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.