Ahern's Guide to Naval History

Part I: Collections

Bache, Albert Dabadie, United States naval officer

Diaries, 1862, 1867-1869. 3 vols. (ca. 550pp.).
(B B1223d)


The first diary was kept during the American Civil War, when Bache was captain's clerk on the U.S.S. Hartford; the second and third were kept while Bache was an assistant paymaster on the U.S.S. Iroquois, of the Asiatic Squadron.
Accessioned, 1947

Bancker, James A.
Papers, 1842-1849. 46 items.
(B B22)


A Philadelphia merchant in the China trade, Bancker was witness to the early efforts of the United States Navy to project its power into east Asia His letters from Macao, Canton, and Hong Kong provide detailed descriptions of social life in the foreign enclaves there, anti-British activity, and his outward voyage.
Presented by Sarah B. Mortimer, 1962.

Cassin, Charles Luke (1846-1878)
Papers, 1745-1878. ca. 70 items & 11 vols.
(B C274)


A U.S. Navy physician and grandson of Commodore Stephen Cassin, USN, Charles Cassin's correspondence (1869-1883) is largely routine, containing family letters, navy orders, and letters of recommendation. There are several notebooks and diaries: notes from Pennsylvania Hospital clinical lectures, 1867-1869 (2 vols.); diaries, 1865-1875 (7 vols.); a volume of poetry; and general study notes. There is also early material on the Cassin family.
Table of contents (3 pp.).
Accessioned, 1967

Dale, Richard (1756-1826)
Collection, 1780-1845. Film. 1 reel.
(Film 334)


The collection contains letters of Commodore Dale to the Secretary of the Navy, William Bainbridge, Samuel Barron, William Eaton, David Humphreys, Rufus King, British, Algerian, and Tripolitanian officials, 1801-1802; also a miscellaneous collection of letters of Charles Biddle, James Biddle, Mahlon Dickerson, John Paul Jones, John Y. Mason, Oliver H. Perry, Edward Preble, Benjamin Stoddert, Thomas Truxtun, and others, 1780-1845; and Dale's journal on a voyage to Canton, 1787-1788.
Table of contents.
From the Estate of Edward C. Dale, 1947

David Library of the American Revolution
American Revolution Collection, ca. 1760s-1850s (ca. 2,500 items)
(B F327)


Comprised of letters and documents assembled by Sol Feinstone (1888-1980) over a fifty year period, the David Library Collection includes miscellaneous letters of high interest pertaining to all aspects of the American Revolution. Among topics covered are privateers and privateering, prize cases, the British and Continental Navies, and the United States Navy and Marine Corps. There are also letters from John Barry, François-Joseph-Paul comte de Grasse, John Paul Jones, and Sir Richard Howe.
A published guide by David Fowler is available.
On deposit from the David Library, 1969.

Franklin, Benjamin (1706-1790)
(B F85 and related collections)


Franklin's omnivorous interests included a concern for naval affairs and the development of the Continental Navy. Among his numerous correspondents wre John Paul Jones and Abraham Whipple.
Accessioned, 1966

Kane, Elisha Kent (1820-1857)
Papers 1830s-1860s. ca. 5000 items (7 ln. ft.).
(B K132)


Elisha Kent Kane by J.R. Lambdin
Elisha Kent Kane,
by James Reid Lambdin, 1857
The diverse Kane Papers the arctic explorer's correspondence, sketches of arctic and other scenes (there are many sketches scattered throughout the numerous bound volumes), notebooks of polar exploration, medical notebooks, journals of trips to North Carolina, the Philippines, Africa, the Near East, Egypt, Mexico, logbooks, and lectures and lecture notes on medicine, geology, mineralogy, geometry, etc.

Material concerning Kane's arctic explorations is particularly well represented through his notes, copies of journal entries, drafts of unpublished and published material, lists of materials and books, and bills and receipts. The correspondence is concentrated in the 1840s and 1850s when he began his worldwide travels, and reflects his interest in arctic exploration as well as his search for Sir John Franklin. There is considerable correspondence with Margaret Fox and with others relating to Kane's controversial relationship with her. Among the correspondents are:

  • Spencer F. Baird
  • Henry Brooks
  • Samuel Colt
  • Sophia Cracroft
  • Peter Force
  • Lady Jane Franklin
  • Horace Greeley
  • Cornelius Grinnell
  • Henry Grinnell
  • Thomas Harris
  • Joseph Henry
  • John K. Kane
  • Mrs. Jane D. L. Kane
  • Robert P. Kane
  • Thomas L. Kane
  • John P. Kennedy
  • William H. Weaver

Table of contents (20 pp.).
Presented by Mrs. Joseph C. Aub, Dr. Oliver Cope, Thomas Pym Cope, and Mrs. Thomas P. Hazard, 1967

Journal, 1853-1855. Film. 1 reel.
(Film 1244)


Kane's journal kept aboard the Brig Advance during the Second Grinnell Expedition. From the original manuscript at Stanford University.
Accessioned, 1967


Letters, 1853-1957. Film. 1 reel (20 items).


Letters from E. K. and his father, John K. Kane, to John P. Kennedy, Secretary of the Navy. From originals in the Kennedy Papers, Peabody Institute Library, Baltimore, Maryland.
Presented by George W. Corner, 1971

Lusanna Prize Case
Records, 1777-1778. 1 vol. (297p.)
(973.3 N41)


The Lusanna, a seventy-ton brigantine, was owned by Elisha Doane of Massachusetts, and sailed with his son-in-law Shearjashub Bourne as supercargo. She sailed from Massachusetts in 1775 at the onset of the American Revolution. On the return voyage from London in 1777 she was captured by the privateer McClary out of Portsmouth, NH. In the prize case that followed in the New Hampshire maritime court, Bourne and Doane unsuccessfully tried to defend their ship. Their appeal eventually made its way to the Continental Congress.

The Lusanna Prize Case Records is a written transcript of the proceedings in Admiralty Court of the armed brigantine McClary vs. the brigantine Lusanna in the State of New Hampshire. The transcript contains the entire proceedings of the case including the libel, statements of the crew and passengers, invoices for items shipped aboard the Lusanna, bills of lading, copies of letters pertaining to the voyage and cargo, copy of the prize case against the Industry (another vessel owned by Doane captured by the British in 1775), testimony in support of the owners of the Lusanna as loyal to the United States, the decision of the court, and the appeal.

Purchased with the library of Benjamin Franklin in 1803.

View complete finding aid.

Marquis de la Fayette, Prize Sale
Sales catalogues, 1781-1782. 1 vol. (ca. 67pp)


Sales catalogue from Panter and Co. for the French ship Marquis de la Fayette which was captured by six British warships (HMS Endymion, Egmount, Suffolk, Grafton, Trident, and Bristol) while in passage to Boston. The catalogue provides a complete listing of the ship's cargo and its value.

Nautilus Polar Expedition (1931)
Photograph collection, 1931. 78 items.
(Ms. Coll. 101)


In 1931 Sir Hubert Wilkins undertook an expedition to the North Pole in a decommissioned United States Navy submarine, recollectiond Nautilus. The goals of the expedition were to prove the feasibility of submarine travel under the arctic ice, and to conduct various scientific experiments that only the use of a submarine could make possible. Because of various mechanical difficulties encountered, the expedition was not able to accomplish all of its goals. The items contained within the Nautilus Collection are primarily photographs of the submarine and crew at various stages of the expedition. These images come are primarily press photographs, and were accompanied by captions. In each folder, a photocopy of each image precedes the original, with captions copied on the back. Other images come from the personal collection of Frank Blumberg, who served aboard the Nautilus, and are snapshots and signed portraits. There are also a few miscellaneous items contained within the collection. Finally, the collection also contains a scrapbook compiled by Mr. Blumberg, from magazine clippings and photographs.
Finding aid available.
The collection was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Ben B. Levitt on August 1, 1990.

Pennsylvania (Province)
Records (Extracts), 1748-1758. 1 vol. (ca. 200 pp.)
(974.8 Sa7)


Extracts from the Provincial Records of Pennsylvania, primarily concerning Indian affairs and the prosecution of the French and Indian War in Pennsylvania and the New England colonies. Contains minor information regarding naval activities.
Printed in part in Hazard's Register of Pennsylvania 4 (1829):205 through 6 (1830):369.
Compiled by Thomas Sargeant and presented to the APS in 1819.

Peale, Titian Ramsay (1799-1885)
Papers and Sketches, 1817-1875.
(B P31 and related; B P31.15d)


The son of Charles Willson Peale and brother of a number of artists and natural historians, Titian Ramsay Peale accompanied the United States Exploring Expedition as a naturalist. The various Peale Family collections include numerous letters and reports relating to the expedition and the specimens collected, as well as a number of sketches made by Peale during the voyage. The collections also include substantial correspondence with or about John Rodgers, Oliver Hazard Perry, Charles Wilkes, and Abel Upshur, among others.
The microfiche set The Collected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family (Millwood, N.Y. : Kraus Microfilm, 1980) includes a thorough subject index.
Presented by Charles Coleman Sellers, 1945.

Smyth, William Henry (1788-1865)
Correspondence, 1827-1864. 86 items.


A miscellaneous collection of letters on scientific topics, mostly addressed to the British Admiral and scientific writer William Henry Smyth. The topics discussed include astronomy, microscopes, nautical almanacs, and submarine excursions. The seventeen letters to Herschel form the largest group, but there are interesting single letters from Thomas Graves, reporting on the discoveries of the HMS Beagle (Charles Darwin's voyage) in South American waters. Among the correspondents are:
  • Sir George B. Airy
  • William Buckland
  • William R. Dawes
  • Edward Everett
  • John Stevens Henslow
  • Sir John F. W. Herschel
  • Sir John Lubbock
  • Sir Thomas Maclear
  • Sir Roderick I. Murchison
  • Auguste H. Petermann
  • Mary Somerville
  • Benjamin L. Vuillamy
  • Baron Franz Xavier von Zach

Table of contents (3 pp.).
Accessioned, 1966

United States Exploring Expedition
Records, 1838-1842. 27 reels.
(Film 377)


Winlock, Joseph (1826-1875)
Letterbook, 1857-1875. 1 vol. (340 pp.).
(B W721)


During the period of this letterbook, Winlock was superintendent of the American Ephermeris and Natural Almanac, head of the Department of Mathematics at the U.S. Naval Academy, and Director of the Harvard College Observatory, as well as being a professor of astronomy at Harvard. There is much in his letters about his various posts, conflicts and personalities, and the politics of science. There are also many references and comments about scientific technology of the day, and of such people as Matthew F. Maury. There are numerous letters to Alexander D. Bache, James Henry Coffin, Charles Henry Davis, and William H. Willcox. Among other correspondents are:
  • John T. Ballard
  • Henry I. Bowditch
  • William Chauvenet
  • Thomas C. Cochran
  • Benjamin A. Gould
  • Asa Gray
  • Joseph Henry
  • Thomas Hill
  • Joseph Stillman Hubbard
  • Thornton Alexander Jenkins
  • Samuel P. Langley
  • William Makepeace
  • Nathaniel Silsbee
  • William J. Waller
  • Gideon Welles

Table of contents (8 pp.).
accessioned, 1980.


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