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Sale 2455 Lot 292
"LOADED MY PISTOLES AND TOOK MY SWORD AND WENT ON DECK" (WHALING.) Taber, John S. Captain's journal of a mutinous whaling journey in the South Pacific.  manuscript journal pages plus  other manuscript pages. Folio, original 1/2 calf, moderate wear; contents generally clean though the handwriting is moderately difficult. Vp, 30 May 1839 to 18 April 1846
Estimate $8,000 - 12,000
John Smith Taber (1811-1891) of Fairhaven, MA married Mary Ann Spooner in February 1839, and that May set off as captain on a two-year whaling voyage to the New Zealand grounds through 15 August 1841, aboard the Good Return of New Bedford. The voyage was a successful one. 74 whaling ships left New Bedford in 1839 per Starbuck, many of them larger than the Good Return, but only one returned with a greater quantity of whale oil than the Good Return's 3130 barrels.
However, it was not a happy voyage. Two men died: "Isaac Phillips departed this life without a struggle. At 8:30 a.m. hove aback the mainyard and commited his boddy to the deep" (26 August 1839) and "Jack Dimond jumped over board and drowned himself" (26 June 1840), while another man broke his leg when a cask rolled loose and fell into the blubber room (2 November 1839). On 5 December 1839, a sailor named Grinnell disobeyed the captain, and "I struck him a few times with my fist. He then denied duty. I called him myself a number of times to come up out of the forecastle and he would not come. I then went down after him and he clenched me. I thrashed him with a cat and drove him aft and put him in irons, and put him down in the can."
Most dramatic was a mutiny on 13 September 1840 which involved 8 crew members, described in a detailed two-page entry. One of boys refused to sweep the deck, claiming it was not his turn. "Told Mr. Mayhew to seize him up in the main rigging. The crew then came aft and swore he could not be seized up, and no other man. He made his escape from Mr. Parker and they ordered him forward. I immediately came down below and loaded my pistoles and took my sword and went on deck. The officers then had him aft again. I then told them that that man was agoing to put in to the rigging and flog, and if they interfered in the least that I would shoot the first one that attempted it. We had put him in the rigging, they then said that they would not do any more duty if I thrashed him. . . . Give him four dozen, whilst flogging him George Williams sang out 'stick to it,' and a number of them had a considerable of there balderdash. I then sung out for them all to come aft, and I heard George Williams say 'goddam him.'" The men then refused to work further until Captain Tabor promised there would be no more floggings. He did not have enough irons to confine the mutineers, was unable to get any extras from another passing ship, and eventually released them all.
Taber was liberal and creative in his use of whale stamps from October 1839 onwards. One whale is marked twice with "cuts," while others are pointed downward and marked "sunk." Harpoons are sometimes drawn onto the sunk whales, either to record their loss or to show where the whale was hit. Sometimes when no stamp was at hand, he would substitute a crude drawing. Altogether, more than 300 whale stamps or drawings appear in the journal, though many are not well-formed. Also included in this volume are partial logs of three other whaling voyages: the first two days of a second voyage aboard the Good Return, October 1841; a third voyage aboard the Good Return, January to May 1844; and aboard the ship Charles Frederick from Hawaii to New Bedford, November 1845 to April 1846. Taber did not serve as captain of these later voyages; one mutiny was apparently enough for him. In the rear of the volume are 12 poems (some of them possibly original), a list of spoke vessels, and a log of oil stowed. Overall, an extremely interesting whaling log. Provenance: from the collection of the Fairhaven Colonial Club, dispersed at Marion Antique Auctions, 10 June 2017, lot 92B. with--4 related Taber documents, including the Good Return's inward foreign manifest listing 3100 barrels of whale oil, and 3 receipts and letters from 1843-44.