Michael A. Healy Papers: Finding Aid

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Overview of the Collection

Title: Michael A. Healy Papers
Dates (inclusive): 1881-1900
Collection Number: mssHM 47577-47618
Creator: Healy, Michael A., 1839-1904.
Extent: 3 boxes
Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2129
Email: reference@huntington.org
URL: http://www.huntington.org
Abstract: This collection contains papers of U. S. Cutter ship captain Michael A. Healy (1839-1904) who commanded the U.S. Revenue Cutters "Corwin" and "Bear" off the Alaskan coast in the mid 1880s, and his family. Subjects include Alaska; the ships the "Bear" and the "Corwin"; the United Staets Revenue Cutter Service; and whalers and whaling.
Language: English.


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Administrative Information

Publication Rights

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Preferred Citation

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


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

Biographical Note

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.

Material Cataloged Separately

The following newspapers also came with the collection and are now filed in the Rare Book Department of the Huntington Library:

Scope and Content

This collection contains papers of United Revenue Cutter ship captain Michael A. Healy (1839-1904) and his family, consisting of 39 pieces of correspondence, 4 diaries, a letterbook from the U.S. Revenue-Cutter Service ship, "Bear," (1885-1887), two large scrapbooks, and an illuminated manuscript testimonial to Capt. Healy in a leather pouch. Three of the diaries (1884, 1890, and 1891) are by Healy's wife, Mary Jane Roach Healy, kept while aboard the "Corwin" (1883-1884) and the "Bear" (1890 and 1891) (HM 47578-HM 47580), and the fourth is by his son, Fred A. Healy (written aboard the "Corwin" in 1883) (HM 47577). The scrapbooks (HM 47616-47617) kept by Mary Jane Healy contain clippings related to Capt. Healy's time in Alaska as well as general articles about Alaska, its population, whaling, the missionary Sheldon Jackson, and reindeer. HM 47617 contains a rare copy of the first issue of the Eskimo Bulletin, Vol. 1, No. 1, March, 1893, and a watercolor drawing of an Alaskan house by Bessie E. (Bugbee) Tarpley, dated June 27, 1891.


Arranged in 3 boxes by call number.

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  


Healy, Michael A., 1839-1904.
Healy, Fred A.
Healy, Mary Jane Roach.
Jackson, Sheldon, 1834-1909.
Bear (Ship)
Corwin (Ship)
United States. Revenue-Cutter Service -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.
Eskimos -- Alaska.
Missionaries -- Alaska.
Reindeer -- Alaska.
Ship captains -- Alaska -- Archives.
Whaling -- Alaska.
Women -- Alaska -- Diaries.
Alaska -- Description and travel.
Alaska -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.


Diaries -- Alaska -- 19th century.
Letters (correspondence) -- Alaska -- 19th century.
Scrapbooks -- Alaska -- 19th century.

Alternate Authors

Healy, Fred A.
Healy, Mary Jane Roach.

Box 1

Diaries (HM 47577-47580) and Correspondence (HM 47581-47614)

Box 2

Letterbook (HM 47615) and Scrapbook (HM 47616)


Healy, Michael A. and others. Letterbook for the U.S. Revenue Steamer "Bear." 1885-1887 HM 47615

Containing copies of letters by Charles Stebbins Fairchild, A. B. Davis, and others.

[Healy, Mary Jane]. Scrapbook of clippings re: Alaska. 1885-1893 HM 47616

Box 3

Scrapbook vol. 2 (HM 47617) and Testimonial (HM 47618)


[Healy, Mary Jane]. Scrapbook of clippings, etc. re: Alaska. 1892-1894 HM 47617


Kelley, Williams H. and others. Testimonial to Captain M. A. Healy ... from the Masters & Owners of the North Pacific Whaling Fleet. San Francisco. 1889 December 2 HM 47618