A Tale of Two Shipping Crates from Brother Jonathan 1865
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On July 30, 1865, the steamship Brother Jonathan sank off the coast near Crescent City, California. Although a well-known tragedy at the time, its exact location was unknown until the 1990s when Deep Sea Research, Inc. located the wreck and began salvage operations. Certain artifacts were given to the state of California, including two shipping crates. These crates were entrusted to the Texas A&M University’s Conservation Research Laboratory for analysis and conservation. The first crate was packed with various hardware and trade tools in quantities indicating it was bound for a general store—all of these items were found to have been ordered from the Russell and Erwin Manufacturing Company who packed and sent the crate from San Francisco, California; the second contained more singular hardware and tools from multiple manufacturers, likely ordered by an individual rather than a store. Analysis of the items in the second crate, some of which were also ordered from Russell and Erwin, in relation to historical context and geographical location suggest that the crate was likely intended for a blacksmith. There is no proof of the crate’s origin or destination other than the known route of Brother Jonathan. Conservation of the artifacts in the second crate preserved the tangible history of the era and of Brother Jonathan. Using various methods of conservation provided further case study for the future conservation of similar artifacts of this composition and from this era.
Dollarhide, Kirsten Dianne (2019). A Tale of Two Shipping Crates from Brother Jonathan 1865. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from