Captain E.J. Smith - Sailing Ships and First Command

According to the BBC this is an early,
undated photograph of a young
Edward Smith standing infront of
the ship Essex (in this BBC article).
(Click image to enlarge)

During 1865 Smith and a group of friends went to meet Joseph in Liverpool, by this time captain of an American-built clipper sailing-ship, the Senator Weber owned by A Gibson & Co. of Liverpool. This visit made an impact on Ted Smith and two years, later, on the 5th of February 1867, at the age of 17, with his parents' consent, he traveled to Liverpool and was taken on the books of the owners, Andrew Gibson & Co. of Liverpool, and signed on the 1297-ton Senator Weber as an ordinary sailor.  Thus began his apprenticeship and on a ship to which his half-brother was captain. And it was aboard this ship that he was nick-named E.J. as there was another able-bodied seaman on the ship also named Edward Smith.

Mrs Ann O'Donnell, of 3726 Bryant Street, San Francisco was quoted in an April 19th, 1912 newspaper, that she "knew the lad in Henley in 1865, when he was a tyke who loved to wade barefoot into the combers on the beach. His half-brother was Captain Hancock, who sailed the seven seas from Henley, and the youngster was stirred by the stories told by the older man and determined to go to sea. There was no denying the lad, and rather than force him to run away from home and sail with strangers, his brother shipped him in his 16th year, 1871. After that first voyage Ted returned home to thrill the youth of the town with his stories of having sailed to America, of his experience in California, where the ship on which he made his first voyage touched. And with his mind firmly made up to spend the rest of his days on the ocean." (Syndicated newspaper accounts, San Francison, April 19th, 1912).

Smith's first ship, the Senator Weber, was built in Boston in
1853 as the ship Wellfleet, pictured here in a painting
from 1864 (Penobscot Marine Museum).

Mate Qualifications

Smith was given an early promotion on his first ship in January 1868, thanks to 14 men deserting when the Senator Weber reached San Francisco. Captain Joseph Smith hence promoted his half-brother Ted to the position of third mate.

But with a taste of the sea and an early promotion, Ted Smith was not going to stop there. On his return to Liverpool he switched to another ship, the Amoy, on the Gibson Line - serving as an able seaman, but then upon his return to England on July 15, 1871, he secured a room at the Sailor’s Home so as to prepare for his Second Mate’s Certification. His first attempt was successful and he received his first qualification in Liverpool on August 12, 1871.

Smith's Second Mate Board of Trade certificate.

With his first qualification, he was able to sign aboard the Record, as second mate, followed by another run to New Orleans on the N. Mosher. By March of 1873 he had put in the required time to allow him to sit for his First Mate certification, which he subsequently passed, and in July he joined another Andrew Gibson & Company ship, the Arzilla, bound for Valparaiso, Chile, and Callao, Peru.

Smith's First Mate Board of Trade certificate.

1876 - First Command

On May 26, 1875, in Liverpool, Smith sat for and passed his Master's Certificate (#14102) and the following year saw him aboard the sailing vessel Lizzie Fennell, which was 1040 tons, with a length of 174.6 feet. The Gibson Line clearly had faith in Smith, as at the age of 25 he received his first command as captain of the Lizzie Fennell in 1876.

To commemorate passing his master mariner examinations at the age of 25, Smith received this 'loving cup' inscribed “Captain E.J. Smith, 1875" in gold lettering on the front and a Highland scene on the back.
Courtesy The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
(Click image to enlarge)

Smith's Board of Trade certificate, that gave him his Master qualification, in May 1875.

Victorian locket belonging to his wife Eleanor, who wore this locket with her husband's photograph in it until her death in 1931