The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Briggs, Benjamin S. (Benjamin Spooner), 1835-1872
Benjamin Spooner Briggs (1835-1872)
0.5 linear feet (1 box)
The Benjamin Spooner Briggs
papers contains family papers, some business related papers belonging to Briggs, and
materials relating to the Mary Celeste after the Briggs' disappearance.
SERIES I. Family Papers SERIES II. Captain Benjamin S. Briggs' Papers SERIES III. Material Related to the Mary Celeste
Scope and Content Note
The Benjamin Spooner Briggs papers contains family papers, some business related
papers belonging to Briggs, and materials relating to the Mary
Celeste after the Briggs' disappearance. This collection has been divided
into three series.
Series I. Family Papers contains materials related to
the Briggs family. This includes a collection of letters, primarily written by Sarah
Elizabeth Cobb Briggs to members of the Briggs and Cobb families. She wrote most
frequently to her mother-in-law, Mrs. Sophia Briggs, and to her brother, William
Cobb. Most of Sarah's letters were written aboard the ship, giving the impression
that she frequently accompanied her husband to sea. There is also correspondence
from Briggs himself to his son, mother, and brother-in-law. The content of these
letters is largely of personal news and family matters. This series also contains a
photograph of Briggs, his father Captain Nathan Briggs, and his son Arthur S.
Briggs. There is also a tintype of Briggs' daughter Sophia Matilda Briggs. Also
within the miscellaneous family papers is a wedding card from Benjamin and Sarah's
wedding, a receipt from the sale of their estate, and receipts from Arthur S.
Series II. Captain Benjamin S. Briggs' Papers
contains a certificate form the American Ship Masters' Association, granted to
Benjamin S. Briggs in 1862 for passing an examination. This series also contains an
account book from the bark Arthur and the bark Prima Donna. The account book contains ships' expenses,
including crew costs.
Series III. Material Related to the Mary Celeste contains the letter of Edward Thornton to
Hamilton Fish, with attachments, dated March 11, 1873 which includes the testimony
of the diver and marine surveyor who examined the Mary
Celeste in Gibraltar. Also included in this series is a typescript of the
evidence and testimony heard in the Vice Admiralty Court of Gibraltar from 1872
until 1873, regarding the circumstances surrounding the abandonment and subsequent
finding of the Mary Celeste.
Benjamin Spooner Briggs was born on April 24, 1835, in
Wareham, Massachusetts, to Captain Nathan and Sophia (Cobb) Briggs. He was the third
child and second of five sons to be born to the Briggs. He began a seafaring career
as a young boy, first serving aboard vessels commanded by his father Nathan Briggs.
Briggs eventually became a ship captain.
On September 9, 1862 Briggs married Sarah Elizabeth Cobb, the daughter of
Reverend Leander Cobb, pastor of the Congregational Church of Marion. They had two
children, Arthur S. and Sophia Matilda.
Briggs' last command was on the 206-ton brigantine Mary
Celeste, which left New York on November 7, 1872 bound for Gibraltar
carrying a cargo of sixteen hundred barrels of alcohol. The Mary Celeste was discovered abandoned on December 4, 1872 by the
brigantine Dei Gratia approximately 600 miles
west-northwest of Gibraltar. The circumstances of the abandonment and the ultimate
end of the officers and crew, including Briggs, his wife, and their infant daughter,
Sophia, has remained a mystery. The last entry of the ship's log was dated November
25, 1872. There have been numerous theories concerning the abandonment, some
plausible, others far-reaching, but all without documentary evidence.
Briggs' son, Arthur S., survived the Mary Celeste
incident, as he was at home on Cape Cod attending school.
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 family--Photograph collections
Briggs, Arthur S.
Briggs, Sarah E. Cobb, d. 1872
Dei Gratia (Brig)
Mary Celeste (Brig)
Prima Donna (Bark)
Abandonment (Maritime law)
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
The Benjamin Spooner Briggs papers contains family papers, some business related papers belonging to Briggs, and materials relating to the Mary Celeste after the Briggs' disappearance.
Arthur (Bark); Dei Gratia (Brig); Mary Celeste (Brig); Prima Donna (Bark); Briggs, Arthur S.; Briggs, Sarah E. Cobb, d. 1872; Abandonment (Maritime law); Account books; Ship's papers; Ship captains; Shipwrecks
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.