Table of Contents
Hartson Hartlett Bodfish was born in West Tisbury, Massachusetts, in about 1862. First going to sea in 1880 on the steam whaling bark Belvedere, he made a career of whaling in the Arctic region and eventually became captain of several vessels, notably the steam barks Beluga and Herman. Bodfish also acted as a trader who supplied Arctic whalemen and natives in the area with food, clothing, and other goods, often in return for pelts. He retired from whaling and trading by 1920 and in 1936 published a biographical account of his exploits entitled Chasing the Bowhead. Bodfish died in 1945.
Papers in this collection chiefly reflect the activities of Hartson Hartlett Bodfish in San Francisco, California, and the Arctic region from 1892-1911. Most notable among these materials are nineteen log books including those of the Beluga, Mary D. Hume, and Newport in which Bodfish describes winters spent in the Arctic, principally at Herschel Island. These volumes, in addition to approximately seventy-five photographs taken in the Arctic between ca. 1890-1914, have been transferred to other sections of the Society's holdings and are described in the separations list which concludes this inventory. Materials described by the inventory itself primarily consist of financial records, including trade accounts, ca. 1894-1911; masters' accounts, 1892-1900; an outfitting book for the steam bark Beluga, ca. 1900; and bills and receipts, mostly for the Herman, 1892-1911. Bodfish's papers also include a deposition and newspaper article concerning his trial for manslaughter in 1906 and a copy of a letter written to his mother in 1891. In addition, this collection contains master's accounts for the Nimrod (Ship), out of New Bedford, Mass., under Capt. Willis Howes; genealogical notes relating to the Bodfish family between 1635-1847, compiled 1893-ca. 1920; and a variety of certificates, invitations, clippings, and miscellaneous documents, 1896-1942. Published works which may supplement or clarify papers in this collection are Bodfish's 1936 biography and Steam Whaling in the Western Arctic by John Bockstoce (1977).
Arrangement of Collection
Access to the Collection
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New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 17 [sub-group, series, sub-series, folder/volume as appropriate], [item]
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Removed to Photographs Collection
- 77 photographs taken primarily in the Arctic -- 28 of Bodfish, traders, and natives; one of the steam whaler Alexander and one of the Herman, 1914; and 34 of buildings, animals and scenes from Herschel Island, Alaska and region, ca. 1890-1914.
Removed to Maps Collection
- Pacific Steam Whaling Company map of Alaska with whaling stations and canneries, ca. 1900.
Removed to Log Book Collection
- Beluga (Steam bark), 1897-1898; ODHS # 951A
- Beluga (Steam bark), 1898-1899; ODHS # 951B
- Beluga (Steam bark), April - Dec. 1900; ODHS # 952A
- Beluga (Steam bark), Jan. - Nov. 1901; ODHS # 952B
- Beluga (Steam bark), April – Nov. 1902; ODHS # 953
- Beluga (Steam bark), March – Nov. 1903; ODHS # 954
- Governor Morton (Ship), 1868-1872; ODHS # 947B
- Grampus (Steam bark), Feb. - Nov. 1888; ODHS # 948A
- Grampus (Steam bark), Feb. - Nov. 1889; ODHS # 948B
- Herman (Steam bark), April - Nov. 1909; ODHS # 957
- Herman (Steam bark), May - Oct. 1910; ODHS # 958
- Herman (Steam bark), March - Nov. 1911; ODHS # 959
- Mary D. Hume (Steam bark), 1890-1892; ODHS # 949
- Newport (Steam bark), 1893-1896; ODHS # 950
- Nimrod (Ship), 1858-1861; ODHS # 946
- USS Vanderbilt (Steam paddlewheel), 1865-1866; ODHS # 947A
- William Baylies (Steam bark), March-Oct. 1905; ODHS # 955
- William Baylies (Steam bark), March-Nov. 1906; ODHS # 956A
- William Baylies (Steam bark), April-Oct. 1907; ODHS # 956B
Papers in this collection were donated to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society by George Bodfish on 1 December 1978.
Processed by: Judith Downey, ca. 1982
Encoded by: Kermit Dewey, 1 July 2011; box list appended by Mark Procknik, 03 January 2012
Funds for processing this collection were provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Account books--Arctic coast (Canada)--1857-1911
Account books--San Francisco, Calif.--1892-1911
Arctic coast (Canada)
Bodfish, Hartson Hartlett, ca.1862-1945
Business records--Calif.--San Francisco
Grocery trade--Calif.--San Francisco
Herschel Island, Yukon
San Francisco, Calif.--Commerce
Ships--Equipment and supplies
Beluga (Steam bark)
Herman (Steam bark)
Mary D. Hume (Bark)
- A Spectacle in Motion: The Grand Panorama
- Performance: To Catch a Whale
- The Local History Guild
- Lecture: Exploring the Indian Mariners Project
- Manhattan Short Film Festival
- Lecture/Book Signing – Spying on Whales
- Echoes of the Panorama
- Lecture & Book Signing: White Fox and Icy Seas
- Great War and Azores Lecture
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- Herman Melville
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- Joshua Slocum
- Lighting the Way: Historic Women of the SouthCoast