Photograph Collection of the Revenue Cutters "Bear" and "Corwin" in Alaska, 1880s
Title: Photograph Collection of the Revenue Cutters "Bear" and "Corwin" in Alaska, 1880s
Collection Number: photCL 131
Creator/Collector: Healy, Michael A., 1839-1904; Taber, I. W. (Isaiah West), 1830-1912
Extent: 282 photographs in 9 boxes; photographs 19.5 x 24 cm. (8 x 9 in.). See itemized list under "Additional collection guides."
Repository: Huntington Library. Photo Archives
Abstract: The 282 prints in this collection depict Captain Michael A. Healy, the U.S. Revenue Cutters “Bear,” “Corwin,” and “Richard Rush”; the crewmen of the afore-mentioned revenue cutters; Alaskan natives and their homes; and various views of the Alaskan wilderness and towns. These photographs were taken between 1880 and the 1890s. The collection provides insight into the people and events the “Bear” and “Corwin” encountered on their voyages.
Language of Material: English
Access is granted to qualified researchers and by appointment. Please contact the Curator of Photographs at the Huntington Library.
All requests for permission to publish photographs must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Photographs. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Huntington as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.
Photograph Collection of the Revenue Cutters "Bear" and "Corwin" in Alaska, 1880s. Huntington Library. Photo Archives
This collection was purchased from Michael Healy’s grandson, John K. Healy, on July 18, 1960.
Michael A. Healy was born September 22, 1839 to an Irish cotton planter, Michael Morris Healy, and a mulatto woman, Eliza Clark. Even though his father sent him and his brothers north to be educated (and hence escape slavery), Healy always ran away from the schools he was enrolled in, and eventually joined the clipper ship "Jumna" in 1855. For the next ten years, he sailed on merchant vessels until he was commissioned as a Third Lieutenant in the U.S. Revenue Service in 1865; that same year, Healy married Mary Jane Roach, the daughter of Irish immigrants to Boston. Healy served aboard a number of ships, but his Arctic command with the "Thomas Corwin" began in 1882; he rose to the position of captain in March of 1883. While in command of the "Corwin", Healy patrolled the Arctic to prevent illegal sale of guns and alcohol to the Alaskan natives and to control illegal fur seal hunting. The captain was also concerned for the well-being of the Alaskan natives, and ferried Siberian caribou over to help reestablish the natives’ food supply since many seals and walruses were killed by white traders. After the Revenue Cutter Service acquired the "Bear" in 1884, Healy became its commander and continued his mission of relegating illegal activities and assisting the Alaska natives with their food troubles. Also, the "Bear" became known for rescuing stranded sailors from whaling ships that had become stuck in the ice near northern Alaska. However, in the 1890s, Healy was charged for being drunk while on duty and for abusive treatment of his crew; he was found guilty by a court-martial and placed at the bottom of the captains’ list. He was given temporary command of two cutters before working his way back to the top of the list and receiving command of the cutter "Thetis". Healy retired from the revenue cutter service in 1903 and died of a heart attack on August 30, 1904 in San Francisco.
The 282 prints in this collection depict Captain Michael A. Healy, Frank A. Healy (Healy’s son), the U.S. Revenue Cutters “Bear,” “Corwin,” and “Richard Rush”; the crewmen of the afore-mentioned revenue cutters; Alaskan natives and their homes; and various views of the Alaskan wilderness and towns. These photographs were taken from the 1880s to 1890s. The collection provides insight into the people and events the “Bear” and “Corwin” encountered on their voyages while under the command of Healy. The collection also depicts Alaskan native graves; missionaries; whaling ships; ice fields in the Arctic Ocean; J. B. Vincent, a survivor of the shipwrecked “Napoleon”; Francis “Frank” Fuller, murderer of Archbishop Charles John Seghers; Alaskan native umiaks and various artifacts; and reindeer stations. Photographers who contributed to this collection include H. W. Bradley, Edward DeGroff, Lt. C. D. Kennedy of the USRC Maine, Geoff Knight, William H. Rulofson, and I. W. Taber. See also in the Huntington Library: photCL 97 for related photographs concerning the "Corwin"; and the Papers of Michael A. Healy, 1881-1900, call number mssHM 47577-47618.
Indians of North America—Alaska
United States. Revenue-Cutter Service
Healy, Michael A., 1839-1904
Seghers, Charles John, 1839-1886 [No photo of Seghers exists in this collection, but one of his murderer, Francis “Frank” Fuller, does.]