1850s - 1940s SUPER ARCHIVE OF DOCUMENTS AND LETTERS BY AND ABOUT WILLIAM MACGILL, CAPTAIN OF ONE OF THE FASTEST CLIPPER SHIPS IN THE WORLD: THE "SWEEPSTAKES"
On offer is an archive of exemplary archive of letters, telegrams, and ephemera by and related to Captain William Augustine Macgill. This archive contains two letters from the early 1860s and the rest of the documents are from the late 1940s, having been put together by R. R. Macgill, obviously a descendent of Captain Macgill. These later documents are testaments to the historical significance of William Macgill, captain of the clipper ship "Sweepstakes." This ship was one of the fastest sailing ships in the world at the time and made the fastest voyage from New York to San Francisco in the entire year of 1856. The letters from the 1940s are responses from various historical societies and museums that Mr. Robert R. Macgill has contacted about his (great?) grandfather. A letter from the Smithsonian United States National Museums states, "My dear Mr. Macgill...Mr. Taylor was pleased to have this information to add to his data card on Captain Macgill. In regard to the record of the 'Sweepstakes', Mr. Taylor cites 'The Clipper Ship Era', by Arthur H. Clark...as authority for the statement that the 'Sweepstakes' made the fastest run of the year from New York to San Francisco in 94 days in 1856." Interestingly enough, another letter from the New York Historical Society, received just three days later by Robert Macgill seems to contradict this. "The SWEEPSTAKES is not included among clipper ships which made record passages to or from California." However, the book they use for this information is different (Carl C. Cutler's "Greyhounds of the Sea." In this book they state that Captain Macgill made a voyage of 106 days from New York to San Francisco in 1859, but does not talk about 1856. This journey is 1859 is the subject of a statement received from The Mariner's Museum in Newport News, Virginia. "Under command of Captain Macgill she left New York, Jan. 23, 1859, and arrived at San Francisco, May 8th, in 105 days. Had a succession of heavy gales the first 12 days until she sighted Fayal. Crossed the line, 23 days out; was 57 days to the Horn and crossed the equator on the 86th day. On May 1st, 12 days later and 98 days out, was in 30 degrees North, 137 degrees West, after which had light and baffling winds from the north." The letter than describes the rest of the "Sweepstakes" journey. First to Hong Kong then to Manila. It leaves Manila on March 6, 1860 and arrives in New York 98 days later. Then to Anjer, Java Head, Algoa Bay, and Melbourne. It tours Australia and the East Indies for much of the next two years, until it runs ashore in the Straits of Sunda. The estimated cost of repairs being too high, Captain Macgill decides to sell the ship for 15,000 florins in Batavia. There are two handwritten letters from the early 1860s included as well. One is by a "L. Maguire" to Capt. Macgill. It is dated "New York Sept. 24 1862". It begins, "The Neptune has met with a sad mishap -" and details the strong winds and dangerous conditions that a fellow friend's ship has encountered on his clipper ship. It ends by telling Macgill that "Spinola's Brigade" (a unit of the Union Army during the American Civil War) has been stationed in East New York, "where they will (?) all the week, and all the help I have is our Boy Williams." The other letter is four pages long and was written by Captain Macgill to his brother Richard. It is dated "Melbourne Sept 11th 1863." "We had a great deal of very heavy weather gale after gale across the Southern Ocean and the seas are frightfully high, I never saw anything to equal it in all my going to sea, but my little Brig proved herself a splendid sea boat and (?) the gales like a bird." This new ship Macgill captains remains unnamed but he states that she can go "300 miles per day". "We are now loading for New Zealand and will sail in a week or two, my vessel is just suitable for that trade carries a large cargo." He also speaks of what he has heard of the civil war back in America. "(?) seems to have shook the whole yankee nation in marching (?) I am sorry they have Vicksburg, I much fear now they will have Charleston, they are having a (?) train in N. York just now I hope it will not reach Brooklyn and disrupt my family, if they go on in this way I shall become naturalized before I leave her if I find they will make me join the army when I come home against my will." In the rest of the letter, Macgill describes what he does in his spare time in Melbourne. It seems also that Macgill forgot to send the letter on the 11th, because there is another part of the letter dated "Sept 23" which begins "I have been so long writing this letter that I forgot what I have written down." He writes that the mail in Melbourne goes out rather infrequently and that he missed the last mail leaving 4 days before his arrival. He finishes the letter with his well wishes and asks his brother to send his kind regards to his family and wife. Finally, included in the archive is a photograph of Capt. Macgill. The back of the photograph reads, "Capt. Wm. A. Macgill. Born Nov 12, 1822. Died Jan 14, 1867. This picture taken in Melbourne, Australia." The photograph was printed in the "Julius Gulman & Co. Photograph Studio" in Baltimore, Maryland. Two "Public School Reward of Merit" certificates are included as well. One is from the sixth grade and one from the seventh. These certificates belonged to Capt. Macgill's son, whom he named William Macgill as well. These are beautiful and interesting in their own right. 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