Scope and Content
Title: Edward Brinley, Jr. Papers
Bulk dates: 1840-1856
Collection Call Number: mssHM 74000-74090
Brinley, Edward, Jr.
The Huntington Library,
Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2191
Abstract: The collection contains papers of
New Jersey sailor Edward Brinley, Jr. (1824-1867), including family correspondence and
a journal kept by
Brinley on board the USS North Carolina in 1840.
Language of Material: The records are in English and
Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader
The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material,
nor does it charge fees for such activities.
The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with
[Identification of item]. Edward Brinley, Jr. Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
Purchased from Michael Brown Rare Books, LLC on October 28, 2009.
Edward Brinley, Jr. (1824-1867), was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, to Francis W.
Brinley, a merchant who served as Surveyor General
of New Jersey, as well as the Mayor of Perth Amboy in 1845 and 1847. He was preceded by two other Edward Brinleys: his
grandfather and his paternal uncle. After a
childhood in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, and an education at the
Rensselaer Institute in Troy, New York, where he earned a degree in civil
engineering, Brinley was appointed a midshipman in the United States Navy in 1840.
Brinley served aboard a number of ships over his career, including the U.S.S. North
Carolina, U.S.S. Delaware, U.S. Frigate Brandywine, U.S. Frigate Congress, U.S.S.
Falmouth, U.S.S. Preble, and the U.S.S. Potomac. During his time in the Navy,
Brinley served up and down the U.S. Atlantic coast, as well as in the Mediterranean
from approx. 1841-1843, the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico from approx. 1844-1846, the
Pacific (aboard the U.S.S. Preble) from 1847-1850, and finally the Gulf of Mexico
and the Caribbean again 1855-1856. While aboard the Preble in the Pacific theatre,
Brinley participated in the naval blockades of the U.S.-Mexican war, visited
ports-of-call including Honolulu, Shanghai, and most notably, Nagasaki, during
Captain James Glynn's famed negotiation for the release of the sailors of the
shipwrecked U.S. Whaler Lagoda. Brinley's health began to suffer at the end of his
Pacific cruise in 1850 (his letters indicate that nearly 50 of his shipmates aboard
the Preble died of dysentery while en route to California from China), and forced
him to quit the Navy following his cruise on the Potomac during 1856. He returned to
Perth Amboy, where he served as Surveyor General of the East Jersey Proprietors
and Commissioner of Pilotage for the State of New Jersey. He was granted a
certificate of exemption from the draft during the American Civil War due to
disability on account of a "permanent organic stricture of the urethra." He died of
unknown causes on February 18, 1867, in Charleston, North Carolina.
Edward's brother Thomas Brinley
(1829-1871) was a gold rush miner in the vicinity of
Scope and Content
The collection contains 69 letters (primarily between members of the Brinley family
and Edward Brinley, Jr.), 18 documents (largely relating the career of Edward
Brinley, Jr.), a journal kept by Brinley on board the USS North Carolina, October
1840-May 1841, and the U.S.S. Delaware from December 1843-March 1844, and a portable
wooden writing desk owned by Brinley.
Correspondence is arranged alphabetically. The letters written by Edward Brinley, Jr.
(HM 74003-74038) will prove the most interesting aspect of the collection to
historians, thanks to the wide-ranging experiences, diverse insights, and colloquial
epistolary tone of its author. Edward Brinley, Jr.'s letters of the 1830s (HM
74003-74008) provide a remarkable portrait of his education. HM 74003-74004 are
written by Edward to his father and provide a fascinating glimpse of Brinley's
childhood trips to visit relatives in Allegheny, New York, and Zelienople,
Pennsylvania. HM 74005-74008 are written from Edward Jr. to his father while he was
studying toward his engineering degree at Rensselaer School (later to become
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), and provide a unique picture of quotidian student
life there in the second decade of that institution's existence.
The first letter from Edward after his appointment as a Navy Midshipman is HM 74009,
when he was serving aboard the U.S.S. North Carolina in New York Harbor. The next
series of letters (HM 74010-74016) were written during Brinley's cruise of the
Western Mediterranean and include remarks about ports-of-call including Lisbon,
Cadiz, Gibraltar, Genoa, and Port Mahon. HM 74012 has a fascinating account of
attending a bullfight in Cadiz. HM 74014 includes a discussion of the Caroline
affair, which had heightened Naval tensions in the Mediterranean at the time, as
well as mention of the sale of Raphael's "Mary with Infants Christ and John The
Edward Jr.'s letters of the 1844-1845 period (HM 74017-74021) deal with his service
on the U.S.S. Falmouth in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean during the prelude to
the U.S.-Mexican War. Here Brinley comments extensively on the intrigues of Mexican
politics, U.S. Naval movements in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean and on the
election of James Polk over Henry Clay. HM 74021 also includes a remarkable tale of
a quartermaster who committed suicide by jumping off the Falmouth whose head was
found, 24 hours later, in the gullet of a large shark caught by sailors on the
Edward Jr.'s letters of the 1846-1850 period (HM 74022-74033, HM 74075) deal with his
service aboard the U.S.S. Preble during its cruise of the Pacific. Brinley's
comments on the economic, ecological, and political phenomenon of the Pacific
throughout these letters. The California gold rush, U.S. economic colonialism in
present-day Hawaii, U.S. whaling in the Pacific, and the Chinese Opium trade are
among the issues extensively discussed. HM 74028-74030 contain commentary of Glynn's
entry into Nagasaki, although the discussion is fairly sparse considering the
historical significance of Glynn's entry.
Edward Jr.'s letters of 1856 (HM 74035-74037), during his service on the USS Potomac
in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, include discussions of the "filibusterer"
William Walker's short-lived takeover of Nicaragua (where Edward Jr. made a
port-of-call at San Juan).
The letters of Francis W. Brinley (HM 74039-74055), Edward, Jr.'s most frequent
correspondent, are dominated by family news and fatherly advice regarding the merits
of hard work and respect for authority. Francis's letters do contain some
interesting portraits of quotidian life as a businessman in Perth Amboy, NJ,
however. HM 74049 contains a detailed description of Francis's Gaelic-speaking Irish
household servants. The two letters of Thomas Brinley (HM 74059-74060) paint a
dismal picture of his failed attempt at making a fortune in 1850s California. The
remainder of the correspondence relates primarily to the everyday affairs of the
The manuscripts and documents section, each series arranged chronologically, contains
primarily Federal and New Jersey government documents relating to the military and
civil service of Edward Brinley, Jr., as well as various documents relating to
Andrewetta Brinley's widow's pension.
The journal of Edward Brinley, Jr. (HM 74073) contains details of nautical weather,
crew discipline, and ship maintenance aboard the U.S.S. North Carolina during its
stay in New York Harbor. The journal of the U.S.S. Delaware contained therein
details the same during that vessel's cruise of the Mediterranean and trans-Atlantic
journey back to Norfolk, VA. The back of the folio has a chart relating to nautical
The final folder in the collection contains two documents included with the
collection at the time of accession—one a family tree of the family of Francis W.
Brinley (of unknown provenance) and an excerpt from the catalog of Michael Brown
Rare Books that contains transcriptions of large sections of the letters of Edward
The collection also includes the portable wooden writing desk of Edward Brinley, Jr.,
which contains writing and nautical instruments, as well as a newspaper clipping
which details how to make a homemade barometer.
Arranged in 2 series:
- Manuscripts, Documents and Ephemera
Congress (Frigate :
North Carolina (Ship of
Falmouth (Sloop of
Walker, William, 1824-1860.
Mexican War, 1846-1848.