More than 650 Nantucketers traveled to California between October 1848 and December 1849 to seek their fortunes in the Gold Rush, and uncounted others followed in the years after. This tiny book lists those first Nantucket Argonauts, most of whom traveled direct from Nantucket, buying shares in one of the joint-stock companies that were set up to purchase or charter ships and procure equipment for the adventure. The ship Henry Astor, recently returned from a four-year whaling voyage, carried the members of the Astor Mining Company (listed on page 8 of this book as the Astor’s seamen) as well as the members of the Sherburne Mining Company (listed on page 9 as the Astor’s passengers), plus a few unaffiliated passengers. The Henry Astor was the second ship to depart Nantucket for California and took 188 days to get there sailing via Cape Horn.
The List of Persons . . . on Their Way Thither names many Nantucketers who started their journeys from other ports, particularly sailors who were already overseas. Brothers Charles B. (1812–1856) and Rowland H. Macy (1822–1877) decided they could reach California faster if they traveled via the Isthmus of Panama. This required them to go first to New York, where they booked passage to Chagres in the brig Dr. Hitchcock. Once in Panama, they crossed overland to Panama City and caught a steamer to the Golden Gate—a journey of 134 days altogether. Within a year of arriving in California, the brothers had established a dry-goods store in Marysville, an experience that informed R. H. Macy’s later and better-known department-store venture in New York City.