News from 1895: Coptic returns to San Francisco

Mark Baber

MAB Notes:1. After spending 1882-83 on the White Star/Occidental & Oriental transpacific service, Coptic was switched to the White Star/Shaw, Savill & Albion service to New Zealand. This article describes her return to the Pacific service, on which she spent the balance of her White Star career, which ended in 1906; look here. 2. The numbers that appear in the first sentence of the fourth paragraph are as they appear in the original but unless Coptic's crew was only seven members strong, they're certainly wrong.

The San Francisco Call, 13 April 1895
Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

The Coptic Arrives From China With Smallpox on Board
Cabin Passengers May Be Released To-Day---The Silk Cargo Landed

The Occidental and Oriental steamer Coptic arrived in port yesterday from
China and Japan. The coming of the Coptic has been waited with considerable
interest, for it is many years since she was here and since that time she
has been practically rebuilt. She has been put on the China run to take the
place of the Oceanic, which was sent home to England for extensive repairs.
Those who hoped to inspect the new steamer were disappointed, for she came
into port flying the yellow flag, and the vessel and her passengers were
ordered into quarantine.

The Coptic arrived early yesterday morning, and Quarantine Officer Lawlor
boarded her off Meiggs wharf, where she dropped anchor. Two cases of
smallpox had been discovered on the trip, one of which was found to be of
the most virulent type. Dr. Lawlor ordered Captain Lindsay to steam to the
Angel Island quarantine station, and during the trip the cargo was

There were 466 bales of raw silk on board and the Occidental and Oriental
Company was desirous of getting the stuff ashore with all possible
expediency as in its handling time meant money. The silk is intended for the
East, and every bale was taken off and sent along toward its destination
last night. The tug Fearless was pressed into service and she made several
trips to and from the quarantine grounds during the day. The tug also
assisted in the transfer of the steerage passengers from the steamer to the
island. The cabin passengers remained on the steamer and the work of
fumigating them and the steamer will be completed to-day. It is expected
that the Coptic will dock this afternoon when the passengers will be landed.

In the steerage were 214 Chinese and 36 Japanese, and with the crew there
are in all 257 people in the quarantine station. The smallpox first broke
out on board on the 5th inst. A Chinese fireman named Ah Hee developed
unmistakable symptoms of the dread disease, and Surgeon Meloney, upon
examining him, pronounced his case the worst he ever saw. The surgeon
lost no time in isolating Ah Hee, and then proceeded to vaccinate all the
passengers. In going through the steerage, the doctor discovered that Chim
Chiang, another fireman, had a slight touch of the disease. Chim was also
isolated, and Meloney barred all the doors so that the cabin passengers
could only go on the hurricane deck. Thanks to the doctor's prompt action,
the spread of contagion was nipped in the bud, and no other cases were

The steerage passengers will remain in quarantine for seven days if no new
cases are discovered. The Coptic brings the greatest number, of Chinese
which has arrived here in a year. Of the batch of 214 there were 73 for this
city, the balance being destined for Panama and Havana. They are all

Following is the list of cabin passengers:

George S. Arnold. Mrs. Bostwick and child, J. L. Brady, U. S. N., Mr. and
Mrs. C. E. Chapman, W. S. Crosby, U. S. N., Mr. and Mrs. Dunby, Mrs. E. S.
Dunby, Miss Dunby, Rev. and Mrs. Van Dyke and four children, H. Tuegge., E.
C. Fewell, K. J. Griffin, U. S. N., A. M .Proctor, U. S. N., J. P. J. Ryan,
U. S. N., P. Dilligio, J. B. Jobling, Rev. and Mrs. Kingman and child, C. J.
Lang, U. S. N., L. J. Magill, U. S. N., Percy C. Morriss, M. B. Pengent, U.
S. N., E. R. Pollock, U. S. N., J. B. Potter, U. S. N., W. G. Powell, U.
S.N.; H. B. Price, U. S. N., Mrs. C. V. Sale and child, Paymaster Siamm, U.
S. N., Mr. and Mrs. C. L. Smith, E. O. Tuttle, H. H. Ward, U. S. N., C.
Wells, U. S. N., Count Wickenburg.


Mark Baber

The San Francisco Call, 14 April 1895
Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

Cabin Passengers of the Coptic Will Not Be Released Until Next Friday

The passengers on the quarantined steamer Coptic will spend their Easter on
board, looking with longing eyes shoreward. It was so decided yesterday by
Quarantine Officer Lawler after a consultation with United States Marine
Surgeon Peckham, who is in charge of the Angel Island station.

Dr. Meloney of the Coptic had made such excellent arrangements for the care
of the cabin passengers after the smallpox was discovered that the
authorities concluded that they need only remain in durance for nine days.
This will give them their liberty on Friday, the 19th, at which date the
Coptic will go alongside at the Mail dock. The passengers will be landed,
but the officers of the vessel will not be permitted to go ashore. Neither
will the Custom-house officers.

The quarantine officers argue that the Custom-house people, having come in
contact with the steerage passengers, it is proper that they should remain
in quarantine the full time, which will not be up until the 24th inst.,
fourteen days after the arrival of the steamer. The officers of the Coptic
will be deprived of their shore liberty on account of having came in contact
with Dr. Meloney. It will be hard on the officers, for the steamer sails on
the 23d, a day before the quarantine expires, so the men will have to go to
sea without getting a chance to see the city. The Customhouse men will be
put on the island with the steerage passengers.


Mark Baber

The San Francisco Call, 20 April 1895
Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

The Cabin Passengers of the Coptic are Allowed to Land

The steamer Coptic was released from quarantine yesterday morning, and
permitted to go alongside at the Mail dock. Her Chinese crew are still
detained at Angel Island, and her officers are practically in quarantine, as
they cannot leave the vessel. The cabin passengers were all landed
yesterday, and they sent a very complimentary letter to the Occidental and
Oriental Company, Captain Lindsay of the Coptic and Dr. Lawlor, thanking all
hands for the treatment they had received.

The Coptic sails on Tuesday, and the stevedores will have to work on her day
and night, discharging and loading her.


Mark Baber

MAB notes: 1. This concludes the reporting of Coptic's return to the
transpacific service. 2. Coptic's most recent San Francisco visit before
this was in 1883, not "eight years ago" as stated in the headline. 3. In
the interim, she was on the White Star/Shaw, Savill New Zealand service, not
"on the Atlantic," as stated in the article. 4. Oceanic never in fact
returned to service; after her return to Belfast, her anticipated
overhauling was scrapped and so was she.

The San Francisco Call, 23 April 1895
Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

She Visited This Port Eight Years Ago as a Pacific Mail Boat
Will Take the Place of the Oceanic, Now Refitting in England

To-day at 3 o'clock P. M. the Oceanic steamship Coptic, Captain Lindsay,
sails for China and Japan via Honolulu. About eight years ago she visited
this port as a Pacific Mail steamer, since which time she has been running
on the Atlantic as a White Star boat.

The Coptic is a steel four-masted bark-rigged steamer, and is of 4448 tons
burden, and was built in 1881 at the shipyard of Harland & Wolf, Belfast,
Ireland. Her length is 430.2 feet, breadth 42.2 and depth 24.2 feet.

She has been refitted throughout to take the place of the Oceanic, which has
returned to England to be overhauled.

Like all English vessels of her class she is roomy in her passenger
accommodations and splendidly furnished through and through with rich and
modern conveniences.