1841: Edward Low Wood to Mrs. Tacy P. Whitall

How Edward L. Wood might have looked

How Edward L. Wood might have looked

This letter was written by Edward Low Wood (1814-1855), the son of Marmaduke Wood (1770-1829) and Mary Pancoast (1770-1825) of Gloucester, New Jersey. Edward married Josephine Reeves (1823-1898) in July 1852 at St. Andrews Church in Philadelphia. Edward was a Philadelphia merchant whose business was located at 157 High Street and whose residence was at 31 N. 10th Street.

Edward wrote the letter to his older sister, Tacy Pancoast (Wood) Whitall (1792-1862), the widow of John Gill Whitall (1781-1827). The 1841 Philadelphia City Directory indicates that Edward and Tacy were residing at the same address as does the 1850 Census too.

Wedding Record

Wood-Reeves Wedding Record

Edward directed the letter to the care of Wood, Inskeep & Co. I believe that Edward’s father, Marmaduke Wood, was in partnership with Samuel Inskeep. An 1841 advertisement in a Philadelphia paper indicates that the firm dealt in silk goods, and still had a shop at the N.W. corner of Fourth & Market Streets.

Edward’s account of the first leg of his journey from Boston to London is captured in this letter. It contains an interesting description of the nefarious attempts of fellow passengers to smuggle articles such as cigars past the British customs agents. We learn that Edward is on his way to Paris, perhaps on a trip to buy goods for his business in Philadelphia.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter


Addressed to Mrs. T. P. Whitall, Care of Messrs. Wood, Inskeep & Co., Philadelphia [Pennsylvania], United States of America; Per Caledonia Steamship of the 4th of November.

London West End — where the Bucks wear clothes belonging to their tailor.
October 30th 1841

I hardly know where to begin first but suppose you would like to hear all from the first beginning so here goes. Started from Boston on the Saturday two weeks from this time on board the Steam Ship Acadia.¹ Felt rather strange at being launched on the broad sea but soon got over it by looking at others less fortunate than myself as almost all on board were vomiting and wishing themselves at home. As I escaped being seasick entirely, I have been very well up to this time and hope to continue so. But I have put off the track so I must go on and tell you about my trip.

We got to Halifax — ‘Alifax’ as the English call it. I pass for a regular Yankee everywhere now. Started from there after being detained about 4 hours with two Live Lords on boards — one Lord Prudhoe,² and the other a great jack Lord Musgrave — with lots of the English sprigs of nobility who tried to be exclusive. I got into a pleasant party and passed my time as agreeably as it is possible to pass it on board if a ship at sea. It is a place that shows everybody off in the true light and no mistake, I will pass over most of the voyage as every day was very much alike — smoking, chewing the good people all at home, until my arrival in the bay at Liverpool. What a bustle — everybody in a fever to get on shore — some afraid of being caught smuggling which almost all tried to do. Some had their pockets stuffed full of segars. I put all I had left in my trunk and had them passed by owing to my having them in my trunk. The custom house officers thinking probably I had fewer than I really had, I got my baggage passed as also Mr. St. Felix who I am in company with. We were the only two to get our baggage passed as we did not go on shore in the steamers that came along side to take the mails and papers off. They were all in a great hurry to go on shore and thereby lost a day by it as they could not get their baggage passed until today at which time we are 300 miles further on our journey. So much for so much.

Now, for what I think of England. The country is most beautiful between Liverpool and London. No fences of any account but beautiful green hedges with streams running through them. They look like a garden. The ground is cultivated even up on the sides of the railroad _____ ______ & for growing all round and not an inch of ground it seems to spare. So much of that for the present.

Liverpool — what I could see of it — is tolerably bearable but I am now in London, the metropolis of the world, and I do think I am not better pleased. On a a further examination, not much of everything is smoked to death and nothing goes down but ____ Majesty. The servants, cab men, and Boots, Head waiter, Chambermaid all bother one almost to death. I am free to say I never saw such a set of rascals, and and all.

If I go on, I shall have nothing to tell when I come back so I must hold up. So goodbye. I expect to start for Paris tomorrow morning early from which place I hope to be able to write you again. Say to Lue I should like nothing better than to have him along. Give my love to Nell, Anna, Kate, Mary Wood, Perly Iamfolio, Jane Bird. Last though not least in my affections, Tacy P.

Bird will call at the store or some of you for him and get money enough to keep my horse fat until I get back which I hope will be in two to three months from this time. I shall have plenty to tell them.

Very truly, Edward L. Wood


¹ The Steam Ship Acadia was one of three Britannia Class ships in the Cunard Line launched in 1840 for service in the transatlantic trade. Cunard’s ships were reduced versions of the Great Western and only carried 115 passengers in conditions that Charles Dickens unfavorably likened to a “gigantic hearse”. Mean 1840 – 1841 Liverpool — Halifax times for the quartette were 13 days, 6 hours (7.9 knots) westbound and 11 days, 3 hours (9.3 knots) eastbound.

The Acadia had a reputation for speed, but never actually won a speed record. She was also sold in 1849 to the North German Confederation Navy for conversion to the frigate, Ersherzog Johann. When that navy was dissolved, Ersherzog Johann was sold to W. A. Fritze and Company of Bremen, Germany’s first oceangoing steamship venture. The former Acadia was converted back to an Atlantic liner and renamed Germania. In August 1853, she took the new line’s initial sailing, but required 24 days to reach New York because of boiler problems. Sailings were erratic until the fleet was chartered for trooping during the Crimean War. Germania was out of service after the war until she was sold to British ship-owners. Her final deployment was as a troopship during the Indian Mutiny before she was scrapped in 1858.

² This was probably Admiral Algernon Percy, 4th Duke of Northumberland (1792-1865), styled Lord Algernon Percy until 1816, and known as The Lord Prudhoe between 1816 and 1847. He was a British naval commander, explorer, and Conservative politician.


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