portrait of Richard Dale
Commodore Richard Dale, 1756-1826.

Guide to the Dale Family Papers, 1749-1937

MS 246

A collection in the
Special Collections & Archives Department,
Nimitz Library

Naval Academy Seal

United States Naval Academy
589 McNair Road
Annapolis, MD 21402-5029

Prepared by: David D'Onofrio
(Original Guide by Mary R. Catalfamo, 1990)

June 2008

Descriptive Summary

1 linear foot.
Access to the Dale Family Papers is unrestricted.
The Dale Family Papers are the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.
It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information
Preferred Citation:
Dale Family Papers, MS 246
Special Collections & Archives Department
Nimitz Library
United States Naval Academy

Biographical Sketch

Commodore Richard Dale was born on November 6, 1756 in Norfolk County, Virginia to Winfield and Anne Sutherland Dale. Pursuing from an early age a career at sea in the merchant trade, Dale joined the Virginia navy as a lieutenant at the outbreak of the American Revolution. Captured by the British, Dale switched sides only to be captured and imprisoned aboard the Continental Navy brig Lexington. He then rejoined the revolutionary cause in 1776 and continued to serve on the Lexington until his capture by the H.M.S. Alert in September 1777, after which Dale was confined to Mill Prison in Plymouth, England. After a failed first attempt, Dale escaped in 1779 from Mill Prison, fleeing to L'Orient, France, where he joined Captain John Paul Jones’ crew aboard the Bonhomme Richard, ultimately serving as Jones' first lieutenant. In 1781, Dale returned to America, serving aboard the Continental Navy frigates Trumbull and Queen of France.

Upon the cessation of hostilities, Dale returned to his pre-war career, and in 1791, married Dorothea Crathorne. In 1794, he received a commission from President George Washington as a captain in the newly established Navy. At the onset of the Quasi-War with France in 1798, the United States purchased and converted the merchantman Ganges into a warship under Dale's command. Dale had previously skippered the Ganges on a voyage to Canton in 1795 while on furlough.

Falling into a dispute over seniority, Dale took an unpaid leave of absence and sailed aboard the Canton in 1799. Dale returned to naval service in May 1801, commanding a squadron led by the U.S.S. President in the Mediterranean, protecting American interests against the Barbary Pirates. After being relieved in March 1802, Dale resigned his commission, retiring to Philadelphia, and thus establishing the Dales as one of Philadelphia's leading families. He died in Philadelphia on February 26, 1826.

Richard Sutherland Dale, the oldest son of Commodore Richard and Dorothea Crathorne Dale, was born in 1795. Following in his father's footsteps, Richard Sutherland joined the U.S. Navy, serving as a midshipman aboard the U.S.S. President under the command of Captain Stephen Decatur. Dale was injured in an engagement with a British squadron early in 1815, resulting in the shipboard amputation of his right leg. On February 22, 1815, Richard Sutherland Dale died from his injuries and was buried in Bermuda.

Richard Sutherland Dale’s brother, Edward Crathorne Dale (ca. 1800-1866), married Matilda Evans in 1826. Their son, Richard Dale was born in 1827. Known primarily as a lawyer and financier, Richard Dale succeeded his father as both the Chairman of the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railroad and as President of the Society of the Cincinnati. Among his many other business relationships was an association with the Adams Express Company and a directorship with Reliance Insurance. Richard Dale died in Philadelphia in 1912 following a brief illness. Upon his death, a sword once owned by John Paul Jones, originally bequeathed to Commodore Richard Dale, was passed to Richard Dale's son, Edward Crathorne Dale (1874-1947).

Scope and Content Note

The Dale Family Papers, comprising 1 linear foot of documents, spans the family's history from 1749 to 1937. The papers record, in varying degrees of detail, the lives and careers of six generations of the Dale family.

The collection consists primarily of bound documents, including scrapbooks, a ships account book, a financial ledger, and a biographical dictionary, as well as several photographs and photocopies of loose newspaper clippings.

The Dale Family Papers are organized into four series based on document type. LEDGERS AND LOG BOOKS, 1796-1912, consists of a ship's account book kept by Commodore Richard Dale, and a ledger of deposits and securities kept by his grandson, Richard Dale. SCRAPBOOKS AND PUBLICATIONS, 1749-1937, consists of three scrapbooks and one biographical dictionary containing information and documents pertaining to Commodore Richard Dale, his sons Richard Sutherland Dale and Edward Crathorne Dale, his grandson Richard Dale, and the Commodore’s father Winfield Dale and grandfather Richard Dale. PHOTOGRAPHS, 1836 and 1935, containing 8x10 black-and-white prints, pertains largely to the christening and launch of the U.S.S. Dale in 1935. CERTIFICATES, 1914-1921, consists of primarily oversize certificates presented to Commodore Richard Dale's great-grandson, Edward Crathorne Dale (1874-1947).

Research interests served by the Dale Family Papers include the lineage and general history of the Dale family and specific members thereof, society and culture in nineteenth and early twentieth century Philadelphia, and the history of the Society of the Cincinnati in Pennsylvania. The collection also offers details for relative gaps in the life story of Commodore Richard Dale, between his initial service on the Ganges as a merchant vessel in 1795 and his command of the same as a warship in 1798, as well as the period of his unpaid leave from the Navy in 1799.

Related Collections

Material pertaining to Dale's service during the First Barbary War can be found in the Richard Dale Letterbook, MS 45, housed in Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library. Additional archival material pertaining to Commodore Richard Dale can be found in Record Group 45: Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library, 1691 - 1945 (Series: Letters Received from Captains, 1805 - 1885) at the National Archives in Washington DC.  Further material can be found in Miscellaneous Letters and Papers of Richard Dale, spanning 1780-1845, on microfilm at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, and in the Papers of Commodore Richard Dale at the Naval History and Heritage Command's Operational Archives.  Additional material on the Dale Family, including genealogical resources, obituaries and Bible records are located at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Series Descriptions

LEDGERS AND LOG BOOKS, 1796, 1799, 1802 and 1869-1912 (2 volumes)

Arranged chronologically by date of ledger.

Two ledger/log books, one, the account book kept by Commodore Richard Dale aboard the ships Pigon and Canton, spanning from 1796 to 1802, the other, a ledger of securities held by the Commodore's grandson, Richard Dale, spanning from 1869 to 1912. The account book kept by Commodore Dale primarily consists of invoices and inventories of goods shipped from Philadelphia to Canton aboard the Pigon in 1796, as well as several similar entries for goods shipped aboard the ship Canton in 1799 and one entry, toward the end of the book, from Philadelphia in 1802. The ledger kept by Richard Dale documents certificates of deposit with various companies, largely railroads, listed alphabetically by company.

SCRAPBOOKS AND PUBLICATIONS, 1749, 1767 and 1815-1937 (4 volumes)

Arranged alphabetically by title.

Three scrapbooks and one biographical publication pertaining to the lives and activities of members of the Dale family, focusing on Commodore Richard Dale, the Commodore's son, Richard Sutherland Dale, and the Commodore's grandson, Richard Dale, as well as several other members of the family. Included within the scrapbooks are news clippings, book passages, obituaries, and letters.

"Mementoes of Midshipman Richard S. Dale…" includes several letters and other handwritten documents pertaining to the midshipman service, injury and death of Richard Sutherland Dale, including correspondence between Commodore Richard Dale and Captain Stephen Decatur. Also included are memorials and obituaries regarding Richard Sutherland Dale, Edward Crathorne Dale (ca. 1800-1866), Admiral George Read, and Richard Dale (1827-1912) and news clippings regarding the construction and launch of the U.S.S. Dale in 1934-1935. Also included are the wills of Commodore Richard Dale's father Winfield Dale, dated 1767, and his grandfather Richard Dale, dated 1749. Included among the accompanying loose items is a 1937 letter from U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent D.F. Sellers regarding the possible loan or donation of John Paul Jones's sword to the Academy.

The scrapbook entitled "Newspaper Cuttings - Personal," spanning 1815 to 1898, pertains to Richard Dale (1827-1912), memorials for Commodore Richard Dale and Richard Sutherland Dale, and Philadelphia events, such as a debutante ball for Maud Toland in 1889, and the Centennial International Exhibition. The scrapbook entitled "Society of the Cincinnati - Washington Monument," spanning 1826 to 1905, pertains to the general history and organization of the society in Philadelphia, and its efforts to erect a monument in honor of George Washington in Philadelphia from the 1870s to 1890s, as well as several clippings regarding John Paul Jones, and US ships named after members of the Dale family.

Also included in this series is a copy of The National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans, Volume III, 1836, which includes a biographical sketch of Commodore Richard Dale.

PHOTOGRAPHS, 1836 and 1935 (5 items)

Arranged alphabetically by topic.

Black-and-white photographs depicting the christening and launch of the U.S.S. Dale (Destroyer: DD-353), the crypt of John Paul Jones at the U.S. Naval Academy, and a portrait of Commodore Richard Dale, reproduced from The National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans, Volume III, 1836.

CERTIFICATES, 1914-1921 (7 items)

Arranged chronologically by date of issuance.

Certificates of membership and recognition presented to Edward Crathorne Dale (1874-1947). Included are certificates recognizing Dale's completion of military training and service in the Naval Reserve, including service during World War I, and certificates of membership in the Navy League of the United States, the War Society of the Cruiser and Transport Force, the Philadelphia Zoological Society and the Pennsylvania Hospital.

The certificate from the Philadelphia Zoological Society is rolled.

Container List

Box Folder  
1 Account Book of the Ships Pigon and Canton, 1796, 1799 and 1802
2 Ledger [Deposits and Securities] of R. Dale, 1869-1912
3 Mementoes of Midshipman Richard S. Dale and Obituary Notices of Other Members of the Family, 1749, 1767 and 1815-1935
4 Mementoes of Midshipman Richard S. Dale … - Loose Items, 1858 and 1935-1937
Box Folder
2 1 Herring, H.J. The National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans, Volume III. Philadelphia: Henry Perkins,1836
2 Newspaper Cuttings - Personal, 1815-1898
3 Society of the Cincinnati - Washington Monument, 1826-1905
4 Commodore Richard Dale Portrait (reproduction), 1836
5 John Paul Jones Crypt - U.S. Naval Academy, undated
6 U.S.S. Dale Launching, January 23, 1935
Box Folder
1 Certificates, 1914-1921

-Philadelphia Zoological Society, March 11, 1914
-War Department of the United States - Military Instruction Camp, July 2, 1916
-Navy League of the United States, January 16, 1917
-Secretary of the Navy - World War I Naval Service, November 11, 1919
-War Society of the Cruiser and Transport Force, December 11, 1919
-Pennsylvania Hospital, March 11, 1921
-Secretary of the Navy - Naval Reserve Force, September 30, 1921