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John Edmund McDonnell Papers, 1875-1888: Finding Aid

Published in February 2018

Summary Information

  • Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
  • Publisher Address:
    589 McNair Road
    Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
    Phone: 410-293-6917
  • Call number: MS 460
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: John Edmund McDonnell Papers
  • Dates: 1875-1888
  • Size: 0.21 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 1 half-manuscript box, 1 oversize folder
  • Creator: McDonnell, John Edmund, 1858-1931
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: John Edmund McDonnell was a member of the United States Naval Academy Class of 1878. The John Edmund McDonnell Papers span from 1875 to 1888. The collection focuses primarily on McDonnell's cruise with the U.S. Navy's Pacific Squadron aboard U.S.S. Pensacola (Steamer) and U.S.S. Lackawanna (Screw sloop-of-war) during his two years of mandatory sea service following completion of the academic course at the Naval Academy.

Biography of John Edmund McDonnell

John Edmund McDonnell was born on May 27, 1858 in Monona Flat, California and moved to Nevada with his family as an infant. At the age of 16, he was appointed to the United States Naval Academy as a member of the Class of 1878. Following completion of the academic course at the Academy, McDonnell was assigned to the Pacific Squadron aboard U.S.S. Pensacola (Steamer), and later U.S.S. Lackawanna (Screw sloop-of-war), for his two years of mandatory sea service before final graduation. Upon the expiration of his cruise in August 1882, McDonnell was granted a leave of absence, after which he resigned from the U.S. Navy, effective March 1, 1884.

Following his resignation from the Navy, McDonnell embarked upon a career as a mining engineer and accountant, working in Colombia for five years before returning to California where he married Nellie Lynch on August 8, 1888. After working in Montana, Idaho, and Oregon, McDonnell ultimately settled in Boise Idaho in 1923 where he became auditor for the Public Utilities Commission. John Edmund McDonnell died on September 29, 1931.

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Description of Contents

The John Edmund McDonnell Papers, comprising 0.21 linear feet of documentation, span from 1875 to 1888. The collection focuses primarily on McDonnell's cruise with the U.S. Navy's Pacific Squadron aboard U.S.S. Pensacola (Steamer) and U.S.S. Lackawanna (Screw sloop-of-war) during his two years of mandatory sea service following completion of the academic course at the Naval Academy.

Included in the collection are photographs, notes, a journal, a chart, a drawing, an autograph book, and a compact disc.

The McDonnel Papers are arranged alphabetically by document type into a single series. Roughly half of the collection consists of McDonnell's journal and its accompanying enclosures. The journal, comprising 138 pages of handwritten text, spans from October 1, 1878 through March 14, 1880, during McDonnell's two years of mandatory sea service with the Pacific Squadron aboard U.S.S. Pensacola and U.S.S. Lackawanna. Basic journal entries typically include notations as to ship's location, weather and sea conditions, personnel movements, and daily routine.

Much of the journal is devoted to the description of towns and ports of call visited by McDonnell, including notes on the harbors, people, local commerce, availability of fresh provisions, imports, exports, visits by dignitaries, and sailing directions for approaching each harbor. Ports described by McDonnell include Mazatlan, Mexico (November 15, 1878); Guaymas, Mexico (December 4, 1878); Pichilinque Bay and La Paz, Mexico (December 7, 1878); San Blas, Mexico (December 14, 1878); Manzanillo, Mexico (December 16, 1878); Acapulco, Mexico (December 19, 1878); Champerico, Guatemala (December 25, 1878); Acajutla and Libertad, El Salvador (December 27, 1878); La Union, El Salvador (December 28, 1878); Corinto, Nicaragua (December 31, 1878); Punta Arenas, Costa Rica (January 1, 1879); Panama City (January 9, 1879); Concepcion Bay, Chile (March 4, 1879); Talcahuano, Chile (March 9, 1879); Valparaiso, Chile (April 1, 1879); Coquimbo, Chile (April 2, 1879); Caldera, Chile (April 5, 1879); Antofagasta, Chile (April 7, 1879); Pabillon de Pica, Peru [now Chile] (April 17, 1879); Huanillos, Peru [now Chile] (April 18, 1879); Callao and Lima, Peru (April 30, 1879); Magdalena Island [now Fatu Hiva] and Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands (June 6-7, 1879); and Pago Pago and the Samoan Islands in general (September 3, 1879). Other entries include specific activities and events, such as repairs to the ship (October 1, 1878); navigating San Francisco Bay (November 13, 1878); and McDonnell's studies of the boilers and engines of U.S.S. Pensacola (beginning on page 67). The volume also includes tables of weather data and remarks from ship's time in Apia, Samoa and its return trip to San Francisco and Mare Island.

Included with the journal, and originally tucked inside the front cover, are a chart of the U.S.S. Pensacola's course across the Pacific, a rendering of the appearance of the moon on May 30, 1879, and notes on the necessary documentation to be carried by a ship.

Much of the collection's remainder consists of photographs, mostly in the form of cabinet cards. The photographs include portraits of the officers of U.S.S. Lackawanna, as well as other Navy personnel and acquaintances of McDonnell's from California. Other cabinet cards depict U.S. Navy vessels that McDonnell either served aboard or encountered during his Pacific Squadron cruise. In addition to the cabinet cards are two larger group portraits of members of the United States Naval Academy Classes of 1878, 1879, and 1880.

Also included in the collection is an autograph book containing the signatures of the members of the United States Naval Academy Class of 1878.

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The John Edmund McDonnell Papers are arranged alphabetically by document type.

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Access and Use


Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The John Edmund McDonnell 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.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

The digital copy of McDonnell's journal requires the use of a computer with a CD-ROM/DVD-ROM drive.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition


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Related Materials

Related Archival Material

Additional material in Special Collections & Archives pertaining to McDonnell's career and time as a midshipman may be found in his Midshipman Conduct Record and Alumni Jacket. Portraits of McDonnell are available in Photo Albums 94 and 95.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection and cataloged separately.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

John Edmund McDonnell Papers, MS 460

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Selected Bibliography

The following sources were consulted during preparation of the biographical note:

McDonnell, John Edmund Alumni Jacket, RG 405, Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library

United States. Burean of Naval Personnel. Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1814-.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by David D'Onofrio in February 2018. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in February 2018.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Chile -- Description and travel
  • Lackawanna (Screw sloop-of-war)
  • McDonnell, John Edmund, 1858-1931
  • Mexico -- Description and travel
  • Naval education -- United States
  • Pensacola (Screw steamer)
  • Peru -- Description and travel
  • Samoan Islands -- Description and travel
  • United States Naval Academy. Class of 1878
  • United States. Navy. Pacific Squadron

Genre Terms

  • Manuscripts
  • Photographs
  • Ships' logs
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Autograph Book, 1875

Autographs of the Class of 1878.

Drawer MSOS Folder 1

Chart - Pacific Ocean, 1879 (approximate)

Includes the course of U.S.S. Pensacola (Steamer) from Callao to the Marquesas and Samoa.

Box 1 Folder 2

Drawing - Appearance of the Moon, 1879 May 30

Box 1 Folder 3

Journal, 1878-1880

Box 1 Folder 4

Journal (Digital Excerpts), 1878-1880

Compact disc containing digital excerpts of McDonnell's journal, compiled in 2003.

Box 1 Folder 5

Notes - Ship's Papers, undated

List of documents required to be kept aboard a vessel.

Box 1 Folder 6

Photographs - Portraits (Groups), 1878 (approximate) - 1880

Members of the Naval Academy Classes of 1878, 1879, and 1880, as well as officers of U.S.S. Adams (Steamer), and officers of the French ship La Motte-Picquet.

Box 1 Folder 7

Photographs - Portraits (Individuals), 1880-1888, undated

Includes portraits of U.S. Navy officers Warren Barnard, John J. Brice, Frank H. Hinman, Harry Kimmel, William Redstone, George H. Snyder, and George H. Stafford,

Box 1 Folder 8

Photographs - Ships, 1878-1881, undated

Includes photographs of U.S.S. Adams, Alert (Screw steamer), Independence (Receiving ship), Jamestown (Sloop-of-war), Pensacola, Richmond (Screw sloop-of-war), and Tuscarora (Sloop-of-war).

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