The Maritime Heritage Project

The Maritime Heritage Project initial focus was passenger lists of gold seekers and opportunists sailing to into San Francisco Bay during the 1800s. It has expanded over the years to include the importance of ships to our world.

Along the San Francisco Waterfront in the 1800s.
Along San Francisco's Waterfront

The Project is in honor of sea captains, including James H. Blethen, a Master Mariner based in San Francisco during the 1800s. He is our great-great grandfather; interest in his world travels encouraged us to follow his sea paths and beyond.

The Blethens settled in Maine during the 1700s. At age 15, my Great-Great-Grandfather left the farm and took to the sea. His early trips were along the Atlantic coastline to Barbados, Jamaica and Haiti. At age 19, he crewed as First Officer between America's Eastern seaboard and the ports of England, France, Germany and Russia. In 1849, Captain Blethen commanded the Liverpool from Liverpool, England to New York. Then in 1852, he captained the Vanderbilt steamer California around the Horn to San Francisco, where he made his home until he crossed the bar.

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Isabella Bird

Isabella Bird, The Hawaiian Archipelago.

During his time on the Pacific Coast, Captain Blethen, Master Mariner, brought more than 50,000 passengers from Nicaragua to San Francisco.

He also opened William H. Webb's Pacific Mail routes to Australia, sailing between Hawaii and the Southern Hempisphere until he retired from the sea in 1873. During his journeys, noted writer Isabella Bird wrote of sailing between the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) and the South Pacific on Captain Blethen's ship.

Ship commanders are committed to protecting shorelines and to safely move merchandise, livestock, and people under unpredictable and often dangerous conditions in vessels of all sizes.

Along with thousands of other ship commanders, Captain Blethen's vessels were crowded with venturists dreaming of prospering in a burgeoning city.

Stories from San Francisco and other world seaports are added as news is located to illustrate the causes of mass world migration during 19th century. Historical images are included to depict the events of the day.