks to be filled in with the name of vessel, estimate of passengers and number of days of travel, and the amount of each supply. The checkbook consists predominantly of blank checks; a few have been drawn. The foldered receipts and tickets appear to have been removed from ledger volumes of the same type as the SS Antelope tickets in Volume 9.

Historical Note

Complete transcontinental railroad travel became possible in 1869 and direct shipping from the Atlantic to the Pacific in 1914 with the completion of the Panama Canal. Before then, travel between New York and the West coast required sailing to the Atlantic coast of Panama (usually with stops en route in New Orleans, Havana, and sometimes Jamaica), transit across the isthmus, followed by the Pacific journey to San Francisco. The Atlantic harbor in Panama was Chagras until 1855, when it was moved to Aspinwall (founded in 1850 and named for railway builder William Aspinwall; renamed Colon in 1890).

Marshall O. Roberts in 1847 had purchased the contract to provide mail steamships to the US government. He would realize enormous profits from the shipping demands of the California Gold Rush and the Civil War. The US Mail Steam Ship Company operated on the Atlantic coast of the United States, and William H. Aspinwall's Pacific Mail Steamship Company on the Pacific. Transit across the isthmus was by mule, wagon, or foot until 1851 when the Vanderbilt Line opened a route through Nicaragua. In 1855 the isthmus railroad connection was inaugurated.


The materials are arranged chronologically by material type except for the three logbooks of Georgia, which are grouped together for continuity.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Receipts for transportation contracts, North American Steamship Company, Arago
1867 December 18 - 1868 January 2
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Tickets: Opposition Line of steamers to California (completed): Arago
1868 January 4
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Transit tickets: Central American Transit Company, San Juan del Norte to San Juan del Sur
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Tickets: North American Steamship Company, Central American Transit Company, New York to San Francisco, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class cabins
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Contracts: M.O. Roberts line to New York and the East
Box: OS 1 Folder : 22 Tickets and receipts: Granada
Box: OS 3 Folder : 5 Tickets and receipts: Columbus
Box: OS 3 Folder : 6 Tickets and receipts: Georgia
Box: OS 3 Folder : 7 Tickets and receipts: Isthmus
Box: OS 3 Folder : 8 Tickets and receipts: Ohio
Box: OS 3 Folder : 9 Tickets and receipts: Moses Taylor
Box: OS 3 Folder : 10 Tickets and receipts: Republic
Box: OS 3 Folder : 11 Tickets and receipts: People's Line to California via Nicaragua
Volume: 1 Letter book of Marshall O. Roberts, New York agent
1848 November 30 -1849 October 16
Volume: 2 Letter book of Marshall O Roberts, to New Orleans agents
1848 November 30 - 1850 July 27
Volume: 3 Letter book of Marshall O. Roberts
1848 December 11 - 1850 August 3
Volume: 4 Letter book of Marshall O. Roberts, New York agent, principally to James R. Jennings at New Orleans
1850 August 6 - 1853 September 27
Volume: 5 Logbook I US Mail Steamer Georgia, Lt. D.D. Porter, USN, commanding
1850 January 29 - July 8
Volume: 6 Logbook II US Mail Steamer Georgia, Lt. D.D. Porter, USN, commanding
1850 July 14 - 1851 January 11
Volume: 7 Logbook III US Mail Steamer Georgia, Lt. D.D. Porter, USN, commanding
1851 Jun 11 - July 31
Volume: 8 Logbook Empire City, J.D. Wilson commanding, from New York to Chagres via Jamaica
1850 April - December
Volume: 9 Blank tickets and completed receipts for passage from the Isthmus of Panama to San Francisco in the S. S. Antelope of the U.S. Mail Steamship Company
1850 July 27-Aug 26
Volume: 10 Blank checks and stubs, US Mail Steam Ship Company
1851 March 13 - 1853 June 15
Volume: 11 Logbook Empire City, John Leeds commander, from New York to Havana
1852 January 9 - August 24
Volume: 12 Logbook, USM Steamship Ohio from New York to Aspinwall
1853 January 20 - 1854 March 29
Volume: 13 Provision Lists of Vessels of the US Mail SS Co.
Volume: 14 Logbook Philadelphia, J.F. Schenk USN commanding, voyage 23
1855 January 2 - January 18
Volume: 15 Logbook Illinois, H.J. Hartstein commanding
1855 February 20 - 1856 November 28
Volume: 16 Logbook Moses Taylor
1858 January 5- 1859 May 26
Volume: 17 Logbook USS St. Louis
1858 October 7 - 1859 April 28
Volume: 18 Logbook Granada
1859 May 8 - 1860 October 14
Volume: 19 Receipt book for passage from New York on the US Mail Steamship Georgia

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