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Collection William Speiden Journals

About this Collection

As purser’s clerk aboard the U.S. steam frigate Mississippi, William Speiden, Jr., (1835-1920) created a two-volume journal dating from 1852 to 1855 documenting the U.S. Naval Expedition to the China Seas and Japan under the command of Commodore Matthew C. Perry.

The Bogue [detail]. Chinese pith painting, artist unknown. Speiden Journal, vol. 1, c. 10 Aug. 1853. Speiden Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.

The two journals of William Speiden, Jr. (volume 1: 9 March 1852-2 July 1854, and volume 2: 3 July 1854-16 February 1855), give account of shipboard life, diplomacy, and travel as well as ports of call in a myriad of international locations during the global journey of the Mississippi.  The journals are richly illustrated. They contain drawings by Speiden and other shipmates as well as art work collected by Speiden, including delicate watercolor paintings on pith created by unknown Chinese artists that depict seascapes and people of the China Seas.

The papers of William Speiden, Jr., were received from the Naval Historical Foundation as a deposit to the Library of Congress in 1994 and converted to gift status in 1997. They form part of the Naval Historical Foundation Collection in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress.

The Speiden journals were conserved by the Library of Congress in 1998-2000 and microfilmed in 2001 (1 reel, microfilm collection no. 22,423).  The finding aid for the collection was created in 2015.  A digital copy of the finding aid is available at  The catalog record for the collection is available online at . The collection was digitized in 2015.

Digital Presentation

This digital presentation is made up of four parts, consisting of the two volumes of the Speiden Journal and the digitized contents of the two containers of preserved artworks. (For more information see Artwork, Inserts, and Conserving the Journals).

Researchers may open each Speiden Journal volume separately.  Once in that set of digital records, the user may page consecutively through the journal contents electronically, jump to specific pages, or view thumbnails of the pages, including inserted items and artwork, in “Gallery View” or grid formats.

Researchers may also open each container of artworks separately to view the contents. Each of these containers begins with a digital copy of the printed list of titles of the artworks held in the container, followed by digital images of the artworks in matted format.