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Wales/Cymru: ° Aberdyfi ° Aberystwyth ° Bangor (Gwynedd) ° Borth (Ceredigion) ° Cardiff, Pontypridd, Swansea (Glamorgan) ° Holyhead (Anglesey) ° Fishguard, Milford Haven, Pembroke (Pembrokshire) ° Porthmadog (Eifionydd) ° The Welsh Language ° The Mandans and Owain of Wales


The Maritime Heritage Project began in honor of Captain James H. Blethen, a Welsh sea captain whose family had migrated from Wales to Maine on the East Coast of the United States in the early-1700s.

Map of Wales, Published c. 1790


Jodocus Hondius (1563-1612) was born in Wakken, the son of Olivier de Hondt, and Petronella d'Havertuyn. His family moved to Ghent when Jodocus was still very young and by the age of eight he had taken up drawing and engraving. In 1584, because of the war with Spain and to escape religious persecution, Jodocus fled to London. He trained with the English cartographers Richard Hakluyt and Edward Wright, and in 1593 he returned to Amsterdam and established a business specializing in map and globe making. In 1604 Jodocus bought the plates of Mercator's Atlas, which had fallen behind in competition with Ortelius' popular atlas. He combined Mercator's original maps with about 40 of his own more up-to-date maps and from 1606 published enlarged editions of the Atlas, still under Mercator's name but with his own name as publisher.

Captain Blethen, raised on North America's Eastcoast in in Maine, went to sea in 1829 at age 15 and spent 44 years aboard ships sailing from New York to European ports, then between San Francisco and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua (bringing gold seekers to San Francisco where they headed for Northern California's mines), and on a troop ship along the coastline of America's Southern States during the Civil War. He closed his career by opening the mail lines between Hawaii and Australia/New Zealand for Webb Mail Lines.

Wales is one of the four constituent nations which form the United Kingdom, located in the south-west of Great Britain bordered by England to the east, the Bristol Channel to the south, St George's Channel in the west, and the Irish Sea to the north.

Welsh (Cymraeg), the native language of Wales, is a living Celtic language, closely related to Cornish and Breton, and kin to Irish and Scottish Gaelic. It is one of the oldest living languages in Europe; the Welsh spoken today is directly descended from the language of the Sixth Century. Everyone in Wales also speaks English.

Legend has it that the first Welsh emigrants to the New World were Madog ab Owain Gwynedd (Prince Madog) and a band of settlers disillusioned with their lives in the 12th century. Howell Powell, who left Brecon for Virginia in 1642, was the first official Welsh settler in America. Until the late 17th century, most emigration from Wales had been on an individual basis.

Wales lost its independence in 1282 when it was conquered by the English King Edward I.

When Charles II was restored to the English throne in 1660, he instigated a wave of religious intolerance which threatened the rights of several groups to worship in the way that they chose. Significant numbers of people - in some cases, whole communities - began to leave Wales. South Wales provided most of the emigrants to America in the 19th century. The growth of the iron industry in the Valleys from the mid 18th century and the later development of the south Wales coalfield meant that south Wales had a reserve of skilled metalworkers, foundrymen and miners who could find work easily in the rapidly expanding industrial areas of America such Scranton, Pennsylvania.

The Bard, c.1817 John Martin

Wales.The Bard, John Martin.

The Welsh were especially fond of poetry and they generally admired poets who could compose in either the ancient form, called cynghanedd, or in relatively freer modern forms. Welsh poets were given bardic titles. The Welsh literary and singing festival or contest, called the Eisteddfod, supposedly began in the year 940 when a Welsh chieftain awarded a chair to a victorious bard. The Eisteddfod consisted of competition in poetry, essays, orations, recitations, prose translations, and the performance of vocal music by large choirs, trios, soloists and glee parties. Numerous Welsh civic organizations and churches conducted Eisteddfodau in America, most often between 1875 and 1915. Five three-hundred-voice choirs from the Pennsylvania coal regions attended the Eisteddfod at the Philadelphia bicentennial celebration in 1882 and competed for prizes of up to twelve hundred dollars.

Social Unrest = Immigration = Opportunity
America's Founding Fathers

Wales had a population of no more than 500,000 before the 18th century and a little over 1.5m by 1881. In proportion to population, Irish emigrants to America in the 19th century outnumbered the Welsh by 26 to one. However, the influence that many of the Welsh immigrants had on the emergence of modern America belies their relatively small numbers:

Sixteen of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence were of Welsh descent.

Presidents: Thomas Jefferson (whose family came from a village beneath Snowdon), John Adams, James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, and more recently Calvin Coolidge had their family roots in Wales.

Universities: Elihu Yale, the son of Welsh immigrant parents who settled in Boston, founded Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. When he died his body was brought home to rest in the churchyard of Wrexham Parish Church near the family home of Plas-yn-I l, Denbigh.
Morgan Edwards, a joint founder of Brown University, Rhode Island, came from Pontypool in Gwent. He spent a year and a half in Britain and Ireland between 1766 and 1768 fundraising for the university. The first graduation ceremony was held there in 1769.

Waves of Welsh immigrants sailed to America between 1800 and 1850. There was some degree of social unrest in Wales with low farm prices, high rents, and a shift to industrialization. Farmers children had to leave the land to work in the mines. In America they saw the promise of cheap land, religious freedom, and a chance for advancement. Although they came to America in groups and settled together, they did not cling to their ethnic background like the Palatines or the Irish. Within two or three generations they were assimilated. Thus, their Welshness can be hard to spot. You may have Welsh ancestors and not even know it.

America Discovered by the Welsh in 1170 A.D.

August 26, 1876, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California

America Discovered by the Welsh in 1170 A.D.
By Rev. Benjamin F. Bowen
Philadelphia: J. B. Lipplncott & Son.; San Francisco: A. Roman & Co.

The writer has taken considerable pains and accumulated much interesting information in the preparation of this work. He begins by showing the energetic, expansive character of the Cymric race (the Welsh), forgetting to mention the fact, however, that that is the common characteristic of all the Japhetic tribes, of which the Cymri are but one. He then shows from old Welsh records that Madoc, one of the seventeen sons of Owain Gwinedd, to avoid the disturbances which arose among his brothers alter the death of their father, sailed to the westward, and after having been gone some time, returned and brought word that he had found a fair land, many days' sail distant, had left some of his people there and returned to get more, who should go and settle in this new country.

Enough to fill ten ships were prevailed on to go. They never returned, nor was there any further course between Wales and the new-country. He then takes up, one by one, the letters and accounts of many independent witnesses, who testify severally that Welsh-speaking Indians had been heard of, were reported to exist, had been seen, conversed with, lived with, preached to; the different writers being more or less explicit. They, or traces of them, were found in Western New York and Pennsylvania, in Ohio, Kentucky, and more especially far up the Missouri river. Some of these narratives are definite and and impart conviction; others are vague, but all are singularly harmonious.

The close resemblance of many Indian words to what might be their Welsh equivalents is noted: as Pontigo, Ponty-go, "the Smith's Bridge;" Allegeni, alli-geni, "mighty born;" Nanticok, nanty-cwch, "a curved brook," etc. But it should be remembered that similarity of sound in language does not imply necessary connection in origin, but only strengthens the plea for such connection, when there are other grounds for accepting it.

The mounds that are found in various parts of the country, especially in the Ohio valley, and which all theorists agree in assigning to a higher race of men than the ordinary Indian tribes, are also seized upon by our author. He finds their shape to coincide exactly with that of ancient Welsh fortifications. Be supposes the adventurous companions of Madoc and their descendants to have penetrated from the coast further and further into the interior, driven either by their own spirit of enterprise or by wars with the primitive inhabitants. He notes the fact that the age of the trees growing on the most eastern of these mounds is about 700 years, corresponding nearly to the era of the Madocian immigration, and that the age of such trees diminishes towards the West, indicating the gradual introgression of the Welsh. We confess to a leaning to this theory to account for those curious remains on purely scientific grounds, rather than those which assign to them a pre-Adamic origin and date.

Altogether, the argument of the author is tolerably well built up, and is sustained by an unexpected and not wholly unconvincing amount of evidence. But we think he claims too much. It may be true that the Welsh came to this country in A. D. 1170, or even earlier, but even then they found other people already here. They cannot claim, therefore, to have been the discoverers of America, either in the sense of being the first human beiugs to find it, or in having opened it up to the world, since the world at large was none the wiser or better off for their expedition. In the latter sense Columbus can still hold his claim to the glory of the discovery. In another sense still more truly does this glory belong to him. He was the first who both reasoned out a priori the necessary existence of a Western coast of the Atlantic Ocean, and proved his reasoning by the result of his voyage of investigation. For the persecuted Genoese captain who arrived at the truth by a logical process and forced the benefits of this truth upon a reluctant Old World must still be given the praise of discovering the New World.

The Welsh may have found America, as other savage men did before them: Columbus invented America.

April 27, 1890, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California

Welsh Quarryman Go Out

London, April 26th -- Workmen in the slate qurries at Festiniog in Wales have stuck for an advance of wages.

September 30, 1892, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

The Disestablishment of the Welsh Church.

London, Sept. 29. The Welsh newspapers declare that Gladstone has invited an eminent Welsh ecclesiastic to draft a bill for the disestablishing of the church in Wales. They add that a bill will be prepared in a manner acceptable to the Welsh clergy.

December 18, 1892, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

They Are Already Causing Trouble in the New American Factory

Elwood, Ind., Dec. 17. For some time there have been differences existing between the Welsh tin-workers and the American tinplate factory, with the result that the men have refused to work unless the company accedes to certain conditions. It seems that the company wants to operate a patent machine with unskilled labor, and the Welshmen demand that skilled labor only shall be employed. Until this is conceded they declare that they will not work. It is not known just what steps the company Intends taking.

September 30, 1893, Pacific Rural Press, California, U.S.A.

Welsh Americans.

The Welsh in the United States claim that they are in number as many as their countrymen in Wales, and they also claim that one of their ancestors forestalled Columbus in the discovery of America by 272 years. They base their assertions on historical traditions and the manuscripts of old Welsh bards on the one hand, and on the prevalence of Welsh in many of the languages of the Indians, both of South and North America, on the other.

May 24, 1894, San Francisco Call, San Francisco California

The Welsh Church

London, may 23 -- At a meeting at Birmingham today, Lord Roseberry declared that the Government was determined to pass the bill for the disestablishment of the Welsh church.

Ironbridge in Wales by Dianne Levy. Reprints available by clicking on the image.
Ironbridge, Wales
D. A. Levy, Photographer

During the late 16th century, 16 ships operated from Cardiff transporting farm produce such as cheese, salted butter, wool, grain and skins. Some coal and iron was also transported from Cardiff to other British ports. Tanned leather was brought from them to Cardiff along with malt, which was used in brewing. By the mid-1800s, the industrial revolution began: Wales was transformed as increasing amounts of iron were exported from Cardiff. In 1794 a canal was built and in 1798 a sea basin was created with a sea lock to allow ships in where they could be loaded or unloaded from barges or from the wharf.

Considerable trade to Bristol included quantities of oats, barley, salt butter and poultry of all kinds and from this town there are not less than 8,780 tons of cast and wrought iron shipped annually to London and other places.

August 10, 1890, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

The Strike in Wales

London, August 9.-- The strike of the railway employes in Wales continues. The mails are still carried on wagons. The strike has seriously affected the London shipping trade. Steamers are not able to obtain their usual supplies of Welsh coal and have gone to other places for it.

June 6, 1891, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

Welsh Methodists Grieved at the Prince's Penchant for Gambling.

Cardiff, Wales, June 5. The Methodist conference of South Wales adopted a resolution expressing regret at learning that the prince of Wales took part in a game of baccarat at Tanbycroft. It adds: "We respectfully submit to his royal highness that by his conduct he offends the religious sense of the people and draws the royal house from the high position in which it stood and tends to lessen the loving and devoted affection to the throne which has ever been cherished by us."

June 19, 1894, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California

Fighting to Preserve the Established Church in Wales.

London, June 18. A meeting of members of the nobility was held to-day, at which the Duke of Westminster presided. A committee was formed to conduct the campaign against the Government's proposal to disestablish the church in Wales. It was agreed to contest every constituency in Wales in the general election. The Duke of Westminster subscribed 1000 toward the expenses of the campaign, while other lords subscribed 500 each. A total of 5000 was raised.

October 17, 1894, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Times Are Good in Wales

SWANSEA, Wales, October 16. It is estimated that 5000 tons of tin plate was loaded her today on board steamers bound for America. Stocks of tin plate are lower than for months.

October 26, 1894, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Tin Plate From Wales.

Baltimore, Oct. 25. A train of fifteen cars left Canton last night over the Pennsylvania Railroad for Milwaukee withtin plate brought from Swansea, Wales, by the Atlantic Transport Line steamers Maryland and Menantic. There were about 500,000 pounds of plate in the shipment.

Wales.Mumbles Lighthouse.

Mumbles Lighthouse

July 25, 1884, IRON, London, United Kingdom

The lamb of God at the base of a slate mine. Photograph c. D.A. Levy.
North Wales near slate mining sites.
Photographer: D. A. Levy

NORTH WALES -- Notwithstanding the disorganisation of the coal trade in the adjoining counties, the North Wales colliers keep steadily at work. Nor is there any movement on the part of either the masters or the men for a reduction or increase of wages. The railway waggon works are well employed, as are also most of the manufacturing trades, and some activity prevails in the building of yachts and steam launches on the Dee at Chester. The various chemical and other works that line the estuary of the Dee from Chester to Mostyn are also fairly well employed. The Van lead mine, which has had a successful career for a quarter of a century, has latterly been carried on only at a loss, and the shareholders have passed a resolution to wind this company up.

In slate quarrying the men are respectfully protecting that they ought not to bear reduction in the price of slates. The slate trade, which a few weeks back showed signs of weakness, is recovering.

In the iron trade, the long hoped for improvement in prices is a long time coming. Orders are rather scarce, and there is a keen competition for them. A good deal is hoped for on the completion of the works for the manufacture of steel now in the course of erection.

Ironworks in Village of Nantyglo


The immense ironworks of Nanty Glo, a village and a chapelry in Aberystruth parish, Monmouth. The ironworks were originally commenced by Hill, Hertford, and Co., and were held under lease from the owners of Blaenavon works. They were finished, at a vast expense, in 1795; and after being wrought a year, were discontinued for a time, on account of a dispute among the proprietors. They then consisted of two furnaces, several forges, a steam engine, and the necessary buildings and machinery for smelting and forging, but have since become of vast extent and importance.

The village stands at the head of Ebbw-fach vale, and at the terminus of the Western Valleys railway, amid a wild tract of upland country. Nantyglo is a seat or centre of extensive ironworks, comprising seven furnaces and enormous rolling and puddling forges; and has a railway station with telegraph, a post-office under Tredegar, a good inn, a modern church, and a Calvinistic Methodist chapel, in the Italian style, erected in 1863.

March 16, 1895, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.


As I emigrated from Wales at the tender age of 12 months it was not to be expected that I could preach in my mother-tongue as one to the manner born when I went back to the old country a full-blown preacher in 1882.

The worst of it was that I was consumed with the desire to preach one sermon in Welsh before I died. When I was a divinity student I had worked at that sermon, during the years of my preaching I had put finishing touches to it, and on the boat going I embellished it every day. Perhaps tome people will think this an unnecessary amount of labor, but let them try to throw off gems of oratory in a language they want to use fluently, but cannot, and let that language be Welsh. They will understand then why I wrestled so long with that sermon.

I happened to reach my native village just in time to celebrate the eighty-second anniversary of Unitarianisrn in Wales, and when they invited me to preach my first thought was, "This is my chance for using the sermon."

Sunday morning arrived, and the people came from far end near to the service in traps and dogcarts, wagonettes and even hay-wagons, till the churchyard was surrounded by vehicles and the church was thronged with people. It was with considerable trepidation that I went up the pulpit steps with my Welsh sermon in the right pocket and an English one in the left, wondering whether I dared preach to these people in their own tongue. However much or little English they knew they all understood Welsh and could criticize it.

But would they be critical? A glance at the simple, kindly folk the men in smock-frocks and the women in quaint pointed hats was so reassuring that I pulled out the Welsh sermon and began in a hurry, like a man who plunges into cold water. A more delighted congregation it would have been impossible to find, for the villagers took it as a personal compliment that any one should come from America and preach to them in their beloved Welsh.

My success was so marked that the clergyman of a neighboring parish insisted that I should preac for him the following Sunday.

"But it would take me years to preach another Welsh sermon," I pleaded.

"Preach the same sermon over again," replied the clerfry man cheerily, and he added: "You know there are more than eight miles between my two parishes. You might preach it at the other in the afternoon."

The following Sunday when I arrived at my friend's church a cold perspiration bespangled my brow to find the same traps and dogcarts, wagonettes and hay-wagons, around the churchyard, and almost the same congregation occupying the benches of the church. However, as I could not preach extempore in Welsh under any pressure of circumstances, the only thing was to deliver the same old sermon. After a hasty lunch the pastor and I drove off to the other parish. The road was very picturesque, but in the intervals of admiring the scenery I could not help noticing that the same traps and dogcarts, wagonettes yes, and hay-wagons that had become so familiar to me were going in the direction that we were. "Do the people all live this way?" I asked. "0h, no," replied the clergyman carelessly, "they are going to afternoon service."

"But they are the same people!" I cried, in a voice broken by anxiety.

"Yes; we generally have about the same congregation." he answered soothingly.

"And my sermon!" I wailed.

"Preach it again," replied the pastor. "You will get used to repeating it by and by." And the worst of it was that his prophecy came true, for that sermon must have been heard twelve times in the neighborhood altogether and always by the same congregation.

Signature of Jenkin Lloyd Jones.
Jenkin Lloyd Jones

Wales.Welsh Flag.

Welsh Flag

(Editor's Note: www.MuseumWales.ac.uk has a superb list of researchers/archives/museums relating to maritime history for England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.)

The Seven Celtic Nations

The Celtic Tree Oracle. Liz and Colin Murray.The seven original Celtic Nations:

  • Eire (Ireland): Ireland is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island in the world. A Norman invasion in the Middle Ages gave way to a Gaelic Resurgence in the 13th century.
  • Galicia (Spain): Galacia is in northwest Spain, and descends from one of the first tribes of Celtic heritage in Europe. The name Galicia comes from the Latin name Gallaecia, associated with the name of the ancient Celtic tribe that resided above the Douro river.
  • Kernow (Cornwall): Cornwall forms the tip of the south-western peninsula of Great Britain. It was occupied in the Iron Age by Celts. Cornwall was a division of the Dumnonii tribe—whose tribal centre was in the modern county of Devon.
  • Mannin (Isle of Man): The Isle of Man is located in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, within the British Isles. It began to be influenced by Gaelic culture in the AD 5th century and the Manx language, a branch of the Gaelic languages.
  • Breizh (Brittany): Brittany occupies a large peninsula in the north west of France. Its land area is 34,023 km² (13,136 sq mi). After the Neolithic period, Brittany became home to several different Celtic tribes.
  • Alba (Scotland): Alba is the Scottish-Gaelic name for Scotland. It occupies the northern third of Great Britain and it includes over 790 islands. Groups of settlers began building the first known permanent houses on Scottish soil around 9,500 years ago, and the first villages around 6,000 years ago.
  • Cymru (Wales): During the Iron Age and early medieval period, Wales was inhabited by the Celtic Britons. A distinct Welsh national identity emerged in the centuries after the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the 5th century, and Wales is regarded as one of the modern Celtic nations today.
Celtic Cross.

The history of the Celtic cross goes back to a time before the Christian conversion of Scotland, Ireland and Wales. It’s believed by some that the four arms of the cross represents the four elements, earth, air, fire and water. They also represent the four directions of the compass, North, South, East and West. And finally the four parts of man, mind, soul, heart and body. The horizontal line of the cross symbolizes earth and the vertical portion symbolizes heaven.

Sources: The Celtic Crier, Gaelic Forge

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



Merchant Shipping

Merchant Shipping.Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.  
History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient CommerceMerchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.
W. S. Lindsay

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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