Last week Gene Anderson asked about conflicting statements as to the place and time of the ship Columbia's construction as part of his research into the Columbia &
Washington medal. First, here's some background on the medal from the Massachusetts Historical Society web site. -Editor
Inspired by the British Royal Society's medals commemorating explorer James Cook's voyages, Boston merchant Joseph Barrell commissioned the Columbia and Washington
medal to be sent to the Pacific on the Columbia and Lady Washington in 1787. The bill of lading for the voyage lists 300 medals "to be distributed amongst the Natives on the
North West Coast of America, and to commemorate the first American Adventure on the Pacific Ocean." Considered the first die-struck medal issued after American independence,
the Columbia and Washington token received considerable attention in contemporary newspaper accounts.
In spite of this notoriety, the origin of the medal remains obscure. While Joseph Barrell probably was solely responsible for its production, neither he nor the newspapers
thought to mention the designer, die-maker, or how many medals were struck in each metal used (pewter, copper, and silver).
Anne Bentley of the Massachusetts Historical Society writes:
We show our copper specimen on the web since it was given to us by Joseph Barrell in 1791 and is one of ten which Paul Revere treated for him by filing and polishing the
Cool! Anne also kindly took some time this week to do some checking into the background of the ship. Here are her notes. -Editor
Volume VI of Fairburn's Merchant Sail contains "Index of Vessels", an alphabetical register of all sailing vessels constructed in colonial and federal United States. His list
of ships named Columbia contains none built in Plymouth in any year. The Ship Columbia he lists as built in 1773 in Scituate, Mass. He documents it as the Boston/New York
consortium China trade vessel that left Boston in 1787 for the Northwest coast and then circumnavigated the globe before setting out again in 1790.
For her second voyage Columbia-Rediviva was registered by her owners as having been built at Plymouth in 1787. I find it very significant that "Previous documentation
not shown" forms part of the record here: that indicates to me that she was rebuilt at Plymouth in 1787-not originally constructed there.
Thank you! For background, Anne provided these images of her sources. -Editor
LEFT: HE745 .F3 1945 Fairburn, William Armstrong. Merchant sail. Center Lovell, Me. : Fairburn Marine Educational Foundation, 1945-55. 6 v. (xix, 4179 p.) : chart, tables ;
29 cm RIGHT: HE565.U7 S815 Ship registers of the district of Plymouth, Massachusetts, 1789-1908 / compiled by the Survey of the federal archives, Division of women's and
professional projects, Works progress administration. The National archives, cooperating sponsor ... Boston, Mass. : The National Archives Project, 1939-
Merchant sail entries for the Columbia
From Ship registers...
To read the complete article, see:
Columbia and Washington medal (https://www.masshist.org/database/192)
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: DECEMBER 30, 2018 : Query: Columbia & Washington Medal Ship
Wayne Homren, Editor
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