The following is a listing of over 120,000 vessels, mostly compiled from the “List of Merchant Vessels of the United States” (MVUS) for the years 1867 to 1885. I have also included a couple of other lists that I have computerized over the last 25 years. These include: WPA Custom House records for Bath, Maine; Frenchman’s Bay, Maine; Marshfield, Oregon; New Bedford, Massachusetts, and New Orleans, Louisiana; The Record of Canadian Shipping; Robert Applebee’s notes; and notes compiled on New England shipwrecks by my uncle, noted shipwreck diver, Bradford Luther, Jr. I have several other lists that will be added, updates and corrections made, to create newer versions, which will be made available periodically with the ultimate hope to make this a very useful source for ship information.
Several years ago, I compiled a list from the MVUS, which combined all the information from 1867 to 1885 into one entry for each vessel. The first thing that becomes evident is the number of mistakes and because of this I tell people never use one volume, use several to make sure the data you are looking for is accurate.
The duplicates and mistakes should be resolved by the using different lists and research in several publications and those in question I have placed in red. However, there are times that other sources only complicate matters worse, especially when it comes to measurements. As I stated previously, the MVUS has a lot of mistakes, but it still has a lot of value. One reason it is valuable is that the Government used the MVUS for tax purposes so the numbers should be accurate.
Some of the noted problems: misspelling of names; early on some vessels were entered twice in the MVUS, but these can be found by one of the entries in question only being recorded a year or two; official numbers are at times entered incorrectly and there are times when a vessel was rebuilt that they were changed; a major change came when they purged a number of vessels that were no longer registered from the MVUS in 1876; and a field for Net Tonnage was added in 1883, and some vessels had this entered as their Gross Tonnage, but would be changed the following year.
One must also remember that the MVUS measurement for length of the vessel is the length between the perpendiculars. I have also seen authors when inputting measurements confuse tenths of inches and actual inches. Custom House records prior to 1867 uses inches, but when the MVUS was issued they went to the use of tenths. Also be careful of tonnage as in the early 1860s a new tonnage measurement was adopted. Most times these are defined by a notation “Old Measurement.”
‘Version 2’ is currently being worked on and I am hoping to have this up in place of ‘Version 1’ before the end of winter. I started by crashing several lists (MVUS, all types of vessels,1888; MVUS, losses for 1907-1920; American Lloyds, Lloyd’s Register of American Yachts; Lytle List, Record of American Shipping; Marine List) into ‘Version 1’, but that created about 145,000 entries to go through and double check. When I computed the time it would take to complete this, I separated several of the lists out so it can be done in a much better time frame.
If you discover any issues please feel free to contact me