Alexander Palmer collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the United States Sealing Voyage, 1829-1831 (Senior commander Benjamin Pendleton) from New York and Stonington to the southern oceans. This voyage was sponsored by the United States Government to carry out exploration in Antarctic waters.

Administrative / Biographical History

Alexander Smith Palmer was born on January 26 1806 in Stonington, Connecticut, the son of a shipbuilder. He started his seagoing life in 1821 as a ship's boy in the brig Alabama Packet on the United States sealing voyage (from Stonington), 1821-1822 (leader Benjamin Pendleton), visiting Chile, Peru and the South Shetland Islands. He returned to the South Shetland Islands in the brig Penguin, in company with his brother Captain Nathaniel Brown Palmer in the brig Annawan, on the United States sealing voyage (from New York and Stonington), 1829-1831 (leaders Benjamin Pendleton and Nathaniel Brown Palmer). This was the first United States Government sponsored Antarctic exploration, accompanied by independent scientists who made biological and geological investigations and collections.

Returning south, he commanded the Charles Adams on the United States sealing voyage (from Stonington), 1831-1833, visiting the South Shetland Islands and returning with a cargo of 1,000 fur seal pelts and 2,100 barrels of elephant seal oil.

Thereafter, Palmer distinguished himself as a career captain sailing packet and clipper ships to Europe and the Orient. In 1840, Queen Victoria presented him with a gold medal for rescuing the crew of the shipwrecked Eugeni. After his retirement from the sea in 1848, he served as a representative and senator in the Connecticut Legislature. He died in 1894.


The collection is arranged chronologically.

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to 'Stonington Antarctic explorers' by Edwin Swift Balch in Bulletin of the American Geographical Society (August 1909) volume 41 number 8 p473-492 SPRI Library Shelf Pam (722)91(091) and Stonington History and Robert Keith Headland Antarctic Chronology, unpublished corrected revision of Chronological list of Antarctic expeditions and related historical events,(1 December 2001) Cambridge University Press (1989) ISBN 0521309034

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue. Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist.


Further accessions possible.