Sunday, July 22, 2012

Call it The Pequod

Update: The Mohegan is definitely the new steamboat that some New York journalist originally wanted to christen "The Pequod." The New York Spectator gave the selected name in reviewing another new boat, the TROY:
Mr. Lighthall is the engineer of the boat, and the engines were built under his own directions. He was also the engineer who constructed the Mohegan, of which we gave some account last autumn.” (New York Spectator, "Public Opinion," August 26, 1840)
Think not only doomed to extinction like the Pequod Indians, but defiant like them to the end. O! the bravery of Tashtego, with that hammer and red flag!
He was a mighty brave with a heart of steel
And he never would bow and he never would kneel.
-- Brother John - Wild Tchoupitoulas
In November 1839, one New York journalist thought "The Pequod" would make a great name for the newest steamboat on Long Island Sound. Quoted below from the Commercial Advertiser of Wednesday, November 6, 1839; and New York Spectator for Wednesday Evening, November 6, 1839 (reprinted November 11, 1839):
"A NEW STEAMBOAT.—A new steamer, built for the New York and Stonington line, under the direction of Captain William Comstock, with an engine constructed upon a new principle, was yesterday afternoon put upon trial in the waters of this harbor.—

* * *

... After ascending the North river above Greenwich, the boat put about, rounded the battery, and ran up the East river to Throgg’s Neck. In returning she made fifteen miles in an hour against the tide. The engine will succeed. 
The boat has as yet no name; and as the owners intend to give it an Indian christening, inasmuch as most of the new England Indians have been “used up” in this way, we would suggest “THE PEQUOD”—or, “SASSACCUS,” the last and noblest of their chiefs. Not a Pequod would ever surrender. Every man of them fell in defence of their soil, and their last brave chief, flying to the Mohawks for protection, was treacherously murdered...."
New York Commercial AdvertiserNovember 6, 1839

Reprinted in the Army and Navy Chronicle (November 14, 1839) but WITHOUT the recommendation to name the new steamboat "The Pequod." 

Sassacus. Bronze by Philip Cote
via Odyssey of the 8th Fire
More work is needed, but I think the new steamboat eventually was called, not Pequod or Sassaccus, but the Mohegan. Newspaper advertisements in December 1839 name "Capt. Comstock" as skipper for both the Mohegan and Massachusetts. The Massachusetts was then commanded by Joseph J. Comstock.

In 1840 the steamer Mohegan carried another name now associated with Moby-Dick, when Edward Thompson Taylor, the "Sailor's Apostle" and one of the models for Melville's Father Mapple, was spotted on board. More on that, later.

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