Documents associated with: Vanderbilt, SS
Record 1 of 9
System Number: 07637
Date: 13 August 
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler
Recipient: Joseph Harrison
Place: [St Petersburg]
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC 34/37-8
Document Type: ALS
Monday Aug 13th
Last thursday the 9th our prosperous voyage of twelve days terminated by our going into dock at Jersey City about 2 oclock - The picturesque scenery of the Narrows & bay had lost none of its charm tho my heart was oppressed by the dreaded meeting! in a crowd those whom I yet yearned to embrace. But you know all this my dear friends & I will not try your sensibility, or attempt any description of my mingled emotions - suffice it - Maxwell was almost as soon on board as the Custom house officer (who had brought a permit for my luggage passing free) so notwithstanding Capt V of the America urging me to embrace on board till the hour for the Stonington boat starting, we were soon seated in a carriage with our friend Maxwell, driving towards the battery & soon we were welcomed to the elegant Ladies Saloon by mulatto stewardess who had in happier days been at my call, her manner was full of respectful sympathy she left us on one of the luxurious sofas of crimson velvet to talk of St Petersburg, for Maxwell tho overwhelmed with business at the Custom house - said he had made the arrangement to devote the afternoon to us, & he did not leave the Vanderbilt till her last warning bell. George, I find now had not received my letter in time to be on the look out for me for he reached N York after I had come to Stonington & is to return by this evenings boat, taking Jemie with him for the week to introduce him [to] Mary - George is looking thinner than I ever saw him [p. 2] him, but is not feeling ill now, tho he was previous to his leaving Baltimore - he spoke of his intention of writing you dear Mr Harrison today, as he has regretted having been prevented answering your very friendly letter, by illness, & by business, the packing up & removal to a new post of duty having been as much as he could possibly accomplish then.
If he does not write you here, I think he will from Binghampton N Y, his head quarters for the summer. You will rejoice that I find George a comforter & adviser, his views I gratefully perceive are such as you are familiar with at our fire side. Yes God be thanked! that I have yet a George Whistler to aid me in strengthening & elevating the principles of my boys. I am too hurried to write half I feel this eldest brother merits - but as you were never deceived in his father, so you may find in him much to win your esteem & confidence for his own sake, as for attachment to the dear departed. Capt Swift has settled in Philadelphia. I expect now his welcome by letter - as I have already received his brothers from Geneva N Y - and when the precious remains arrive I shall not fail to bring you to the spot thro the medium of my pen when friends & relatives assemble here, for I do believe the circle I have left take a deep interest in all that interests us. Mr Ropes has written Doctor Palmer that the Medora is expected about the 20th. And the [p. 3] Atilla later in this month. My own George proposes taking me to N Haven next week to look for a house. I am to write Mr Ingersoll to that effect that he may advise us how to proceed to save time, as George cannot be long away from the Erie road & I of course would not leave my mother even for a day if I could help it. George tells me Mr Winans is to go to England by return of the steamer I came in. I wish to see him if he can come for a day to Stonington. Probably you have heard how magnificent the Vanderbilt is. But I was astonished at the luxurious style in which it is furnished. Why do not some of our enterprising countrymen build such steamers to run down the mails between St P & Gronstadt? No wonder Mrs Clay (as Maxwell told me) upon her first arrival thought the brilliantly lighted saloon of this boat on the Sound a scene of enchantment. George tells me a friend of his dear fathers, a Major Brown it is thought will accept the proposal to go to St P & finish the rail road, he is as good selection as could have been made. When it is decided I shall communicate with him if possible. he will take his family who I hope may prove acquisitions to the American circle. At more leisure I will write Mrs Gillibrand & Mrs Ropes, I think of all with affection, tell dear Mrs Harrison I dreamt of her on my voyage, I was glad to see Mrs Leland & your children. she promised to report us or I should not have left England without a farewell line to you. Remember me to Mrs E & to Miss S. I trust this may find you all well. It will be a gratification to me that you let me hear from you as often as you can. Believe me gratefully & sincerely
Anna M Whistler
My boys are quite well & talk of the St P circle daily[,] the weather is gloriously bright cholera not mentioned in this healthy village & decreasing in the city of N York. Maxwell is well & asks after you all so kindly - & of Col. Bouttatz, Genls Melnikof, Krafft  &c - My brother is at present building a road in [Virginia?] but his family not in N Y city.
1. 13 August 
Dated with reference to the Whistler's arrival in the USA (see below).
5. the 9th
The Whistlers' arrival in New York was reported in the New York Daily Tribune, 9 August 1849, vol. 9, no. 104.
7. Capt V
Captain Vidals, master mariner.
Steamer America (1848), Cunard Line (1,826 tons.). See N. R. P. Bonsor, North Atlantic Seaway, An Illustrated History of the Passenger Services Linking the Old World with the New, Lancashire, 1955.
Steamer Cornelius Vanderbilt (1847-1896), Stonington Line (1,041 tons). On 7 June 1847 the ship made its first trip to Stonington, making the trip in 6 hours 32 minutes, a fast passage. See Erik Heyl, Early American Steamers, New York, 1969, vol. 6, p. 74, and R. G. Albion, The Rise of New York Port, New York, 1939, pp. 152-60.
11. new post of duty
Binghampton, New York.
Probably the vessel Atilla (1842), built in Little Point, NY; see Forrest R. Holdcamper, ed., List of American Flag Merchant Vessels that Received Certificates of Enrollment or Registry at the Port of New York, 1789-1867, National Archives, Washington, DC, 1968, vol. 1, p. 64.
24. steamer I came in
26. Major Brown
Major Thompson S. Brown (1807-1855), civil engineer [more]. In October 1849, in Washington he signed a contract with the Russian government, whereby he agreed to leave the US in December, arriving in St Petersburg in January 1850 and to stay for at least five years, at an annual salary of $12,000 to be paid from the date of the signature of the contract. See R. M. Haywood, Russia Enters the Railway Age, 1842-1855, New York, 1999, p. 369.
28. Mrs Ropes
Ellen Harriet Ropes, née Hall, wife of William H. Ropes.
30. Mrs Leland
Mrs Leland, Joseph Harrison's sister.
31. your children
William Henry Harrison (b. 1837), Annie Harrison (1839-1915), Alicia McNeill Harrison (b. 1845), and Marie Olga Harrison (b. 1847), Joseph Harrison's children.
33. Miss S
Miss Schofield, friend of AMW.
'your ... daily' continues in the left margin of p. 1; 'the ... village' continues in the right margin; 'decreasing ... kindly' continues in left margin of p. 2; 'and ... and c' continues in the right margin; 'My ... city' continues in the right margin of p. 3.
1849 was one of the worst years in the history of the USA for the widespread occurrence of cholera. The total number of deaths in the City and Island of New York, in July 1847, was 1,576; in July 1848, 1,497; and in the four weeks ending July 28, 1849, 4,454, or at the rate of 150 per day. See Greeley & McElrath, New York Daily Tribune, 1 August 1849, vol. 9, no. 97.