Lot 193 of 475:
Archive of a Master Mariner  

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Lot closed - Sold For (Includes Buyers Premium):$900
Estimate:
$1,500 - $2,500

Title:
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

Author:

Place:
Various places

Publisher:

Date:
c.1900-1953

Description:

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

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


 
Item number:
330250a
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