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Author Topic: The Diary of Fletcher Ames Hatch, Assistant To The Topographer, 1906  (Read 7680 times)
Johnny Payphone
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« on: May 01, 2007, 04:44:26 am »

My great-grandfather Fletcher Ames Hatch was a globe-trotting, pith-helmeted rail and canal engineer.  He worked for the United Fruit Company building infrastructure for their various banana republics, and met my great-grandmother (who was a colonial, white Columbian coffee plantation owner's daughter) at my family's plantation near Santa Marta, Columbia.  My father has his diary, which begins with a letter of acceptance to the position of "Assistant to the Topographer" in the Phillipines in April 1906.  He travels from New York to Seattle by train, then sets out on a steamer for the Phillipines.  That's as far as I've gotten- my mother and I are typing up the diary.  Follow along- rougly 101 years ago to the day later- at

www.johnnypayphone.net/fletcher.html

I didn't post this in Textual because this is real.  It may be manifested in text but that is just the fortunate lens that we may use to look at what actually occurred.  Besides, it takes place in 1906.  One day I may be able to tell the amazing story of my great-great-grandfather installing the telephone system of Santa Marta but this diary is just so fascinating!
« Last Edit: January 11, 2012, 03:40:25 am by Johnny Payphone » Logged

Steampunk life in the living world:
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CapnHarlock
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« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2007, 05:43:03 am »

Thank you, sir, for a very-real view into a time we seek to perfect.
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Jeremiah Cornelius Harlock
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Vincent Théière
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The skull behind the skin.


« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2007, 08:05:36 am »

I can't wait to read this!
It would actually be interesting to look at the family histories of people into steampunk and see if this runs in the blood.  I know my family for one has an incredible history like this, and given my fiancee's family if the ideal steampunk world existed we'd own several oceanliners with matching airships along with a country or two.  But yeah, it'd be interesting....
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Mercury Wells
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« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2007, 11:49:06 am »

Mr. Payphone.

From what have I read so far, IMHO this diary would make a good subject for a film.
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Emperor
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« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2007, 01:16:14 pm »

When I was 11 we had a History assignment to write an essay on whatever we liked (historically speaking). I'd just read Bullock's history of Hitler so went for an essay on him. It was a competent enough piece and well illustrated and got OK marks. My friend wrote an essay about his great-grandfather and his experiences at Ypres and got top marks and was heaped with praise. It is a lesson I learned well over the years - anyone can jam together facts and figures, it is the personal with that is the hook (at least one of them).

Mr Wells may right (it is fascinating) but one step at a time. You are in a great position to get a book deal. Pimp the link, keep going on as you are and have a read of these:

http://lifehacker.com/software/books/geek-to-live--turn-your-blog-into-a-book-part-i-227707.php
http://help.blogger.com/bin/answer.py?answer=41991
http://launchbooks.com/newsandnotes/?p=10
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Emps

if I went 'round saying I was an Emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away!

Steampunk Collective thread
Johnny Payphone
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« Reply #5 on: May 03, 2007, 06:55:29 am »

An excerpt from the journal, written on a steamer bound for the Philippines, 101 years ago today:

About 5 o'clock we sighted a sail dead ahead. We came up close to her and she proved to be the "Leir Burgess" three weeks out of San Francisco. We sent up a string of flags meaning "San Francisco destroyed by fire and earthquake on the 18th". I suppose it was the first they had heard of it.

Some pictures, the first at age 16 in 1899, the second in the 1950s:



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Johnny Payphone
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« Reply #6 on: June 22, 2007, 07:44:57 am »

From my great-grandfather's journal (his steamer put in at Nagasaki en route to the Phillipines to lay rail):

Thursday 24th May 1906

Fine day. Loafed around hotel about all day. Worked on tables in P.M. Went up in tenderloin district after supper and saw fight between French sailor and a Jap.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2007, 07:48:51 am by Johnny Payphone » Logged
Johnny Payphone
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« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2007, 04:16:00 pm »

Thursday June 28th

Meandered two rivers but didn’t have any level notes so couldn’t take topog. In water up to our necks all the morning and in the afternoon it rained so we kept wet all day. Got back to camp and found a letter from Ma and one from Boston, both dated May 19th. It looked good as it was two weeks since we had received any mail. A bunch of ladrones came into town last night and stole some money and a couple of women. There was a great ___ and running around but not much bloodshed.
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Von Effenger
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« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2007, 04:25:46 pm »

Items like this really make me pine for a family history of my own.  Sadly, do to the Armenian Genocide, there simply are no records of my family tree.
But Mr. payphone, you are doing a wonderful thing!  More people should take notice of their personal histories; they would discover a lot.
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WisconsinPlatt
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« Reply #9 on: July 04, 2007, 09:12:31 am »

Thanks for posting this...most interesting.
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Gnome
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« Reply #10 on: July 05, 2007, 09:44:56 am »

Heh... And to think, the only interesting thing in my family is that John Deere supposedly stole my great-great-great grandfather's idea for the steel plow (excluding, of course, war stories)... Nothing but a bunch of white collar workers and blue collar laborers but for the one afore mentioned tinkerer. It's good to see someone with an intriguing ancestor who had been kind enough to not only have adventures for his progeny to discover, but to document them as well...
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Theosophus Grey
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« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2009, 11:00:09 pm »

Kudos to you for carefully documenting your fascinating family history - I will forever regret the loss of such institutional knowledge from my late father's family, which dates back to before the Revolution in Boston but for which we only have a few scraps of documentation, many anecdotes, and a handful of artifacts (swords, canes, watches, furniture, portraits, etc.), despite the apparently colorful and in some cases illicit nature of my forebears.  Sad
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The Inventor
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« Reply #12 on: February 10, 2010, 09:26:03 pm »

This is great!
I'm reading it on your posted link even now.

I agree with the person who said that we all need to discover our family histories, it's part of who we are and how we got here.

My own family history is Largely a mystery in the direction that is most interesting; We can trace back all but two of the family lines.
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mrhengrasmee
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« Reply #13 on: March 09, 2010, 09:24:28 pm »

Very nice post. Thanks Thanks I really like it.
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« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2010, 01:28:31 am »

Very cool, I'm going to enjoy reading this. I love how a lot of the entries are short and to the point.

Fine day all day.
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Dr. Horace Blackwell
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« Reply #15 on: April 10, 2010, 03:47:30 am »

Ever heard of Martha Ballard? She was a midwife in early American history (late 1700s, I believe) that kept a diary very similar to this. It was hideously boring, though, unlike yours. A historian did some extensive research, wrote a whole book, and even a movie was made out of it.

It would be nice to see the same happen to this! I see some potential in what I've read so far.
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Dr. Horace B. Blackwell
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« Reply #16 on: April 06, 2011, 03:39:26 am »

This is WONDERFUL! Thank you so much for sharing such a gift with the rest of us. I have only read a few entries but i am intrigued.
From what I have read I would see a moving picture as Dr Horace has suggested Smiley
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Johnny Payphone
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« Reply #17 on: May 07, 2011, 09:11:23 pm »

                                                                                                May 6-7 ‘06
 
                It doesn’t seem right to have a Sunday pass without writing home, though I won’t have a chance to mail it until we get to Yokahama, unless we happen to pass close enough to some homeward bound ship to exchange mail with them.
                I hardly know how to date this letter as we crossed the 180th meridian about an hour ago, so it is really Monday now, although it was Sunday when we got up.  At any rate we get paid for a day that we don’t even have to live through.
                There is so much that is new and interesting to me that I hardly know how to write about it all; so if this letter seems kind of broken up and disjointed, you won’t mind it.
                Probably you want to hear about the ship first.  She was built at New London, Conn. in 1904 and as this is her sixth voyage out, everything is spick and span new.  She is 630 ft. long and when fully loaded can carry 28000 long tons of cargo.  She is by far the largest boat on the Pacific Ocean.  She is so wide that you hardly notice the motion at all, and except for a little vibration due to the engines I might be sitting in a hotel.  Tuesday and Wednesday it blew pretty hard and we got quite a little motion at times so that some of the fellows skipped a few meals.  I still have a clean record and nothing to regret in the eating line.
                We haven’t had very warm weather as yet.  The last few days have been cold and cloudy with an occasional snow squall.  We are well up north (52-22 N. Lat) not far from the Aleutian Islands.  They take this northerly course as it is on the great circle course and shorter than by going due west.  You can’t see how it is on a map, but you can on a globe.
                There are fifty two in our party and about forty young fellows who are going over to teach.
                There hasn’t been very much to break the monotony since we left Seattle.  We have seen quite a number of whales and one other ship.  I went down into the engine room with the 1st asst. engineer this morning.  I wish you could see the big triple expansion engines of 10000 H.P. each.  They run just like clock-work and haven’t stopped or slowed down since we left Seattle a week ago today.
                Then we went into the stoke hole and saw the Chinese firemen feeding coal into the sixteen furnaces.  These firemen get seven dollars and a half a month and their boss gets a rake off out of that.
                All the crew and servants on the boat are Chinese, only the officers being Americans.  They make fine waiters, only they can’t remember but one order at a time.
                We expect to get to Yokohama about a week from today if we have good weather.  We go into dry dock at Nagasaki and will be there almost a week so we won’t get to Manila much before the first  of June.
                I am to be in Mr. Farnham’s party and will be on the island of Negros.  There will be three surveying parties on Panay, one on Negros and one on Cebu.  We will have about the best berth of any of the parties, as our road will be near the shore all the way; the climate is good, the natives are all friendly, and the island is nearly all cultivated.  We go from Manila by steamer to Iloilo, which is on the island of Panay, and from there it is about three hours ride in a launch across to Negros.
 
 
                                                                                                On board S.S. Minnesota
                                                                                                                Yokahama  Harbor



http://twitter.com/#!/fletcherhatch
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engineRmRaphi
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« Reply #18 on: June 23, 2011, 11:06:17 pm »

Fascinating read, this.  

    The diary mentions Seattle and triple-expansion steam engines, which of course caught my eye.   I'm a 5th generation Seattleite.  And I've worked with an old triple expansion engine.  Beautiful to behold-- and from an era when labor hadn't had all of its artistic elements stripped away in the name of "efficiency."  

Anyway, I did some research.

    The S.S. Minnesota was, for its time, absolutely huge. The engines must have been as well.  This, along with its sister ship, the Dakota, was a project of the railroad magnate, James J. Hill.  Its size made it unprofitable and its less than responsive steering made it problematic.  It ran between Seattle and Shanghai; 1905-1915 for sure.  The officers were American, the rest of the crew Chinese.

To find what I did, use the search term "steam ship Minnesota," not S. S.

Looking forward to reading more.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2011, 11:09:22 pm by engineRmRaphi » Logged

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« Reply #19 on: July 13, 2011, 11:57:01 pm »

which begins with a letter of acceptance to the position of "Assistant to the Topographer" in the Phillipines in April 1906.
Thank you for sharing this with us, I shall be sure to read this through most carefully. My steampunk character is in fact a cartographer, the Surveyor-General of the antipodean islands of Aotearoa / New Zealand. Our airship, the Airship Halberg is being equipped and a crew sought to participate in a Royal Commission to chart topographical maps and lay trigonometric triangulation stations (trig stations) throughout the country, whilst warding off pirates, sky krakens (ranginui taniwha), and picking up side jobs along the way, including urgent diplomatic missions, trade negotiations, and the odd moonshine run.
 
I am sharing this as a collaborative literary work which may be eventually published under a Creative Commons license. So if it is okay with you, I may like to draw on some of the historic facts presented in these notes from your forebear. Attribution would be included, of course, but this being an open, collaborative work with no commercial value or financial gain, there would not be any royalties due.

I am hoping that the Airship Halberg is also going to become a physical group of steampunks here in the antipodes, and that some of the inspiration for the collaborative writing will come from Live Action Role Playing (LARP) games and other activities that we do together here in the antipodes.


I shall be her master and navigator, but we are also looking for a captain to pilot her, a chief engineer to keep us aloft, and a Kaiarahi Tikanga Maori to keep us from foundering on the rocks of cultural ignorance. We'll also need a meteorologist, who will know where we will be likely to end up, a communications officer to keep us in contact with the outside world, a mechanic to fix things when they break down, a cook to keep us alive, a physician to keep us alive after the cook's ministrations, and assorted other crew and labourers. We actually have a ship's physician already, Lady Emma Darry, but she is not located in the antipodes and so can only contribute metaphysically. Preference would normally be given to antipodean locals with some knowledge of the geography, customs, and traditions of the antipodes.

The Airship Halberg can also be found on the Book of Face, along with The Auckland Steampunk Association (interim name).
« Last Edit: July 14, 2011, 12:20:19 am by augur » Logged

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Johnny Payphone
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« Reply #20 on: August 20, 2011, 07:26:27 pm »

Lilay Oce. Negros P.I.
                                                                                                                                Sept. 16, ‘06

                Sunday again, so will write a note to let you know that everything is going on as usual.   I haven’t received any mail this week either; it is now two weeks and a half since we have had any, and it is liable to be a good deal longer before we get any more.  They discovered a couple cases of cholera over in Iloilo this week and have quarantined the place.  Our only connection with the outside world is the wheezy old tub of a steamer that runs between here and Iloilo every other day, and now that the quarantine is on over there, we are pretty fairly shut off.  I don’t suppose this letter will go out for quite a while, but will write just the same.
                I have been inside three days this week working on the estimates, so have had an easy time, but think I like the outside much better.
                We get some good long hikes down in this country.  The land around here is level as a floor, and practically all planted to rice or sugar.
                Yesterday we ran a line five miles from town straight out towards the mountains.  We quit work in a pouring rain about five o’clock, and walked in by the road, fully seven miles.  It was six thirty or later and pitch dark when we got here, and maybe supper didn’t taste good.
                We are living pretty high these days, as we have just received a big lot of supplies from Iloilo.  Today for dinner one of the main guys in the town sent us a present of a big dish of dried grass hoppers cooked up in true Filipino style.  We ate about one apiece and didn’t think much of them, but our native houseboys sailed into them in great shape.  They are “muy bueno chow” (fine eating) for the natives.  They fix them up with onions and spices and they taste something like smoked herrings.
                We have had a Baptist missionary with us about all the week, a Mr. Fouchet, he is stationed at  Bacolod, the capital of the province, and was preaching up here, so he stayed with us.  He used to preach at the old ship church in Hingham and married a Hingham girl.  He know some fellows over there that I knew in college so it seemed like a bit of home to talk with him.
                We had a slight earthquake here Wednesday.  I was inside, writing at the table when the house commenced to shake.  I didn’t know what it was at first, but Mr. Humphrey, the teacher here, said it was an earthquake.  They have them here quite often, but they never do any damage.
                It seems strange to think that when you get this letter, somewhere around the first of November, that it will be cold and winterish while out here the weather will be as warm and pleasant as when we arrived here.  There hasn’t been a bit of change in the foliage or anything since we were here in Lilay three months ago.  I don’t suppose it changes the year round.  I guess a little snow will look good when I get back home.  It won’t be so very long now, a fourth of our time will soon be up and then I guess it will be me for a good long vacation at home, where I can get filled up on all sorts of good home cooking, something that isn’t canned.
                I never saw such a place for canned goods.  Nine tenths of what we get to eat comes in some kind of a can or other.  I’d like to get hold of a piece of genuine pie of almost any variety so long as it was home made.  Every once in a while I think of some of the good things I used to get to eat at home and then I think what a fool I was not to appreciate them more.[/i]
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Kryss LaBryn
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« Reply #21 on: January 08, 2012, 08:23:46 am »

Damn! The link to the diary is returning a 404! Sucky. Sad
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Johnny Payphone
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« Reply #22 on: January 11, 2012, 03:43:13 am »

http://fletcherameshatch.blogspot.com/
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Flightless Phoenix
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« Reply #23 on: January 15, 2014, 02:00:35 pm »

I'm not sure how this thread got resurrected but i'm so glad it did! Fascinating diary!
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Rose Inverness
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« Reply #24 on: May 02, 2014, 07:32:38 pm »

JP,

Thank you so much for sharing this. How fascinating!

Btw, the link on your own site still links to the defunct blogger site. Just a (hopefully helpful) note.

Rose
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