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Fernald and Petigrew Shipyard Records

Fernald and Petigrew Shipyard Records

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Processing and conservation of this collection was funded in part by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 161 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-948-6012
Creator:Fernald & Petigrew (Portsmouth, N.H.)
Title:Fernald and Petigrew Shipyard Records
Quantity:8 linear feet (13 boxes)
Abstract:The Fernald and Petigrew Shipyard papers are a record of the daily business transactions in one of Portsmouth, New Hampshire's most active shipyards, notable for their comprehensive documentation and their volume.
Collection Number:MH 3

Series List

SERIES I. Ships' PapersSERIES II. Business PapersSERIES III. Miscellaneous Papers

Scope and Content Note

The Fernald and Petigrew Shipyard papers are a record of the daily business transactions in one of Portsmouth, New Hampshire's most active shipyards, notable for their comprehensive documentation and their volume. The collection describes the tasks and expenses associated with shipbuilding in mid-nineteenth century New England. The papers have been divided into three series.

Series I. Ships' Papers is divided into two subseries. Subseries A. Shipbuilding Papers include correspondence, bills, and some drawings pertaining to the construction of several of the larger Fernald and Petigrew ships. In addition, these papers document the remarkable Fernald and Petigrew clipper ships. Material associated with the clipper Typhoon includes a letter from the ship's supercargo in Liverpool complaining of leaks and an inept crew. The papers of the clipper Red Rover contain drawings of the layout of the vessel. See Appendix I for a list of vessels built or refitted by Fernald and Petigrew Shipyard.

Subseries B. Shipping Papers is comprised of accounts for the transfer of timber and other construction materials from various ports to the shipyard, and correspondence with agents associated with shipments of a single specified ship. Many of the ships represented in the shipping papers were built by Fernald and Petigrew, and so comments on the quality of the vessel are occasionally found in the correspondence in this section. See Appendix II for a list of ships owned or chartered by Fernald and Petigrew Shipyard.

Series II. Business Papers includes correspondence, contracts, insurance papers, and various forms of accounts and receipts. Due to the bulk of this material, the papers have been divided into seven subseries. Subseries A. Correspondence and Memoranda include the Samuel Hale papers, which concern the initial leasing of the shipyard buildings by Fernald and Petigrew. Subseries B. Account Books include 54 volumes documenting copper and hardware, timber, and labor. Subseries C. Accounts include documents for ironworks and hardware, shipbuilding, and timber. Subseries D. Bank Records include notes payable, bills of exchange, bank books, and check books. Subseries E. Bills include bills for items such as hardware, timber, labor carving work and decorations, board and provisions, general freighting, orders and miscellaneous expenses. Subseries F. Receipt Books include twelve volumes documenting receipts between 1844 and 1855. Subseries G. Receipts include receipts from 1844 to 1855.

Series III. Miscellaneous Papers include a map drawn of Portsmouth Harbor; a Fernald and Petigrew business card; handbill advertisements; a typed copy of a short history of the company; and a list of the vessels built in Portsmouth (from MSS 0.127). Also included in this series is a photostat of a rigger's account book because it records not only Fernald and Petigrew vessels, but other shipbuilders' as well.

Historical Sketch

With the demand for fast ships to China, the discovery of gold in California and Australia, and booming trade activities, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was revitalized as a shipbuilding town in the 1840s, after a decade of minimal production in the 1830s. The annual tonnage of vessels built rose from 1,000 to almost 10,000 between 1843 and 1853. Frederick W. Fernald and William Petigrew formed the Fernald and Petigrew Shipyard in 1844. Fernald was a former shipbuilder and Petigrew had been a master workman in another Portsmouth shipyard, Raynes Shipyard. Soon, Fernald and Petigrew Shipyard established themselves alongside two other firms, George Raynes and Tobey and Littlefield as one of the three most aggressive and innovative shipbuilding firms in Portsmouth. The ships built by these companies were respected for their swiftness.

Fernald and Petigrew purchased Badger's Island shipyard in the early 1840s. Of the many ships built at the yard, the clipper ships are particularly noteworthy. These ships averaged 1,177 tons, and each ship cost over $50,000. Refusing to halt production during the winter months, Fernald and Petigrew Shipyard was able to construct seven clipper ships in five years, employing between 50 and 100 men. The design for their first clipper, Typhoon, has been attributed to Samuel Pook of Boston. The Typhoon's maiden voyage to Liverpool is of some importance, as she was the first American clipper, and one of the largest merchant ships to come to that port. In the mid-to-late 1850s the Typhoon was engaged in both trans-Atlantic trade and British trade with India and China. Red Rover, which launched in 1852, held the record for the fastest average time in westward passages around Cape Horn. Dashing Wave, a lumber drogher, was noted for her swift runs between San Francisco and Tacoma, as well as her travels around Cape Horn. Express, Midnight, and Noonday were all medium-sized clippers built between 1854 and 1855. These clippers were used for eastbound and westbound Cape Horn passages.

After Frederick Fernald died in 1855, William Petigrew went into partnership with Captain Daniel Marcy.

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.

Fernald, Frederick W. (Frederick Waterman), 1810-1855
Hale, Samuel, of Portsmouth, N.H.
Petigrew, William, d. 1863
Ann (Ship)
Arabella (Ship)
Athens (Ship)
Burlington (Schooner)
Catherine (Schooner)
Colorado (Battleship)
Columbus (Ship)
Congress (Frigate)
Corsica (Ship)
Danube (Ship)
Dashing Wave (Ship)
Eliza (Schooner)
Emblem (Brig)
Empire (Ship)
Empire State (Ship)
Express (Ship)
Fashion (Schooner)
Fortitude (Ship)
Frank Peirce (Ship)
Germania (Ship)
Golden Rocket (Ship)
Governor Langdon (Ship)
Granite State (Schooner)
Hope Goodwin (Ship)
Isaac H. Boardman (Ship)
John Haven (Ship)
Judah Toure (Ship)
Levi Woodbury (Ship)
Marmora (Ship)
Martha (Bark)
Midnight (Ship)
Millandon (Ship)
Mystery (Ship)
Nonsuch (Ship)
Noonday (Ship)
Peter Marcy (Ship)
Piscataqua (Ship)
R. D. Shepard (Ship)
Red Rover (Ship)
Samoset (Ship)
Talleyrand (Brig)
Typhoon (Ship)
Water Witch (Ship)
Western World (Ship)
Whatcheer (Bark)
Whistler (Ship)
William Penn (Schooner)
Account books
Clipper ships
Shipbuilding--Portsmouth (N.H.)
Shipyards--Portsmouth (N.H.)
Portsmouth (N.H.)


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

Fernald and Petigrew Shipyard Records, MH 3, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material was purchased from Gertrude M. Pickett in 1940. A photostat of an unknown rigger's notebook was a 1955 gift of Mrs. Clarkson A. Cranmer (accession #13,588). Formerly cataloged as MH 0.404, it has been integrated into this collection. Photocopied pages from the rigger's notebook concerning specific vessels, were integrated into the series Shipbuilding Papers before the photstat was added to the collection. A typed copy of papers listing vessels built in Portsmouth by shipbuilders, formerly cataloged as MSS 0.127, has been integrated into this collection. A letter dated July 12, 1858 (box 1, folder 7), was donated by William Pickett McClary in 2008 (accession #2008.027).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Cynthia Hecht and Gregor Trinkaus-Randall, August 1983. Updated by Robert Bottomley and Robert P. Spindler, April 1988 and Hilary Streifer, December 2014.

Related Material

Brighton, Ray. Clippers of the Port of Portsmouth and the Men Who Built Them. Portsmouth, NH: The Portsmouth Marine Society, 1985.

Clark, Arthur H. The Clipper Ship Era: An Epitome of Famous American and British Clipper Ships, Their Owners, Builders, Commanders, and Crews, 1843-1869. NY: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1910.

Fairburn, William Armstrong and Ethel M. Ritchie. Merchant sail. Center Lovell, Maine: Fairburn Marine Educational Foundation, 1945.

Pickett, Gertrude M. Portsmouth's Heyday in Shipbuilding. Joseph G. Sawtell, 1979.

Frederick W. Fernald Diary, two volumes, 1837-1839. Acc. 13, 291

Appendix I

Appendix II

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