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Charles B. Bullard Papers

Charles B. Bullard Papers

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Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Bullard, Charles B.
Title:Charles B. Bullard Papers
Quantity:0.25 linear feet (1 box)
Abstract:The Charles B. Bullard Papers consist of two items: a letterbook covering the years 1821 to 1823, and a photocopy of the pages of the letter book.
Collection Number:MH 44

Series List

Scope and Content Note

The Charles B. Bullard Papers consist of two items: a letterbook covering the years 1821 to 1823, and a photocopy of the pages of the letter book. Bullard wrote the letters while acting as supercargo for Bryant and Sturgis in the Hawaiian Islands, aboard the ship Tartar, and in Canton.

The letterbook contains copies of letters from Bullard to: Bryant and Sturgis, William Sturgis, James P. Sturgis and Company, Harry Price and Company, Gideon Snow, William French, and Captain Henry Oxnard. The letters originated from Woahoo (Oahu), Hawaii; at sea aboard the ship Tartar; Canton; and Boston, covering the period of March 20, 1821 to July 11, 1823. In addition, a few accounts are contained in the letters.

The major topic in several of the letters focuses on the sale of Cleopatra's Barge, then owned by Bryant and Sturgis, to Lihliho (also known as Rihoriho, or King Kamehameha II), king of the Hawaiian Islands on November 16, 1820. The vessel was sold on credit by Captain John Suter for a specific value of sandalwood to be delivered by the King. Much of Bullard's correspondence dealt with the difficulties in collecting this debt from the King. He also discussed the sale of the brig Becket, which was in the group of vessels sent to Hawaii with Cleopatra's Barge.

In a lengthy private letter to William Sturgis (November 1, 1821), written while aboard the Tartar, bound for Canton, Bullard expressed concern regarding Captain Suter's trustworthiness in handling the firm's business, particularly regarding the sale of the two vessels and the conditions of payment agreed upon with the King. In this same letter, he also questioned the motives of another shipmaster, Captain Harris. Bullard felt that Suter was far too quick in selling and delivering Cleopatra's Barge, particularly since the King was very eager to acquire the vessel. He states further that the terms of credit were far too liberal. Other merchants were receiving sandalwood by the King's authority, but he was not paying his wood installments for Cleopatra's Barge. Additionally, Bullard maintained the price received for the Becket was insufficient. Bullard finished this letter with a postscript: "If you want to know how Religion stands at the Islands, I can tell you—all sects are tolerated but the King worships the Barge."

Prior to the completion of payment for Cleopatra's Barge, extensive dry rot was discovered in the vessel, which prompted the King to accuse Captain Suter of deceiving him. The King maintained that Suter guaranteed the vessel would last as least ten years without major repair. This situation created additional problems regarding the collection of debt owned by the King.

The letterbook also contains accounts of transactions for Bryant and Sturgis handled by Bullard during his tenure in Hawaii, including the quantities of sandalwood shipped in their behalf to Canton. In addition, Bullard recommended items that might be shipped to the islands, which would be in demand and sell well. He also discussed other vessels and their cargoes that were owned or chartered by the firm (see Appendix I of the letterbook for a list). In letters to other individuals and firms he discusses the sale of cargoes consigned to him and material he shipped under his own name for his personal benefit.

Biographical Sketch

Charles B. Bullard worked as a supercargo, employed by the ship's owners to manage cargo owners' trade, for the Boston-based firm Bryant and Sturgis. Bryant and Sturgis was a partnership formed in 1810 between Captains William Sturgis (1782-1863) and John Bryant (1780-1865). The firm's primary focus after 1815 was trading in hides and furs on the west and northwest coast of North America. The firm's trade expanded to include sandalwood from the Hawaiian Islands, which was shipped to Canton. It was in this context that Charles B. Bullard wrote the letters that make up this collection.

Additionally, Bryant and Sturgis owned the brig Pilgrim, aboard which Richard Henry Dana, Jr. sailed in 1834; the last voyage was the basis for his classic Two Years Before the Mast. William Sturgis also served as a member of the Massachusetts Legislature.

Captain John Suter was born in Virginia in 1781, and went to sea at an early age, rising from foremast hand to master. He was an experienced shipmaster in the Northwest fur and Hawaiian sandalwood trade to Canton. Suter commanded the flotilla of vessels sent to Hawaii in 1820 by Bryant and Sturgis and was responsible for the sale of both Cleopatra's Barge and the brig Becket. In addition to these two vessels, the flotilla also included the ships Tartar and Mentor and the brig Lascar.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Bryant, John
French, William
Kamehameha II, King of the Hawaiian Islands, 1797-1824
Oxnard, Henry
Snow, Gideon
Sturgis, William, 1782-1863
Suter, John, b. 1781
Becket (Brig)
Bryant & Sturgis (Boston, Mass.)
Cleopatra's Barge (Brig)
Harry Price and Co.
James P. Sturgis and Co.
Lascar (Brig)
Mentor (Ship)
Tartar (Ship)
China--Commerce--United States
Hawaii--Kings and rulers
United States--Commerce--China


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Charles B. Bullard Papers, MH 44, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material was donated by Mrs. Ward Thoron on February 25, 1990 (acc #19,218).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Robert F. Craig, March 1999. Updated by Hilary Streifer, December 2014.

Related Material

Jackman, S. W. ed. The Journal of William Sturgis. Victoria, BC: Sono Nis Press, 1978.

Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Maritime History of New Massachusetts: 1783-1860. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961.

Whitehall, Walter Muir. "George Crowninshield's Yacht Cleopatra's Barge". The American Neptune 13 (1953): 235-251.

Account book of John Bryant, 1810-1812. MSS 1527.12

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