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    Re: More on Thomas Hubbard Sumner
    From: Nels Tomlinson
    Date: 2005 Feb 8, 07:49 -0900

    Trevor, it certainly wasn't unthinkable for a Harvard boy to ship out.
     See here: http://www.sandiegohistory.org/bio/dana/dana.htm .  Dana
    shipped out as a common seaman on a two-year trip to California in
    1834, because his eyesight  was failing.  I'm sure that it was
    unusual, but probably not quite scandalous.
    He came back, finished his education (the respite from study must have
    helped his eyes), and went on to make something of himself.
    Remember, this wasn't the U.K. and Oxford, this was a different
    country, with a different tradition.  There wasn't a lot of old money,
    and the British idea that trade was disreputable hadn't really caught
    on back then.
    On Tue, 8 Feb 2005 10:16:37 -0400, Trevor J. Kenchington  wrote:
    > Jim,
    > On your page, you have:
    > "Sumner was born in Boston on March 20,1807 [...]  He was the son of
    > architect Thomas Waldron Sumner [...]  He entered Harvard at the young
    > age of 15, studied advanced mathematics and astronomy under Professor
    > John Farrar, and graduated in 1826 with a Bachelor of Arts at age 19.
    > That year he ran off with a woman. He married her, but they divorced 3
    > years later.  He then shipped out as a common sailor on the China trade,
    > rising to captain in 8 years."
    > I wonder. It would have been unthinkable for a graduate of Oxford or
    > Cambridge to ship as a common seaman in that era. [It would have been
    > unthinkable for any British merchant ship owner to take university
    > graduates as trainee officers, on anything like a regular basis, until
    > almost the very end. When I graduated, in 1977, there was one shipping
    > company recruiting graduates as cadets but even that was very odd for
    > the industry. To the best of my knowledge, the first educated man to
    > sail before the mast in a British merchant ship was Basil Lubbock, not
    > long before 1900, and that was very aberrant behaviour for his time.]
    > Granted that Harvard College in 1826 had not yet earned a reputation to
    > rival the older English universities, while Sumner studied there at an
    > age closer to modern high school than university. Still, it is all a bit
    > odd.
    > Was Sumner disgraced by his divorce, so that he had to leave polite
    > Boston society? He might then have dropped to the social nadir of a
    > forecastle berth, only to work his way back by means of earning a place
    > on the quarterdeck. In that case, we have his marital problems to thank
    > for putting a trained mathematician and astronomer into a position to
    > discover the celestial LOP.
    > Or did he actually ship out with the functional role of apprentice, or
    > perhaps supercargo, albeit with a rating on paper of "seaman"? (I do not
    > know when, if ever, New England merchant vessels started carrying
    > apprentices as a distinct rating. I think it came a lot later than 1830
    > in British practice though it was well established by the 1890s.) That
    > would still not be something that an Oxford graduate would have done but
    > it seems that the New England merchant community sent its sons to sea to
    > learn that side of the business before they took over their fathers'
    > operations in Boston. (I have never seen a study of that practice but I
    > have seen various reports that are consistent with it.) Sumner was not a
    > scion of a merchant house but he may have come from a social group in
    > which training as a master mariner was considered appropriate for an
    > educated young man, and he may have shipped out to China with the
    > expectation that he was on track to a captain's berth (even though he
    > started in the forecastle like everyone else).
    > If the latter is what really happened, we ultimately owe the Celestial
    > LOP to the socially-mobile society of New England, where a man could
    > train his mind and yet still make a living by getting his hands dirty on
    > a merchant sailing ship -- which would have been unthinkable in
    > contemporary Old England.
    > Trevor Kenchington
    > Jim Thompson wrote:
    > > I added Richardson's biographical information on Sumner to:
    > > http://jimthompson.net/boating/CelestialNav/SumnerTrip.htm
    > --
    > Trevor J. Kenchington PhD                         Gadus@iStar.ca
    > Gadus Associates,                                 Office(902) 889-9250
    > R.R.#1, Musquodoboit Harbour,                     Fax   (902) 889-9251
    > Nova Scotia  B0J 2L0, CANADA                      Home  (902) 889-3555
    >                      Science Serving the Fisheries
    >                       http://home.istar.ca/~gadus

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