an opportunity to bid. You can't win if you're not in.
Lot includes 200+ Turner Family letters, dated 1790s-1880s, hundreds of pieces of ephemera, and extensive genealogical records.
Every letter contained in the Turner Family collection, as presented to Cowan’s, is included in this lot. Only presidential signed commissions and ship’s logs have been removed and offered individually.
Dr. William Turner (1775-1837). 50 letters and manuscripts written by or directly concerning William Turner, dated 1790s-1830s. The majority are dated 1803-1821, 1-4pp, written to family members while on naval service, and pertain to family matters or naval service. Notables and representative examples include: 1799 ALS to Peter Turner, Oct. 10, 1799, at Cape Francois, Haiti, reporting on events of the slave revolt now known as the Haitian Revolution, referencing Toussaint Louverture as an “ugly-looking negro leader, very polished in his manners, said to have as many as 50,000 men” as we the naval strength present; 1799 MS by Christopher Raymond Perry, father of O.H. Perry, appointing Wm. to surgeon on the General Greene; 1800 ALS from Wm. Turner to Dr. Moses Brown regarding sicknesses on the General Greene; war date ALS from Wm. Turner to George Turner, April 10, 1813, reporting being blockaded by the British Squadron; war date ALS to Wm. Turner regarding the personal effects of his brother Dr. Peter Turner, who died of wounds sustained at Plattsburgh, NY, and referencing Comm. Woolsey; copy of a letter from Wm. Turner to Gen. Thos. H. Cushing, Dec. 23, 1814, requesting to go into private practice as his family has sacrificed so much in the war and he must now help provide for the family, mentioning brother Daniel’s service with O.H. Perry at Lake Erie and being captured by the British, brother Peter’s being killed at Plattsburgh, brother Benjamin killed in a duel, and father Daniel being an invalid; 1818 ALS from US Surgeon General Joseph Lovell (1788-1836), authorizing Turner to engage in private practice; 1794 ALS from Richard Henderson to Isaac Governeur, recommending Wm. Turner for the position of surgeon aboard the America; 1821 ALS from Charles Handy to Wm. Turner, listing the personal effects of Wm.’s deceased brother, midshipman Henry Turner; 1806 manuscript inventory of medical supplies on hand and ordered; undated letter thanking Turner for a lecture at the Rhode Island Medical Society; an 1817 ALS regarding the Rhode Island Medical Society’s ruling on a doctor’s charge of selling a “secret medicine” in violation of the society’s bylaws; recipe for “Dr. King’s Diarrhea Mixture”; schedules of expense and supplies, provision returns, etc.; and many letters regarding family matters.
Commodore Peter Turner (1803-1871). 42 letters and manuscripts written by or directly concerning Peter Turner, dated 1820s-1860s. The majority are dated 1826-30, 1-6pp, written to family members while on naval service, and pertain to family matters or naval service. Notables and representative examples include: 1862 DS by Sec. of Navy Gideon Welles (1802-1878), notifying Peter Turner of his appointment to commander on the reserved list; 1867 letter from Peter Turner to Sec. of Navy Gideon Welles acknowledging receipt of his commission as commodore; several 1820-1829 ALsS from Peter to various family members reporting on his service and travels, including 1820 from Matanzas discussing his captain and the markets; 1822 aboard the Constitution at Gibraltar; 1826 aboard the Boston; 1828 aboard the Hornet, reporting on outbreak of yellow fever forcing the ship to return to port; 1828 aboard the Falmouth, regarding his sister’s death; 1828 at Charleston Navy Yard, discussing naval matters, and referencing the ships Columbus, Independence, and Concord; 1827 ALS to brother Daniel, captain of the ERIE, asking for help obtaining a promotion; 1827 ALS expressing disappointment in not obtaining a promotion and being refused leave to visit sick family; 1829 ALS to his parents, informing them he has passed his exam and discussing several captains by name; 1829 ALS to Hettie Turner, regarding Capt. Daniel Turner’s capture and prize; 1838 correspondence regarding his father’s death and estate; Peter’s 1842 marriage certificate; 1844 ALS to his brother, from Rio de Janeiro, on a sheet featuring a woodcut of Rio; deed and several receipts for payments on his pew at Trinity Church, Newport; plus a ca 1862 CDV photograph of Peter as commander, newspaper clippings regarding Peter’s death, and more.
Benjamin Turner (1780-1807). Six letters written to, by, or concerning Benjamin Turner, most notably an Oliver Hazard Perry ALS to Perry’s mother, dated Navy Yard, Nov. 4, 1807, regarding the death of Lt. Benjamin Turner in a duel at New Orleans. Perry writes he received the news via a letter from a Lt. Leonard and that “the quarrel was some trifling argument about Shakespeare plays which has terminated so fatally,” and Perry attests to Turner’s “excellent character.” Perry tells his mother that he has not seen his father in a while due to the winds, but a Capt. Winchester told him the elder Perry has never looked better. Unfortunately this letter is in poor condition, separated at every fold line and missing most of the signature. Also: ALS from “Trenchard” aboard Connstellation off Tripoli, addressed to “Benj. Turner, Constitution at Sea”; 1805 ALS from Benj. Turner to Dr. Wm. Turner, describing a confrontation with a sailor; and more.
Other Family Members. 100+ letters and manuscripts by, from or concerning other or unknown members of the family. Notables and representative examples include: important Mexican War letter, 6pp, to Henry S. Harlan, from his brother, dated U.S. Steamship Princeton, Aug. 12 (no year), at Anton Lizardo, 18 miles off Vera Cruz, postmarked at Pensacola, Aug. 20, regarding illnesses and injuries of soldiers and sailors, events of the war, Mexican politics, ship movements, etc.; dozens of letters to and from Hettie Turner (1750-1853) and other family members regarding typical family matters; 1855 signed return by Lt. Col. John Thomas, South Carolina; ca early 1800s mathematical instructions for calculating the distance from Earth to the sun and moon; 1759 letter written in mirrored script; pocket journal containing notes on the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses; several manuscript poems and copies of poems; receipts; ledgers; and more.
Genealogical Research and Ephemera. 100+ pages of genealogical research, ca 1790s to 1950s, plus hundreds of pieces of ephemera, ca 1790s to 1910s, including: naval event programs; calling cards; miscellaneous tintypes and CDVs; family baptism and funeral programs and mementos; newspaper clippings of family news and obituaries; newspaper clippings of poetry; and four scrapbooks. Two of the scrapbooks contain ca 1750s-1910s Harlan family documents and ephemera, including dozens of indentures, deeds, receipts, estate inventories and settlements, some as early as the 1750s. One is a Cleveland Plain Dealer scrapbook of the Battle of Lake Erie centennial in 1913, containing records pertaining to the committee on the Perry Centennial; hundreds of newspaper clippings regarding the centennial; programs from the “Progress of Women” event held as part of the centennial; dozens of postcards of Battle of Lake Erie ships, Perry statues, monuments, etc.; cabinet card of Gilbert Stuart’s painted portrait of Perry; and a lengthy program for the entire celebration, held Sept. 14-17, 1913. Another Plain Dealer scrapbook, also ca 1913, contains roughly 100 snapshots and cyanotypes of the Harlan family and their homes. The William Turner Family
Cowan’s is pleased to offer selection of items from the William Turner family of Newport, Rhode Island, some of which have been passed down several generations. Items offered in this sale include photographs, manuscripts, signed documents, relics, and uniform accoutrements, most related to the naval careers of prominent members of the family. Photographs and other items related to less noteworthy members of the family will be offered in our July 2 to July 13 American History Timed Online Only auction, and many more items from the family, including furniture, silver, scrimshaw, painted portraits, and other fine art and decorative items will be offered in Cowan’s June 20 Americana sale. Below are brief biographies of members of the Turner family relevant to this sale.
1st Generation: Dr. William Turner (1712-1754) grew up in Newport, Rhode Island where, according to family history, he studied medicine under Dr. Norbent Vigneron (French, 1669-1764). After completing his apprenticeship, Dr. Turner relocated to Newark, New Jersey, where he opened a successful professional practice. William married Mehitable Foster (b. 1715) with whom he had four children, including Daniel (1750-1837), and Peter (1751-1822).
2nd Generation: Daniel Turner (1750-1837), known as Captain Daniel, married his first cousin Sarah Foster (1754-1809) before serving in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Together, they had ten children, including William (1775-1837), Peter (1781-1812), and Daniel (1794-1850).
2nd Generation: Dr. Peter Turner (1751-1822), Captain Daniel's younger brother, served as a surgeon in the 1st Rhode Island Regiment of the Continental Army under General James Varnum (American, 1748-1789) and Colonel Christopher Greene (American, 1737-1781). Family tradition tells us that he served on General George Washington's staff at Valley Forge where he established a friendship with the Marquis de Lafayette (French, 1757-1834), who also stayed at Washington's encampment. Following the war, Dr. Turner and his wife Eliza Child settled in East Greenwich, Rhode Island at 21 Courthouse Lane, across the street from their brother-in-law General Varnum, whose wife Martha Child was Eliza's sister. Peter and Eliza had nine children, including Mehitable Foster (1780-1853).
3rd Generation: Commodore Daniel Turner (1794-1850), the son of Captain Daniel, began his career in the U.S. Navy as a midshipman at the age of fourteen, subsequently earning the rank of lieutenant on March 12, 1813. Two days later, he joined Oliver Hazard Perry's (American, 1785-1819) squadron at Sackett's Harbor, New York where he took command of the brig Caledonia in the Battle of Lake Erie. On September 10, 1813, Turner distinguished himself by providing suppressive fire for Perry's flagship Lawrence, thereby earning a Congressional medal and a sword from the State of New York. After serving under Perry's command on the frigate Java and the schooner Nonsuch, Turner commanded the USS Erie and the USS Constitution.
3rd Generation: Dr. William Turner (1775-1837), the son of Captain Daniel and the older brother of Commodore Daniel, served as a surgeon in the United States Navy. William married his first cousin Mehitable Foster (1780-1853), the daughter of Dr. Peter (1751-1822), and they had nine children, including Peter (1803-1871).
3rd Generation: Benjamin Bourne Turner (1780-1807), the son of Captain Daniel and brother of Commodore Daniel and Dr. William, appointed midshipman in the United States Navy Sept. 27, 1800, and lieutenant March 9, 1807. Unmarried, he was killed in a duel with Master John Rush, US Navy, Oct. 31, 1807, in New Orleans, over an argument about William Shakespeare.
4th Generation: Commodore Peter Turner (1803-1871) began his career in the U.S. Navy as a midshipman at the age of twenty, subsequently earning the rank of lieutenant on December 20, 1832. From 1834 to 1835, he served on the USS Columbus within his uncle Commodore Daniel Turner's (1794-1850) Brazil Squadron. He also served aboard the USS Constitution in the Pacific and afterward on special duty at Portsmouth Navy Yard. His final cruise was on the USS Southampton before serving as commander of the U.S. Naval Asylum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was commissioned as a commodore in 1867. He married Sarah Stafford Jones (1826-1875) and had five children, including Hettie Foster (1850-1937).
5th Generation: Hettie Foster Turner (1850-1937) married Henry Harlan (1848-1898) and they had three children, including James Turner (1881-1931), through whose descendants the Turner family collection is being offered for sale.