Thatcher Magoun and Sons was a highly successful mercantile firm operating out of Boston, Mass, and actively trading in ports throughout the world for much of the nineteenth century. Mystic Seaport Records contain the following biography:
Born in 1775, the company’s founder, Thatcher Magoun began his career as a shipbuilder in Medford, Massachusetts. Retaining partial interest in the vessels he built, Magoun quickly accumulated a large estate. In 1838, Magoun firmly established himself in his role as merchant by opening the company of Thatcher Magoun & Sons in Boston. With the assistance of his son, Thatcher Magoun, Jr. and eventually Thatcher Magoun III, the company continued in maritime trade until the late 1870s.
Magoun’s ships were noted for their speed and dependability. The most noteworthy of these include the ARCHIMEDES, DEUCALION, ELECTRIC SPARK, GREENWICH, HERALD OF THE MORNING, MANLIUS, MEDFORD, PHARSALIA, SWALLOW, TALMA, THATCHER MAGOUN, TIMOLEON, and WITCHCRAFT.
Trade routes of the company mirror those of a typical New England merchant. Routes in the 1840-1860 running between Boston and New York to New Orleans and the Caribbean and from there to European ports such as Liverpool, Cronstadt or Marseilles before returning home. Cargos typically included cotton, sugar, molasses, hemp and Spanish specie.
After the 1850’s Magoun’s ships began working in the New York to San Francisco trade routes, as profits from the California gold rush enticed many merchants. The Witchcraft and the Thatcher Magoun both held records for completing the voyage from New York to San Francisco. Often times vessels would include an oriental port in their voyage in order to load popular in the China Trade goods.
After the height of the gold rush trade continued to center on the route between east and west coast but now often included a stop in foreign ports in China and England. Magoun continued to operate vessels into the declining years of the sailing merchant fleets at which time the typical cargos include coal, guano, and flour.
Magoun wrote the letter to Daniel Loring Winsor (1804-1882), a ship captain and agent for Magoun & Son, Boston shipowners. Daniel was the son of Nathaniel Winsor, Jr. and Hannah Loring. Winsor and his wife, the former Sally Bartlett Sampson, lived in Duxbury, Massachusetts. The couple’s daughter, Georgianna Lloyd Winsor (1830-1840) died at age 11 of paralysis. Their other child was a son, George Lloyd Winsor (1843-1919). Beginning in 1847 and for each year thereafter, they also rented a home in New Orleans from January through late spring.
Winsor operated mainly out of Boston but spent considerable time trading in New Orleans. He owned, commanded, or had some type of interest in the ships Astracan, Coliseum, Deucation, Jacob Perkins, Java, Medford, Manlius, Pharsalia, Prairie, and Timoleon. Winsor sailed to New Orleans; Liverpool, England, Elsinore [Helsingor], Denmark; St. Petersburg and Cronstadt [Kronhshtadt], Russia; and Havana and Matanzas, Cuba. [Source: LSU Collections]
Addressed to Capt. Daniel S. Winsor, Care of Messrs. Tufts & Hobart, New Orleans
February 20, 1847
We had this pleasure 19th inst. and have since been favored with your esteemed lines of 10th same month the contents of which we take due note.
Freights are still rising this way. Capt. Neff has just told me the “Gov. Davis” ¹ is chartered to arrive within 14 days to load at either New York, Philadelphia, or Norfolk at 10 shilling for flour & 33 pense for corn. The ship Milton has been bought by Tobey & Mason @ $42000 and purchaser pays the Brokerage equal to $43000 (cash) after her present freight to Providence is discharged. Have not yet heard of her sailing from Mobile? We have also been foolish enough to buy a ship today to arrive — the ship “Jacob Perkins” — sailing from Calcutta 15th November for Boston [which] has on board 940 tons ___ & measuring by her length today a $17,500 cash. Ship new coppered at Calcutta in October last. 300 tons. Register built at Newburg past January year of ________. By taking out forecastle, she will carry 700,000 # cotton. She rates here A2 good. She had 2 years ago new masts, bowsprit & standing rigging, hanging knees ³ under lower deck, new ceiling and every timber the beams deflecting was replaced by new ones, & the ship refastened very fully. We think she is just the size ship for grain cargo — better than larger ones.
The Calcutta people are offering nineteen dollars a ton for ships to go to Calcutta after their cargo is delivered in Europe and came from there to Boston.
We never saw such times for ships before. we have just heard the Milton can be sold again for $35,000.
5 minutes to 4 o’clock pm.
The Steamer is nearly up but the mail closes at 4 o’clock. Nothing yet received from her.
Truly your friend, — Magoun & Son
Your brother [Alexander Winsor] is getting better & will probably go in the Jacob Perkins.
¹ The Ship Governor Davis of Boston was reported lost in Bolquerson Passage near Callao on the 31st August 1851. She was insured with her cargo for $40,000. [Source: NYT, 8 October 1851]
² The Ship Jacob Perkins was purchased by Thatcher Magoun in 1847. Thatcher’s letter provides a good description of the modifications and repairs to the ship prior to placing her in service under Capt. Alexander Winsor, Daniel’s brother. She sailed from Boston to Calcutta in the spring of 1847 and returned to Boston in the spring of 1848. [Source: Thatcher Magoun Business Records, Harvard University Library]
³ A piece of timber shaped in a right angle, often naturally so, that is used to secure parts of a ship together, especially to connect the beams and the timbers. A hanging knee lies beneath and supports the ends of the deck beams.