V17 N4 The Reasons for the Maritime Fur Trade

Page 1

Precious cargo brought European and American mariners to the shores of the eastern Pacific two hundred years ago. While the ostensible purpose for the British, Spanish, and French naval expeditions sent to explore the unknown reaches of the Northwest Coast was expansion of geographical knowledge, even they in a way were after precious cargo. The mythical Northwest Passage, long associated with the Great River of the West, was in fact the longed-for shortcut to the riches of the Orient. Whoever found and controlled such a passage would be wealthy indeed.

The Reasons for the Maritime Fur Trade

A review and newsletter from the Columbia River Maritime Museum at 1792 Marine Drive in Astoria, Oregon

Our second theme relates to the underlying reasons for the rapid expansion of American presence in the maritime fur trade. It is common knowledge that what brought Robert Gray to the Northwest Coast was the pursuit of trade rather than a voyage of discovery. But when viewed from the broader context of American history during the period, it becomes compellingly clear why Captain Gray set out halfway around the world to seek the sea otter. Precious cargo was a national priority; and necessity, in this case, became the mother of discovery.


Vol.17 No. 4 Summer 1991

Plate 43, from Vol. IV, Plates, of Cook's Third Voyage, 1784. Engraving by Mazell from a drawing by John Webber. 1976.60.d

In our continuing examination of the issues connected with the Northwest regional maritime bicentennial, this volume of the Quarterdeck surveys two quite intimately interconnected themes, from which our readers may gain a better understanding of the voyages to the Northwest Coast during the latter part of the 18th century. The first of these, as recounted by maritime historian Hewitt Jackson, graphically demonstrates just how small the vessels of the period were by modern standards. Their slight capacity made it necessary that cargoes carried in them be precious.

seum members) went to work for the membership by sponsoring Senate Bill 953 This bill established legislative recognition of the Columbia River Maritime Museum's three decades of preservation of Oregon's maritime heritage


Volume 17 No. 4

So how has the summer been going? With another steady and solid season of increased visitation, we are busy With major upgrades to our physical facilities and more ambitious projects in the works, the Museum is moving along nicely. Receiving extraordinary recognition for the quality of the institution from our elected officials should make us all proud What has the greatest value to me, however, is the fact that all of this is made possible through the joint efforts of our Trustees, the Auxiliary, supporting members and staff of the Museum, all of us pulling on the oars together.

The Museum was also in Salem this summer as State Senator Joan Dukes and Representative Jackie Taylor (both Mu-

Why the increase here when area tourism is feeling the pinch? Perhaps people are just plain impressed with the finest maritime museum on the West Coast! You can also bet that the extra effort contributed by each and every member of our staff makes a difference. The expansion of our parking lot has also enhanced not just our parking capacity but also our drawing power.

Annual Membership Meeting October 26th

museum standards. Not only are the wooden boats, artifacts and other sensitive materials in our care safely stabilized and protected, but we no longer hear visitors complaining about heat buildup in our galleries. During the July hot spell, the Museum was cool and comfortable. I know that many of you gave of your time, energy and pocketbooks to make this improvement in our air quality possible . We owe you a debt of thanks

Members of the Columbia River Maritime Museum are cordially invited to attend the annual membership meeting and fall gala, scheduled for October 26, 1991. As provided for in the Museum bylaws, the annual meeting is an opportunity for all members to catch up on the important business of operating our Museum, and to meet and talk with staff and trustees about the latest in plans and projects for the institution. We also like to think of it as a grand excuse for a good party with a very special guest list: you, the members of the Columbia River Maritime Museum. A personal invitation will be mailed to all Museum members, but mark your calendars now so that you will be sure to join us.

. • •


Editor, Hobe Kytr. Editorial Staff: Jerry Ostermiller, Anne Witty, Barbara Minard, Rachel Wynne, Amy Ross. Hewitt Jackson, special guest editor and contributor.

The QUARTERDECK is published four times a year by the Columbia River Maritime Museum, 1792 Marine Dr, Astoria, OR 97103.

-Jerry Ostermiller Executive Director

One of the most important orders of business at the annual meeting is the installation of new members and officers of the Board of Trustees . The Board bears the official responsibility for overseeing the health and well-being of the institution, and for planning for its future. The importance of the duties so undertaken by each and every member of the Museum's governing body cannot be overstated . That is why it is vital that as many of our members as possible participate in the election process. When you receive your official election ballot for new and renewed members of the Board of Trustees, on it will be a slate of candidates selected by the Nomination Committee In point of fact, all members of the Columbia River Maritime Museum are entitled to write in their own candidates for the Board of Trustees. Such individual selections are taken very seriously as part of the process of seeking new members of the Board. Your vote really does count. So when you get your ballot, be sure to make your mark on the future of the Museum-vote for your Board of Trustees.

With this increase in the sheer numbers of people within the building, our recent environmental upgrade is proving to be both a wise investment and prudently timed It is terrific to have a museum environment with temperature and relative humidity well within proper

The bill was endorsed by the Oregon Columbia River Bicentennial Commission, chaired by James B. Thayer, Sr. and his excellent staff After testify i ng in both houses, we found ourselves in Governor Roberts' office You can imagine our pride as, with the governor's signature, the Columbia River Maritime Museum received the title and honor of becoming the first and only official State of Oregon Maritime Museum.

from the Wheelhouse

If you haven't had an opportunity to visit the Museum this season you may be wondering how the summer has been going I would be remiss if I didn ' t tell you that we are experiencing recordbreaking numbers of visitors to the Museum Although the regional Chambers of Commerce tell me that overall visitation to the North Coast is down over 20% compared to last year, the Museum's galleries are filled daily with visitors Our statistics (I am a firm believer in keeping detailed and accurate records) show our average visitation is ahead of last year by over 7% . When one considers that 1990 set a record for visitation, it's no wonder we've felt busy.

Printed at Anchor Graphics, Astoria, Oregon

The Museum staff, although fully involved with day-to-day operations, has also been working with the City of Astoria to develop interpretive panels for the planned waterfront viewing stations. By setting high standards for historical text and panel design, this institution has been able to make a direct contribution to the City's efforts to enhance opportunities for tourism This unique city /private partnership is being seen as a model statewide. Benefits of this partnership have already materialized: the State Marine Board not only approved the Museum-supported City grant request for the dock expansion pro ject, but also used it as an exampl e of creative cooperation during their recent commission hearing in Salem

Photo and illustration credits: "Sea Otter," from Cook's Third Voyage, page 1, CRMM archives; Jerry Ostermiller, pages 3 and 7; preliminary working drawing of H.M.S. Discovery and Chatham, page 4, used by permission of Hewitt Jackson; scale comparisons of the Columbia Rediviva and the Henry B. Hyde, page 5, and the Columbia Rediviva, Lady Washington, and President Washington, page 6, used by permission of Hewitt Jackson; George Davidson drawing of the Columbia "At Falkland Island's," page 6, and Columbia's ledger, page 9, from Columbia Rediviva manuscripts, OHS, MSS 957, used by permission of the Oregon Historical Society; Davidson watercolor of the '' Columbia in Destress," page 8, used by permission of Elizabeth T. Dubois.

Quarterdeck, Vol. 17 No. 4

Money raised from the various activities goes to a variety of purposes. During the past three years the Auxiliary has purchased a new color TV monitor and A/V cart, complementing the gift of a VCR from Rear Admiral David Roscoe, U.S.N. (Ret.); two professional slide projectors, a cassette deck, dissolve unit, and self-powered speakers for showing slide-tape presentations; and a sewing machine to aid in the repair of signal flags and canvaswork Among this year's

During this summer's Astoria Regatta, the CRMM Auxiliary hosted the annual reception for the Regatta Queen and her court in the Daniel Kern Room. At the Regatta Fair, Auxiliary members staffed a booth selling both the cedar net floats and Turk's Head knot napkin rings, hand-tied as a volunteer project by staff member Walt McManis

In April 1991 the election for the 19911992 officers was held. Beginning in September the new officers will be Mary Steinbock, president; Carol Prior, vice president; Mary Kettlekamp, secretary; Orabelle Bruneau and Paula Morrow, treasurers.

The 1990-1991 Auxiliary officers are Frankye Thompson, president; Mary Steinbock, vice president; Mary Kettlekamp, secretary; Orabelle Bruneau, treasurer; Lynne Johnson, publicity; June Spence and Dee Leahy, membership; and Mary Steinbock, historian.

Bob Scheve, Roy Niemi, and Butch Petersen, as well as Coast Rehabilitation Services. Ray Mund prepares the floats for their new use as desktop souvenirs, cutting, planing and gluing together the pieces to form platforms for the display of a wide variety of historic and local color photographs. The photos are mounted with a standard decoupage technique. Decoupage work is distributed among various Auxiliary members, completing the transformation of the old corkline floats to gifts and souvenirs unique to this area. The floats are a popular item in the Museum Store and are available yearround. Auxiliary members recently completed an order for 100 of them for Salmon For All, the local commercial fishing industry organization

CRMM Auxiliary: Our Strong Right Arm

One of the most successful fundra1smg projects the Auxiliary has sponsored during the past two years has been the making of cedar net float souvenirs. The floats and lead lines have been donated by local fishermen Eldon Korpela, Abbie !hander, Arnold ''Toots" Petersen,

The men and women of the Columbia River Maritime Museum Auxiliary are at the core of our relationship with the community. Through their activities, projects, and contributions, they work to organize and enhance the quality of the Museum's educational mission.

One of the biggest fund-raising events of the year is the Museum Auxiliary annual luncheon. Extremely popular and well attended, this luncheon is always a great success because everyone knows what great cooks our local women are! The luncheon gives the ladies a chance to show off their culinary expertise, much to everyone's gustatory satisfaction.

Educational and heritage institutions are often troubled with having more things that need to be done than staffing or funding will permit . The Columbia River Maritime Museum is most fortunate to have a team that h a ndles for us those jobs that are too time consuming or labor intensive for regular staff to man, and helps with organizing fundraising for needed equipment and special memorial furnishings. The CRMM Auxiliary, a corps of highly dedicated and unselfish people, in the truest sense of the term is the strong right arm of the Columbia River Maritime Museum

The CRMM Auxiliary boasts 81 members, a testament to the involvement of our community in the workings of the Museum. Meeting every fourth Wednesday from September to May, the Auxiliary plans the events and projects it will accomplish. Auxiliary meetings also serve an educational function. The Auxiliary sponsors a variety of informative programs to accompany the usual business meeting . Among the programs presented during the past year: Dr. Bud McKinney shared his experiences aboard the mercy ship Anastasis; Hobe Kytr, the Museum's education coordinator, explained the Award of Merit given the Museum by the American Association of State and Local History for the "Year of the Fisherman,'' and showed the award winning slide-tape program, ''Work is Our Joy," on the new audio-visual equipment purchased by the Auxiliary in memory of Leonard Vernon. Other programs included music presented by the Knappa High School band for the annual Christmas cookie exchange; Dr. E O. and Inarose Zuecke spoke of their work in Roma Lesotho, South Africa, presenting a slide show and collection of artifacts from the region; Rear Admiral Ed Nelson, USCG (Ret.), gave a fascinating lecture about women lighthouse keepers; Dr Duncan Law, Oregon State University professor emeritus, described the new Seafood Consumer Research Building planned for this area; and Columbia River Maritime Museum's curator, Anne Witty, presented slides taken on her trip to the International Congress of Maritime Museums meeting in Stockholm, Sweden

1991-92 CRMM Auxiliary officers, from left, Orabelle Bruneau, Paula Morrow, Mary Steinbock, and Carol Prior. Not pictured, Mary Kettlekamp.

donations are a new American flag, Oregon State flag, and flag stands for official meetings in the Daniel Kern Room Perhaps the biggest and shiniest contribution the Auxiliary will make this year will be a 10-foot, stainless steel cut-out of the Museum logo. CRMM founder Rolf Klep's familiar stylized design of the Columbia Rediviva will grace the south side of the Museum facing Marine Drive.

-Rachel Wynne


I have done a sizable number of paint ings and designs depicting these early vessels . The logical progression of nautical practice and structure are familiar to me, since my work has covered most of the types and services of the last two centuries. Paintings and models can be quite informative in themselves, but if not presented with other related work, relative scale is lost to the casual viewer. The most frequently asked questions relate to size, capacity, and accommoda tions on board. Size is related to one's experience (or lack of it), and to a preconceived comparison to the present

*LENGTH, Between Perpendiculars: between rabbet of stem and after face of rudder post at main or lower deck The false stem, cutwater, and timbers of the head extend forward, and the counters and transom, etc , extend further aft

In trying to picture the development of the wooden ship and relate it to familiar shipping, it seems best to make some graphic comparisons. Prominent historic vessels have been selected for this purpose The Columbia Rediviva, at 83' in length and 212 8/94 tons burthen, was a very typical ship of her period, relatively large . (The reader is reminded that "ship" denotes a ship-rigged vessel, with three or more masts all square rigged.) The 90-ton sloop Lady Washington was 65' feet in length and was typical of most of the American vessels of the time Twelve men made the voyage, but 4-6 would have been adequate for coasting or shorter voyages. Here it must be emphasized that length by the old measure is "between perpendiculars." A suitable definition can be stated as follows:


In reading the journals and documents pertaining to the ships of early explora tion and trade in the Northeast Pacific, one is dealing with contemporary de scriptions and comparisons. A "large" ship of the period would not be regarded as such later on, and that term can be quite misleading if it is indiscriminately used over a period of a century or more Statistical data can be blindly accepted without the least comprehension of the actual vessel, either in size or in detail.

Early Ship Design and Development

H.M. armed tender Chatham joins H.M. sloop-of-war Discovery off Restoration Point, New Georgia, on May 25, 1792. The illustration is from a preliminary working sketch by the author for a painting in a private collection.

The illustration above depicts the Discovery at Restoration Point, across from Blake Island, with Three Tree Point (Pulley Point) and Mount Rainier in the distance. The brig Chatham is coming to anchor near her on May 25, 1792. His Majesty's sloop-of-war Discovery was a large vessel for her period, a converted merchantman 99' in length. One hundred men were carried. She was far from typical, having flaring topsides and broad decks, very appropriate for her intended use in exploration and discovery . On the other hand, the armed tender Chatham of 67'5 11 in length was a very typical merchant brig of the period, with very little changed for the voyage of exploration. A very good idea of the detail and complexity of the vessel can be gained from that fact Her complement was 30 men, although she would have been sailed by no more than 14 as a merchantman. The Chatham is pictured just before coming to anchor the topsail is just beginning to ripple, as the mainyards are swung ''aback'' to check her way

Columbia Rediviva

Lady Washington

Captain Vancouver Sloop of war (ship) 100 men *Length, B.P. 99'2" Breadth, extreme 28' 10 ¼" Depth in hold 12' 4 ' ' Burthen 330 65/94 tons Copper fastened, sheathed with plank, and coppered over. 10 four pounders and 10 swivels.

The Henry B. Hyde of 1884 is shown for comparison because she represents another century of development of the American wooden ship; a bit above average, and in reality the ultimate in size, design, and construction. However, it must be realized that there was little advance in design or size until about 1840. Developing trade and the California gold rush accelerated ship design and construction at that time. The resulting "clippers" (a general term meaning a fast sailer with fine lines, and covering a variety of designs) were few in number and their time only spanned a short decade. The great and practical ''downeasters" quickly followed and the en suing four decades saw their spectacular development . The Henry B. Hyde was 267 9' in length, and measured 2,583 tons gross and 2,449 net by the measure then in use. For purposes of comparison, she would be calculated at 3,448 40/94 tons old measure. As noted she was a large ship. Few of the later steel ships were larger. Most larger American square-rigged, wooden vessels were fourmasted barques, and many of them did not exceed her in size . These vessels at one time were described as "shipentines," a term that did not last

~'___;;;,,.10 ;o "'" __ =_,,,,,,

Discovery, 1789

Captain Gray, later Captain Kendrick American sloop 10 men (5 or 6 men at most as a coaster) *Length, B.P. 1 deck, 65 ' 4" Breadth, extreme 22' 3" Depth in hold 7' 8" Burthen 90 tons Re-rigged as a brigantine by Captain Kendrick at Dirty Butter Bay, Macao, in 1790-91. (See "Lady Washington: Little Known Northwest Coast Pioneer" in the Quarterdeck, Vol 17. No . 2, Spring 1991.)

Armed tender (brig) 30 men *Length, B.P . 2 decks, 67'5" Breadth, extreme 21'7½" Depth in hold 12' coppered Burthen 117 10/95 tons 4 three or four-pounders and 6 swivels .

Captain Kendrick, later Captain Gray American ship 30 31 men (16-18 men for the more usual venture) *Length, B.P 2 decks, 83'6" Breadth, extreme 24'2" Depth in hold 11 '0"

Burthen 212 8/94 tons Sheathed with plank.


Lt. Broughton

Almost identical in dimensions and tonnage to Captain Bligh's Bounty and to the Spanish Santiago of the 1774-75 voyages up the Northwest Coast

Quarterdeck, Vol. 17 No. 4 5

Henry B. Hyde, 1884 Large "down-easter" Length Breadth Depth in hold 36 40 men 267.9' 45 0' 20 . 5' 2583 gross tons, 2449 net tons

A scale comparison of Captain Robert Gray's Columbia Rediviva and the large "down-easter" Henry B. Hyde.


Davidson drawing of the Columbia watering in the Falklands. At center a cask is being filled. Nearby the cooper makes sure another is well driven. Such casks were used for all manner of stowage during the period. OHS, Mss 957

We might well regard the 860-foot President Washington as representative of another century's advances in American merchant shipping. As a container ship, direct comparisons of measurement and tonnages are not very helpful. Her capacity in containers is rated as 2 , 5 00 T wenty-foot Equivalent U n i ts, or TEUs, wh i ch is 1,250 40-foot containers -sort of like the tuns or wine casks used as measurement in the old-time ships. The standard TEU i s 8' wide, 8' high, and 20' long, although today the 40 foot container is practically standard. These containers evolved from an earlier Unit Load Concept [ULC), in which individ ual cargo packages were joined into larger units that could more readily be handled. If we put all modern figures aside in considering this vessel, we can work out the tonnage by the old meas ure. The 40-foot container works out to be 26 70/94 tons and there were old merchant vessels of this tonnage. Her 1,250 containers would total some 33,375 tons, more or less.

(Revised and adapted from an article previously published in 48 ° North.)

What is in a Ton?

The Columbia Rediviva and the Lady Washington would be dwarfed by the container ship President Washington, built in 1982-83.

Also to be reckoned with is the fact that the points of measurement could vary to a slight degree, the most common of these variables being the depth of hold. A new ship would actually be measured; one containing ballast, stores, and cargo would present obvious problems, so it was common practice to arbitrarily designate depth as "one-half beam."

1 ,•._.,:::-.:: ·-:-ir"-n, } ··1 -~ --.:.-... A ~P L~ 'PP.l:,$:1'01!.N"'r' WAJ•H1N:Q"r()l-!;; ~~,.-.1 __r.;?"' ,.,..

Today the 40-foot container is considered truly intermodal; it can be hauled worldwide by ship, railroad car, or truck. When we picture the Columbia and the Lady Washington alongside the President Washington and note the size of the containers on deck, we can realize the diminutive size of the ships prominent in the history of our infant republic

When Robert Gray's ships were made ready for the voyage to the Northwest Coast and China shores, ground tackle and provisions took up so much space that drinking water was carried in dangerously short supply. There was little space for trading goods and return cargo I doubt if the Lady Washington could have carried more than one TEU. The Columbia would have stowed more, but not much in the way of volume at that These cargoes had to be valuable, actually precious, to ensure that their adventures would be at all profitable.

The question of tonnage is always difficult to present, as it varied from time to time and was inexact at best . Length between perpendiculars, beam, and the depth of hold were multiplied, then divided by 94 or 95. The result was expressed "as of so many tons," or to be more exact, the number of "tuns" she could stow A tun was a large wine cask, twice the size of a "pipe," and was legally gauged to hold 252 wine gallons

"Builder's Old Measure" was a set of customary and variable rules, adapted for English law in 1773, a half-century before such measures and capacities were standardized Earning capacity for the purpose of taxation was based on these figures. Designation of depth as one-half beam as a matter of convenience led to builders deepening and narrowing their vessels to the point of dangerous instability and loss of life at sea The so-called "New Measurement" was intended to correct the abuses of tonnage tax laws. Under the new measure, burden was redefined in terms of mean length, mean breadth, and mean depth of enclosed spaces, using several points of measurement for each dimension to take into account structural differences between vessels of different design .

By the time that the Henry B. Hyde was measured, the system had undergone additional changes and was both more representative and exact The "ton" was 100 cu. ft.-like the wine cask, a convenient unit of interior capacity or stowage. As one can readily see, none of these measurements of " tonnage'' have anything to do with the gross weight of a ship, determined from her displacement.

-Hewitt Jackson

The public program Russ Dixon is providing by building canoes downtown adds a lively spot to Astoria's summer scene. Additional information is available at the downtown boatshop in the Klep Building, southeast corner of 12th and Commercial. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 am 5 pm.

Since the strips used in this method are quite narrow, in contrast to a typical plank which is several inches to a foot wide, it takes quite a lot of strips to build up the height of the hull. When Russ completes the wood hull, he scrapes off

Why build, buy, or use a strip-planked canoe? Their beauty and light weight are reason enough for many people. But strip-planked boats are also quite strong, durable and easy to maintain. Their portability has won over quite a following, as these boats can be loaded onto a car, launched over a riverbank or lakeshore, and carried or portaged when the going gets shallow.

Since the "Boat Shop" sign went up in July, a new maritime enterprise has flourished at the corner of 12th and Commercial. If you're interested in the boatbuilding scene, you'll want to stop by and check it out. Russ Dixon will be building a series of strip-planked canoes there through the fall as an interpretive project for the Columbia River Maritime Museum. His door is officially open to visitors on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 to 5. But you may well find him there after hours, too.

Wide planks are bent onto a fixed '' skeleton" of frames or "ribs." The keel of the boat is a stiff "backbone," with the planks forming a "skin." The various components tend to be large, sturdy, and challenging to work. Planks often require softening in a steam box before they can be bent to shape.

"Go ahead, pick it up," Russ Dixon urged a midday visitor to his downtown boatshop. "It only weighs 25 pounds!" Looking dubious, the woman lifted one end of a 13-foot canoe, and a smile spread over her face. 11 Amazing," she said. Later, a visitor put the same canoe to the classic test of lifting it, quite literally, with his little finger.

any excess glue and sands the hull to achieve fairness-smooth, flowing lines which will be fair to look at and produce the least amount of drag or resistance in the water. After sanding, he seals the hull with a coat of epoxy resin and adds a layer of fiberglass cloth. He sands and applies more coats of resin until the hull is smooth and shapely.

Russ Dixon proposed the boatbuilding program to the Museum this summer, offering to combine interpretation of his craft to the public with his own needs of production in the downtown location. As an independent contractor he provides all his own tools and materials, and will be free to sell the finished canoes. But building strip-planked boats goes beyond making a living; it's clearly an avocation Russ has embraced with enthusiasm. That is reflected in the long hours he puts in, in the eagerness with which he shares his knowledge with visitors, and in the canoes themselves.

Traditional methods of boatbuilding generally result in stiff, heavy, sturdy vessels which can range in size from a 6-foot pram to a large sea-going ship.

At this stage, the forms can be tapped loose from the hull, which will maintain its shape without them. Russ then turns his attention to the inside of the hull, scraping, sanding, sealing and fiberglass ing it. He adds gunwales or rails and thwarts (which help stiffen the hull's structure), a seat support and frame, and occasionally a small deck at bow and stern. He recently tried his hand at caning for the first time, in order to make canoe seats. T he canoe is then ready for a final sanding and finishing. Several coats of marine varnish protect wood, fiberglass, and resins from the sun's ultra violet rays.

In contrast, Russ Dixon described the method used for strip building as a modern variation on these older forms of boatbuilding. The strip planking method uses flexible, thin strips of wood that do not need steam bending. It also relies on fiberglass and epoxy resin instead of ribs to maintain the hull shape. First, forms called "stations" or "molds" are set up. The hull will be shaped around these forms. Starting at the bottom, the hull is built up using long strips of Western red cedar or redwood. T he strips are ¾" wide and as long as the boat to be worked on. They are highly flexible, being only 5/32nds of an inch thick. Strip by strip, they are bent around the forms and nail ed to them with very small nails. Each strip is carefully aligned and glued by the edges to the preceding strips. It's a bit like building a coil pot from strips of clay.

Boatbuilding with a Modern Flair

The canoe is now finished ready and waiting for a calm evening to slip in the water. Russ Dixon has discovered that Oregon and Washington are full of places to explore by water. If you agree that small, light boats are a fine way to go "gunkholing," pay Russ Dixon a visit. You will find a unique opportunity to follow a canoe's progress from building forms to finished boat.

These passersby had discovered that strip-planked boats are, indeed, light often only one half or one-third the weight of canoes built by more tradi tional methods. Initially attracted by the gleaming beauty of t he wood canoe in the window, Astoria area residents are stopping to learn more about the canoes that Russ Dixon i s building in the down town Klep Building (also known as the ''Reed & Grimberg'' building).


Quarterdeck, Vol. 17 No. 4

Anne Witty with Russ Dixon

As 1992 approaches, it is appropriate to remind ourselves that the motive for Capt. Robert Gray's presence here on the Coast was to search for profitable trade in sea otter pelts. Pursuit of wealth in trade is commonly associated with American culture, but the reasons for the maritime fur trade go far deeper than that. The "triangular trade" for furs on the Northwest Coast was in reality the in-between step to provide the necessary goods for developing commerce with the Orient And the profits gained from the China trade were intimately connected with the survival of our emerging nation.

Trade with Great Britain and the West Indies was at a standstill Trade with what was left of the French possessions in the New World was paltry at best. Spanish ports were closed to foreign trade. Americans had no means of producing the manufactured goods in demand in Europe. The answer to this dilemma seemed to lie in trade with the Orient, namely China. But opening up the China trade presented curious problems of its own. China thought of itself as the Middle Kingdom, the center of the earth . The Emperor allowed but one port of entry for contact with other nations. All goods brought into China by the "foreign devils" who congregated at Canton were considered tribute, for which certain "gifts" were allowed to be exchanged, most notably tea European monopoly companies, in contrast to their charters, competed vigorously for this trade. The problem for Americans trying to enter this market was that the only American commodity believed to be of any value in Canton was ginseng, for which no domestic market of any consequence had yet been developed

Davidson watercolor, circa 1794, on loan from Elizabeth T. Dubois. L 1971.53.1


Under British rule, the American colonies had enjoyed privileged trading status within the empire Simply put, in most instances Great Britain was not just the principal but the only trading partner of the American colonies Independence brought with it a rude financial awakening : no money, no goods, and no international trade.

Short Pockets Made for Long Voyages

Productive mines of gold or silver had not been found in the American colonies. Money, and consequently finance, was in the hands of the mother country. Colonial coinage, and the printing of money in any form, had been prohibited by the Currency Act of 1764 . One of the hard realities of war with England was brought home very quickly: munitions required hard cash, in which the colonies had but meager assets. Scrip printed by the Continental Congress brought only a few cents on the dollar by war's end, leading to the colloquial phrase, ''not worth a Continental." Hewitt Tackson points out that the phrase "paring one's costs" was derived from the contemporary practice of paring silver or gold from the edge of coins to gain a bit of precious metal. Milled edges on coins were introduced to discourage this.

late commerce, nor to punish crimes. Individual states issued their own money in coin or paper or both Though Congress had the right to regulate the alloy and value of coin struck by the states, all such coinage was limited to copper pennies and half-pennies. Desperate for cash, individual states put tariffs on goods imported not just from foreign countries but from other states as well.

In short, the system wasn't working. Farmers and former soldiers of the Continental Army in Massachusetts revolted against unfair taxation and worthless currency in 1786 Shay's Rebellion finally persuaded a reluctant George Washington to lead the call for a convention to discuss taxation and commerce. The resultant Annapolis Convention of 1786 failed to draw representatives from a majority of states. Reconvening in Philadelphia's "Independence Hall" the following year, the remarkable gathering we now know as the Constitutional Convention met in secret to reform the national government into a strong federal system. The document was finally agreed upon September 17, 1787, and was to go into effect when ratified by nine states. Yet when George Washington was inaugurated as president nearly two years later, in April of 1789, the country still had no manufactures to speak of, no central bank, and no unit of exchange recognized by other countries .

Following the conclusion of the war, matters got no better. The 1780s were characterized by a period of acute maritime depression. Parliament passed the Revised Navigation Acts, which virtually banned American trade with Great Britain, and effectively excluded American shipping interests from the rich West Indies trade. Compounding matters, the Articles of Confederation, under which the fledgling United States had been governed since 1777, established Congress as the sole governing body, but gave it no power to levy taxes, to regu-

The importance of the early exploration of the Northwest Coast is wellknown to most natives of the Pacific Northwest. The colorful stories of Robert Gray, George Vancouver, and the Lewis and Clark expedition are staples of state and regional history as taught beginning in the early primary grades. Perhaps less well understood is how the early history of this region fits into the larger context of American history.

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With the publication of Captain Cook's journals in 1784, the value of sea otter pelts had become widely known. The first British trader on the Northwest Coast was Captain James Hanna in the brig Harmon, 1785, soon followed by Captains Portlock, in the King George, and Dixon, in the Queen Charlotte, both formerly with Captain Cook. Portl0t:k and Dixon sailed in vessels owned by Cadman Ethias and under license from the East India and South Seas Companies. As Crown monopolies, the East India Company enjoyed exclusive rights to trade in the Orient, and the South Seas Company exclusive rights to trade in the eastern Pacific. Dealing with this system was cumbersome and expensive for goods shipped from one point to the other. A contingent of interested British merchants petitioned the crown for relief, but were turned away . As a result, most British vessels in the trade sailed under the guise of dual registry, flying foreign flags. The method had been pioneered by Captain Hanna, who sailed from Macao under Portuguese registry This ruse was at least partially success ful in avoiding trade restrictions, but confused issues of nationality, which

The first American fur trading venture to sail directly for the Northwest Coast was the voyage of the Columbia Rediviva and the Lady Washington. When the two vessels departed Boston on September 30, 1787, the United States had as yet no federal government, no president, and little in the way of hard cash. The U.S. Constitution was but 13 days old. The main reason for the investors financing such a voyage was to turn a profit. But more than that, it was an attempt to take hold of the missing element which would open up the China trade to American vessels . As the Columbia and Washington sailed for a far o££ and virtually unknown shore, the owners had no way of knowing that the British were already plying the trade, nor that the Russians had been supplying sea otter pelts to the mandarins for five decades They could not know that the Viceroy of New Spain in 1784 had submitted a plan for exporting California sea otter pelts to Manila for the Philippine trade with China. Because of these and other factors, such as inexperience in the trade, the ample profits the owners had anticipated were not entirely realized. Even so, the voyages of Robert Gray to the Pacific proved the value of the mari time fur trade to American hopes for for eign trade, and cemented the importance of gaining a foothold on the Pacific Coast. Within a few short years, American vessels had taken control of the trade on the Northwest Coast, and had achieved a rank second only to the British in trade with China .


In 1783, John Ledyard, a Yankee adventurer who had been with the Royal Marines on the 3rd voyage to the Pacific with the great Captain Cook, approached Robert Morris to promote a grand scheme: to sail with a cargo of trade goods to the Northwest Coast of Ameri ca, there to exchange for the fur of the "sea beaver" (sea otter), which according to his account was greatly in demand among the mandarins in Canton. The idea interested Morris, who began a search for other investors in Boston and New York. Finally, the Empress of China was ready to sail from New York in 1783. However, failing to obtain backing in Boston, the investors chose to carry a cargo of ginseng Ledyard quit the vessel in disgust when he found the intended route was around the Cape of Good Hope and directly to the Orient, not to the Northwest Coast

Against this backdrop, consider the situation of Robert Morris, patriot, signer of the Declaration of Independence, member of the Continental Congress, and reputed to be the wealthiest person in America during the period. Burdened with a huge personal debt acquired during the rebellion by obtaining personal lines of credit to finance the war effort, he had an immediate and pressing need for the hard cash to pay off his creditors.

One solution to this quandary emerged in 1786, when the Eleanora departed New York with a cargo of Falkland Island fur seal pelts. These furs shortly before had been unloaded on the New York market at 50 cents apiece by the ship United States The Eleanora sailed for Calcutta, which at that time was not yet under British domination. The same furs fetched $2 in Calcutta, there exchanged

for a cargo of Indian cotton, which was then taken to Canton. (The furs also eventually made their way to Canton, where they brought ten times their original value in New York.) In Canton, Captain Simon Metcalfe learned that British vessels transporting sea otter pelts from the Northwest Coast did in fact have the most valuable commodity on the Chinese market Re-outfitted, the Eleanora sailed directly from Canton, becoming the first American vessel on the North west Coast.

complicated matters when the Spanish attempted to assert sovereignty over the Northwest Coast in the early 1790s .

Quarterdeck, Vol. 17 No. 4

When the Empress of China arrived in Canton, it was soon discovered that the rumored value of American ginseng on the Chinese market was greatly exagger ated. Worse, the cargo had been damaged in handling Nonetheless, the voyage was the first by an American vesse l to the Far East, and the first to bring back reports of actual conditions in Canton. The items in high demand there were specie (negotiable coinage), cotton, and furs. The dire shortage of coins and precious metals in the states was the reason for the interest in opening the China trade in the first place, and the others posed problems as well. Cotton did not become a major crop in the American south until after the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 And the North American fur trade was dominated by British and Canadian concerns well through the 1780s, as represented by the Hudson's Bay and North West Companies.

Mr. & Mrs. George Siverson

Donald M. Drake Company First Interstate Bank Astoria Albert W Gentner, Jr.


Jim & Renee Caldwell Capt. & Mrs. Mark Freeman Marlin & Linda Goebel Capt. & Mrs. Patrick J Haskett Henry J Herlin

David K. Engen Capt. Harold D Huycke, Jr. Mr. & Mrs. Arthur E. Johanson William F. Li11Lu11 Edwin K. Parker Ellen K. Sanford Rees & Dorothy Williams


Elliott D Becken

Betty Becker

Mr. & Mrs. Kenneth E. Moore Mr. & Mrs. Duane Patching Bill Turns



Gail E Johnson Patty Kivisto Kate Madden Edward P. Mahoney Barbara Munro Benton F. Pace Lauren Perkins Judith Robbins Deren J. Ross Marguerite Wright

Mr. & Mrs. Eugene Knutsen



F.W. Vranizan, D M.D.

New Members April 1 - June 30, 1991

Mr & Mrs. Richard P Fettig Terry Finklein William M. Freeman Lyle & Marilyn Janz, Jr. Mr. & Mrs. R. Allan Kronenberg Michael & Judy McCuddy

Mr. & Mrs. Eldon E Benson

Mr. & Mrs. Mel Hjorten

LEE RANKIN FARLEY Dr. & Mrs. Robert D Neikes

SPONSOR Sunrise Shipping Agency, Inc


Mr. & Mrs. Ned I. Malcolm

Mr. & Mrs. Robert C Black Mrs. Andrew J. Cook

Mr. & Mrs. Joel E. Haggard Margaret Ann Rothman Garry Schalliol

Mr. & Mrs Holt W. Berni

Mr. & Mrs. Marsh Hoffman Clara E. Miles

Mr. & Mrs. L.F. Van Dusen

Mr. & Mrs. Lloyd Selfridge Stephen & Janet Webster Capt. & Mrs. C.S. Wetherell

Ernestine J. Bennett Virginia L. Beugless Garry Breckon Roy D. Clementsen Estelle Duggan John Erdahl

Dr. & Mrs David I. Willi a ms





Anna L. Basel

CECIL M. GREEN Earl & Zona Malinen

Mr. & Mrs. Seth Rehnstrom William R. Schultz M.R.L. Smith

Mr. & Mrs. Andrew E Young

Mr. & Mrs. Ray E. Utter

John R. Gilbert Dan and Marie Lake Al L'Amie Earl and Zona Malinen


Mr. & Mrs. Larry Lindgren Millard H. Mcclung

Increased Memberships April 1 June 30, 1991


Lisa Hjorten

EDWARD H. HALTON, SR Brix Maritime Company

PILOT Brusco Tug and Barge

Memorial Donations - April 1 - June 30, 1991

Roy I. AsPEN

LILLIAN E. KNUDSEN Charlotte Longsev

PILOT Janice M. Johnston R.R. Mitchell

Mr. & Mrs. Douglas Goodman M r & Mrs. William R. Senders

Mr. & Mrs. Edward C. Lynch

Beverly J. Anderson

Mr. & Mrs. George B. McLaughlin

Mr. & Mrs. F M. Ginn

Mr . & Mrs. David C. Meyer





Mr. & Mrs. Robert Erickson Mr . & Mrs . Harold Hendriksen

EMILY BELLE LARSEN Mabel Herold Earl & Zona Malinen

Mr. & Mrs. Jerry Carlson Al L'Amie



Mr. & Mrs. David C. Meyer

Mr. C. Harold Weston, Jr. Yergen and Meyer


INDIVIDUAL Faville G Richey

Mr. & Mrs. Paul Hjorten

Sign On! AS A MEMBER OF THE COLUMBIA RIVER MARITIME MUSEUM Student $7 50 per year D Sustaining $100 per year Individual $15 per year D Pilot $250 per year Family $25 per year D Sponsor $500 per year Supporting $50 per year D Steward $1,000 per year Life Member $5000 Single Payment or Cumulative since 1962 D Mr D Mrs. D Miss Mailing Address City ___ State _ Zip _____ 11

MASON SKIFF Mr. & Mrs. David C. Meyer


Quarterdeck, Vol. 17 No 4

Memorials (continued)

Mr & Mrs. Andrew Young

Mr. & Mrs. L.F. Van Dusen

WILMA PAVLAT Al L'Amie Dorothy 0. Soderberg & Family


CAPT. EDGAR A. QUINN Capt. & Mrs. Joseph L Bruneau

Mr. & Mrs. David C. Meyer

Patricia Berry Eleanor Ewenson

ALFRED ERNEST WESTERLUND Jeanie Mogenson Mr. & Mrs Michael Riva


GREGG M. PATERSON Mr. & Mrs Walter Gadsby, Jr. R.L. McCulloch

WILLIAM B. WOOTTON Mr. & Mrs. Ernest J. Barrows

Pig 'n Pancake

Mr. & Mrs. Clarence Dreyer Judie Dreyer





Red Lion Inn


Mr. & Mrs. Michael Riva

United Grocers

GERALD E. 'JERRY' NEWENHOF Mr. & Mrs. Ernest E Brown Capt & Mrs. James T. Clune Mr. & Mrs. Donald M. Haskell Al L'Amie Mr. & Mrs Michael J. Ramsdell Mr. & Mrs. George Siverson Yergen and Meyer

Mr. & Mrs. George Fulton


James B. Thayer, Sr.

JOSEPH PESCHL Don & Jean Brunner Donna Brunner Mr. & Mrs. Peter J Davis Mr. & Mrs. Trygve Duoos Mr. & Mrs. Mel Hjorten Willard Ivanhoff Al L'Amie Allan Maki Earl & Zona Malinen Cecil & Mary Moberg Mr. & Mrs Onn i e V. Silver Aina L. Tennyson & Ahti

RAE LOUISE MOULTON Mr. & Mrs. George Fulton

Mr & Mrs. F.M. Ginn

Mr. & Mrs. Ernest Kairala Violet J. Knudsen Bruce & Carol Lyngstad Cecil & Mary Moberg Ruben & Margaret Mund Arvid & Naomi North Elli G. Riutta Richard & Rayond Riutta Don & Judi Seago Annie Silver

Mr. & Mrs. Ernest J. Barrows

LEAH PURO SAXBERG Mr. & Mrs. Gene A. Hill

ALLEN R. THOMPSON Earl & Zona Malinen


1991 Row IN

Ship Inn

Mr. & Mrs. Lloyd E Classen


Anchor Graphics Bikes and Beyond Coca Cola Bottling Englund Marine Hauke's Sentry

Special Contributions

"Marine Art of the Pacific Northwest" Continues at CRMM through November 3

The Columbia River Maritime Museum is now the official maritime museum of the State of Oregon. Senate Bill 953, sponsored by State Sen. Joan Dukes, D-Svenson, and supported by State Rep. Jackie Taylor, D-Astoria, declared CRMM to be Oregon's center for maritime education, artifacts, and exhibits in the state.

The juried show of contemporary marine art by members of the American Society of Marine Artists will be on display in the Great Hall of the Columbia River Maritime Museum through November 3, 1991.

Committee traveled to Salem to testify in support of the bill, as did Director Ostermiller.

CRMM Named Official Maritime Museum of Oregon


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he museum world. Last year it received he coveted Award of Merit from the ~merican Association of State and Local History for the public programs collectively known as The Year of the Fisherman Also during the past year, the replica of a Columbia River sailing gillnet boat commissioned by the Museum in 1989 won an award for '' Best Replica'' at the Classic Boat Festival in Victoria, British Columbia.

Non-Profit Organization U.S. POSTAGE PAID Astoria, Oregon Permit No. 209

ISSN 0891-2661

This very special exhibit was made possible in large part because of the generous support of the Ralph W. and Susie Coe Memorial Endowment, which is dedicated to the sponsorship of temporary exhibits at the Columbia River Maritime Museum.

The Museum is also gaining increasing stature within the professional circles of


''This is a nice feather in the cap of the North Coast and Astoria in particular," boasted Jerry Ostermiller, executive director of the Columbia River Maritime Museum. "It highlights the level of quality of our cultural resource programs in the area."

Official recognition by the State of Oregon acknowledges what people in ever increasing numbers are discovering for themselves, that the Columbia River Maritime Museum is one of the Northwest's greatest treasures. Museum members and friends have known this for many years

The idea to make CRMM the premier maritime museum in Oregon came about as a result of the Museum's 30th anniversary, which coincides with the 1992 Columbia River bicentennial commemorating the entrance into and naming of the Columbia River by Captain Robert Gray in May, 1792 Members of the Oregon Columbia River Bicentennial


"Marine Art of the Pacific Northwest" is a show filled with a rich and diverse selection of media and subjects rendered by Northwest members of the American Society of Marine Artists . Represented are a variety of artistic perspectives on our regional maritime heritage, past and present. This is the first such prestigious show of marine art sponsored by a marine museum in the West. We are quite honored at the Columbia River Maritime Museum to be able to host this exhibition. Don't miss it!

The Columbia River Maritime Museum is an accredited member of the American Association of Museums and the Council of American Maritime Museums. Though other museums and interpretive centers within the state contain maritime components, Senate Bill 953 recognizes the shining example set by Museum members, staff, and trustees for the past 30 years in pursuit of our institutional mission : To preserve and interpret the rich maritime heritage of the Pacific Northwest, especially as it relates to the Columbia River region.

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