Lot 193 of 475:
Archive of a Master Mariner  

Click image to enlarge
Lot closed - Sold For (Includes Buyers Premium):$900
$1,500 - $2,500

Archive of photographs, manuscripts, and other items relating to the life and career of Frank Alfred Johnson, master mariner, longtime captain for Matson lines, including command of a Matson liner converted to troop transport during World War II


Various places




Collection comprising four photograph albums, numerous additional photographs (including celebrity passengers with two signed by Shirley Temple), many letters and documents, passenger guest book signed by notable travelers, a file of documents, (secret and otherwise) compiled by Johnson while commanding a troop transport, ephemera, and more. 

Fascinating archive surrounding the life and professional service of a notable and accomplished ship captain, Frank Alfred Johnson (1891-1953), who obtained his Mates license at the age of 23, and rose to command large cruise liners plying the Pacific, notably between California and Hawaii. It was at the completion of his last voyage, having docked in San Francisco, that he died of a heart attack, at the top of his profession. 


Frank A. Johnson, born in Oregon, the son of a Danish sea captain, obtained his Mates license in 1914 in San Francisco and served four years as 3rd and 2nd mate on Associated Oil tankers before joining the Matson Navigation Company in 1917. Between 1917 and 1921, he sailed between the east coast and Europe. For the next four years he was skipper of the tow boat Sampson, running between the Umpqua River in Oregon and San Pedro and San Diego. After a brief stint with the Los Angeles Steamship Co. as a 3rd mate of the S.S. Waimea, he was made 2nd mate of the Matson ship S.S. Yale. In 1927-1935 Johnson was Captain of the S.S. Yale. In 1935 he was given command of the liner Matsonia on the Hawaiian Island run. He served this position until WWII when he was made Port Captain at San Francisco. He asked for and was granted his old command on the S.S. Mastonia which was then in military service. When the war ended, the Mastonia kept on with the sailings between the mainland and Hawaii. By 1948, the S.S. Lurline had been refitted for luxury travel to the Islands and the command was given to Captain Frank Johnson. He kept this command until his death in August, 1953.
A partial list of material in the archive:
  • Photograph album spanning the years c.1907-1914, primarily relating to the Shore family (Frank A. Johnson was to marry Edna Lydia Shore in 1922), featuring many family members and friends, with Frank making a few appearances toward the end. A scrapbook-style album with numerous captions.
  • Photograph album with approx. 50 photos apparently relating to the Shore family in the early 20th century.
  • Photograph album with approx. 38 photographs, perhaps recording a trip, with many seashore views. c.1900.
  • Photograph album with approx. 130 photos, with many of docks and boats, and burly, Scandinavian-looking men in peacoats, so likely the Johnson family. c.1900-1910.
  • Photographs of celebrities in Hawaii and aboard the Matsonia or Lurline, including: Shirley Temple playing a Ukulele, signed by Temple; Shirley Temple, her mother and father (presumed), signed by Shirley Temple; “Mary Astor and daughter, June 1938, S.S. Matsonia” – captioned in ink on verso. With, apparently, then-husband Manuel de Campo; Color photograph, in presentation folder, of Clark Gable, then-wife Sylvia Ashley, and Captain Frank A. Johnson; Three larger photographs of Clark Gable, Sylvia Ashley, and others (including Santa Claus), plus one of Ashley, Santa and others without Clark.
  • Merchant Marine "Continuous Discharge Book" for Frank A. Johnson, c.1940, with photograph, with a seaman’s identification card for him from 1918, also with photograph, laid in.
  • Sheet with three deck plans of the S.S. Yale, express steamer from San Francisco to Los Angeles and San Diego, on which F.A. Johnson served in various capacities up to captain, 1923-1935.
  • Listing, by duties by not by name, of the officers and men of the S.S. Yale, giving their salaries. 1922.
  • Leatherbound passenger guest book for some 42 voyages aboard the S.S. Matsonia on the California-Hawaii run, signed by numerous passengers, with their residences, beginning in November 1935 (the year Frank A. Johnson began his tenure as captain of the vessel), ending in October 1939. Among the passengers were William E. Boeing of Seattle (and Boeing aircraft); Charles W. Wrigley (Chicago adman and younger brother of the chewing gum magnate, uncle of the baseball club owners); Gracie Allen and George Burns (yes, them, of Beverley Hills, Cal.); Howard Eugene Verbeck and Blanche Harriman Verbeck, (their residence the famous house at 637 Lucerne Blvd., Los Angeles); Shirley Temple, and the child star’s mother Gertrude Temple; Edgar Bergen; and many more, the rich, the famous, and the aspiring. At the end is a caricature sketch of Captain Johnson, the artist’s name illegible, but the style familiar.
  • The “Personal File” compiled by Frank A. Johnson, from January 1942 to December 1945, comprising typed and mimeographed orders, letters, requests, memoranda, and more, some marked SECRET, ranging from voyage orders to arrangements for loading ice aboard ship, and everything in between. This offers an invaluable record of the operations of a troop transport in the Pacific Theater during World War II, down to minute detail.
  • Logbook recording voyages between July 7, 1944 and Feb. 22, 1945, when Frank A. Johnson was the captain of the Matsonia in service as a troop transport. First page headed “Ooo Bay to Auckland via Milne Bay [Papua New Guinea] July 7 1944 0707.” With latitude, longitude, mileage, and much detail on fuel consumption, fresh water consumption, etc. 
  • Four-page brochure issued as a tribute to the service of the Matsonia as a troop transport during World War II, with a picture of the ship, a textual account of the service, and a list of ship officers (headed by Frank A. Johnson) and attached military officers.
  • Scrapbook with newspaper clippings relating to the resumption of passenger voyages by the S.S. Matsonia, with Frank A. Johnson the captain, in 1946 following service as a troop transport during WWII.
  • Six-page (on rectos of 6 leaves) typed (carbon) request by Frank A. Johnson. Lt. Comdr. U.S.N.R., to the Chief of Naval Personnel, requesting an adjustment (upward) in his rank in the U.S. Naval Reserve that would be “commensurate with the positions I have held and war service performed in the maritime industry.” There is a summary by Johnson of his service and commendations by others. Signed by Johnson in ink, along with a rear admiral and a vice president of Matson Navigation Company. Dated 19 May 1947. This request seems to have worked, if not immediately: There is present in the archive his appointment as a Captain in the reserve dated Nov. 15, 1950, but backdated to Jan. 1, 1946, signed by the Secretary of the Navy.
  • Five radiograms and three telegrams sent to Frank A. Johnson on his maiden voyage as Captain of the S.S. Lurline, 1948, offering congratulations, etc.
  • License issued by the U.S. Coast Guard to Frank A. Johnson as a “Master, Steam and Motor Vessels,” 1951.
  • Night Orders for the SS Lurline, June 19, 1953, to August 17, 1953, the first ten days each signed by H.R. Gillespie as master, before Frank A. Johnson took over for the remainder. Johnson died of a heart attack on August 17, 1953, apparently after docking in San Francisco – this was his final voyage, and his last Night Orders, and most certainly the last document he signed.
  • The July-August 1953 issue of the Matsonnews, with a full-page "In Memoriam" tribute to Frank A. Johnson on the inside rear wrapper.
  • Plus numerous other photographs, ephemera, letters, newspaper clippings, documents, Identification cards, and much more.


Due to the size and/or weight of this lot extra shipping and/or handling charges may apply.

Lot Amendments

Various amounts of wear, as may be expected, overall very good.

Item number:
Shipping info:

We have a full service shipping department to ensure proper packing and safe delivery of purchases at reasonable cost. We are specialists at packing and shipping books and works on paper.   All lots purchased by the same client are combined for shipping in order to keep the cost as economical as possible.  Our preferred method for domestic shipments is UPS Ground but we can also ship via FedEx or USPS Priority Mail. We do NOT ship USPS Media Mail under any circumstances.For international orders we select the most appropriate carrier depending on the value and weight of the items purchased.  We are happy to accommodate special arrangements by request.

Invoices are sent out the day following the auction and include a minimum $10 handling fee plus actual shipping and insurance charges.

Shipping estimates can be obtained  by contacting [email protected] prior to the auction.


Terms and conditions


All accepted bids are contracts and are considered final and non withdrawable.


A buyer's premium of 20% will be applied to all purchases.


The person posting the bids online has to be the person who has registered for the auction.



Property listed in our online or print catalogues will be sold by PB Auction Galleries, dba PBA Galleries, as agent for others subject to the following terms and conditions.  Clients placing bids at auction agree to pay the full purchase price of any lots for which the client is the winning bidder and further acknowledge and agree to these Conditions of Sale.  PBA Galleries reserves the right to amend these by notice or oral announcement at the sale.

1.  All bids are to be per lot as numbered in the catalogue.

2.  PBA Galleries reserves the right to withdraw any property for sale at any time prior to its final sale.

3.   Unless specified, each lot is offered subject to a reserve, generally one-half of the low estimate.  PBA Galleries does not accept reserves of more than the low estimate nor allow consignors to bid on their own items.

4.   PBA Galleries reserves the right to reject a bid from any bidder.  The highest bidder acknowledged by PBA Galleries shall be the purchaser.  In the event of any dispute between bidders or in the event the auctioneer doubts the validity of any bid, the auctioneer shall have sole and final discretion either to determine the successful bidder or to re-offer and resell the article in dispute.  If any dispute arises after the sale, our sales records shall be conclusive in every respect.

5.  The “hammer price” is the price at which a lot is sold or the highest accepted bid at the close of the lot.  The “purchase price” paid by the winning bidder is the aggregate of (a) the hammer price, (b) a buyer’s premium of 20% of the hammer price up to $100,000, plus 15% of the amount above $100,000, and (c) applicable California state and local sales taxes.  California state and local taxes will be collected except where sold to a purchaser outside of California and shipped to the purchaser or the purchaser has a valid California resale license and provides such documentation to PBA Galleries.

6.  Payment terms:  All items are to be paid for by cash, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, wire transfer, cashier’s check, e-check or personal check with approved credit or through Paypal.  Wire transfers are accepted for all international transactions and any domestic transaction over $1000.  PBA Galleries offers a 1% discount on purchases paid by cash, check or wire transfer over $1000 on invoices paid within 10 business days of the sale.  The discount does not extend to shipping and handling charges.  PBA Galleries reserves the right to hold items paid for by personal check until the check has cleared the bank.  Buyer agrees to pay PBA Galleries $50 for any returned check.  Invoices are due upon receipt.  Merchandise is shipped only after full payment has been received. 

7.  Purchases that have gone unpaid twenty (20) business days after the sale are subject to any or all of the following:  (a) late charge of five percent (5%) of the total purchase price per month; (b) cancellation of the sale; (c) rescindment of bidding privileges at future auctions; (d) initiation of legal proceedings to collect the entire debt including original purchase price, late charges, and legal fees and costs to the fullest extent permitted by law; and (e) any other action or actions PBA Galleries finds necessary and appropriate.

8.  Purchases must be removed within five (5) business days of cleared payment unless shipping instructions are received by PBA Galleries.  If not removed, property will be held at the sole risk of the purchaser and no responsibility is assumed if such goods are lost, stolen, damaged, or destroyed. PBA Galleries reserves the right to store unclaimed purchases either in our office storage facilities or a public warehouse at the expense of the purchaser.  Purchaser will be charged 10% of the purchase price/month for storage. PBA Galleries assumes no liability for any damages incurred during storage. 

9.  In order to prevent inaccuracy in delivery or inconvenience in the settlement of a purchase, no lot can be transferred.  Each buyer must pay for the whole of his purchases before any lot can be removed.

10. PBA Galleries has an in-house shipping department and will ship property via UPS or FedEx.  PBA Galleries will not ship via USPS Media Mail.  Total shipping costs include a packing fee, carriage and insurance.  PBA Galleries will not be responsible for any loss of damage resulting from the shipping in excess of the amount of insurance.  Property is shipped only after payment has cleared.

11.  If purchased property cannot be delivered in the same condition as at the time of sale, due to fire, theft, loss or any other reason, PBA Galleries’ liability will be limited to the sum actually paid by the purchaser.  In no event, will compensatory or other damages be included. 

12.  Any and all information provided by PBA Galleries, including all employees of PBA Galleries, in its catalogs, other written or oral descriptions, email or elsewhere are qualified statements of opinion.  They are not intended to represent warranties or representations of any kind or nature with respect to the property or its value, merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, or whether the purchaser acquires any copyrights.  In no event shall PBA Galleries or the consignor be responsible for the correctness of description, genuineness, attribution, provenance, authenticity, authorship, completeness, condition of the property or estimate of value.

13.   Property may be returned by the purchaser, the sale rescinded and the purchase price refunded only under the following conditions:  (1) printed books which prove upon collation to be defective in text or illustration (provided such defects are not indicated within the catalogue or at the sale), and (2) autographs which prove not to be genuine (if this can be demonstrated and if not indicated in the catalogue or at the sale).  Printed books are not returnable for defects not affecting text and illustration, including, but not limited to, lack of half-titles, lists of plates, binder’s instructions, errata, blanks, or advertisements.  No returns will be accepted unless written notice is received by PBA Galleries within fourteen (14) days of the sale of the property and the property is returned in the same condition as it was at the time of the sale.  No lot is returnable on account of property included but not specifically named and described in such lot.  Lots containing three or more titles, whether named or unnamed and selling for one hundred fifty dollars ($150) or less, exclusive of buyer’s premium are sold not subject to return for any reason.

14.  As a service to clients unable to attend the Sale in person, we accept absentee bids in advance of the sale by telephone or in writing submitted by email or fax.  All bids must state the highest bid price the bidder is willing to pay.  “Buy” bids are not accepted.  PBA Galleries accepts no responsibility for failure to execute such bids or any errors contained on submitted bid forms.

15.  Photographs, prints and other fine art multiples are sold in compliance with California law and PBA Galleries’ catalogue descriptions of such multiples to the applicable provisions of that law.

16.  SPECIAL NOTE TO NON-US BUYERS: All customs declarations will reflect the full invoice value. Any resultant duties, tariffs and/or taxes are the sole responsibility of the buyer.

17.  Watches are sold as is and it is the responsibility of the bidder to determine condition at the preview. PBA Galleries makes no warranty that any watch is in working order or that any component part is in original condition. Unless specifically described in a lot’s description, a manufacturer’s certificate of authenticity is not available and a manufacturer’s refusal to service or repair a watch due to the presence of replacement parts shall not constitute grounds to rescind a sale. Any repairs that might be required to return the watch to good working order are the responsibility of the purchaser.

18.  PBA Comic Book Grading Guarantee: Any individual comic book lot (not group lots) graded by PBA is guaranteed to match a CGC grading as follows: If the buyer wishes to have the comic CGC certified, the buyer must pay the CGC fee and PBA invoice in full within seven days of the auction. PBA will send the comic to CGC within 10 days after the sale date. If the comic returns with a CGC grade lower than the PBA grade, the lot may be returned for a full refund of the sales price (hammer + buyer's premium). The CGC fee is nonrefundable. If the buyer chooses to return the lot for a refund, this must be done within seven days of notification of the grade discrepancy.

All sales held by PBA Galleries are conducted pursuant to Section 2328 of the Commercial Code and Section 535 of the Penal Code of the State of California.