San Francisco: 14 July 1867.
Quarto (ca. 25x20 cm). 4 pp. Brown ink on lined watermarked wove paper. Fold marks, a couple of minor stains, but overall a very good letter, written in a legible hand.
A vivid early San Francisco letter, illustrating life, work conditions, as well as views on political and gender issues of a California trade seaman in the 1860s. Addressing his brother, the author describes his recent trade voyage to Costa Rica on a San Francisco brig “Ida D. Rogers,” mentioning his salary, high cost of living and hard work conditions on board the brig, which lacked qualified staff. He encourages his brother to come to San Francisco, adding that life is good there for doctors and apothecaries. The latter part of the letter contains interesting notes on “Abbie,” his girlfriend and partner for the last eight years, whom he considers “one of the best girls that ever walked,” but still can’t marry, since he doesn’t “have money enough to buy a second shirt for her to put on.” On the last page, the author discusses his acquaintance Andrew and his wife Margaret, who “has had work to get a living.” He disapproves of this decision and condemns Andrew, who “ought not to stay at home ‘till all his money was gone and then let her suffer.” Overall an interesting extensive content-rich original San Francisco seaman's letter. Brig “Ida D. Rogers,” 199 tons, Captain Lemman, was built in 1856 in Essex (CT), and owned in San Francisco. In December 1869, while in Coos Bay (OR), the brig struck a bar, sprung a leak and was lost, but all crew members survived (Disaster// The San Francisco Examiner. 27 December 1869, p. 3).
Excerpts from the letter:
“Dear brother, I recd. your kind letter as soon as I reached this port, which was last Wednesday. Perhaps you have not heard where I have been, so will explain. I started from this port the 11th of March, mate of a Brig bound to Costa Rica. We took down a little flour, had a very fine passage down, arrived there in thirty-five days. There we loaded with coffee (3928 bags worth about $70.00 there) and started for this port and a hard time we had of it. Head winds all the way up and when in the Lat. of 12 N. long. 93 W. we took a typhoon & came very near loosing our cargo or a part of it, but we arrived here after a passage of 66 days whereas many were from 75 to 90 days. The vessel’s name is Ida D. Rogers and a fine Brig she is. I am still on board of her lying in the stream, will haul in in the morning to discharge.
I do not know certain whether I’ll stop and go in the vessel again or not yet. I do hate the sea bad enough. This voyage I have had a hard time, we failed to get a second mate and coming up I had one sailor man and again Spanyard [sic!] who did not know the bow from the stern of a vessel, so I had hard work of it. The Capt. had it hard too, for he had to take his own watch. It cut both of us down some. My pay is fifty dollars per month gold coin, which would be equal to eighty ashore here, for board and room rent is high. I have learned by experience that a man cannot what he would like to do. I wish you could come out here and get into some good business, but it takes a long time for one to get started if one has a little money. This is the place for him to use it.
I dn. know how your medicine would work here, but am inclined to think it work well. Many Dr. get rich and do no cures either. I think you would like living here very much. The weather is neither hot or cold, but very comfortable. San Francisco City grows very fast while I have been away, they have put up many large buildings and made many improvements. Of course, it will not do for me to advise you to come out here for I do not know how you would make it, a man cannot tell til he tries it.
I suppose you remember William Mayhew that went to school to [McGonegal?]? He has a Apothecary shop here, has done first rate. He inquires about you when I see him. I cannot write about political matters, for I have not seen but one paper since we came in, but at any rate the Johnson and Jeffite’s do not prosper here. I think Frank Blair showed out their true character. Wherever I go I notice that those that speak in favor of Jeff are some miserable drunken good for nothing wretches, not fit to be among human beings, verily I believe they will have their reward. <…>
Abbie and I get along as well as any two ever did. She is one of the best girls that ever walked. Of course you will say I think so for love is blind, but I know I am no the only one that thinks so. <…> I have been with her for the last eight years, and I think much more of her now than then, and if I were in a proper condition, she would be my wife very soon, but I cannot marry a girl and not have money enough to buy a second shirt for her to put on as some do. If I cannot make her happy, I’ll not make her unhappy.
By the way, what do you think of Margaret and Andrew? They trite me that he has had work to get a living. I do not know what to say about it. If Andrew had left her when he came home I would not blaimed him, but as he did not, he ought not to stay at home ‘til all his money was gone and then let her suffer. I always had a high opinion of him, he always behaved like a man, but the trouble is he lacks energy, he can’t drive ahead. <…> I believe if a man of a family has his health, he ought to support them. I suppose her actions have discouraged him…”.