Thursday, November 21, 2019

Swiftsure Line in 1830

New York Commercial Advertiser - Saturday, October 9, 1830
via GenealogyBank
This Swiftsure was the Albany boat that Allan Melvill and his son Herman, age 11, took in October 1830 when the family had to leave New York City for good, after the failure of Allan's importing business. Household furniture went on the freight barge Ontario, as Herman's father recorded in his diary. For a transcription, see Jay Leyda, The Melville Log Vol. 1 (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1951) page 45. From Leyda's Log, here are two relevant entries in the year 1830:
NEW YORK October 9 Allan Melville's diary:
Left New York with Herman in the Swiftsure (our Furniture being on board the Ontario Tow Boat, Mrs. Melvill & Gansevoort having gone up the preceding eve[nin]g) -- detained all night at Cortlandt St Dock by a severe Storm
October 10     at 7 A M left the Dock
Allan Melvill's actual diary is held with Correspondence and miscellaneous manuscripts in the Herman Melville Papers at Houghton Library, Harvard. Citation:
Melville, Allan, 1782-1832.Diary. A.Ms.s.(variously); [v.p.] 1800-1831., 1800-1831. Herman Melville papers, MS Am 188-188.6, MS Am 188, (118). Houghton Library, Harvard College Library. https://id.lib.harvard.edu/ead/c/hou00338c00127/catalog Accessed November 27, 2019
According to Allan Melvill, Herman's mother and brother Gansevoort had left for Albany the night before. As shown below, when Allan made note of "our Furniture being on board the Ontario" he meant now, with him and Herman, rather than the previous evening with his wife and oldest son. The Swiftsure was supposed to leave at 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 9th but a "severe storm" delayed its scheduled departure. So Herman and his father did not actually leave Cortlandt street until the next morning, as Hershel Parker relates in the great opening chapter of Herman Melville: A Biography Volume 1, 1819-1851 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996).

From the New York Commercial Advertiser for Saturday, October 9, 1830:
 FOR ALBANY.
   The steamboat SWIFTSURE, Captain Murray, will leave the foot of Courtlandt street, THIS AFTERNOON, at 5 o'clock.
   For passage, apply on board, or to
W. C. REDFIELD, 82 Courtlandt st.
TOW-BOATS FOR ALBANY -- (Swiftsure Line.)
   The freight barge Ontario, will leave the foot of Courtlandt-street, and the Atlantic, the foot of Broad-street This Afternoon at 5 o'clock.
   For freight, apply on board, or to
A. VAN SANTVOORD, 82 Courtlandt st.
In Chapter 1 of Melville's Early Life and Redburn (New York University Press, 1951), William H. Gilman acknowledges the "violent storm" and "comfortless night at the Courtlandt Street dock" but still has Allan and son Herman moving "quickly up the Hudson" on October 9, the scheduled date of departure, instead of October 10, the actual date. Parker in his expansive treatment gives the correct departure date, October 10, 1830. Regular days of departure from New York City to Albany were then Wednesdays and Saturdays. From Albany, the Swiftsure regularly left for New York City on Tuesdays and Fridays.

As the ad below from the Commerical Advertiser of Friday, October 8, 1830 shows, the steamboat Swiftsure and barge Ontario both were scheduled to leave "Tomorrow Afternoon" (Saturday, October 9th) from "the foot of Courtlandt street." Together, necessarily.

New York Commercial Advertiser - Friday, October 8, 1830
The Swiftsure could not have left New York City on the 8th because it was still in Albany. Below, the ad in the Albany Argus on Friday, October 8th, showing the scheduled departure of the steamboat Swiftsure at 9 a.m., "from the foot of State st."

Albany Argus - Friday, October 8, 1830 via FultonHistory
SWIFTSURE LINE -- TOW-BOATS.
THE steambt SWIFTSURE, capt. H. L. Murray, will leave the Pier, from the foot of State-st. THIS MORNING, at 9 o'clock, with freight barges.
For freight or passage apply on board, or at the office of the subscriber. 
CHARLES COATES, Agent.
Allan Melvill wrote in his diary that his wife and son Gansevoort had "gone up the preceding eve[nin]g" to Albany, which both Gilman and Parker take to mean by boat, with the furniture. But the particular barge that Melville's father referenced only left on Saturday. There was no departure of the Ontario or Swiftsure for Albany the preceding evening. (And Swiftsure Line freight barges that left New York for Albany on Wednesday, October 6th were named the Albany and Superior.) Possibly Allan was confused after the long delay. If so, then Maria Gansevoort Melvill and her son Gansevoort could have departed for Albany on the Swiftsure Line three evenings previous, on Wednesday, October 6, 1830. If Allan got their departure date right, however, then his wife and Gansevoort had "gone up" to Albany the night before on a different passenger line (not affiliated with the Ontario). For example, the Hudson River Line offered passenger trips from the Cortlandt Street dock to Albany every day at 5 p.m., and Sundays at 10 a.m.

Robert J. Vandewater, The Tourist, Or Pocket Manual for Travellers (New York, 1830)
Maybe Herman's mother Maria and older brother Gansevoort took the "low pressure steamboat CONSTITUTION," which did leave for Albany at 5 p.m. on Friday, October 8, 1830.

Fri, Oct 8, 1830 – Page 3 · The Evening Post (New York, New York) · Newspapers.com

In any case, the Melvill family's furniture was on the tow-boat Ontario, then part of the Swiftsure Line, and therefore must have gone to Albany on the same trip that Allan Melvill and his son Herman made together, aboard the Swiftsure.

Albany Evening Journal - November 11, 1830 via FultonHistory
TRANSPORTATION.

THE SWIFTSURE LINE of TOW-BOATS will continue to receive property at Albany and New-York to forward on the river in other direction by the freight boats Atlantic, Superior, New-York, Albany, Ontario, Niagara, Detroit and Inspector; two of which, towed by a powerful Steam-boat, will leave New-York at 5 o'clock P. M. on Wednesday and Saturday, and two will leave Albany at 9 o' clock A. M. on Tuesday and Friday of each week, leaving at each place boats for the reception of property.

Merchandize, produce, carriages, horses, cattle, and almost every description of live stock, will be forwarded with safety and expedition.

For freight or passage apply to the Agents,

CHARLES COATES, at Albany, and
A. VAN SANTVOORD, 82 Cortland-st New York.  -- Albany Evening Journal, November 11, 1830
The manner of towing is helpfully explained by George Matteson in Tugboats of New York: An Illustrated History (New York University Press, 2005) pages 31-32:
In its earliest form, towing was done by lashing the barges to both sides of the steamer and proceeding as a unit. ... the earliest Hudson River tows were made up of only two barges specifically designed to accommodate the size, horse power, and turning ability of a specific steamboat--the Swiftsure and its stable of custom-built barges, for example...."
Under command of Captain Stocking, the new steamboat Swiftsure debuted on the Hudson in July 1826 as towing boat for the Lady Van Rensselaer, one of two new "safety barges." The Swiftsure operated under Captain Hart Leverett Murray at least until 1840 when a new boiler exploded. Four deaths were reported in the steamboat accident on October 5th, 1840, near Castleton.

Related post:

1 comment: