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Means for Making the Highways of the Ocean More Safe

Date: 1867
Overall: 240 x 145 x 2 mm
Medium: Ink on paper, pencil
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Pamphlet
Object No: 00047869
Place Manufactured:Boston

User Terms

    In this pamphlet Forbes argues for the use of life boats and life preservers in American vessels, in the course of which he cites many American maritime disasters, and shows how life saving equipment might have made a difference. Typically, he was years ahead of his time in arguing for something that is now common practice.
    SignificanceCaptain Robert Bennet Forbes was a well-known and respected clipper captain, as well as the inventor of the Forbes Rig for clipper ships. He was also author of at least 14 pamphlets on maritime matters, including this one.
    HistoryNew York Times November 24, 1889

    Robert B. Forbes Dead.

    Capt Robert B. Forbes, who died yesterday at his residence in Milton, Mass., was one of the old merchants of Boston, and was closely identified with the shipping interests of days gone by. He was born at Jamaica Plain in 1804, and began his career on the sea at an early age, making a voyage to Europe in a little topsail schooner when only six years old. The vessel was captured by a British frigate. At the age of thirteen Capt Forbes went to sea before the mast, having been for a time in the store of his uncles, James and Thomas H. Perkins of Foster's Wharf, and he made his first voyage to China.

    At the age of twenty he was Captain of one of his Uncle's ships, and the next year, 1825, he went to San Francisco, where not a house could be seen on the beach. During the first ten years of his seagoing life he was not on shore more than six months. His connection with the China trade was a leading feature of his experience, and when about thirty years old he retired from the sea and became a merchant. After retiring from his roving sea life he settled down and married, and for the next four years he lived on Temple-place, Boston, having for his next-door neighbor his uncle, Thomas H. Perkins.

    Capt Forbes met with heavy reverses in the crisis of 1837, and to retrieve his fortunes again went to China. He arrived at Hong-Kong when the affairs of foreign merchants were in a serious condition, and shortly after his arrival he and his associates were imprisoned for five weeks. He was finally released, and carried on his business at Canton when the English merchants shut up their factories, exchanging goods for tea. When it was seen that the British Government was likely to blockade Canton and bring the Chinese to terms, Capt. Forbes and his partners in the firm, Russell & Co., of which he was a member, pushed their business and secured handsome profits.

    In 1840 Capt. Forbes went back to Boston with a large fortune. The next year he visited Europe, and on returning home again, for the nine years following engaged in commerce at home. In 1849 he went to China again, and on the voyage saved several lives, for which he was presented with a medal by the Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane Society. Lloyd's Shipwreck Society of London, and the Massachusetts Humane Society. One of his conspicuous acts was his aid to the sufferers of the Irish famine of 1846-7, when the United States Government sent him out in command of the frigate Jamestown. In 1858 he went on a Government expedition to the Pacific ocean. In the civil war he organized the coast guard. He was one of the founders of the Sailor's Snub Harbor and was the inventor of the "Forbes Rig." He wrote many articles on sea-faring matters.

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