Main content

Journal of a voyage from Philadelphia to Antwerp


Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Joseph Martin, a ship's boy on the merchant vessel Pacific , kept this ship's log during two 1820s voyages: Philadelphia, to Antwerp (Belgium), to Crounstant (likely Kronstadt, Russia), and back to Philadelphia with Captain Abiah Sharpe; and Philadelphia to Madras (India) and back with Captain James Moore.

In this log Joseph Martin listed his rank as a "boy." He could be as young as 13, but the term boy was more a function of a sailor's low rank than his age. The boy acted as a servant to the captain and other officers, but his tasks were varied and involved all manner of work on the vessel. Although some young men began under less harsh conditions, starting as apprentices or midshipmen, an able boy could also rise all the way to captain. Martin's nautical studies indicate that he was working to move up the ship's ranks.

The captain of Martin's first journey was Abiah Sharpe, born into a family of Wilmington, Delaware, shipping merchants. As Sharpe's fortunes as a sea captain in the East India trade grew, he moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and became half-owner of the ship Pacific. Sharpe retired wealthy at 35, but continued to own ships. He married Ann Taylor of Wilmington and had seven children. His five eldest children died unmarried. Sharpe's second-youngest daughter, Ann, married Samuel Stockton Horner of New Jersey and lived in Paris for many years. His son Charles Abiah married Marianna Shreve of New Jersey. Captain Sharpe died between 1833 and 1834.

Davenant, Francis.What Shall My Son Be? Hints to Parents on the Choice of a Profession or Trade; and Counsels to Young Men on Their Entrance into Active Life ... With a Copious Appendix of Examination Papers, and Other Practical Information. 1870, 99-108.Pietsch, Roland. "Ships' Boys and Youth Culture in Eighteenth-Century Britain: The Navy Recruits of the London Marine Society."The Northern Mariner/Le marin du nord, XVI No 4, (October 2004), 11-24.Scharf, J. Thomas.History of Delaware: 1609-1888. Philadelphia: L.J. Richards, 1888, 848-848b.Additional biographical information derived from the collection.

In his ship's log, Joseph Martin documented the merchant voyage of the Pacific on two separate expeditions: Philadelphia, to Antwerp (Belgium), to Crounstant (likely Kronstadt, Russia), and back to Philadelphia with Captain Abiah Sharpe; and Philadelphia to Madras (India) and back with Captain James Moore. In addition to standard nautical data, Martin added a small number of illustrations, some in color, and many nautical and mathematical exercises, including data for a seemingly fictional trip from Boston to Madeira (Portugal) in 1808.

Martin only kept a daily log of the voyage with Captain Sharpe from April 20, 1820, to May 10, 1820. However, he included a very brief summary of the entire trip as well as a crew list at the end of the May 10, 1820, entry. For the days which the logs were kept, Martin recorded time, knots, course, wind direction, and some additional remarks. He indicated that the ship returned to Philadelphia on October 17, 1820.

Martin's nautical studies follow the first journey and make up a large portion of the volume. They comprise instructions on determining latitude, adjusting compass variations, recognizing sun intervals, applying logarithms, and understanding various arithmetic and geometric equations, as well as several case studies. This section includes a usable illustrated mariner's compass, complete with a pinhole in the center for the attachment of a needle. The most elaborate exercise involves organization and analysis of data for an 1808 shipping voyage from Boston to Madeira (Spain). It is unknown if the data was invented for study or based on an actual log.

Following the exercises is Martin's log for the voyage from Philadelphia to Madras (India). He began the log on April 15, 1821, continuing until May 14, 1821 when the ship landed in Madras. He then gave a brief summary of the ship's travels around India, including Calcutta. Martin began the daily log again on January 3, 1822, for the journey from Madras back to Philadelphia. His entries ran until April 12, 1822, but his brief summary at the end of the first leg of the voyage indicated that the voyage officially ended on April 17, 1822.

The journal is one volume, circa 230 pages, with entries in ink. The log features several small illustrations, some in color. These drawings include ships, a bird, and embellished titles throughout the exercises. Martin occasionally used variant spellings of the ship's name, including Pacifice and Pacifices. Several pages have been neatly cut out of the log. Laid into the volume is a clipping from Philadelphia's

Daily Chronicle of a calendar titled "The Daily Chronicle Almanac, For The Year 1843." The last three pages have several small abstract pencil drawings which may have been added by a later owner.

  1. Item 0170: Shelved in SPEC MSS 0097

A digitized copy of the journal is available at the University of Delaware Digital Institutional Repository.

Purchase, July 2010.

Processed by Wes Skidmore, September 2010. Encoded by Jaime Margalotti, October 2010.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2010 September 21
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Collection Inventory

Journal of a voyage from Philadelphia to Antwerp, (1820 April 15-1822 April 17, 1843).
Item 0170
Materials Viewable Online
  1. PDF of journal

Print, Suggest