George Comer Collection

Manuscripts Collection 102

Overview of the Collection

Repository: G. W. Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport
Creator: Comer, George, 1858-1937
Title: George Comer Collection
Dates: ca. 1855-1938
Extent: ca. 17 items
Abstract: The George Comer Collection contains a small number of letters, some printed matter, and numerous clippings (copies) relative to Comer’s voyages and activities. There are also seven whaling/sealing journals and two naval journals, along with four notebooks kept by Capt. Comer.
Identification: Coll. 102

Biography of George Comer

George Comer (1858-1937), of East Haddam, Connecticut, was a whaling and sealing ship master who sailed vessels from New London and New Bedford to the Antarctic and Arctic Regions ca. 1875-1919. In addition to the normal activities of a ship master at sea, Capt. Comer recorded notes on Eskimo life, took pictures, and collected artifacts, which he then contributed to the American Museum of Natural History of New York. During his career he sailed aboard many whaling and sealing vessels, and commanded the schooners ERA, A. T. GIFFORD, and FINBACK. In World War I he served on the U.S.S. RADNOR, U.S.S. WYSKA, and U.S.S. ELINOR. Capt. Comer will always be remembered for his whaling/sealing voyages described in the following excerpts from a memorial address included in this collection.

“As he traveled to the uttermost parts of the globe he was not only interested in capturing whales but also in all the forms of life and mysteries of nature with which he came in contact. A natural student he soon acquired a knowledge of a language of the Eskimos, and having overcome the native taboos was able to learn much of Eskimo history and customs…

“Recognizing his unusual ability the American Museum of Natural History commissioned him to do considerable amount of work in anthropology and ethnology as well as in natural history. His records of geographical and topographical information were outstanding and he was made a fellow in the council of the Geographic Society. He made more than three hundred plaster casts, or life masks, of Eskimos which are now in museums in Germany, Canada, and in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. In the last named museum is the Comer Collection of skins of various Arctic animals, geological specimens, birds, bird’s eggs, and other interesting specimens…

“He was as familiar with the Antarctic as with the Arctic, although he spent more years in the northern than the southern zone. He was in the Arctic when Peary made his dash to the North Pole and when Capt. Cook made his claims to discovery. He has been the companion and friend of all the Arctic explorers of his time…

“When in the later part of his life he ceased to travel to the North, he still kept up his correspondence with his scientific and sporting friends and also with his Eskimo friends. He was much in demand as a lecturer on whaling, and the Arctic and Antarctic lands and people, and he illustrated his lectures by many interesting photographs which he had himself taken and transferred to slides.

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Restrictions on Access

Available for use in the Manuscripts Division

Restrictions on Use

Various copying restriction apply. Guidelines are available from the Manuscripts Division.

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Related Material

Journals of Captain George Comer at the American Museum of Natural History, New York

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Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the catalog of the G. W. Blunt White Library. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Corporate Bodies (Including Vessels):

A.T. Gifford (Schooner)
American Museum of Natural History
Era (Schooner)
Finback (Schooner)
Radnor (Steamship)
United States. Navy–Officers


Antarctica–Description and travel
Arctic regions–Description and travel
East Haddam (Conn.)
New Bedford (Mass.)
New London (Conn.)


Voyages and travels
World War, 1914-1918–Naval operations

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Coll. 102, Manuscripts Collection, G. W. Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport Museum, Inc.

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Index to Personal, Corporate and Vessel Names

NOTE: The fraction(s) indicate the Box and Folder numbers where that particular reference can be found. For example, the researcher will find information about J. Allen in Box 1, Folder 1 of the collection.
Allen, J. 1/1
Allen, Jerome 1/1
American Museum of Natural History 1/1
Bradley, John 1/1
Bumpus, ? (Dr.) 1/1
Chapman, Frank 1/1
Comer, George 1/1
Comer, Julia 1/1
Cook, Frederick 1/1
Crocker Land Expedition 1/1
Dickerson, Mary 1/1
Donnalson, ? 1/1
Ellsworth, Lincoln 1/1
ERA (Ship) 1/1
Freuchen, ? 1/1
Goddard, ? 1/1
Harvey, ? 1/1
Hayward, ? 1/1
Hovey, ? 1/1
Kane, Henry 1/1
KAP-YORK (Ship) 1/1
Low, A. 1/1
MacArthur,? 1/1
MacMillian, D. 1/1
NEPTUNE (Steamship) 1/1
Newcomb, Frederic 1/1
Operti, Albert 1/1
Orchard, ? 1/1
Osborn, Henry 1/1
Rasmussen, Knud 1/1
Sherwood, George 1/1
Smith, L. 1/1
Steffanson, ? 1/1
Walcott, F. 1/1
White, Fred 1/1
Wolterbeek, R. 1/1

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Detailed Description of the Collection

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.


Manuscript correspondence and notes, pamphlets, and Xerox copies of newspaper clippings; ca. 1855-1938
Box Folder
1 1 Incoming and outgoing correspondence, notes; 1903-1927 and undated
2 Schooner ERA, “Synopsis of Voyage”; 1901 Aug
3 Sightings taken at Coral Harbor, South Bay, Southampton Islands; 1908 Aug-Sep
4 “Records of Births at or near Cape Fullerton, Hudson Bay”; 1877-1911
5 Memorial addresses for Capt. George Comer; ca. 1937-1938
6 Notebook of miscellaneous poetry, verse, lyrics, etc. by Julia Smith; ca. 1855
7 Clippings of George Comer’s seafaring activities; ca. 1900-1920
8 Clippings of Schooner BLOSSOM expedition; 1923-1924
9 Clippings of Lincoln Ellsworth Antarctic expeditions; ca. 1934-1936
10 Copies of Geroge Comer obituaries and memorials; 1937-1938
11 Clippings of Barnard Colby articles on local whaling masters, printed in “New London Day”; ca. 1935-1936
12 Miscellaneous clippings regarding whaling masters and exploration; ca. 1930
13 Arctic Club “Bulletin”; 1907 and 1911-1912
14 “The Express Journal” by Explorers Club of New York; 1922 and 1924
15 Miscellaneous pamphlets and brochures
Volumes; 1887-1919
1 Journal kept by George Comer, master, on board the whaling/sealing schooner ERA of New Bedford, Massachusetts; 1897-1899
2 Journal kept by George Comer, master on board schooner ERA; 1900-1901
3 Journal kept by George Comer, master on board schooner ERA; 1903-1904
4 Journal kept by George Comer on board schooner ERA; 1904-1906
5 Journal kept by George Comer on board schooner ERA; 1905
6 Journal kept by Lt. J. G. George Comer, navigation officer on board U.S.S. RADNOR (freighter); and U.S.S. WYSKA (freighter); 1918 Apr- Aug; 1918-1919
7 Journal kept by Lt. George Comer, 2nd officer on board U.S.S. ELINOR (steamship); 1919 Feb-Apr
8 Journal kept by George Comer, master, on board the auxillary schooner FINBACK; 1919 Jul-Sep
9 Notebook of “Accounts and Sundries, Comer Family”; ca. 1900
10 Notebook of “Notes of Interest on Alaska South Hampton Islands, 1899”; 1899
11 Notebook, “Memos about chickens, penquins, and islands on voyage” schooner FRANCIS ALLYN; 1887 Aug 2-1889 Apr 3
12 List of ships stores, provisions, clothing, and trading articles on board the whaling/sealing schooner A. T. GIFFORD, of New Bedford, George Comer, master; 1907-1909
13 Journal kept by George Comer, master, on board schooner A. T. GIFFORD; 1910-1912

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