Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
James A. Whipple Papers, 1846-1862

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, August 2011

Summary Information
Title: James A. Whipple papers
Creator: Whipple, James A., 1826-1861
Inclusive dates: 1846-1862
Extent: 1.75 linear feet
Abstract:
The James A. Whipple papers contain correspondence, documents, and drawings related to Whipple's career as an engineer during the mid-19th century. Whipple's interests in submarines and naval engineering are documented throughout the collection, which includes correspondence, documents, drawings, and patents.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1969. M-1478.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

James A. Whipple papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Arrangement

The collection is arranged into the following series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Financial Records
  • Series III: Documents
  • Series IV: Journals
  • Series V: Essays
  • Series VI: Drawings and Sketches
  • Series VII: Printed Material
    • Subseries I: Newspaper Clippings
    • Subseries II: Other Printed Material

The Correspondence series is arranged chronologically, with undated items placed at the end. The Documents series is arranged chronologically and by theme, with miscellaneous items placed at the end.


Biography

James Aldrich Whipple was born on July 22, 1826, and grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, where his father worked as a machinist. James showed an early affinity for engineering, which led him to an apprenticeship in a steam engine firm. He developed an interest in submarines and began inventing new mechanical designs. Whipple worked closely with the United States Navy on drafts of several implements, some of which he invented, such as a submarine trumpet and several pump mechanisms. However, he made his living primarily in salvaging shipwrecks. His career allowed him to travel throughout the world in the 1850s to such places as Venezuela, the Turks Islands, and the Middle East. Whipple became ill on a voyage in 1861 and he eventually died from the disease.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The James A. Whipple papers contain correspondence, documents, and drawings related to Whipple's career as an engineer during the mid-19th century. Whipple's interests in submarines and naval engineering are documented throughout the collection, which includes correspondence, documents, drawings, and patents.

The Correspondence series contains incoming items to Whipple. Most pertain to business affairs and to Whipple's family and acquaintances. Letters often pertain to submarines, Whipple's salvage business, and Whipple's trips abroad. A few items originally belonged to George L. P. Taylor, a United States consular agent.

The Financial Records series consists of receipts, accounts, and other documents concerning Whipple's business dealings, which reflect his interest in submarines and naval affairs. Many documents relate to his schooner Arcade . The series includes a pocket diary of financial notes and figures for 1855.

The Documents series contains a variety of items related to Whipple's business affairs, personal life, and interests in submarines and naval engineering.

Items of note include:

  • An explanation of an illustration (not present) showing improvements in submarine armor (March 2, 1848)
  • A document from the council of Charleston, South Carolina, thanking Whipple and his associates for salvaging a statue of John C. Calhoun (November 19, 1850)
  • A passport from the Republic of Venezuela (13 December 1852)
  • Documents authorizing several journeys of James A. Whipple and his associates
  • A receipt from the United States Patent Office for Whipple's application for "pumps for forcing water" (January 18, 1854)
  • "Result of experiments on dissolving Scale in Boilers made at Beyrout" (March 31, 1855)
  • A patent application for a submarine trumpet, made jointly by William H. James and James A. Whipple (April 30, 1855)
  • "Report on the efficiency of the [submarine] armour for the U. S. Navy"
  • Documents regarding "Whipple's patent double acting momentum pump," including advertisements, diagrams, and Whipple's patent application (October 21, 1859)
  • Diagrams for a "process for driving Piles Posts or Timbers in Earth or other yielding Material" (May 25, 1859)
  • 22 contracts made between James A. Whipple and other parties
  • Several drawings of mid-19th-century underwater diving suits
  • James A. Whipple's United States passport (May 30, 1849)

Two Journals include an "Extract from the Journal of J[eremiah] Murphy whilst working in the Liberty Banks" (April 21-May 24, [1857]) and a journal kept by William A. Dodge, J. R. Wheeler, and James A. Whipple during their time salvaging wrecks off Santo Domingo.

The Essays series contains 2 unattributed items: "Sub Marine Work" and "My Brother Capt. James A. Whipple…"

The Drawings and Sketches series has schematic figures for various inventions, such as a device consisting of a large wheel powered by a horse and a device for making cigars. Several other drawings show views of unlabeled inventions.

Printed Material includes 8 Newspaper Clippings and 6 Other Printed Materials. Newspapers include a full issue of Boston's Evening Gazette (July 2, 1859), as well as several short articles regarding trials for steam-driven fire engines. Other items include Whipple's business card, a "Circular of James A. Whipple. Submarine Engineer, Boston, Mass" (1857), printed descriptions of naval-related inventions, and printed drawings of mechanical inventions.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Deep diving.
    • Engineers--United States.
    • Inventors & inventions.
    • Marine engineering.
    • Submarines (Ships)--History.
    • Submarines (Ships)--Salvaging.
    • United States. Navy.
    • United States. Patent and Trademark Office.
    Contributors:
    • Murphy, Jeremiah.
    Genre Terms:
    • Clippings (information artifacts)
    • Contracts.
    • Essays.
    • Financial records.
    • Journals (accounts)
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Patents.
    • Receipts (financial records)
    • Sketches.
    • Technical drawings.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
     
    Correspondence [series]:
    Box   1 Folders   1-25
      January 2, 1847-May 1, 1855
    Box   2 Folders   1-26
      May 6, 1855-October 20, 1860, and  undated
     
    Financial Records [series]:
    Box   3 Folders   1-10
      April 30, 1846-July 19, 1862
     
    Documents [series]:
    Box   3 Folder   11
    Explanation of illustration showing improvements in submarine armor,   March 2, 1848
    Box   3 Folder   12
      November 26, 1849-October 6, 1856
    Box   3 Folder   13
    Agreement between Whipple and Francis Drew,   May 15, 1854
    Box   3 Folder   14
     1854-1857
    Box   3 Folder   15
    Result of experiments on dissolving Scale in Boilers made in Beyrout [Lebanon],   March 1855-April 1855
    Box   3 Folder   16
    Petition for United States Patent for submarine trumpet,   April 30, 1855
    Box   3 Folder   17
    Report on submarine armor,  1849-1856
    Box   3 Folder   18
    Documents regarding steam pumps,  1857-1859
    Box   3 Folder   19
    Process for driving Piles, Posts, or Timbers in Earth...,   May 25-September 14, 1859
    Box   3 Folder   20
    Wreck of the ship Grotto off of Massachusetts,   February 25, 1862
    Box   3 Folders   21-22
    Contracts
    Box   3 Folder   23
    Proposal to United States Navy Department regarding submarine equipment
    Box   3 Folder   24
    Documents regarding submarine diving
    Box   3 Folder   25
    Document regarding steam fog whistle
    Box   3 Folder   26
    Document regarding Allen's Patent Capstan
    Box   3 Folder   27
    Documents regarding naval and submarine equipment
    Box   3 Folder   28
    Securing gold from pails of sand
    Box   3 Folder   29
    United States Passport issued to James A. Whipple
    Box   4 Folder   1
    Documents regarding James A. Whipple's voyages
     
    Journals [series]:
    Box   4 Folder   2
    Extract from journal of Jeremiah Murphy,   April 21, 1857-May 24, 1857
    Box   4 Folder   3
    Journal of James A. Whipple, William A. Dodge, and J. R. Wheeler,   February 23, 1858-June 3, 1858
     
    Essays [series]:
    Box   4 Folder   4
    "Sub Marine Work"
    Box   4 Folder   4
    "My Brother Capt. James A. Whipple..."
     
    Drawings and sketches [series]:
    Box   4 Folders   5-7
    Drawings and sketches
     
    Printed Material [series]:
     
    Newspaper clippings [subseries]:
    Box   4 Folder   8
     1859 and  undated
     
    Other printed material [subseries]:
    Box   4 Folder   9
     1857 and  undated
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Thomas Silver scrapbook is related to a steam engine governor patented by Thomas Silver, a marine engineer who also worked in the 1850s.

    Dickman, Howard L. "Captain James A Whipple: Marine Salvor, Engineer, and Inventor." The American Neptune 34.2. 1974, pp. 89-102.

    Bibliography

    Dickman, Howard L. "Captain James A Whipple: Marine Salvor, Engineer, and Inventor." The American Neptune 34.2. 1974, pp. 89-102.