Table of Contents
Inventory of the Horace Clinton Johnson Papers
In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library
Horace Clinton Johnson was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1857 as the son of a spar and mast maker. At age sixteen, Johnson went to work at Mt. Washington Glass Works in New Bedford. Around 1875, he went to sea in the company of Henry Libby, former manager of the works, and began a career in the merchant trade between the United States and Europe. In 1886, the New England Steamship Company hired Johnson for the New Bedford line, and he remained in that post until his retirement in 1932. In addition to his activities as a ship pilot and master, Johnson was also an artist of marked ability. He specialized in creating portraits of many of the great sailing vessels of the era, depicting these ships by using velvet, silk embroidery, applique, and oils. He won much acclaim for his artistic creations as he exhibited and sold them, accompanied by histories of each vessel, until his death in 1933.
Scope and Content Note
Material in this collection reflects the activities of Horace Clinton Johnson as both a steamship captain and an artist. His involvement with the steamship line is principally reflected by nautical charts, legal documents, and correspondence. The charts, probably drawn by Johnson, are renderings of Long Island Sound and harbor entrances along his route. His legal documents include testimony regarding a collision between the steamship Pequonnock and an oil barge, 1928-1929. Correspondence in the collection features official communiques from the steamship line, dating from 1898-1932. These materials are supplemented by individual pages from Johnson's diary which chiefly discuss his activities aboard ship between 1930-1931.
Johnson's activities as an artist are delineated by patterns and ship histories, 1927-1932, which he used to create his portraits of vessels, and by notations on pages from his diary of 1930-1931. Documents in the collection describing his career as an artist and ship captain include two typescript biographies of Johnson written by his daughter, Anna R. Johnson, in 1960 and 1969, as well as numerous biographical clippings. In addition to materials relating to Johnson's principal activities, this collection contains a copy of his will, 1923; genealogical notes concerning the Johnson family, ca. 1890; and a variety of miscellaneous items, including certificates, membership cards, schedules, notes on crew members, and menus dating from ca. 1877-1933.
Researchers should note that the Old Dartmouth Historical Society manuscript collection also contains five journals which Johnson compiled during merchant voyages, 1875-1880. These volumes, which have been transferred to the log book collection, are described in the separations list concluding this inventory.
Arrangement of Collection
Information for Researchers
Access to Collections
Unrestricted. Consult librarian for an appointment.
New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 48, [sub-group, series, sub-series, folder/volume as appropriate], [item]
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Removed to Photographs Collection
- Photographs of Horace Clinton Johnson, Johnson's family and co-workers. Also included are photographs of Johnson's house and his art work; of ships, and the elder Johnson's spar yard, ca. 1860-1933. 48 items.
Removed to Printed Collection
- Bible. King James Version, (London, England, n.d.).
- The Colgate Clock, March 1925.
- Fall River Line Journal, July 1931 (2 copies); Oct. 1931; Oct. 1932; May 1933.
- Johnson, Anna R. "Sea-Kin" and "Spar-Maker's Son", ca. 1960, ca.1969. Typescript biographies, 2 items.
- The Lookout, June 1947.
- New England Steamship Company. Form letter, ca. 1910.
- New York Sun, 3 Sept. 1833 (1933 reprint)
- Program for "Playland", Rye, N.Y., n.d.
- Ships and Shipping of Old New York, 1915.
- "Taking the Byrd Expedition into the Antarctic," ca. 1931.
- "This Week on Martha's Vineyard," 2 July 1939.
- Tiffany, Donald McKay. Twelve Models of the Famous Ships Built by Donald McKay, (New York, n.d.).
- Town, Salem and Holbrook, Nelson M. The Progressive Fourth Reader. . . (Boston, Mass., 1864).
- Whittemore, Henry. The Past and the Present of Steam Navigation on Long Island Sound, (New York, 1893).
Removed to Objects Collection
- Postcards of various local scenes and steamships, ca. 1900-1930. 48 items.
Removed to Maps Collection
- Printed map of dredging project in Long Island Sound, ca. 1925.
Removed to Log Book Collection
- Detroit (Ship), 1880; ODHS # 646D
- Furness Abby (Ship), 1879; ODHS # 646B
- Syren (Ship), 1879; ODHS # 646C
- Triumphant (Ship), 1875-1877; ODHS # 645
- Triumphant (Ship), 1877-1878; ODHS # 646A
The material in this collection was donated to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society by Anna R. Johnson in August 1960 and on 14 March 1969.
Processed by: Judith Downey, ca. 1982
Encoded by: Kermit Dewey, 04 April 2012; box list appended by Mark Procknik, 08 May 2012
Funds for processing this collection were provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Diaries--New Bedford, Mass.--1930-1931
Fabric pictures--Mass.--New Bedford
Johnson, Anna Rodic, 1896-
Johnson, Horace Clinton, 1874-1969
Nautical charts--New York--Long Island
Steamboat lines--Mass.--New Bedford