John Vonderlin; Wreck of the Alice Buck (3)

Story by John Vonderlin

Hi June,

The reporting about the wreck of the “Alice Buck” in the articles I was finding was very similar to previous shipwrecks’ reporting, until I found this article. It appeared in the October 1st, 1881, issue of the “Sacramento Daily Union.”  I suspect intercity rivalry may have had something to do with the tone of this point-of-view reporting. But, given the facts, a little righteous indignation in the press was probably a good thing. Especially, given the title of Mr. Buck, the owner, and probably the husband of the Alice, who the ship was named for. Enjoy. John
The treatment of sailors in San Francisco has always been abominable, but the climax of inhumanity appears to have been reached in the case of the survivors of the ship Alice Buck, which was wrecked the other day off the San Mateo coast. These poor fellows, after having been buffeted for hours by the waves, were rescued in a pitiful condition. They had saved none of their effects. The clothes they had on were torn to rags. And they were bruised and sore from their long struggle. But on reaching San Francisco they discovered that unless they were absolutely incapable there was no shelter or relief for them. The consignees of the wrecked vessel refused to do anything for them, on the ground that the ship’s papers were lost, and they did not know what was due the crew. The United States Shipping Commissioner professed himself powerless to help them; and the only persons who took any interest in them were the crimps and kidnaping land-pirates on the water front, who hoped to make a prize of the destitute men, and. secure their advance wages for another voyage, after the usual fashion. In fact these poor fellows could hardly have fallen upon worse treatment had they been wrecked among savages, and there are many savages who would have behaved a thousandfold more humanely to them than the supposititious Christians and civilized beings upon whose mercy they have been thrown. The destiny in store for these miserable creatures appears to be abandonment to the sailor boarding-house rogues, who will thrust them aboard some other ship before they have recovered from their bruises, and will steal their wages in advance. They have six months’ wages due them, but already they have been coolly informed by the United States Commissioner that they had better not try to obtain what is owing to them, since it will cost it all to secure payment. In fact it is plain that there is no consideration anywhere for the shipwrecked men, and that nobody pities the hard fate to which they seem doomed. It is no wonder that San Francisco is one of the worst places in the world to obtain sailors in, and if they understood their own interests they would refuse ever to ship for so inhospitable a port. They have no political influence, however, and so they cannot obtain decent treatment in any quarter, and even the representative of the National Government thinks it perfectly safe to snub and ride roughshod over them.”