Lady Washington

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Replica of the Lady Washington


Lady Washington (fl. 1790s), a 90-ton brig , the first American vessel (one of two) to enter the sea otter fur trade in the Pacific Northwest in 1787 under Captain Robert Gray. The vessel foundered in 1797 in the Phillippines.


WIKIPEDIA: The original Lady Washington, or more commonly, Washington, was a 90-ton brig. Her early history is still in question. As part of the Columbia Expedition, she left Boston Harbor on October 1, 1787. She sailed around Cape Horn and participated in the maritime fur trade with the coastal Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest and in tea and porcelain across the Pacific in China. She was the first American-flagged vessel to round Cape Horn. She was the first recorded vessel to make landfall on the Oregon coast near Tillamook, Oregon. John Meares claimed that she was the first non-native vessel to circumnavigate Vancouver Island.

Named in honor of Martha Washington, she was captained by Robert Gray, and later by John Kendrick, former captain of her larger sailing partner, Columbia Rediviva and commander of the expedition. At the end of the first trading season, Kendrick ordered Gray to sail Columbia to China, while Kendrick took command of Lady Washington. Under the command of Kendrick, she was refitted in Macau as a brigantine.

Lady Washington became the first American vessel to reach Japan in an unsuccessful attempt to move some unsold pelts. Lady Washington remained in the Pacific trade and eventually foundered in the Philippines in 1797. She was lost at the mouth of the Mestizo River, near Vigan, northwest Luzon in July 1797.



William Dane Phelps (1802-1875) Solid Men of Boston in the Northwest, unpublished manuscript, Bancroft Library. 1870s. Pdficon small 2.gif The manuscript describes the experiences of Boston ships on the Northwest Coast from 1787 to about 1812, but is principally an account of the Winship brothers and their ventures in the fur trade, 1803-1811. The authorship of this manuscript has been suggested by Miss Adele Ogden, from internal evidence and letter from Samuel Hooper to William D. Phelps, November 29, 1868, in the Phelps Collection, Widener Library, Harvard University:


“The fur trade, commenced by the Russians on the coast, in 1776, was not much known to Americans, previous to the War of the Revolution. In 1785, the Brig Carmen of sixty tons burthen, was fitted out in China by some English merchants, and made a successful voyage to the Coast, and back to China. This was followed by several small vessels from China and Bombay. In 1787 the first American vessels were fitted out for the fur trade of the N.W. Coast, were the ships Columbia of two hundred and twenty tons, commanded by Capt. John Kendrick, and the sloop Washington, of 90 tons, Capt. Robert Gray. These vessels sailed together from Boston, September 30th, 1787. Captain Kendrick was in charge of the expedition. They arrived safely on the coast and pursued the object of their voyage until the later part of 1789, when it was agreed between the two captains that Capt. Gray should proceed to Canton with the furs both vessels had collected, while Kendrick should remain on the coast in the sloop Washington. In accordance with this agreement Gray went to Canton, sold the furs, invested the proceeds in teas, and arrived in Boston in August 1790. This was the first time the globe was circumnavigated by an American ship.

Captain Kendrick remained on the coast with the Washington, and was successful in obtaining a very valuable cargo of furs, with which he proceeded to Canton... Captain Kendrick purchased the Washington of the owners, altered her into a brig, and returned to the Sandwich Islands, where he was engaged in a sandalwood speculation, and lost his life at Namakoa Bay [1794]... ”