The forerunner

COMMERCE sat and scanned the horizon for the vessel bringing William A. Whitehead from the north. A few weeks from his arrival on Key West, he would be pressed into its service. Commerce had only a tenuous foothold on this remote, imperfectly charted island which still pinned its fortunes on misfortune, still relied for life … More The forerunner

Wild isle

WILLIAM Whitehead considered few aspects of his first sea voyage worth transmitting to posterity. An unpublished memoir composed in later years but replete with details of his childhood and upbringing preserves scant information about this October 1828 journey. The vessel’s cabin was too crowded for its “three or four passengers”; the anonymous captain and crew … More Wild isle

Rough seas

LIEUTENANT Matthew C. Perry guided the Shark, battered by a spell of “boisterous weather,” into Havana harbor for repairs. The damage to the schooner, though slight, signified that its next assignment, to police the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, was to be no easy affair. Of late the Shark and its steely skipper had helped deter … More Rough seas

The entrepôt

GULLS danced a ballet around the spars of the Mary Lord with a semblance of exultation at her journey’s end. Laborers and clerks, meanwhile, joined in their own peculiar revels, hefting wooden crates from the hold, inspecting and recording the cargo dockside, wheeling it away to a waiting storehouse. Chests of exotic shape and design … More The entrepôt

Progress and place

FOR all that it has gained or lost in the tides of politics and war, Perth Amboy’s history attests to the power of place, the environment’s ability to span time and distance through the agency of human memory and motivation. For so many who spent the bulk of their lives elsewhere–and William Whitehead was by … More Progress and place

The hero’s welcome

CHARACTERS famous and obscure helped shape the thoughts and deeds of William Whitehead. Of the famous, none was more universally adored than the French nobleman who took America’s side in the Revolution. Whitehead, though born a half century after him, clearly shared in the popular regard for the Marquis de Lafayette. When Lafayette set foot on … More The hero’s welcome