William Howard Hooker Collection: East Indiaman Thetis Logbook

Manuscript Collection #472-003
Hooker, William Howard; East Indiaman
Physical description
0.13 Cubic Feet, 1 item, logbook, bound six-page "memorandum," and supporting documents on Thetis.
Preferred Citation
William Howard Hooker Collection: East Indiaman Thetis Logbook (#472-003), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Logbook (1792 - 1793) for East India cargo ship Thetis and folders of supporting evidence.

Biographical/historical information

The British built Thetis was constructed at Randalls Yard on the River Thames in 1786 for the East India Company. She measured 158 feet in length, 36.5 feet in breadth, with three decks, three masts, and the capacity to be outfitted with 36 guns. Her actual tonnage seems somewhat contested as it is given at different times ranging between 800 to 869 tons. Although general practice of the East India Company was to consider 6 voyages as the useful life of a ship, the Thetis made a total of 7 voyages due to a down turn in the amount of new ships being built during the end of the 18th century. Her voyages took her to India and China. Her last voyage was logged in 1801. The registry was closed in 1806 when the Thetis was broken apart.

Although the evidence is sparse, an inquiry conducted in the late 1930's by Mr. Tiemann revealed an interesting embassy mission to China, in which the Thetis was transporting three members of the "Secret and Superintending Committee of the Honourable Company" (1797). Although unclear, it seems that this mission set out to overlook the permanent establishment of trade relations between China, which at the time only allowed international trade through its port in Canton, and the East India Company. There is also some mystery as to what the Thetis was carrying on its return trip from China. The documents pertaining to the inquiry can be found in the collection containing the logbook.

Scope and arrangement

The logbook of the East India Company ship Thetis's voyage to China (1792-1793) contains complete crew and passenger lists with rank and pay for crew, trade goods taken to China and returned to England, weather conditions, ship sightings, and daily life aboard ship. Important passengers to China were members of "The Secret Superintending Committee" (from the East India Company) and their servants. Cargo to China included bales of fabric, foodstuffs and drink, and over nine thousand ingots of tin. Cargo to England included several varieties of tea, raw silk, and nankeen.

Of particular interest are accounts of storms, an eclipse of the sun, repairs to the ship, floggings, deaths, escape of several seamen, various kinds of fish and birds sighted, different soils near harbors, and mention of other ships.

Supporting evidence includes letters from Founders Court, Lloyds Register of Shipping, and Britannica Research Bureau. These give complete specifications for the Thetis, built in 1786, and dates and destinations of her seven voyages. A "memorandum," seven typed pages, bound, gives more information on the ship and members of the "Secret Superintending Committee" (Henry Browne, Eyles Irwin, and William Jackson). Three loose pages contain material incorporated in the "memorandum" as well as a list of books containing related information. Also included is the photograph of a painting of East India Company's packet Swallow, said to be the same age and type as the Thetis, and a photocopy of a drawing of the Thetis.

Administrative information
Custodial History

December 5, 1984, 1 volume logbook for East Indian Cargo Ship Thetis, folders of supporting evidence, 1 photograph, 1 photocopy of drawing.

Source of acquisition

Gift of

Processing information

Processed by B. Howlett, June 1985

Additional Processing by Mateusz Polakowski, April 2016

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

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

Key terms
Corporate Names
East India Company
Thetis (Ship)
Seafaring life
Voyages and travels
China--Commerce--Great Britain
Great Britain--Commerce--China