Sources for S.S. Golden Gate Research
by Andrew Czernek, aczernekATcomcast.net
Those with an interest in genealogy will find the newspaper sources from this period readily accessible and useful. However, because shipboard records were destroyed in the fire there's some difference in names as one tries comparing accounts.
The easiest resource to use is the New York Times for Aug. 8 through the end of 1862. Though it was not New York's largest newspaper, it is readily available online via Proquest Historical Newspapers (available via many public libraries). The stories on the Golden Gate - and even one editorial in September, 1862 critical of the loss of so many lives - are easy to find. Because news sources were scarce and often shared by newspapers, the telegraph and post-sinking officers reports are very similar between the New York (and even San Francisco) newspapers.
The post-accident reports, written the day that Capts. Hudson and Pearson were rescued by the St. Louis, appeared in the New York Times on Aug. 30, 1862. The accounts were reprinted from the San Francisco Daily Alta California, Aug. 7, 1862. The San Francisco Bulletin reports from Aug. 11 with the "final" list of the deceased appeared in the New York Times on Sept. 7, 1862, though the lists that appear on these pages are an agglomeration of many newspaper reports, as none is complete.
Also of value are microfilm copies of the New York Herald, which at the time was the dominant newspaper. I'd obtained my first copies on microfilm by using inter-library loans.
Harder to obtain but equally valuable are microfilm copies of the San Francisco Daily Alta Times, which was printed in San Francisco and carried many detailed accounts of the sinking and later attempts to salvage the wreck. These are also available on microfilm via inter-library loan. One microfilm roll contains all copies of the Daily Alta Times for July-December, 1862.
Andre Chavanne's account, "The Burning of the Golden Gate in July 1862. The Impressions of a Survivor," was translated from its original French version and appears in the California Historical Society Quarterly, March, 1940. Portions of it can be found in the Google Books database:
"Sea Routes to the Gold Fields," Oscar Lewis, 1949
A full version in the JSTOR online archive.
The addition of the Francis W. Lodge letters from 1863-1865, detailing his battle with salvage teams over the legal rights to gold from the wreck, was made in 2009 thanks to Kim and Robin Paterson, of Australia, who forwarded the linked copies of Capt. Lodge's journal.
Several books have been published about the Golden Gate, though they tend to emphasize the ship's construction and operation. The most-complete is:
C.E.D.A.M. (Conservation, Echology, Diving, Archaeology and Museums), a museum in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico, published "Legend of the Golden Gate" in 2003. It tells of the museum's 1979 salvage attempt and has a narrative of the fire and sinking built on survivors' accounts. Written by museum director Roman Rivera Torres and Joe Kelly Hughes, it was limited edition printing of 1,000 copies.
It was an oral report of heroism by a great great uncle, John Fry, that spurred me to this research originally. Surprisingly, new material is added to the story every year as people forward information.