[Various places. August 19, 1903 - February 14, 1905; February 21, 1905 - December 1, 1905]. Two volumes. ; pp., approximately 45,000 words. Contemporary calf notebooks. Worn, rubbed, some soiling and contemporary ink inscriptions on front board of each volume, ink stamp on rear board of second volume. Family ink notes on pastedowns of both volumes. Internally clean and legible. Very good. In a cloth clamshell case, leather label. Item #WRCAM55171
Two naval journals kept by Landsman Ralph A. Gould of El Reno, Oklahoma, covering the period beginning Aug. 19, 1903 to December 1, 1905, providing a detailed narrative of Gould's voyages aboard the USRS Independence, the USS Petrel, and the USS Princeton. Visiting bases all over the Pacific Ocean, Gould's journals are fine evidence of the increased American naval presence in the region in the era of the "Great White Fleet" and expanded imperial holdings following the U.S. victory in the Spanish-American War. The journals comprise an appealing below-decks narrative, including accounts of Gould's experiences at sea and on shore at various land- falls. Born July 20, 1885, Gould was between eighteen and twenty years old when he kept these journals, and he records his activities in a lively and entertaining style. The majority of the journals relate to his service aboard the USS Petrel, a gunboat belonging to the Asiatic Squadron, patrolling the Pacific, at a time of heightened international watchfulness due to the Russo-Japanese war. He visits numerous anchorages including but not limited to, the Aleutian Islands - Dutch Harbor and Kiska Harbor - Sausalito Bay, Acapulco, Magdalena Bay, Panama, and various places on the Pacific Coast. Often docking to pick up and discharge cargo - coal and wool are mentioned - Gould reports, in colorful detail, the incidents aboard and ashore: scouting parties, the capture of a bald eagle, the near death experiences of several crew members after a whale boat capsizes, and the frequent communication with other vessels in the fleet. Early in his service time, Gould records his experiences in Acapulco on Christmas Day, 1903: "All hands troubled with the heat. Arrived at Acapulco, Mexico, a fortress & beautiful village. The stranded ship. First foreign port to enter. Looking over Acapulco. A night of solid revelry and theft. The fight. Buying relics....The old church & fortress were relics & very ancient. All hands bought plenty of fruit and etc. The snake hides." By early September 1904, Gould and his mates arrive in the Bering Sea among the Aleutian Islands, specifically mentioning the trouble in finding safe anchorage near Semisopochnoi Island and Kiska. They lose one of their officers, who is recovered shortly thereafter but is very much worse for wear. Here, Gould witnesses the harvesting of a sperm whale: "Well we are not out whaling but while the hearty gales were on a young sperm whale was beaten upon the rocks and killed and after taking several different photographs of him the crew of the Patterson towed him alongside that vessel, cleaned him and then hauled him on board. They are going to render for the oil and the sperm whales bones are the best so they will save his bones." Later, on January 5, 1905, Gould finds himself in Honolulu: "I received my Kodak yesterday and the six rolls of film and today went to Honolulu and took a couple of snap shots, and had a very nice time in the city. The band was playing at the Capalanu [Kapiolani] Park and we met Kiskel and he was paid off yesterday and is going home on the first transport which arrives. Went all over the city of Aiei and met the Poastmaster and several of the leading men of the sugar refinery and had a very nice time with them." But the Russo-Japanese War continues to surface in his journal when on August 31, 1905, five days before the Treaty of Portsmouth is signed, Gould receives news while in Panama of the recent negotiations between the two warring countries: "The whole city of Panama is celebrating the peace conference, and all flags are being displayed all day and everyone is in good humour," concluding remarkably presciently, "I myself am glad that war is over but there will not be peace with all nations very long. There will be another war soon, and a more bloody affair than this." An engaging glimpse into the life of a seaman at the turn of the century. Journals by regular seamen are most unusual from this period, and this is a truly wonderful example - literally and figuratively - of history from below.