Thursday, September 7, 2023

Harry Hubbard in Stockton, 1887 notice of his illness with mentions of Melville and THE WHALE

Albertus Del Orient Browere via American Gallery

Henry F. Hubbard (1820-1887) was a "green hand" with Herman Melville on the whaleship Acushnet. Hubbard, just 20 years old, and the future author of Moby-Dick, 21, signed on late in December 1840. On January 3, 1841 they sailed out of Fairhaven, Mass. with Captain Valentine Pease on Melville's (and their ship's) first whaling voyage. Eighteen months later, in June of 1842, Melville and another "green hand" Richard Tobias Greene famously deserted at Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas. Melville and Hubbard would reconnect in the early 1850's when Hubbard visited Pittsfield. On March 23, 1853 Melville inscribed a copy of The Whale to 

"Henry Hubbard from his old shipmate and watchmate on board the good ship Acushnet (Alas, wrecked at last on the Nor'west)"

At some point (then or earlier) Hubbard updated Melville on the fates of former shipmates, as shown by Melville's extant memorandum of What became of the ship's company of the whale-ship "Acushnet" according to Hubbard who came home in her. Melville's memo and Hubbard's inscribed copy of The Whale (with two interesting annotations about real-life counterparts of Stubb and Pip) are presented and fully discussed in the 1988 Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Moby-Dick.

Hubbard made a name and fortune for himself in California. His obituary in the Stockton Evening Mail of March 26, 1887, cited for relevant biographical facts of Hubbard's life by the N-N editors, contains no reference to Moby-Dick or its author. Melville and the British title of his great whale book were both mentioned, however, in a previous notice published by the same newspaper under the heading, "H. F. HUBBARD'S SICKNESS." The writer thought Harry Hubbard's whaling adventures "would make an interesting book" and believed also that

"Many of his experiences were mentioned by Melville in his works."

Transcribed below from the Stockton, California Evening Mail of March 9, 1887. Found on; accessible also via the California Digital Newspaper Collection.

09 Mar 1887, Wed The Evening Mail (Stockton, California)


The Capitalist Dangerously Ill with Diabetes.

Henry F. Hubbard, familiarly known as "Harry" Hubbard, is now very ill at his residence in this city with diabetes. He has been sick several days, and at times his mind has wandered; but to day he seems to be somewhat better. Mr. Hubbard made his will yesterday. It disposes of property and money to the amount of nearly a half a million dollars.

Harry Hubbard is next to the wealthiest man in town. It is related of him that he laid the foundation of his wealth by strict attention to business. He was a drayman in the early days, and was always on time when the boats arrived--while other draymen were idling about town. In his younger days he followed the sea as a whaler. During this part of his life he was the close companion of Herman Melville, afterwards famous as the author of "Typee," "Omoo," "The Whale," and many other works. The latter work mentioned is now accepted by scientists as the most complete work on the whale ever written. The whaling experience of Mr. Hubbard would make an interesting book. Many of his experiences were mentioned by Melville in his works.

Mr. Hubbard has always led a very correct and temperate life. It was a matter of surprise when the news came of his illness, and his many friends will wish for his speedy recovery. It is thought that he will never completely regain his health and be able to transact business. 

Daily Alta California - March 26, 1887

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