Internet Research - a Chronicle

The research that produced these cigar ship pages has been almost entirely electronic.  My introduction to the ships occurred in my local library where, while looking for information about early submarines, I came upon Bizarre Ships of the 19th Century.  Later, e-mail correspondence with Ron Miller pointed out some additional information sources.  Although the subject interested me from the start, I didn’t begin the research project in earnest until late 1999.
The process was somewhat slow initially, with sparse leads, but these sometimes led to one or two more.  Like much research, it was a step-by-step process.  I began with Internet key word searches. There were few meaningful hits, but some e-mail inquiries produced responses.  Sometimes a letter was needed but I found the postal addresses electronically.  A single item sometimes led to dozens.  Wallace Shugg’s bibliography began a cascade of discoveries for me.  (This experience prompted my own comprehensive bibliography on these pages.)  Of course, physical material: books, publication back issues, original 19th century journal pages or copies, had to be physically mailed as well.  What I believe is one of the best sources for cigar ship information required a physical visit to Baltimore: the collections of the Maryland Historical Society.

These sites were particularly useful:


The following individuals and organizations in addition to those mentioned at left, helped significantly in my research:

Making of America Cornell University's contributions to the Making of America collection, includes a vast, searchable, on-line database of 19th century Scientific American. Ron Miller
John Lamb
Wallace Shugg
Norman Plummer
Lois Wright
Marcia Dysart
Jackie and Kirsty at Postaprint
Andy Pierce
Nancy Adams
Bill Bennett
Pete Lesher
Patricia Dockman Anderson
Meredith Sampson
Eleanor Heron
Claire Chapman
Millie Fitzgerald
Janet Boglio
Steve McLaughlin
Paul Davison
Steve Walk
Kate Martinson
Carey Nikonchuk
Vicky Green
Gary Creighton
Oliver Weiss
Eva White
Roddy Smith and Diana Armas
Digital Library Project The Digital Library at the University of Michigan has a high resolution, on-line collection of the 1865 Harper’s Weekly.
(This is different and distinct from the complete Harper’s Weekly, available to associates of institutions that have purchased the very expensive HarpWeek database access.  I appreciate the cost of building this collection, but it’s too bad the price structure excludes independent or casual researchers.)
PostaPrint Postaprint, UK, has a large collection of the 19th century Illustrated London News, and other journals.  The database descriptions are sometimes cryptic, but the staff is extremely helpful. Original material is, of course, subject to availability.
Timothy Hughes Timothy Hughes Rare and Early Newspapers sells copies of Harper's Weekly at reasonable prices.  The staff is friendly and helpful.
National Maritime Museum The National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, England has a large historical collection.  The staff is helpful and copies of prints in the collection are available for purchase.  I found two items pertinent to the cigar ships and funded the addition of a color negative of one to the collection.
Maryland Historical Society The Maryland Historical Society has a museum and library and publishes an historical journal. The library collection includes the Winans family papers.
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum has large manuscript and photograph collections and publishes a small magazine.

and certainly others, overlooked

Enoch Pratt Free Library
National Institution of Mechanical Engineers (UK)
University of Maine
Broome County Library
Jean-Louis Boglio Maritime Books
The South Carolina Historical Society
Victoria and Albert Museum Archives

US Patent and Trademark Office The United States patent Office now has all patents on-line.  Patents granted before 1976 are available in image form only, so search capability is limited to US patent office classification codes.  Searching using these codes is an arduous process but perseverance pays off.  It may help to know that later patents are issued on Tuesdays and numbers are assigned alphabetically by inventor.  There are usually several alphabetic sequences for a date. 
Visit the Library of Congress American Memories collection The Library of Congress "American Memory is a gateway to rich primary source materials relating to the history and culture of the United States. The site offers more than 7 million digital items from more than 100 historical collections".
and special thanks to
 the Winans family provides single point entry to used booksellers around the world.  I found two books in my bibliography at a shop in Australia. Some of the individuals cited above appear because they responded to the solicitation for photos and information on my main
Cigar Ships page.
My special thanks to them.
Visit Southampton at Port Cities The Southampton Reference Library Special Collections has some images of the port in the late nineteenth century.  Visit the Port Cities web site
A discussion archive at, a free genealogy site supported by

Despite some difficulties associated with copyright laws and rights, more and more material is being made available on-line, and local site search capabilities are improving.  I hope  we are approaching a time when a good deal of the collections of the world’s libraries and museums will be a click away from the connected researcher.

When the Google Books search was introduced a whole new source of information became available.  The actual text of period journals was suddenly there.  Copyright concerns later diminished this source however.  Sometimes a reference is flagged, but there is no way to determine anything about the content and the local library links are close to useless.

I discovered early in my research that Google, then still new and non-commercial, was the best search tool, and I used it  exclusively for my research Internet searches. (Occasional spot checks with other engines produced no additional information.)  But...

There are conflicting philosophies for Internet search engines:

  • One maintains that only the most popular sites need to be indexed because there’s so much information and, well, who cares about unpopular sites?
  • Another, that I subscribe to, indexes every site, because somewhere, someone else is also interested in every obscure subject.  Certainly, for this to work, the engine must provide a mechanism to refine a search down to the pertinent hits.
  • A more recent philosophy is that the searcher wants to see more of what his or her search history contains.  This might be ok but more likely imposes a restriction that takes choice away from the searcher.

And of course there is the now prevalent commercial-based concept that search results should steer the searcher toward a purchase.  After all, what would you be searching for but something to buy.


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2 Jun 13 
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