George A. Erskine Collection

Manuscripts Collection 199

Overview of the Collection

Repository: G. W. Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport
Creator: Erskine, George A. (1860-)
Title: George A. Erskine collection
Dates: 1875-1930
Extent: 252 pieces
Abstract: The collection consists of four boxes containing 51 diaries, most of which have entries for each day of the year plus notations on expenses, debts, and investments, and 17 folders of miscellaneous papers, paid bills, membership cards and photographs. The diaries start in the year 1875 and end in 1930. The early diaries before 1881 are incomplete, and there is only one page for 1 January 1928, and no diary for 1929. The diaries give a graphic picture of a schooner captain during the final days of commercial sail.
Identification: Coll. 199

Biography of George A. Erskine

Captain George A. Erskine lived in Stockton and Bucksport, Maine, and the moved to Connecticut in 1915. Although the diaries give little family history, we know that Erskine’s father was born in 1814 and died in Stockton in 1892; his mother died in 1913. He had several brothers and sisters, and all family members seemed close and fond of each other.

Captain Erskine was hired as cook in July of 1876 at the age of 16 on board the schooner COPY of Surry, Maine. He was employed on at least two other schooners, but by 1883 he was aboard the schooner ELLA as master. From then on he was master of the schooners CHARLESTON, JOHN DOUGLASS, HATTIE H. BARBOUR, EMMA C. LORD and the MELBOURNE P. SMITH, as well as owning shares in other Maine coastal vessels.

From the local coasting trade carrying lumber, granite, ice and phosphates, he branched out to longer voyages in larger vessels. He was rarely without a cargo. In the 1880’s he sailed his vessel during all the three or four winter months, but by 1893 he was making one or two longer voyages a year to the West Indies, the Gulf Coast and South America with shorter coastal trips during the summer. By 1904 he was working for the New York firm of M. P. Smith & Sons.

His first wife, Stella, whom he married in 1883, occasionally sailed with him, but she was not strong, and usually stayed home with the two children, Arthur who was born in 1886, and Ella, who was born in 1890. A third child, Francis, died shortly after birth in 1895. Stella died two years later. Captain Erskine remarried in 1902 to a widow, Mabel Gould of East Franklin, Maine, who had a son from her first marriage, Maurice. Mabel was a gregarious as her husband and made many voyages with him. He also took his son, Arthur, on several voyages as a paid hand.

By 1915 Captain Erskine seemed to tire of the sea. In that year he moved to New Haven, Connecticut, and in 1917 he left the sea for good, buying a farm in Guilford, Connecticut. For the next nine years he immersed himself in the raising of cattle, delivering milk and selling vegetables. In 1926 he sold the farm, and did some minor real estate transactions in Guilford, buying, renovating, and renting a few houses. Not once did he seem to regret leaving the sea. He was a pious and friendly man, and he made friends easily with captains in every port in which he stopped. He lost no opportunity to see the sights in each new place he visited; he loved the theater; and he was a “joiner” being a member of several fraternal organizations, granges and clubs.

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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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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.


Erskine, Arthur,–b. 1886
Erskine, Mabel Gould

Corporate Bodies (Including Vessels):

Charleston (Schooner)
Emma C. Lord (Schooner)
Hattie H. Barbour (Schooner)
John Douglass (Schooner)
M.P. Smith & Sons (New York, N.Y.)
Melbourne P. Smith (Schooner)


Coastwise shipping–Atlantic Coast (U.S.)
Granite industry and trade–Main
Ice industry–Maine
Lumber trade–Maine
Real property–Connecticut–Guilford
Shipmasters’ spouses–Maine
Shipping–New York (State)–New York



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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Coll. 199, Manuscripts Collection, G. W. Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport Museum, Inc.

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Detailed Description of the Collection

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


Volumes, primarily diaries with a notebooks, bank books, and expense book; 1875-1930
1 Diary/Notebook, scattered entries; 1875-1877
2 Diary/Notebook, scattered entries; 1876-187
3 Book of expenses, clothing, etc.; ca. 1877-1878
4 Primarily expense book, with four pages of diary entries; ca. 1879-1880
5 Diary; also accounts and misc. notes; 1881 Jan-May
6 Diary; 1882
7 Diary; 1883
8 Diary; 1884
9 Diary; 1885
10 Diary; 1886
11 Diary; 1887
12 Diary; 1888
13 Diary; 1889
14 Diary; 1890
15 Diary; 1891
16 Diary; 1892
17 Diary; 1893
18 Diary; 1894
19 Diary; 1895
20 Diary; 1896
21 Diary; 1897
22 Diary; 1898
23 Diary; 1899
24 Diary; 1900
25 Diary; 1901
26 Diary; 1902
27 Diary; 1903
28 Diary; 1904
29 Diary; 1905
30 Diary; 1906
31 Diary; 1907
32 Diary; 1908
33 Diary; 1909
34 Diary; 1910
35 Diary; 1911
36 Diary; 1912
37 Diary; 1913
38 Diary; 1914
39 Diary; 1915
40 Diary; 1916
41 Diary; 1917
42 Diary; 1918
43 Diary; 1919
44 Diary; 1920
45 Diary; 1921
46 Diary; 1922
47 Diary; 1923
48 Diary; 1924
49 Diary; 1925
50 Diary; 1926
51 Diary (1 page entry from 1928); 1930 Jan-Jul, 1928 Jan
52 Bank Book; ca. 1920-1927
Papers; ca. 1882-1930
Box Folder
4 1 Papers;
2 Papers; 1886-1890
3 Papers; 1891-1893
4 Papers; 1894-1895
5 Papers; 1896-1897
6 Papers; 1898
7 Papers; 1899
8 Papers; 1900-1901
9 Papers; 1902-1903
10 Papers; 1904-1907
11 Papers; 1908-1909
12 Papers; 1910-1912
13 Papers; 1913-1917
14 Papers; 1918-1920
15 Papers; 1921-1923
16 Papers; 1924-1926
17 Papers; 1927-1929
18 Papers; unidentified; undated
19 Tintypes and photos

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