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SS RINGLEADER Collection, 1870-1878

Manuscript Collection #1090

Descriptive Summary Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Title: SS RINGLEADER Collection
Creator: Peer , George E.
Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
Languages: English
Abstract: Collection (1870-1878) of manuscripts and printed materials relating to the voyage of the Clipper Ship SS RINGLEADER from New York, NY to San Francisco, CA, via Shanghai, China, including a log book of the voyage by George E. Peer, photographic print of Captain W. E. Bray, ship’s tracking chart, English and Swedish New Testaments, and 3 Chinese language newspapers. Purchased from Ten Pound Island Book Co.
Extent: 0.25 Cubic feet, 1 box & 2 oversize folders, manuscripts and printed materials relating to the voyage of the Clipper Ship SS RINGLEADER from New York, NY to San Francisco

Administrative Information Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Accessions Information

February 1, 2007 0.25 cubic feet; Collection (1870-1878) of manuscripts and printed materials relating to the voyage of the Clipper Ship SS RINGLEADER from New York, NY to San Francisco, CA, via Shanghai, China, including a log book of the voyage by George E. Peer, photographic print of Captain W. E. Bray, English and Swedish New Testaments, and 4 Chinese language newspapers. See preliminary inventory attached. Purchase (Special Manuscript Fund), Ten Pound Island Book Company, Gloucester, MA

Access Restrictions

No restrictions

Copyright Notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Preferred Citation

SS RINGLEADER Collection (#1090), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.

Acquisition Information

  • Purchase (Special Manuscript Fund), Ten Pound Island Book Company, Gloucester, MA

Processing Information

  • Encoded by Lindsay Flood, April 1, 2008

  • Processed by Emily Powell April 2010


Biographical / Historical Note Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

George E. Peer was born on June 17, 1857. This collection consists of items accumulated by Peer (possibly a relative of the ship’s owner) while aboard the ship SS RINGLEADER from December 19, 1877 to August 1, 1878 during its journeys from New York to Shanghai, and Shanghai to San Francisco. The majority of the information about the ship, its crew and passengers, and its journey comes from the daily log kept by Peer. Peer is the only non-crew passenger aboard the ship. He does not appear to have had much experience with life aboard a ship, or made a trip of this distance. Peer faithfully keeps a daily log of the RINGLEADER’s journey and shares examples of shipboard culture that he discovers from his travels and from time spent with the crew. While in Shanghai on his 21st birthday, Peer swears not to “drink, smoke, chew or swear for five years” (June 17, 1878, page 175). Peer also writes often to friends and mentions writing to his brother and receiving letters from his mother.

A violent crime was recorded aboard the ship on February 11, 1878. According to the log, crew member James Sorke is apprehended after having stabbed “Mr. Thompson.” Sorke claimed that he thought his victim was actually another member of the crew named “Ned,” and is locked up by the captain after threatening various crew members. Sorke is held for the remainder of the trip and is delivered to the authorities for trial upon arrival in Shanghai.

During its journey, the RINGLEADER made a stop at the town of Anjer (sic) (Anyer, Indonesia) from March 20 to April 1, 1878. While in port, Peer records details of the town, its people and notable features and characteristics, as well as details of purchases made by him and by Captain Bray. The RINGLEADER arrived in Shanghai on May 30, 1878 and remained at port until June 27, 1878. Peer documents his observations of the city itself as well as its inhabitants, notable sites, and items available for purchase.

During their time in Shanghai, Peer and Captain Bray visit often with Captain Eliot of the American ship MAN OF WAR, Captain Wade, and Captain Toudy of the ship HEOLEHEART, Captain Gerrish (former CSA captain during the American Civil War) of the ship PAUL JONES, Captain Reynolds of the American ship FORMOSA, Captain Barwell of the Chinese Steamer Line. Peer and Bray also visit the ships CARRIE CLARK, MARY BUNGS, the American ship ANNIE S. HALL and the English clipper FORWARD HO. Peer details a particular conversation with Captain Gerrish in which the captain discusses his service in the CSA Navy and his participation in the battle of the CSS ALABAMA (June 21, 1878, page 179).

While at port, Peer and Captain Bray frequent the Astor House Hotel and “Cheap Jack’s” Shop. They also visit frequently with Mrs. Bennett, Mr. Wingate of the MAN OF WAR crew, Mr. Barton a customs house officer, and Mr. Blethen, the president of a temperance group who hosts a meeting attended by several of the captains and Peer (June 20, 1878, page 178). The SS RINGLEADER concluded its journey in San Francisco around August 1, 1878, with the last entry on July 31, 1878 noting that they the ship was about to arrive in port.

The SS RINGLEADER was a full-rig clipper ship built in Boston in 1868 for $100,000 with the register of “1183 Tour”. The ship was carrying a cargo of Kerosene oil valued at $160,000 for delivery to Shanghai. The ship’s crew and salaries are described as follows: Captain William E. Bray (described as a “straight temperance man” and gave George Peer an English and Swedish version of the New Testament Bible while at sea), $150 per month, Mr. Butler, First Mate, $50 per month, Mr. Smart, Second Mate, $35 per month (had a career at sea for 26 years at time of voyage, eight of which were spent as a whaler, noted on January 6, 1878, page 32-33), sixteen crew men (including Mr. Baker, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Seward, James Sorke, “Dutch”, “Ived”, “Ned”, “William”, and “Scofield”), $15 “a piece”, a Chinese steward and a Chinese cook (Age 30), a Carpenter and two boys (one named Morgan Robinson, age 16, and one named George), $35 and $10 for each boy.

Description Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

This collection consists of eight items accumulated by George E. Peer while traveling from New York to Shanghai, and Shanghai to San Francisco aboard the ship SS RINGLEADER from December 19, 1877 through August 1, 1878.

The first item in the collection is a ship log kept by passenger George E. Peer. This log was updated daily throughout the trip and includes a daily record of latitude and longitude as well as weather, ship’s direction and speed/distance travelled. Peer also makes a point of noting any and all happenings onboard the ship including the sighting of other ships, the sighting of notable landmarks or land masses, time spent and conversation had with the crew, and observations of culture aboard the ship. Notable entries include details of the ship’s watches and crew-assigned names for each day of the week, details of sea shanties sung by the crew during different shipboard tasks, details of the ship encountering severe weather at sea and an account of a stabbing taking place on the ship. Peer also gives great detail regarding their time spent on land in Anjer (sic) (Anyer, Indonesia) and in Shanghai, providing thorough observations of the people, places and things he encounters. The log book is a leather-bound journal with a multi-color printed paper cover made by Erastus Darrow Bookseller & Stationer, Rochester, NY and the inside cover contains a printed calendar for the year of 1878. The log contains 112 used pages out of a total of 165, however Peer assigns his own page numbers for each page face up to page 215.

Also included in the collection is a portrait of Captain William E. Bray and a copy of the ship’s tracking chart (with note “Gift to Ms. W.J. Henry” made later in purple marker,) that measures the RINGLEADER’s journey in 5 day increments, as well as two Bibles given to Peer while on board the RINGLEADER. The first is an English New Testament printed in 1870 by the American Bible Society of New York. The inside cover contains a note written by Peer noting the town of Anjer (sic) as well as the name of “Glyphemt & Co., Shanghai, China” and “Flowis & Cruville, 100 Wall Street, NY City.” The second Bible is a Swedish New Testament printed by Americanska Bibel-Auskapet in1875. The note on the inside cover states that it was given as a gift to Peer by the captain at latitude 40.00 South and longitude 50.00 East, 1,000 miles from New York and 400 miles from Anjer (sic).

Also present are three editions of the Shanghai Daily News most likely collected by Peer in Shanghai. The dates for each paper are Thursday, October 18, 1877 (entire issue), September 1877 (incomplete, , exact date unknown) and Saturday, October 13, 1877 (entire issue). These papers predate Peer’s visit to Shanghai and were most likely collected there as souvenirs.

Some basic translation of the newspaper’s content (1090.1.d.os.2.3) reveals a news digest from newspapers published in Beijing, as well as reports from the ministers to the Emperor with the Emperor’s comments. This edition also includes local news from the areas around Shanghai as well as international news. One of the articles is “Recent News from the Netherlands,” and is about the crown prince of the Netherlands who was living in Paris, and the death of his mother. Also included are advertisements, mostly regarding auctions, medicines,and guns. The last section of the paper has commodity prices from the day before, and arrival and departure dates of ships. SS RINGLEADER is mentioned in another edition (1090.1.d.os.2.1). The article, entitled “Navy ship visiting Shanghai” is partially obscured by damage. The SS RINGLEADER is referred as a “third class navy ship” from the United States.

The papers are written in Wenyan, the official Chinese written language for over 2000 years. Preliminary research indicates that the newspapers were financially supported by the Shanghai Municipal Government even though it has the appearance of an independent commercial entity. The only identifier on the papers is the publisher’s address. It is located in Ningxing (宁兴) Street, behind the police department in the Shanghai French Concession territory. Each edition of the paper, consisting of one physical sheet, is actually 8 sections, as the paper was originally folded so that each face was numbered as an individual page. For further details, see container list below.

As a note, the page numbers referenced in the Ship’s Log written by George E. Peer refer to the author’s handwritten page numbers on each page face. Also, information included about the Chinese newspapers came from a translation provided by Assistant Professor Huanqing Lu, PhD of East Carolina University. The newspapers are extremely fragile and in need of conservation.

Preliminary Inventory Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Below is material taken from a preliminary inventory and represents content from the collection that is unprocessed.

  • Box 1#1090.1
    • Folder a#1090.1.a
      Log Kept By George E. Peer, while on his cruise from New York to Shanghai [China] and Shanghai to San Francisco During 1877 and 1878 [aboard the Clipper Ship RINGLEADER]. Holograph Mss. 1 vol. 112 p. used out of 165.
    • Folder b#1090.1.b
      W. E. Bray Photographic Print (ca. 1877-1878) Black & White. 1 item. 1 p. Note: W. E. Bray was the captain of the SS RINGLEADER.
    • Folder c#1090.1.c
      The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ . . . (New York: American Bible Society, 1870). 8.5 mm x 12.5 mm. 1 vol. 204 p.
    • Folder d#1090.1.d
      Nya Testamentet (New York: Americanska Bibel-Auskapet, 1875) 8.5 mm x 12.5 mm. 1 vol. 262 p. Note: Swedish language.
  • Oversize Folder os1#1090.os1 Icon to indicate that there are digitized materials available
    Track Chart of the Ship RINGLEADER, Captain Bray, Sailed July 1st, 1878 from Shanghai for San Fransisco, Arrived Aug. 1st 1878. Printed form. 1 item. 1 p. 59 mm. x 24.5 mm. Note: Inscribed "Gift to Mrs. W. J. Henry. Also includes New York - Shanghai track.

Online access to this finding aid is supported with funds created through the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). These funds come through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services which is administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. This grant is part of the North Carolina ECHO, Exploring Cultural Heritage Online, Digitization Grant Program.

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This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Special Collections Division, J.Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University. The materials described here are physically available in our reading room. To see what's been digitized in this collection, please click on the "View Digitized Objects" link, or look for hyperlinks in the preliminary inventory
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