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John Henry Eagleston (1803-1884) Papers

John Henry Eagleston (1803-1884) Papers

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JOHN HENRY EAGLESTON (1803-1884) PAPERS, 1837-1926, 1993

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:Eagleston, John H., 1803-1884
Title:John Henry Eagleston (1803-1884) Papers
Dates:1837/1926, 1993
Quantity:2 linear feet (4 boxes, 1 flat file)
Abstract:The John Henry Eagleston papers contain materials related to Eagleson's life and time at sea.
Collection Number:MH 87

Series List

SERIES I. John Henry Eagleston Papers
SERIES II. Ups and Downs of Captain John Eagleston

Scope and Content Note

The John Henry Eagleston papers contain materials related to Eagleson's life and time at sea. The majority of the collection is made up of transcripts of his autobiography, Ups and Downs of Captain John Eagleston. This collection has been divided into two series.

Series I. John Henry Eagleston Papers includes ships' papers from the brig Mermaid, which he commanded and a letter that Eagleston wrote to the editor of the Salem Register about the Fiji Islands. Included is the original letter written by Eagleston, the newspaper article, and a photocopy of the article. Other ships' papers, from the bark Edward Koppisch and the brig Mermaid, were removed from their log books and placed with this collection.The majority of papers removed from the log of the Mermaid, are news clippings about weather conditions, tide, local news, and trade prices.This series also includes a transcript of Eagleston's article "Account of An Early California Passage" and transcribed correspondence and ships' papers. There is a folder of transcripts of ship logs.

Series II. Ups and Downs of Captain John Eagleston contains manuscripts and transcripts of the autobiography and correspondence to and from one of Eagleson's sons, James V. Eagleston, to the Essex Institute about the possibility of publishing his father's autobiography. In a letter dated September 27, 1924, it is suggested to Eagleston's son that he have a type-written copy made of his father's autobiography that is found within the ships' logs. This series also contains multiple copies of transcriptions of the autobiography, in loose and bound form, which appear to have been produced by different individuals. The different versions have not been intermingled. The only version whose producer can be identified is the version created by the Lahaina Restoration Foundation in Maui, Hawaii. This version contains the first four chapters, which have been indexed, and are contained within black covers; these transcriptions have been renamed The Journals of Captain John H. Eagleston. For a detailed explanation as to how information about Eagleston and his journals ended up in Hawaii, and why a copy of these transcripts were provided to the Library, see the introduction of the first chapter (box 3, folder 1). It is possible that the first version listed in the finding aid was compiled by Eagleson's son, James V., as it was with his correspondence with the Essex Institute. This autobiography is an excellent resource for descriptions of foreign ports and customs, as seen through an American sailor's eyes.

Biographical Sketch

John Henry Eagleston was born on September 23, 1803 in Baltimore, Maryland, to Henry and Hester Eagleston. At eight and a half years old he was apprenticed to Captain Tristram Luce, from Martha's Vineyard, and at the age of sixteen he set out on his own, working his way up from cabin boy and cook to captain. He became a member of the Essex Institute Marine Society in 1820. He was a ship master in Salem, Massachusetts, who commanded ships to the Fiji Islands from 1830 to 1840, including the ship Emerald in 1833. Eagleston commanded the brig Mary and Ellen, which was the first vessel to sail from Massachusetts to California after the discovery of gold in 1828. He also commanded the bark Edward Koppisch in 1854 (The Marine Room, 106-107). By 1880 he had retired from the sea.

At the back of several log books kept by Eagleston during his time at sea, he wrote his autobiography, covering his life from birth until 1861, entitled Ups and Downs of Captain John Eagleston.

Eagleston was married to Elizabeth Anne Green on October 22, 1833 in Baltimore; she died in childbirth in 1842. Eagleston and Elizabeth do not appear to have had any children who survived. He then married Mary C. Norton of Tisbury, Massachusetts, in 1843; Mary died in 1852. Eagleston and Mary appear to have had at least four children together: Mary E., Ellen V., John H., and Alfred N. Eagleston then married Mary's sister, Hannah, who he was married to at the time of his death on September 24, 1884. They had three children together: Allen P., Edward L., and James V.

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.

Eagleston, John H., 1803-1884
Derby (Barque)
Edward Koppisch (Barque)
Mermaid (Brig)


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

John Henry Eagleston (1803-1884) Papers, MH 87, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material was found in the collection. Bound transcripts from the journals of Eagleston, chapters one through four are from the Lahaina Restoration Foundation in Maui, Hawaii, given to the library in June 1993 (accession #93017). These transcripts have black covers and indexes for each chapter.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Hilary Streifer, April 2015.

Related Material U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.

The Marine Room of the Peabody Museum of Salem. Salem, MA: Peabody Museum, 1921.

John H. Eagleston Autobiography, 1831-1833. Log 774.

John H. Eagleston Autobiography, 1836-1839. Log 1124.

John H. Eagleston Autobiography, 1857. Log 1028.

John H. Eagleston Autobiography, 1857-1858. Log 1029.

John H. Eagleston Autobiography, 1860-1861. Log 773.

Mermaid (Brig) logbook, 1836-1839. Log 390.

Waters Family Papers 1637-1931. MSS 92.

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