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Inventory of the Michael A. Healy Papers, 1881-1900
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Subject matter
  • Important or interesting items: (1870-1912)
  • Material Cataloged Separately

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Michael A. Healy Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1881-1900
    Creator: Healy, Michael A., 1839-1904
    Repository: The Huntington Library
    San Marino, California 91108
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Purchased from Healy's grandson, John K. Healy, July 18, 1960


    Collection is open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information please go to following URL .

    Publication Rights

    In order to quote from, publish, or reproduce any of the manuscripts or visual materials, researchers must obtain formal permission from the office of the Library Director. In most instances, permission is given by the Huntington as owner of the physical property rights only, and researchers must also obtain permission from the holder of the literary rights. In some instances, the Huntington owns the literary rights, as well as the physical property rights. Researchers may contact the appropriate curator for further information.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Michael A. Healy Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    Captain Michael Healy (1839-1904), commander of the Revenue Cutters "Corwin" and "Bear" was the presence of the law off the coast of Alaska in the late 19th century. Although his primary function was to prevent the contraband sale of guns and alcohol to the natives and to control the illegal slaughter of seals, he was acclaimed for his fearless efforts to save the lives of seamen marooned in the Arctic. He was also concerned for the Eskimos, whose food supply was being depleted by the decreasing number of seals and walrus. Together with the missionary Sheldon Jackson, he initiated a plan to bring Siberian reindeer into Alaska. Healy bargained with the Siberian tribesmen for purchase of the animals, then ferried the shiploads of reindeer across the Bering Straits to establish the herds.
    Healy was born in Georgia, the son of an Irish father and a mulatto slave mother. He and his brothers were sent north for education and freedom. His brothers distinguished themselves academically, one becoming President of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., another the Bishop of Portland (Maine), but Michael ran away from schools in Massachussetts, Montreal, and Paris to go to sea at age 15. In 1865 he applied for a position in the U. S. Revenue Service, the precursor of the Coast Guard, and in the same year he married Mary Jane Roach (1835-1907) of Boston.
    Healy served in many areas, including Sitka, but his Arctic command began in 1880 with the steamer "Corwin" and continued from 1886 to 1896 with the famed ship "Bear" that had earlier rescued the survivors of the Greely Expedition off Greenland and years later was to be selected by Admiral Byrd to go to Antarctica.
    It was ironic that after the many years of praiseworthy service to all in the North and after years of controlling the illegal liquor traffic, that Healy should be charged with being drunk on duty, brought up for court martial, and relieved of his command. Eventually, however, before he died in 1904, he was given another command and restored to his position as 7th ranking captain in the service.

    Subject matter

    • A. Alaska
    • B. Ships -"Bear"
    • C. Ships -"Corwin"
    • D. U. S. Revenue Cutter Service
    • E. Whalers and whaling

    Important or interesting items: (1870-1912)

    • Diary of his son, Fred A. Healy, kept while aboard the "Corwin"
      Date: (1883)
    • Three diaries of his wife, Mary Jane (Roach) Healy, kept while aboard the "Corwin"
      Date: (1883-1884)
      and the "Bear"
      Date: (1890 and 1891)
    • Letterbook of ship "Bear"
      Date: (1885-1887)
    • Scrapbooks kept by Mary Jane (Roach) Healy re Alaska, Healy, reindeer, etc. (2 vols.). (HM 47617 contains a rare copy of the first issue of the Eskimo Bulletin, Vol. 1, No. 1,
      Date: March, 1893
      and a watercolor drawing of an Alaskan house by Bessie E. (Bugbee) Tarpley,
      Date: dated June 27, 1891)

    Material Cataloged Separately

    • 273 photographs in the Rare Book Department of the Huntington Library
    • The following newspapers also came with the collection and are now filed in the Rare Book Department of the Huntington Library
      • Nome Daily Chronicle,
        Date: Aug. 14-Sept. 29, 1900
      • Nome Daily Gold Digger,
        Date: Jan. 10, 1900
      • Nome Weekly Chronicle,
        Date: Oct. 6, 1900