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Obed Hathaway Logbook from Ship “Bedford” 1789-1796

Identifier: SC MS 0218

Scope and Content Note

Scope and Content Note The manuscript is a logbook of a seaman’s apprentice, Obed Hathaway, who boldly prints his name on the inside of the cover. He begins his log in what looks like 1789 November 16 with three pages of navigational calculations which appear to be learning problems perhaps as a part of his apprenticeship to learn a trade at sea. Subsequent notations begin 11 November 1793 to 1796 about wind and weather observed on three voyages he sails on board the ship “Bedford” out of New Bedford, Massachusetts. The ship “Bedford” was built in 1771-1772 reputed to be the first all American ship (built in America, manned totally by Americans) to unfurl the “rebel thirteen stripes” flag in British waters carrying whale oil to Gravesend, England. During the voyages he composes seaman’s songs and sentimental love poetry notated with drawings of flowers and writes the verses in his logbook. Also he lists weights and measures for various commodities and a list of his personal belongings he brings on board the ship. Also, writes a letter to his sister and seems to practice his penmanship. Based on the misspellings and various cross outs in mathematical calculations, it is apparent that Obed Hathaway was a young apprentice who was sent to sea by his prominent New Bedford family to learn the maritime trade either in the whaling trade which was prominent in the port of New Bedford, Massachusetts or privateering. During the time at sea Obed Hathaway becomes a lovelorn teenager which is attributed to the love poetry and the double columned list of female names he writes in his logbook. Also in the text is mentioned a Captain Cornelius Grinnell. He was a famous sea captain and privateer during the American Revolution. He was involved in the whaling trade, privateering, shipbuilding and maritime trade. His claim to fame was he captained the first American whaler (the ship “Rebecca”) to double Cape Horn at the bottom of South America shortly after receiving a license in1791 as a whaler.


  • Creation: 1789-1794


Access Restrictions

Access Restrictions This collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

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

Biographical Note

Biographical Note Apparently the creator Obed Hathaway was from a well to do family in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Traditionally young boys were apprenticed by their families to learn a trade. The family paid a master to educate their child in a trade. New Bedford was primarily a whaling port at the time of this logbook but also engaged in various other types of maritime industry. The attempts at penmanship, spelling and mathematical calculations in this logbook indicate the work of a young teenager. The ship “Bedford” named in the logbook was originally built in 1772 and was the first American ship to display the “rebel thirteen stripes” flag in British waters carrying whale oil to England. Obed Hathaway probably was sent to sea to learn the seaman’s trade around 1789. Based on his observations of wind and weather, he adapted well to the sea and passed his time on board the ship in an amiable fashion composing sentimental love poetry and singing songs. He begins his apprenticeship approximately around 1789 and seems proficient to record ship notation about latitude, longitude, wind direction and types of weather on three voyages from 1793 to 1796. He recorded three voyages from Dominica to Port Caville (Cavallo, Corsica); from Crooked Island (Bahamas) to Charlestown (Massachusetts); and third voyage from Charlestown to Amsterdam. On this last recorded voyage in the logbook the “Bedford” was captained by Cornelius Grinnell, a sea captain and privateer, who was famous as the first American to sail a whaler around Cape Horn twice on one voyage.

Chronology [optional] October 1789 First entry November 1793 First voyage from Dominica to Port Caville (Cavallo) January 1796 Second voyage from Crooked Island to Charlestown April 1796 Third voyage from Charlestown to Amsterdam

Chronology [optional]

October 1789
First entry
November 1793
First voyage from Dominica to Port Caville (Cavallo)
January 1796
Second voyage from Crooked Island to Charlestown
April 1796
Third voyage from Charlestown to Amsterdam


1 volume, 33 pages, 30 cm.

Language of Materials



An interesting document describing a young man’s apprenticeship at sea learning the seaman’s trade and passing his free time writing poetry and songs to entertain his ship board companions. The date of this logbook is the late eighteenth century describes the early American whaling trade out of New Bedford, Massachusetts later forever immortalized in Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.”

Arrangement of the Content

Arrangement of the Content The material is arranged chronologically in most part from 1789 to 1796. The 1789 notations appear to be teaching examples of navigational calculations and sailing courses for destination plots. The first voyage recorded is from Dominica to Port “Caville” (Port Cavallo?, Corisca) beginning November 11, 1793; the second voyage is January 10, 1796 from Crooked Island (Bahamas) to Charlestown (Massachusetts) and the third voyage begins April 12, 1796 from Charlestown to Amsterdam under command of Captain Cornealus (Cornelius) Grinnell. Subsequent pages following the voyage observations contain the songs and poetry, tables of weights and measures, a few pages of penmanship practice, a list of personal belongings and a letter to his sister dated November 1, 1793. Paper bound logbook measures 30 x 18.5 cm. contains 33 pages badly torn, dog eared and ink splotched. Cover is brown and green marbling over tan paper. Different samples of handwriting in black ink. Pages are loose and some appear to be missing.

Other Related Finding Aids of the Collection

Other Related Finding Aids of the Collection Original information recorded in “I remain: A Digital Archive of Letters, Manuscripts, and Ephemera”

Acquisition Information

Acquisition Information This sailor’s logbook was accessioned by Lehigh University Library February 4, 1898.


Accruals No additions anticipated.

Related Material:

Related Material: Hurd, Duane Hamilton. 1883. History of Bristol County, Massachusetts. 922p. Prescott, Laura G. 2011. “A few Grinnell men of New Bedford and their connection to the whaling trade.” Grinnell Family Association of America Official Website.

Physical Description

1 volume, 33 pages, 30 cm.

Finding Aid of the Obed Hathaway Logbook from Ship “Bedford” 1789-1796
William Ying
September 26, 2013
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

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