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Lewis Girdler Ships Letter Schooner "Betsy" 1807

 Collection
Identifier: SC MS 0191

Scope and Contents

This document is a “ships letter” best described as an early form of a passport for commerce. It is composed of eight printed columns, each column represents four languages: French, Spanish, English, Dutch with blank areas to be filled in with the pertinent information. The necessary information to be filled in: ship’s name, weight and type, date, name of master/commander, destination, bill of lading, Customs Clerk, and notary public. This particular document was issued during the administration of President Thomas Jefferson containing his original signature along with the signature of James Madison, Jefferson’s Secretary of State. The single sheet of the document measures 17 x 20 inches of creased paper tearing on the multiple folds which was folded to fit in a jacket pocket.

Dates

  • 1807

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Collection housed remotely. Users need to contact 24 hours in advance.

Biographical / Historical

Lewis Girdler (1766-1844) was a son of Richard (b.1740- d. before 1828) and Hannah (1741-1828) nee Russel Girdler. He married Sarah Brooks in 1793. His first sea voyage was in 1780 as a seaman on the ship “Thorn.” As a seaman on the ship “Disdain” in 1781 he was captured and was imprisoned in England. Subsequently upon his return he served on the schooner “Lydia” in 1793; the schooner “Industry” in 1795; the schooner “Polly” in 1796; in 1798 “Jeremiah;” 1799 “Samuel;” in 1804 “Betsy;” 1805 “Cato.” In 1817 Lewis Girdler had a commission signed by Andrew Jackson for the brigantine “Orient.” In 1834 he commanded the revenue cutter “Hamilton.” At his death, he was listed as a captain in the church records of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church. According to the book “Old Marblehead Sea Captains …” he was listed as master/commander of the Schooner “Betsy” in 1804. The book lists three Lewis Girdlers but it is fairly certain that the Lewis Girdler (1766-1844) who is listed in this document is the person being traced in this note. In 1807 the date of this document, the commander of the “Betsy” was listed as Richard Brown according to the previously mentioned book. The schooner “Betsy” originated in 1791 and was condemned in 1812 according to Capt. George Cloutman’s Letter Book. During the sailing history of the Schooner “Betsy” there were several sailing masters: Thomas Barker (b.1750); George Barker (b. 1766); Elias Grant (b.1755); William Cole (b.1759); John Roads Russell (b.1755) who claimed to be one of the oarsmen who ferried George Washington across the Delaware; as well as Lewis Girdler listed on this document. As a schooner, the “Betsy” was listed at approximately 66 to 71 tons.

Extent

1 sheet

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

This manuscript is a passport document for a schooner rigged ship named “Betsy” associated with the port of Marblehead, Massachusetts. This “ships letter” was issued in four languages under the authorization of President Thomas Jefferson with his original signature. It is a bill of lading of cargo the “Betsy” had in its hold passing through the customhouse in Marblehead with a cargo bound for Martinique in the year 1807. Lewis Girdler is listed as master or commander of the “Betsy” on this ship’s letter.

Arrangement

The same information is handwritten in each designated blank area in the printed language column: French, Spanish, English, Dutch. In the upper four columns are listed the following:

Be it known that Lewis Girdler is master/commander of the schooner called the Betsy of the burden seventy one tons or thereabouts lying in the port of Marblehead bound for Martinique and laden with cases of wine, hogsheads of codfish, barrels of flour, sacks of corks, pipes of brandy. Joseph Wilson, collector of Customs at Marblehead this the fourth day of September the year of our Lord Christ One thousand eight hundred and seven John Bond, Notary Public.

The second set of four columns is separated with a large blank area that contains the faint imprint of the Presidential Seal (an eagle with spread wings and its left talons holding lightning is all that is visible) on the left margin and to the right is a faint signature Thos. Jefferson Below this signature is printed “By the President.” Below this and farther right is faintly handwritten James Madison, and following is “Secretary of State.”

The second set of four columns is separated with a large blank area that contains the faint imprint of the Presidential Seal (an eagle with spread wings and its left talons holding lightning is all that is visible) on the left margin and to the right is a faint signature Thos. Jefferson Below this signature is printed “By the President.” Below this and farther right is faintly handwritten James Madison, and following is “Secretary of State.”

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Unknown

Accruals

No additions anticipated.

Related Materials

Lindsey, Benjamin J. 1915. “Old Marblehead Sea Captains and the Ships in Which They Sailed,” Marblehead Historical Society, 137 p.

“Vital Records of Marblehead Massachusetts to the End of the Year 1849” Vol II – Marriage and Death, Salem, Mass: The Essex Institute, 1904

Physical Description

1 sheet

Title
Finding Aid of the Lewis Girdler Ships Letter Schooner "Betsy" 1807
Author
William Ying
Date
September 16, 2013
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
English

Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Lehigh University
Linderman Library
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18045 USA
610-758-4506
610-758-6091 (Fax)