When it comes to travel, it’s easy sometimes to regret not living in a different, quainter time. Sure, ours is an age where we zip from one end of the planet to the other at truly mind-boggling speeds, but one gets the feeling, as technology evolves, that people have come to take the whole thing for granted. The miracle is now the mundane – the sense of wonder is gone.
Yet not so long ago, back before the Wright Brothers took to the skies, people marveled at the ability to travel. Everything beyond one’s backyard was unknown and exotic, and journeys were always exciting, usually difficult, and often treacherous. People rarely left their state of province, never mind the country.
The historic broadside advertised a journey aboard a steamer named for industrialist Moses Taylor
On Friday June 10, Cowan’s Auctions gives bidders a taste of this bygone era when they offer Lot 330 in their American History sale. A rare California US Mail Steamship Co. broadside, this 28 x 42 inch piece advertises the United States Mail Steamship Companys passage from New York to California, via Panama, aboard the steamship Moses Taylor.
And just whom was this ship named for? Well, Moses Taylor was a big deal in the 19th-century. A New York merchant and banker and one of the wealthiest men in the country, his estimated wealth, at the time his death was reported to be around $70 million (about $1.7 billion today). He controlled the National City Bank of New York (later to become Citibank), and the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western railroad.
One of the real selling points of this voyage was that the ship would be skippered by Civil War hero John McGowan. McGowan had received the U.S. militarys highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions at the Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip. His citation reads: "McGowan occupied one of the most responsible positions on the U.S.S. Varuna during the attacks on Forts Jackson and St. Philip and in action against the rebel ship Morgan on 24 April 1862. Although guns were raking the decks from behind him, McGowan remained steadfast at the wheel throughout the thickest of the fight, continuing at his station and rendering service with great courage and skill until his ship, repeatedly holed and rammed by the enemy, was beached and sunk."
Cowans Auctions much-anticipated American History sale is set down for Friday, June 10 and contains over 350 expertly curated lots. Look now at the full catalog.