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Steamships, Clipper Ships, Lego Ships, Space Ships

January 9, 2014

We here at Burrito Justice have a soft spot for infrastructure aquatic, and this map of worldwide steamship lines in 1914 fulfills this requirement.

Click through for the full version, but I took the liberty of highlighting the San Francisco routes for your viewing pleasure.

1914 steamship map crop

And in other shipping news, check out this rather awesome 1859 report on the progress of the US Coast Survey (PDF). Lots of information on San Francisco in the 1850s. A description of the conditions of San Francisco Bay starts at p.333, and p. 346 goes into detail on clipper ships:

1850s SF clipper runs

The report also mentions what must have been mind-blowing travel times of the new steamships.

1858 NY SF steamship

Here’s an ad for the Golden Age from the 11 Nov 1854 Daily Alta.

1854 Golden Age

It seems that the Golden Age took over the Panama-SF route from the steamship SS California which had been making the run since 1849, leaving New York in 1848.

California left New York City on 6 October 1848 with only a partial load of her about 60 saloon (about $300 fare) and 150 steerage (about $150 fare) passenger capacity. Only a few were going all the way to California.[8] Her crew numbered about 36 men. She left New York well before definite word of the California Gold Rush had reached the East Coast.

The arrival of the California in December 1849 as reported in the Daily Alta:

1849 SS California

A number of ladies and a large mail, oh my.

UPDATE: In 1849, it seems that “a number of ladies” is equal to eight:

1849 steamer california ladies

I was surprised to learn that the Golden Age came to California from New York via Liverpool, the Cape of Good Hope and Australia.

(5 Oct 1853)

1853 Golden Age

May 1854 (reports from February)

1854 australia golden age

Australian newspaper reports, and a lovely image via the National Library of Australia:

golden age nla.pic-an9537940-v

And its July 1854 arrival in Panama, with lots of details:

1854 golden age Panama

The backstory on the Golden Age, via the Maritime Heritage Project:

She was originally named the San Francisco and slated for service between Australia and Panama. She sailed from New York on September 30, 1853 and went via Liverpool, the Cape of Good Hope, King George’s Sound (Australia), and Melbourne to Sydney. She operated coastal service in Australia until sailing for Panama on May 12, 1854. Pacific Mail purchased her at Panama in August 1854 and used her on their San Francisco-Panama run through 1869. She was later transferred to the Yokohama-Shanghai branch of Pacific Mail. The Golden Age was sold to the Mitsubishi Mail Steamship Company in 1875 and renamed Hiroshima Maru.

She sailed in Japan until the 1890s where she was known as “the good luck ship“.

The sailings of the California and Golden Age are hopefully captured in this rather amazing map of world sailing routes from 1750 to 1860 made by Ben Schmidt.


And to wrap things up, I added the SS Golden Age to this infographic comparing the sizes the container ships of our era, via Quartz. While I couldn’t find the exact length of the Golden Age, its contemporaries seemed to be around 270 feet long, or about 80 meters.)

ship size comparison

That Quartz article talks about two of my favorite things, ships and Lego. Lego made a number of floating boats, including one for Maersk. I of course had the firefighting boat and the police boat:



I still have these in a box at my parents house, along with my space Legos — you can see the red counterweight at the bottom:

I am telling you Lego, if you started selling those 70s Space Lego sets again, oh man, you’d make a million damn dollars.


I mean, I just bought the Mars Curiosity Rover:

Mars Curiosity Rover

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2014 4:10 pm

    Great map. And we wonder why we colonized Hawai’i… (Well, it’s more complicated than that, as anyone who’s read Sarah Vowell knows…)

    Shipping traffic reports now are so boring! I still read them in the paper and pretend they say things like how many passengers are aboard instead of OAK OAK OAK.

  2. g2-ca78978727d33fb007720b354c8eae9d permalink
    January 15, 2014 7:24 pm

    My g-g-g-grandfather, Fortunato Arriola died on the steamship S.S. Bienville, which exploded near the Bahamas.

    He was an artist from Cosala, Sinaloa, Mexico, who painted portraits and tropical landscapes at his studio at Grant & Washington Streets. Local angle: Fortunato’s daughter Elizabeth and her daughter, Belle lived at 261 Winfield in Bernal Heights. They both died there in1928.

    • Rose C. permalink
      September 7, 2014 3:50 pm

      Fortunato Arriola was my great-great grandfather. I am descended from his daughter Herminia that also painted. Herminia ultimately settled in the San Diego area. I am looking for info on Fortunato’s parents. Leave a reply if you know any info.


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