In California Digital Newspaper Collection, there is a 'Shipping Intelligence' report I am trying to understand. It's in "Charters", "Shipping Intelligence", San Francisco Call, 25 January 1896, p.12, col.6 - search for 'Glenclova', which is the name of the ship, if you want to see it.

'Glenclova' appears to have been chartered to transport lumber from the Puget Sound area to Australia, for she is reported in that edition of the SF Call as

"Glenclova loads lumber on the Sound for Sydney, 35s., option of Melbourne, Adelaide or Port Pirie, 45s."

I'm trying to understand exactly what this entry means and wonder if anyone has experience of shipping reports and can confirm or deny my thoughts?

My initial guess is that an export company had chartered her to take timber from the USA to Australia - initially to Sydney, but they had an option to continue on to one of the other three ports (which are further round the Australian coast from Sydney), no doubt depending on where the best price could be obtained.

What is of interest to me is what the 35 or 45 shillings bit means. Is 35s the unit price the ship charges to transport a certain amount of timber (1 ton?) to Sydney. Or is that the price the charter company will sell (per ton?) for in Australia? (With 45s being the price if they decide to go further).

I can't really see enough further examples to get any better ideas, so grateful if anyone can help.

  • I was about to draw your attention to the article in The Sydney Morning Herald of May 18 1896 on Trove, when I noted that you were already correcting the OCR text!
    – Fortiter
    Jan 9, 2013 at 1:09

4 Answers 4


The following artice from The Sydney Morning Herald Friday 27 June 1890, page 7

enter image description here

indicates that the quoted figures are freight charges rather than selling prices.

The amazing thing is that the 1896 charges are around half those that applied in 1890. I assume that this is the impact of the great depression (circa 1893).

  • 1
    Thanks for that - it does begin to look like they are freight carriage rates. Also, thinking about it, the selling price would only be a guess anyway at this stage in the proceedings, so I'm not sure there'd be any benefit in recording someone's guess. (I did wonder earlier if they might be the prices paid to the producers but (a) there'd probably be more than one rate and (b) I imagine the producers would be paid in dollars & cents, not pounds, shillings & pence).
    – AdrianB38
    Jan 9, 2013 at 11:58

As one who has no knowledge about shipping charters, given your transcription

Glenclova loads lumber on the Sound for Sydney, 35s., option of Melbourne, Adelaide or Port Pirie, 45s.

I would interpret the difference in price as an extra charge for the latter three destinations, with the same charge applying to all three. An analogy for today might be an airport shuttle, which has a fixed price for a group of cities, but each group has a different price: Sydney v. the latter three are in distinct groups, but the price is the same within a given group.

What the 35s/45s is for, I cannot say. If I could hazard a guess it would be that the price is per unit lumber, as 35 shillings to ship anything from Puget Sound to Sydney seems economically ludicrous. The ~30% markup to go the (relatively short) extra distance from Sydney to one of the latter three cities would also make more sense in a per-unit calculation.



I'd suggest your best bet would be contacting either of the two museums shown below:



They are to San Francisco and Vancouver Maritime Museums respectively

  • 2
    Andy, to avoid the risk of deletion of this answer you might add a sentence or two explaining why you believe that these sources are relevant to the question.
    – Fortiter
    Jan 9, 2013 at 1:03
  • 1
    Andy - these 2 links look good. (They are to San Francisco and Vancouver Maritime Museums respectively). Both have libraries and archives for research, so with luck someone might be familiar with this aspect of how charters were recorded in the newspapers. I guess it's really a maritime query, so maritime experts would be the best bet. (I've not seen similar references in the UK papers else I'd ask our museums / archives - then again, maybe they're there and I just haven't read them.)
    – AdrianB38
    Jan 9, 2013 at 12:05

Big thanks to the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, specifically librarian Gina Bardi and historian Ted Miles for a very quick response when I asked them this question (as per Andy Hatchett's suggestion).

As seemed logical, the two amounts quoted in the newspaper report would be the transport charge for shipping the lumber. 35 shillings to take it to Sydney or 45s to take it further on. The charge is measured as a rate per thousand board feet, so it's 35s per thousand foot of board to go from Puget Sound to Sydney. In another example they quoted to me, a charter for grain in the 1930s cost 33s 6d per ton from Vancouver to the UK, though I think that was in a steam ship.

'Glenclova' was clearly engaged in the deep-sea 'tramp trade', which Wikipedia summarises by "tramp ships trade on the spot market with no fixed schedule or itinerary/ports-of-call". (See the Wikipedia reference for different sorts of contract, for instance). Further thanks go to the Vancouver Maritime Museum, who kindly added extra information. Apparently at this time, the vast majority of deep-sea tramping contracts were negotiated on London's Baltic Exchange - plus the UK's Merchant Navy was the biggest by far. For these two reasons, the vast majority of tramping contracts would have been quoted in sterling. (I think I did see a dollar price quoted for "internal" US traffic - presumably this was a non-Baltic Exchange contract.)

Vancouver MM also explained the nature of a 'thousand board feet'. This described 1,000 foot of lumber with a 12 inch by 1 inch cross-section - or any equivalent weight. Thus, 1,000 foot of 4 inch by 3 inch would be costed at a thousand board feet, while 1,000 foot of 2 inch by 1 inch would come in at 1/6 of one thousand board foot.


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