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Ranlett Family Papers

Ranlett Family Papers

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RANLETT FAMILY PAPERS, 1791-1877, 1887, 1909-1918, 1933-1948

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:Ranlett, Charles Augustus, 1804-1878
Title:Ranlett Family Papers
Dates:1791/1877, 1887, 1909/1918, 1933/1948
Quantity:7 linear feet (7 boxes, 4 flat files)
Abstract:The Ranlett Family Papers document the activities of this Charlestown, Massachusetts, family.
Collection Number:MH 194

Series List

SERIES I. Charles A. Ranlett (1804-1878)
SERIES II. Charles A. Ranlett (1836-1874)
SERIES III. Seth Alonzo Ranlett (1840-1905)
SERIES IV. Other Family Members

Scope and Content Note

The Ranlett Family Papers document the activities of this Charlestown, Massachusetts, family. It has been organized into four series. Each series has been arranged chronologically.

Series I. Charles A. Ranlett (1804-1878) contains ships' papers, correspondence, and accounts of this master mariner. These papers provide details about the many ships on which he sailed. The abstract logs in Box 2, folder 2 were actually created by Charles A. Ranlett, Jr. when his father was captain of the Surprise. Folder 10 in box 1 contains a label for wine that Ranlett made on his Billerica farm as well as two items relating to spiritualism.

Series II. Charles A. Ranlett (1836-1874) includes abstracts of logs of the ship Surprise, correspondence and legal papers relating to Ranlett property in Shanghai, seamen's accounts, and some ephemera.

Series III. Seth Alonzo Ranlett (1840-1905) consists mainly of correspondence to Alonzo from various family members as well as some notes about chess and a math equation.

Series IV. Other Family Members contains material attributed to David Dodge, and Col. Charles A. Ranlett (1864-1961). The newspapers in Box 5, folder 3 include the New Hampshire Gazetteer, Mercantile Evening Journal (Boston), New York Daily Tribune, The Japan Express (Yokohama), The Boston Herald, Concord Daily Monitor (Concord, New Hampshire), The Legislative Reporter (Concord, New Hampshire), Manchester Daily Union (Manchester, New Hampshire), and Boston Evening Transcript. The newspapers in the flat file include the Boston Courier, The Home Journal, Supplement to the Daily Advertiser, Supplement to the Boston Journal, and The Salem Gazette. It is unknown who these newspapers belonged to. Of interest is a 1909 poster advertising an auction of Capt. Charles Ranlett's (1804-1878) household goods.

Biographical Sketches

Charles Augustus Ranlett was born on August 9, 1804, in Augusta, Maine, the son of Charles (1773-1841) and Abigail Low (1763-1831) Ranlett. At age 16, he became a mariner and served on the Eight Sons (Brig), William (Brig), Falconer (Brig), and Florida (Ship). His first command was of the brig Kanhawa in 1827. He went on to command the Samarang (Ship), Louvre (Ship), Marblehead (Bark), Commissary (Brig), Queen Victoria (Packet Ship), Surprise (Clipper Ship), and Golden State (Clipper Ship). In 1862 he retired from the sea and bought a property in Billerica, Massachusetts. He served as Justice of the Peace in 1869 and 1876.

In 1830 he married Esther Minerva Dodge (1809-1892). They had five children: Charles Augustus (1836-1874), David Dodge (1838-1901), Seth Alonzo (1840-1905), Horace Dodge (1842-1911) and Esther Minnie (1850-1919). Ranlett died of heart disease on April 17, 1878 in Billerica, where he was listed as "farmer".

Charles Augustus Ranlett, Jr. was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, on September 21, 1836, the son of Charles A. and Esther M. Ranlett. He was educated in the public schools. In 1851, his father traveled to England to take command of the clipper ship Surprise. It was arranged for Charles to sail as "boy" on the ship Samuel Russell under Captain Limeburner. In China he joined his father and was made third mate of the Surprise. In May of 1860, he took command of the Surprise, in the employ of A. A. Low & Brothers of New York. He commanded her for 13 years and the ship became world-renowned for her speed. His last voyage was in August 1873. He married Isabella Faulkner (died 1878) in Billerica, Massachusetts on Aug. 4, 1870. He was a member of the New York Marine Society and the Clinton Commandery of the Knights Templar in New York. He died in Brooklyn, New York, on February 6, 1874 at the age of 37.

Seth Alonzo Ranlett was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, on March 18, 1840, the son of Charles A. and Esther M. Ranlett. He enlisted in the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia on July 24, 1862, rose through the ranks, and mustered out on February 20, 1864 due to physical disability from disease incurred in the service. He worked as a fire insurance agent and city treasurer. He married Ellen Belle Pierce (1842-1914) in 1864. They had three children: Katherine Minerva (1865-1946); Foster Pierce (1867-between 1930 and 1940); and Charles Augustus (1874-1961). He died of pneumonia in Newton, Massachusetts, on May 21, 1905.

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.

Dodge, Ascenath
Dodge, David
George V, King of Great Britain, 1865-1936
Ranlett, Charles Augustus, 1804-1878
Ranlett, Charles Augustus, 1836-1874
Ranlett, Charles Augustus, Colonel
Ranlett, David Dodge, 1838-1901
Ranlett, Esther Minerva Dodge, 1809-1892
Ranlett, Horace Dodge, 1842-1811
Ranlett, Seth Alonzo, 1840-1905
Ranlett, William H.
Whitehill, Walter Muir, 1905-1978
American Shipmasters' Association
Boston Marine Society
Caroline (Schooner)
Commissary (Brig)
Forest King (Ship)
Golden State (Ship)
Hollander (Brig)
Kanhawa (Brig)
Louvre (Ship)
Marblehead (Bark)
New York Marine Society
Queen Victoria (Ship)
Samarang (Ship)
Surprise (Ship)
Susan Drew (Ship)
Account books
Justices of the peace
Shipping--California--San Francisco
Shipping--New York (State)
Billerica (Mass.)
Salem (Mass.)
Shanghai (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

Ranlett Family Papers, MH 194, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This bulk of this material was donated by Mrs. C. G. Hutcheson on February 29, 1960 (acc #15, 011). Five account books (box 1, folders 1 and 10, box 6, folders 1 and 5, and box 7, volume 1) were deposited by The Bostonian Society on February 21, 1961 (acc #15,382). Five printed items were removed from the collection and can be found in PHILCAT, our online catalog.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Tamara Gaydos, December 2016.

Related Material

A Committee of the Regiment. History of the Thirty-sixth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers. Boston: Rockwell and Churchill, 1884. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society Register… For the Year 1876. v. XXX: 1876. Boston: Society, 1876.

For logbooks of the ships the Ranletts captained, please visit PHILCAT, our online catalog.

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