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Ship Robert Edwards

View of the South St. wharf at the east side water front
that greeted the Ball Hughe's in New York in 1829
from Ships and Shipping of Old New York,
Bank of the Manhattan Co., p.41


Arrival of the Robert Edwards

    From the New York Evening Post, Tuesday, January 20, 1829, column 5, from Old Fulton Post Cards at www.FultonHistory.com:
Ship Robert Edwards, Sherburne, fm London and Portsmouth, left latter [?] 23d Nov. & experienced on her voyage continual heavy gales from Northward—sails & rigging much damaged, & sprung her bow-sprit. Spoke 6th Jan. the Sailor, Thornton, from Nova Scotia, bound to Barbados, in lat 45 [?], long 56.

And under Passengers:

In the ship Robert Edwards, from London: --William Blake, esq of S. Carolina; Ball Hughes, esq and lady, from London; Rev. Richard Ralph, of Canada; Rev. H. Grinnall, of Germany—and 10 in the steerage.


“Sherburne” refers to the last name of the Ship Master (Captain). Portsmouth, UK was major naval port and transportation hub on the way to the Atlantic Ocean after leaving London.

The sailor could be speaking of the damage to the ship on January 6th near Nova Scotia. I believe that 45° N, 56° W would be about 250 miles east of Nova Scotia and about 900 miles northeast of New York. It took another 13 days to arrive at New York.

A bow-sprit is the round pole (spar) extending forward from the bow of a ship.

Note that Robert used the name “Ball Hughes,” and not his given name: "Balls Hughes," on his arrival in New York in 1829. See Biography for more information about the mystery of Ball Hughes name.


The London Line 

    I found the following information about the Robert Edwards in the Philadelphia Gazette, Tuesday Afternoon, March 23, 1830 on Carol’s Genealogy Newspaper

To sail from N. York, on the 16th day of every month. Encouraged by the patronage which these Packets have hitherto enjoyed, and with the view of creating new facilities in the intercourse between New York and London, the proprietors of these ships now intend to dispatch one of them from New York on the 16th, and from London on the 10th of every month throughout the year, viz:

Ship Hudson, C. H. Champlin, master, to sail 16th of April.
Ship Robert Edwards, S. Sherburne, master, to sail 16th May.
Ship Cambria, George Moore, master, to sail 16th June.

These ships are all of the first class, about 400 tons burthen, coppered and copper fastened, and are commanded by men well acquainted in the trade, and will be elegantly and profusely furnished for the accommodation of passengers-beds, bedding, wine, and the most ample stores, being supplied by the owners. For freight of passage, apply to either of the commanders, on board the ships, or to John Griswold, Agent. 69 South street, corner of Pine street, New York.N. B. – The ships of this line are intended hereafter to touch at Portsmouth each way, (instead of Cowes,) for the purpose of landing and receiving passengers. – Steam boats run constantly from that place to the Continent, and to different parts of England.


    From The History of First Scheduled Service New York Liverpool 1818 on TheMonro.com:

Grinell, Minturn & Co. started up their London Line in 1823 with the Brighton, Columbia, Cortes, and Corinthian.  John Griswold's competing London Line offered up the Sovereign, President, Cambria, Hudson, and the second Ontario.

    Note that the Griswold’s Cambria and Hudson were mentioned in the
Philadelphia Gazette article above (along with the Robert Edwards), so there were at least six packets operated by his London Line.
    You would need a least 6 ships to have monthly service and I knew that the 3 mentioned in the Philadelphia Gazette were not enough. By 1837, Griswold’s London Line had 12 ships.

    From TheShipsList.com, published here with permission from TheShipsList.com:


January 19th [1829] - MG
New York.—
It is now sixty-four days since we have had any advices from Europe. The latest dates received at this port from Liverpool, is the 8th of November, and via Charleston to the 9th. The following packet ships are now due, allowing the last named, the
John Jay, a passage of 34 days.
Liverpool. — ship William Thompson, day of sailing 16th November ; New England, 20th November ; George Canning, 24th November ; Caledonia, 1st December ; London, 5th December ; John Jay
, 8th December.
London. — Robert Edwards, 10th November ; Columbia, 25th November.
Havre. — Charles Carroll, 15th November ; Montano, 15th November ; Charlemagne, 1st November.— Total 11.
The following packet ships are now on their passages to this port. From
Liverpool, William Thompson ; New England ; George Canning ; Caledonia ; London ; John Jay ; Canada ; Napolean ; Florida ; Birmingham — 10. From London, Robert Edwards ; Columbia ; Corinthian, and one other — 4. From Havre, Charles Carroll ; Montano ; Charlemagne ; Henry IV ; France, and Don Quixote
— 6. Total 26 packet ships, independant of a great number of transient ships.
The average passage, in the last ten years, of our packet ships from Liverpool to New York is about 38 days ; and from New York to Liverpool, 24. In the months of November, December and January, the average passage of packet ships from Liverpool to New York, has been a little over 42 days. In the same period, of the old line ships, only two passages from Liverpool to New York have been so long as 64, one of 65, one of 70, and one of 74 days.
All the vessels that have recently arrived from Europe have been very long passages. Several vessels have been between 30 and 40 days in getting into Eastern ports after making soundings on the Grand Banks. We should not be surprised if half a dozen packet ships should enter one port together the first fair wind. —
New York Daily Advertiser.

Note that the departure date of November 10th for the Robert Edwards may have been the scheduled date and not the actual departure date.

Note that from a copy of the marriage record for the Ball Hughes, they were married on (Sunday) November 2, 1828. According to Orcutt in Good Old Dorchester. Cambridge: John Wilson & Son, UP, 1893, p. 386, “Two days after the marriage of the young girl to Mr. Hughes they set sail for America on a packet, which required ten weeks' time to make the passage.”

    From the Sketch of the Life of Robert Ball Hughes by Mrs. E. Ball Hughes, pp. 3 & 4, we read that “… shortly after his marriage to Miss Wright – the daughter of David Wright of Oxford St. London they started November 12th 1828 for New York in the ship Robert Edwards, one of the regular line of Packets, and after severe storms landed in New York on the 19th of January 1829.”

    According to Eliza, they left London on (Wednesday) November 12, 1828 (10 days are their wedding) and arrived on (Monday) January 19, 1829 (on Ball Hughes 25th birthday!).

    The New York Evening Post stated that the ship left on (Sunday) November 23, 1828 and arrived on Monday, January 19, 1829. Using www.imeanddate.com, Nov. 12, 1828 to Jan. 19, 1829 is 68 days or 10 weeks. If they left on Nov. 23rd, the trip would have taken 57 days or about 8 weeks. Eliza’s account seems more consistent, even though they left 10 days after their weeding and not 2 days as reported by Orcutt in 1893.

    Eliza’s arrival date and the New York Evening Post arrival date agree. Note that Philadelphia Gazette, Tuesday Afternoon, March 23, 1830 (about 1.5 years after the Ball Hughes’ voyage) reported that the London Line of Packets that included the Robert Edwards, would depart on the 10th of every month throughout the year. Since Eliza records that it left on the 12th, it may have been delayed while being loaded.

Read more about packet ships in the 1800’s:

On the Water Exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

The History of First Scheduled Service New York Liverpool 1818 on TheMonro.com describes the beginning of packet service from New York to England. Very informative article.

Ships and Shipping of Old New York, Bank of the Manhattan Co. , 1915, describes the history of shipping in New York and has many illustrations of ships, New York City, and the New York harbor.

Days of the Old Packet, New York Daily Times, Dec 13, 1891 p. 17, also available at TheShipsList.com. Very informative article.

Uncle Sam and His Country; or, Sketches of America in 1854-55-56 by Alfred J. Pairpoint, London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co. 1857, has an account of a voyage from London to New York in Chapter 1 , Outward-Bound—The Packet Ship, pp. 9-20.

The Clipper Ship Era by Arthur H. Clark, G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York and London. The Knickerbocker Press, 1911.
last update 5/20/2011
For noncommercial use, Copyright David E. Brown 2008-2011