Pacific Coast Steamship Company


Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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Jan- Yes, and there is a TON of information on it out there, most of it negative. Check out Pacific Coastal Liners; Sea Rogue's Gallery; Disaster Log Of Ships, and any of the works of Jim Gibbs or Gordon Newell for detailed information on this almost homicidally mismanaged company. If you are in the mood for a good but bleak read, check out The Valencia Tragedy, by Michael Neitzel (1995) which is still relatively easy to track down. The Valencia is, along with the Indianapolis, probably the most awful wreck of them all. Briefly, in 1906, the Valencia ran aground on Vancouver Island with over 150 people aboard. 60 were killed when the lifeboats were improperly launched, and the remaining passengers were caught only 40 feet from shore, but in amongst breakers and reefs which made escape all but impossible.....they survived for more than two days, but what makes it depressing is that no one made any effort to save them- two rescue ships got close enough to see and hear the passengers, but sailed away without rendering further assistance (like firing a line to them) and people appeared at the top of the cliffs where the ship was stranded, but again failed to throw down a line, and finally the ship broke apart. I believe that about 29 were saved. Another Pacific Coast Steamship Line disaster of note is the Pacific (1875) which was a rotten old ship which rammed a sailing vessel off of Care Flattery Washington, and heeled over, broke in two and sank taking between 200 and 500 people with her depending on how hysterical the account you read is. The sailing vessel (Orpheus) left the scene because no one aboard believed that a large liner could be damaged by so light a collision, and eventually only two survivors of the Pacific were ever found, one of whom died shortly thereafter. There are others, of course, but those two accounts are typical of the Pacific Coast Steamship Line.
 
Dec 12, 1999
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Senator Perkins, who participated in the investigation of the Titanic disaster with William Alden Smith, and the others, was a general agent for this company. He may have been a co-owner before it was taken over by Pacific Coast Steamship. As such, he was probably a major stockholder, or director, or both. Given that record, he must not have thought much of the Titanic's sinking.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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Jan- That is a VERY interesting connection, and probably good book material. I am far removed from my personal library, but I have the actual death statistics for the Pacific Coast Steamship Line somewhere at home, and they are pretty grim as I recall. This is all being done from my memory, so I will stick to the most conservative "take" on the company as I run through this- the comapny made its money by buying up old East Coast ships (some of them uncompartmented) giving them the bare minimum maintainance required to keep them alfloat, and working them LONG past the point where they should have been scrapped. There is a GREAT article, very irate, from Ca 1900 in which (and I paraphrase) the journalist says: "There are only two safe ships operating out of West Coast ports .....most of our ships are so old that a hammer can be thrown through their side plating...." which pretty much sums up the Pacific Coast Steamship Line. I am going up to NY and my library this Saturday, so if you would like photocopies of the grim history of this line, contact me at jakwesternswing@yahoo.com with your address and I can send them to you. Compellingly ugly stuff, and as I said, the makings of a great book or article for someone.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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Hi Jan- One more example of why Perkin's Line had so odious a reputation, and again I am giving you a pared down version as it is coming from memory and I don't want to supply you with TOO many inaccuracies. The Santa Rosa ran aground off of Point Arguello Ca (I believe) and became stuck. There was an offer made to evacuate the passengers (to the Centralia, I think) but the Captain held his passengers aboard until (allegedly) another Pacific Coast Steam ship could take them off. The Centralia went on its way, and during the night a storm rose up and the Santa Rosa was driven further inshore and broke in half with loss of life. During the height of the crisis crew member circulated amongst the passengers advising them to remove their lifebelts: "We always supply our own belts when we work for Pacific Coast- those won't float." I think, but don't hold me to it, that the Santa Rosa disaster was in 1911, so it would have been fresh in a LOT of memories during the Titanic hearings, and I wonder now if any West Coast newspapers picked up on the apparent contradiction of Perkins investigating the Titanic disaster when his own company had something like that happen. More than once.
 
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Here, this this out. It's an excerpt from the San Francisco directory (1901). I'm sure that "Perkins" that's referred to is George Perkins, the U.S. Senator.
 
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Jan, about the cartoon at the bottom of the picture of the mayor, there are 2 ladies, one says music, what does the other one say??? I can't make it out.

Thanx
 
Dec 12, 1999
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The other one says "Poetry." I'm guessing that it's referring to the new Mayor, Taylor, a poet, taking over. The former Mayor, Schmitz, was a musician.
 
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I0040804B.jpg


Here's a picture of George Perkins, in the University of California's online collection. He was a governor, before he became senator. Apparently, he was president of Pacific Coast.
 
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The San Francisco Public Library has some information on Pacific Coast Steamship, and Governor Perkins, from an 1880s book, as follows:

Pacific Coast Steamship Company ---The line of steamships which carries passengers and freight to the Californian ports south of San Francisco belongs to THE PACIFIC COAST STEAMSHIP COMPANY, of which GOODALL, PERKINS & CO. are the agents, in San Frnacisco, and general managers. The Orizaba and Ancon, wooden side-wheelers, leave San Francisco at intervals of 5 days, touching at Port Harford, Santa Barbara, San Pedro, and ending their trips at San Diego; and the Los Angeles, a wooden propeller, leaves San francisco at intervals of 7 days, touching at Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Simeon, Cayucos, Gaviota, and Santa Barbara terminating her trip at San buenventura. The Los Angeles does not stop at Santa Cruz and Monterey unless she has passengers or urgent freight, and sometime, when sufficient freight is offered, stops at Goleta and Carpenteria. Besides these passenger steamers there are several freight steamers. The company's steamers Idaho and Geo. W. Elder sail on the tenth, twentieth, and thirtieth of every month from San Francisco for Olympia, and on the way touch at Victoria, Port Townsend, Seattle, and Tacoma. An iron propeller of 2,700 tons, The Queen of the Pacific, to be one of the fastest vessels afloat, is now being built for the company in Philadelphia, and will run either to the north or south from San Francisco, as circumstances may require.

Then, about Governor George Perkins, it says:

G. C. Perkins --The most notable ship-owner in California is GEORGE C. PERKINS, present Governor of the State, member of the firm of GOODALL, PERKINS & CO., who have a line of steamship plying from San Francisco to San Diego and intermediate ports, and are agents for a line from San Francisco to the Columbia River and Puget Sound. He was born in Main, August 23, 1829, and is now 43 years of age. After spending 6 years at sea as a cabin-boy, he arrived, at the age of 16, in California; and after working in the mines, and suffering from sickness, he obtained employment as porter in a store at Oroville, receving $60 a month. He rose successively to positions of clerk, partner, and sole owner of the establishment. Business prospered; money accumulated; he was elected to the Legislature; moved to San Francisco as member of the leading steamship company of the city; and in 1879 was elected governor of the State. Economy, industry, tact, suavity, integrity, and business carried him up rapidly from cabin-boy to Governor.

His partner, Charles Goodall, was an Englishman. He had been a captain, and had built a famous house in San Francisco, with an observatory at the top of it.
 
Dec 12, 1999
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Here's a photograph of the Pacific Coast Steamship Company's "State of California."


In the above biography, I noted that Gov. Perkins was born in 1829 --that would have made him 84 years old in 1912. That's awfully old for the pictures shown of him. Although he lived to 1923, I'm wondered if he's actually the senator who participated in the Titanic hearing, or perhaps the senator was his son.
 
J

Jason Bidwell

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There is a biography of George Perkins at

PERKINS, George Clement - Biographical Information

It's maintained by the US Congress, so I guess it's the government's official take on him. He was a US Senator from 1893 to 1915; he didn't run for reelection in 1914 because of "ill health." It says he was Chairman of the Committee on Fisheries in the 54th through 56th Congresses, which (I think) would be 1895-1901 (correct me if I'm wrong). At the time of the Titanic he would have been serving on the Committee of Naval Affairs. It's a pretty good biography, and has a unique picture of Perkins.
 
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Thanks for that, Jason. The U.S. Congress biography states his birthdate at 1839, not 1829. This makes him 72 at the time of the Titanic disaster.
 
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One of the principals of the Pacific Coast Steamship Company was Captain Charles Goodall. Here's a picture of the incredible house that he constructed in San Francisco. It has a tower or lookout from which Goodall would scope out San Francisco.
 
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James is quite correct about the Pacific Coast Steamship Company's sordid safety history. I came across the following information about the Company's ships on the California State Lands Commission's website "California Shipwrecks" --

1. Steamship Coos Bay, built 1894 and wrecked in 1914.

2. Steamship Fideliter, built 1860 and dragged moorings and wrecked in 1876.

3. Steamship Gipsy, built 1868 and grounded in 1905.

4. Steamship Los Angeles, built 1866, grounded and sank in 1894.

5. Steamship Newbern, built 1862 and grounded in 1895.

6. Steamship St. Paul, built 1875 and wrecked in 1896.

7. Steamship San Vincente, built 1875 and wrecked 1896.

8. Steamship Santa Cruz, wrecked 1904.

9. Steamship Santa Rosa, built 1884 and grounded in 1911.

10. Steamship Tennessee, built 1848 and grounded in 1853.

11. Steamship Tennessee, built 1843 and collided with another ship in 1851.

12. Steamship Yaquima, built 1881 and wrecked in 1897.

This is some history of a steamship line's disasters. The owner of the ships was originally Goodall, Perkins & Co.-- "Perkins" being then Governor, and later senator, George C. Perkins who in 1912 served on Senator Smith's committee. The company was taken over by Pacific Coast Steamship Company, with Perkins and Goodall still in control. As such, at the time of the hearing in 1912, Senator Perkins must not have been very impressed with White Star Line's failures, including Atlantic, Naronic and the Titanic-- given the extreme record of failures by his own steamship line. Further, it's inconceivable to me that Pacific Coast's record would not have colored his perspective on the Subcommittee's Investigation, and findings.

Finally, I think this is a significant revelation. If someone who ran a company with this kind of record was on William Alden Smith's committee, it obviously couldn't help the investigation. Perkins' influence could have tempered some of the Committee's findings in favor of International Mercantile Marine, and Oceanic Steamship Navigation Company.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
A photo of a Pacific Coast Steamship Co steamer while she was still intact? Incredible!
wink.gif


And she doesn't appear on the list of those wrecked either. Even more incredible!

Jan, I don't suppose you know what eventually happened to her, do you?

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

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