Martha Wallace has compiled a series of databases from records located at the National Archives in San Bruno. She is working with San Mateo County Genealogical Society to put them online. The most recent database is Admiralty Case Files 1855-1863. A description of the database and a sample case can be found on the SMCGS Blog. See below for a list of other blogs on the files.
Josephine Gougenheim and her sister Adeline were famed actresses of “high comedy.” Their 1857/58 Melbourne season began 2 December 1857. By the concluding performance 6 March 1858 they were embroiled in a great deal of controversy. Josephine was sued twice by one performer for non-payment of wages and had insinuations publicly leveled at her by another over the same issue. (The Age (Melbourne), 18 Jan 1858 p. 5)
The season over, and perhaps knowing it was time to leave Australia, Josephine’s agent Ripley A. Eddy arranged with Master S A Dayton, for passage for the sisters, himself and at least one other person for £200 ($982) on the barque, Glimpse, a few weeks before it was set to sail for San Francisco. According to Eddy and Josephine, the verbal agreement was that they would have exclusive use of the after cabin, fresh meat, meals delivered to the cabin as needed, and ship’s crew to serve them whenever wanted. He let the master know that the sisters were prone to seasickness. They also stated that it was agreed that they would sail direct with no stops on the way to San Francisco. (Keep in mind that the usual passage at the time was £30-35 ($172) and the after cabin would normally hold six people in berths.)
And thus began what for both sides seemed the journey from hell. First the extra person who was to travel with the sisters, a notorious pugilist of Australia, was arrested in Melbourne for burglary before the barque sailed and did not join the party. Second the sisters did become ill almost immediately and quickly asked for broth made with fresh meat. All sides agreed that the chickens had missed the boat and the cook would not agree to kill a sheep just for broth without direct orders from the master.
From there it all went downhill, and at the end of the voyage Joey sued for costs and $5000 for her pain. Court documents give two sides to the story.
It is not argued that after seven weeks the barque stopped in New Kahaven in the Marquesas Islands for fresh meat.(1) Josephine and Eddy both attested that during that time Dayton had been rude and sullen. They claimed that the master had told the other passengers that they were “asking for hell and they shall get hell.” Josephine asked to be put ashore in New Zealand if they were unable to fulfill the contract. The master said it was an oversight that the fresh meat was not on board and that he would stop in the Pitcairn Islands to get some. Apparently the winds blew them further north, and they ended up in the Marquesas instead.
Before we go on to it is worth exploring the food situation. According to the statements of witnesses (A Davis, Solomon Golland, and T W Freelon) those in the after cabin had lobster, canned salmon and beef, potatoes, coffee. One sheep was killed for fresh meat each week and there was also fresh pork, chicken and turkeys. They generally had coffee in the morning, breakfast at 10, lunch at 12, dinner between 3-4, tea between 8-9 and supper at midnight as well as snacks as requested all day long. This they stated was far better than the fare of the regular cabin passengers, and they thought their fare was fine.
The sisters on the other hand complained that they were denied even the necessities of potatoes, salt and sugar, and that the bread was unwholesome and unfit to eat. The captain did agree that at one point when sugar was short, they were denied sugar for their lime drinks, everything else he disagreed with. The witnesses and master agreed that the sisters were sharing their delicacies with steerage passengers and the master told his crew to stop that from happening.
Well, back to the tale. One fact agreed to by all was that Dayton did drink a bit too much in New Kahaven and was a bit drunk on reboarding the barque. The sisters and Eddy claimed that he nearly wrecked the barque as they left the Islands. They also claimed that he was ranting against the sisters and that his own wife had to put her hand over his mouth to keep him quiet.
Two weeks after the stop in the Marquesas, the Glimpse was again without fresh meat and Dayton headed for the Sandwich Islands. In Honolulu a petition from the other passengers was given to the US Consul asking that the sisters and their agent be removed from the ship. Eddy was arrested when A Davis said his life had been threatened by him. Eddy said that on being brought before the magistrate, Davis was reprimanded by the judge. Whatever the truth, the ship, now re-provisioned continued on its way with the passenger list intact. The Captain on the other hand said the Consul told him to put Eddy in irons, leave him ashore, or confine him to his cabin. Eddy promised to behave and Dayton allowed him his freedom on board.
Josephine filed her libel shortly after disembarking the Glimpse in San Francisco. Testimony included statements, by those that had made the Australia to San Francisco run more than once, that vessels always stopped at least once along the way. There was also testimony that unfavorable winds had slowed the journey. Statements, such as “master was a liar, thief and common scoundrel” … “not fit to crawl upon the ground she trod upon” and a few others that are so politically incorrect today that I won’t repeat them, were attributed to the sisters. On 7 Feb 1859 the libel was dismissed, and libellant, Joey, was to pay costs.
Josephine appealed the original decision and on 2 Jun 1860 the court decreed that libellant be paid $700. This was less than her original payment of £200. As this included costs she probably ended up paying at least the normal cost of passage for three people.
There are more juicy details in this case, Martha and I had fun reading though. The description of meals were enough to make us hungry, and other details gave a glimpse of life at sea.
The case as written up in the Sacramento Union Vol 16 #2417 25 Dec 1858 gives the story from Josephine’s point of view.
Other NARA Record Posts on the SMCGS Blog
- NARA Databases an Overview
- Federal Court Records Pt. 1
- Federal Court Records Pt. 2
- Equity Case Files 1855-1863 Part I
- Equity Case Files 1855-1863 Part II
- Private Common Law Case Files 1855-1863
- Fair Employment Practices Committee
- Measuring Worth
- Blacks Law Dictionary This link is to the 1st Edition which should contain the terms for legal decisions of the second half of the 19th century