The whaling Ship William Thompson was owned by the firm of Perry & Swift. The firm hired well-known whaling captain James W. White to take the ship out for its voyage at the end of 1853. White had returned from a three year long whaling hunt earlier in the year and was ready to take on another. He had previously been first mate on a whaling trip to Hawaii, and had taken the helm when the captain became ill and had to remain in Maui.
Document signed, as President, Washington, November 1, 1853, being a passport providing that “Leave and permission are hereby given to James W. White, master or commander of the Ship called William Thompson of the burthen of 495 tons, lying at present in the port of New Bedford bound for the Pacific Ocean and laden with Provisions, stores and utensils for a whaling voyage, to depart and proceed…on his said voyage…” The document is countersigned by W.C. Marcy as Secretary of State; and also signing is C.B.H. Fessenden, Collector for the port of New Bedford. The passport is in four languages (English, Spanish, French, and Dutch), as befits a ship’s traveling in international waters.
Passports for whaling ships signed by Fillmore as President are rare. A search of public sale records going back over 40 years shows only one having reached that marketplace in all that time.
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