A large three-masted vessel with black hull and white sails travels through the water with no land in sight.

NPS Photo

The original Friendship, a two-decked, three-masted, square-rigged, 342-ton vessel was built in 1796-1797. It was built in the Stage Point yard of Salem shipbuilder Enos Briggs across the South River from today's Salem Maritime National Historic Site. Friendship was launched on May 28, 1797 and registered at the Salem Custom House to merchants Aaron Waite (1742-1830) and Jerathmiel Peirce (1747-1827).

Friendship made 15 voyages to countries including China, Indonesia, India, Venezuela, Spain, and Russia. The cargo brought back to Salem consisted of pepper, silk, sugar, coffee, ale, sherry, tin, salt, cheese, candles, and other goods and merchandise.

Captain and Crew

The number of crew needed on a vessel depended on many factors. A crew for a merchant vessel like Friendship generally ranged from sixteen to eighteen and they mostly knew one another. Salem crews were put together using a network of locally interconnected families, extended family connections, neighbors, and friends.

Shipmasters or captains were responsible for the vessel, the lives of the crew, and the cargo onboard. The crews on Salem vessels were relatively young. A ship boy might start out his seafaring career at age 13, sailors were in their late teens and early twenties, and mates and shipmasters might be in their late twenties to early thirties. Although some were known to be younger!

Life and Work at Sea

Daniel Vickers in Young Men and the Sea notes that “the regular work of shiphandling--setting, reefing, trimming and taking in sails, steering the vessel, as well as preparing rigging and canvas—masters almost always noted down in collective terms.” Where menial tasks would have been for sailors, for the most part, shipmasters and mates were there to command and manage, but may have pitched in here and there.

As vessels and crews grew larger, there was more division of labor and the addition of specialized positions. Cooks, carpenters, and sailmakers had specific work and first and second mates supervised ship activities. A supercargo was the owner’s representative and conducted the business and trading in port and would not have been involved in day-to-day activities.

Meals were plain and on long voyages the ships carried livestock to be killed and eaten during the voyage. Provisions could become rotten and low on long voyages. Despite their numerous responsibilities aboard ship, sailors were not always busy. In their down time they played games or musical instruments, washed and mended clothing, or slept.

Risks and Rewards

By the time Friendship was sailing, generations of New Englanders were used to the risks associated with the stormy North Atlantic waters and even the prospect of contracting a tropical disease in the West Indies (not that knowing about them, made those risks any less real). Other risks included pirates, privateers, navigating a world in conflict, and decaying wooden ships.

On Friendship’s tenth voyage to India, the ship was leaking throughout two months. Pumping the water out would have been physically exhausting, not to mention the anxiety it must have caused among the captain and crew. Few mariners in Salem became rich in the industry, although a career at sea did offer opportunities to move up the social and economic ladder from sailor, to mate, to captain. Daniel Vickers in Young Men and the Sea concludes his book by stating, “...maritime labor was not at all that exceptional. In Salem, it was simply what young men did when they grew up by the sea.”


On September 5, 1812, Friendship was returning from Archangel, Russia, when the ship was captured by the British sloop of war HMS Rosamond. The War of 1812 between the British and the United States began while Friendship was in Archangel, Russia. The war had started in June, but the captain and crew were unaware of that fact and set off for Salem, only to be captured in the Atlantic Ocean and taken as a prize of war. The captain and crew were able to return to Salem, but Friendship was sold at auction in London, England on March 17, 1813.

Where did Friendship go?

Although some of the information about the original Friendship is incomplete, there is still much documented about its voyages. The most informative set of log entries is for the first voyage. The complete logs of voyages, 6, 7, and 8 have yet to be located, but there are few extracts from them that exist.

John Frayler, a former historian at Salem Maritime National Historic Site, wrote Friendship: The World of a Salem East Indiaman, 1797-1813, first published by Eastern National in 1998. Below is some basic information in Frayler's history about 15 voyages including intended destination of the voyage, dates of departure and return, name of the captain, and cargo that was landed in Salem. Although Friendship may have made additional stops on the voyage, only the intended destination and sometimes an additional port of importance to the voyage are listed.

Voyage #1
Where: Batavia (present-day Jakarta, Indonesia)
When: August 29, 1797 to July 3, 1798
Who: Israel Williams, Master
What: sugar, coffee

Voyage #2
Where: Hamburg, Germany
When: Late September 1798 to July 11, 1799
Who: ?
What: merchandise, Geneva wine (gin), 246 pairs of slippers

Voyage #3
Where: La Guaira Road (Venezuela)
When: August 21, 1799 to November 22, 1799
Who: ?
What: cocoa, indigo, coffee

Voyage #4
Where: Cadiz, Spain
When: February 10, 1800 to May 7, 1800
Who: Captain Israel Williams
What: sherry, merchandise, salt

Voyage #5
Where: London, England
When: June 14, 1800 to September 29, 1800
Who: Captain Israel Williams
What: merchandise, ale and porter, cheese

Voyage #6
Where: St. Petersburg, Russia
When: Mid-February 1801 to August 3, 1801
Who: Captain William Story
What: candles, hemp, cordage, merchandise

Voyage #7
Where: Leghorn, Italy
When: Early November 1801 to April 2, 1802
Who: Captain William Story
What: ?

Voyage #8
Where: Sumatra, Indonesia and Canton, China
When: Late June 1802 to August 27, 1804
Who: Captain William Story
What: nankeens (cotton fabric), silk, camphor, cassia, coffee, tea, pepper, china, arsenic, rhubarb, fans, dragons blood (resin), tin

Voyage #9
Where: Leghorn, Italy
When: April 24, 1805 to September 23, 1805
Who: Captain Israel Williams
What: ?

Voyage #10
Where: Madras, India
When: March 8, 1806 to November 15, 1806
Who: Captain Israel Williams
What: merchandise, pepper, coffee, indigo, Hyson Tea

Voyage #11
Where: Palermo (capital city on the island of Sicily) and Leghorn, Italy
When: May 20, 1807 to November 12, 1807
Who: Captain Israel Williams
What: merchandise, brandy, “Sicilly Wine,” currants

Voyage #12
Where: Gotenburg, Sweden (intended destination)
When: March 6, 1810 to March 19, 1810
Who: Captain Israel Williams
What: returned to Salem because of a leak

Voyage #13
Where: Archangel, Russia
When: Mid to late April 1810 to October 14, 1810
Who: Captain John Brookhouse
What: Russia duck (canvas), hemp, iron (intended cargo)

Voyage #14
Where: Archangel, Russia
When: April 23, 1811 to September 16, 1811
Who: Captain Edward Stanley
What: cordage, hemp, merchandise

Voyage #15
Where: Archangel, Russia
When: Arrived in Archangel on June 12, 1812
Who: Captain Edward Stanley
What: Captured on September 5, 1812 by the English sloop of war HMS Rosamond (The United States declared war against England on June 19, 1812.)

Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Last updated: April 4, 2022