The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Frigate Essex Papers
1.75 linear feet (4 boxes)
The frigate Essex papers consist of
ships' papers, correspondence, account books, bills, and receipts.
SERIES I. Frigate Essex
B. Contracts, Specifications, and Supplies
C. Financial Papers
D. Other Papers
SERIES II. Miscellaneous Ships' Papers
Scope and Content Note
The frigate Essex papers consist of ships' papers,
correspondence, account books, bills, and receipts. Although the papers run from 1798 to 1974,
the bulk of the material is related to the construction of the frigate in 1799. The collection
has been divided into two series.
Series I. Frigate Essex Papers
includes correspondence, contracts, memoranda, accounts, account books, bills, and receipts that
document the construction of the vessel, and has been divided into four subseries.
Subseries A. Correspondence provides a detailed look at the
process of construction and naval administration in the early years of the American Navy. Other
than the letters of nationally prominent individuals listed in Appendix I, the correspondence
includes items from Jacob Sheaf (the Navy Agent at Portsmouth, New Hampshire), William Winder
and Thomas Turner (both Accountants of the Navy), and Robert Gill (naval storekeeper,
Philadelphia). Joseph Waters' letter book contains his outgoing correspondence concerning the
Essex and his duties as Naval Agent. There are photocopies of
letters in this subseries; it is unclear where the originals are, or when the photocopies were
Subseries B. Contracts, Specifications, and Supplies contains
contracts and agreements that relate to various phases of the ship's construction, procurement
of various ships' stores, and appointments of attorneys to receive the back wages of some
individual crew members. They do not include the contracts made with Enos Briggs or William
Hackett. The dimensions and specifications are mostly concerned with rigging, but a
comprehensive memorandum of hull specifications signed by Hackett and Briggs is included. The
folder "Indents for Supplies" consists of orders for items needed by the ship's purser, sailing
master, cooper, surgeon, carpenter, boatswain, gunner, and armorer. The ship's stores memoranda
were probably used in the production of the indents mentioned above. This subseries also
includes a manuscript "Table of the Component Parts of Rations for the Navy of the United
States" published in 1799. Included in this series are some photocopies of materials, the
originals of which are not in the collection. Some of the photocopies have a note that the
original copy is owned by "L. W. G."
Subseries C. Financial Papers contains financial and account
information related to the ship, including bills and receipts. Included in this subseries are
abstracts of allotments, which are lists of crew members and their wages along with the names of
individuals, designated to receive portions of each crew members' salary. Miscellaneous accounts
are comprised of statements of items shipped from other naval agents in New York, Boston,
Philadelphia, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. These miscellaneous accounts include a list of
expenditures related to the launching of the Essex.
Subseries D. Other Papers includes an undated list of cabin
furnishings and transcripts. The transcripts were produced by Philip Chadwick Foster Smith in
preparation for the publication of these papers by the Peabody Museum. The introduction to the
transcripts describes the categories in which Smith originally arranged the collection and
provides a detailed subject index that refers to pages in the transcripts. Although there are
transcripts for the vast majority of the items in the collection, this compilation is not
Series II. Miscellaneous Ships' Papers is comprised of
materials relating to the Essex while in the service of the British
government and papers concerning other vessels which may relate to the design or construction of
the Essex. All of the materials relating to the Essex while it was in the service of the British government are
photocopies. The photocopies are from the National Archives of Ireland (formerly the State Paper
Office at Dublin Castle) and were made in 1973 at the request of the Curator of Maritime History
of the Peabody Museum. The papers concerning unidentified British vessels consist of memoranda
with dimensions of masts and spars for a thirty-two and a thirty-six gun frigate.
The frigate Essex was built in 1799 at
Winter Island, Salem, Massachusetts, by Enos Briggs from a design by William Hackett of
Salisbury. Her construction was funded by subscriptions from Salem residents and was managed by
Navy Agent, Joseph Waters. The Essex was launched on September 30,
1799, and in 1800 she became the first American naval vessel to sail beyond the Cape of Good
Hope. In 1802 to 1803 the Essex underwent repairs at the Washington
Navy Yard. From 1804 to 1806 she patrolled the Mediterranean in support of negotiations with the
Barbary Pirates. She was laid up for extensive repairs under the direction of Josiah Fox at the
Washington Navy Yard from 1806 to 1809. After successful campaigns against the British Navy in
1812 and 1813, the Essex was captured by H. M. frigate Phoebe at Valparaiso Bay, Chile, on March 28, 1814. She was dismantled
and utilized eventually as a convict hulk (floating prison) in Dublin Bay.
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.
Briggs, Enos, 1746-1819
Gill, Robert, 1799-1872
Hackett, William, 1739-1808
Meredith, Samuel, 1741-1817
Porter, David, 1780-1843
Preble, Edward, 1761-1807
Revere, Paul, 1735-1818
Sheafe, Jacob, 1745-1829
Sheafe, James, 1755-1829
Smith, Philip Chadwick Foster
Stoddart, Benjamin, 1751-1813
Turner, Thomas, -1816
Waters, Joseph, 1758-1833
Restrictions on Access
This collection is open for research use.
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.
The provenance of this collection is unknown. Some materials, including a letter book, were
donated by H. F. Waters in 1906. The materials relating to the Essex while it was in the service
of the British government are photocopies from the National Archives of Ireland (formerly the
State Paper Office at Dublin Castle), and were made in 1973 at the request of the Curator of
Maritime History of the Peabody Museum.
Collection processed by [unknown], [1980s]. Updated by Hilary Streifer, February 2015.
Cahoon, Joan. "Battleship Essex Built in Salem: Glorious Career Ended Gallantly." Salem Evening News, February 27, 1963.
Decommissioning ceremony, June 30, 1969. Manuscript.
Donovan, Frank. The Odyssey of the Essex. NY: David McKay
Company, Inc., 1969.
Holbrook, Samuel F. Threescore Years: an Autobiography, Containing
Incidents of Voyages and Travels, Including Six Years in a Man-of-War. Details of the War
Between the United States and the Algerine government, Bombardment of Algiers by Lord Exmouth,
and its Subjugation by the French. Also, Two Years in California, a Visit to the Crimea During
the Bombardment and Captive of Sebastopol, Journey through Asia, Syria, Palestine and
Egypt. Boston: J. French and Company, 1857.
Invitation to the dedication of a memorial to the frigate Essex and
the aircraft carrier Essex at Pickering Wharf, June 20, 1979. Brochure.
Porter, David. Journal of a Cruise Made to the Pacific Ocean in the
United States Frigate Essex, in the Years 1812, 1813, and 1814. Containing Descriptions of the
Cape de Verd Islands, Coasts of Brazil, Patagonia, Chili, and Peru, and of the Gallapagos
Islands. Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep, 1815.
Porter, David. Journal of a cruise made to the Pacific Oceanin the United States Frigate Essex, in theYears 1812, 1813, and 1814. New York: Wiley & Halsted,
Porter, David. A Voyage in the South Seas in the Years 1812, 1813, and
1814: With Particular Details of the Gallipagos and Washington Islands. London: Sir R.
Shillibeer, John. A Narrative of the Briton's Voyage, to Pitcairn's
Island. London: Law and Whittaker, 1817.
Smith, Philip Chadwick Foster. The Frigate Essex Papers: Building
the Salem Frigate, 1798-1799: With Draughts by William Avery Baker. Salem, MA: Peabody
Museum of Salem, 1974
Streeter, Gilbert Lewis. Historical Sketch of the Building of the
Frigate Essex at Salem and of Her Subsequent Fate. Salem, 1856.
Subscribers Names for Building the Essex Frigate.
Takakjian, Portia A. The 32-gun Frigate Essex. Cedarburg,
WI: Phoenix Publications, 1990.
Thronton, Samuel. "English boy tells capture of the Essex ," Boston Evening Transcript, May 10, 1930.
Toner, Raymond John. Meeheevee: Being an Account of the
Commerce-Raiding Cruise of the United States Frigate Essex into the South Pacific Seas Under
Command of Captain David Porter, U. S. Navy, Anno 1812-14. Chicago, IL: A. Whitman &
Typed article relating information on the building costs and voyages of the frigate Essex
copied from the Essex Institute Historical Collections and Essex Institute Proceedings. MSS 0.116
"Capture of the Essex, or, The in-glorious victory of the British with the Phoebe,
frigate, and the Cherub, sloop of war over the unfortunate Essex frigate, commanded by Capt.
David Porter." Boston, 1814. Broadside.