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John O. Falkinburg Papers, 1866-2002 (bulk 1866-1928): Finding Aid

Published in May 2019

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 505
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: John O. Falkinburg Papers
  • Dates: 1866-2002
  • Bulk Dates: 1866-1928
  • Size: 0.21 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 1 half-manuscript box
  • Creator: Falkinburg, John O., 1848-1928
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: John O. Falkinburg was an enlisted sailor in the United States Navy. The John O. Falkinburg Papers span from 1866 until approximately 1928, with additional introductory content added in 2002. The Falkinburg Papers focus on the U.S. Navy service of John O. Falkinburg, especially with the Asiatic Squadron, from 1866 to 1870, as well as the history of the Falkinburg family and its progenitors.

Biography of John O. Falkinburg

John Odell Falkinburg was born on February 3, 1848 in New Lexington, Ohio. Shortly after the death of his father, Caleb in January 1862, Falkinburg attempted to enlist in the 34th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and the 83rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, both of which rejected him due to his age. After moving to the farm of David Furnas of Waynesville, Ohio in July 1863, Falkinburg successfully enlisted in the Navy at Cincinnati for duty aboard gunboats. Initially attached to the receiving ship Grampus, Falkinburg was ultimately ordered to the Mississippi Squadron's U.S.S. Prairie Bird (Gunboat) as a landsman. At the conclusion of the Civil War, he was transferred to the squadron flagship U.S.S. Tempest (Gunboat) as a fireman and engineer's yeoman, before being discharged from the Navy in November 1865 at Mound City, Illinois.

Following his discharge, Falkinburg briefly returned to work for David Furnas, before departing for New York on June 26, 1866, where he enlisted in the U.S. Navy on July 19. Initially assigned to duty as a clerk aboard the receiving ship U.S.S. Vermont, Falkinburg was attached to U.S.S. Iroquois of the Asiatic Squadron on January 7, 1867. On February 21, 1869, he transferred to U.S.S. Piscataqua (Screw steamer), which was renamed U.S.S. Delaware soon thereafter. Falkinburg remained with the Asiatic Squadron, cruising along the coast of Japan and China, with occasional stops at Manila and Singapore, until U.S.S. Delaware returned to New York on November 18, 1870, after which Falkinburg was discharged.

On April 17, 1873, Falkinburg married Emily "Emma" Luella Jacobs, daughter of the U.S. Consul to Montevideo. Shortly thereafter, Falkinburg embarked upon a career as a teacher and school administrator in the Waynesville, Ohio area. In 1884, Falkinburg and his family moved to Sayler Park, Ohio where he served as school principal until 1913. John Odell Falkinburg died on March 4, 1928 at Carlisle, Ohio.

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Description of Contents

The John O. Falkinburg Papers, comprising 0.21 linear feet of documentation, span from 1866 until approximately 1928, with additional introductory content added in 2002. The Falkinburg Papers focus on the U.S. Navy service of John O. Falkinburg, especially with the Asiatic Squadron, from 1866 to 1870, as well as the history of the Falkinburg family and its progenitors.

The collection includes print and electronic copies of journals, memoirs, and photographs.

The cornerstone of the collection is John O. Falkinburg's journal, formally entitled "Journal of a cruise in the U.S. Navy on the coasts of China and Japan, commencing at the date of leaving home June 26th 1866, and ending on my return to the same December 11th 1870, the time being spent on the U.S. Corvette 'Iroquois' and the U.S. Frigate 'Delaware'." The journal is the product of Falkinburg's three-year enlistment in the United States Navy, during which time he was attached to the receiving ship U.S.S. Vermont and the Asiatic Squadron as a nurse, and later, ship's apothecary. Sailing aboard U.S.S. Iroquois (Steam sloop-of-war) and U.S.S. Piscataqua (Screw steamer), later renamed U.S.S. Delaware, Falkinburg frequently sailed among the ports of Hyogo, Osaka, Nagasaki, Yokohama, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Manila, and Singapore. Throughout the journal, Falkinburg notes daily occurrences and information such as the ship's location/course, weather conditions, vessels encountered, and daily routine, such as drills and watches. He also discusses other regular events, such as conduct offenses among the crew, especially desertions, their resulting courts-martial, and races between the cutters of the squadron. Many of Falkinburg's longer journal entries are devoted to descriptions of the various ports of call he visited, as well as the progress of the Boshin War in Japan.

Following the journal's final entry on page 239, the volume includes several documents pertaining to Allan W. Sawtelle from 1928-1929, a 1918 letter by Clara Falkinburg, and the genealogies of the Jacobs Family, the Whitney Family, and the Lyman Family, as well as a history of Marlboro, Vermont.

Supplementing the genealogical material in Falkinburg's journal is a collection of memoirs entitled "J. O. Falkinburg and Family." The document includes recollections and family history as provided by John O. Falkinburg and Emma Jacobs Falkinburg, as well as obituaries of John O. Falkinburg upon his death in 1928. Also included in the collection is a compilation of copies of family photographs and photographs of many of the U.S. Navy vessels and officers referenced by Falkinburg throughout his journal.

The collection is preceded by an introduction by Falkinburg's great-grandson, Jeffrey S. Sawtelle. Filed at the end of the collection is a two-CD set consisting of electronic copies of the documents.

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The John O. Falkinburg Papers are organized into twelve folders by document type.

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Access and Use


Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The John O. Falkinburg 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

Access to the digital copies on CD require the use of a computer with a CD/DVD drive and software capable of reading Microsoft Word and Adobe PDF files.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Custodial History

CD copy originally donated to the Nimitz Library general collection circa 2002 by Jeffrey S. Sawtelle.

Provenance and Acquisition

Transferred from the Nimitz Library general collection in April 2019. Accession No. 19-01.

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Related Materials

Location of Originals

The originals of John O. Falkinburg's journal and memoirs have been retained by the donor.

Related Archival Material

There are no other known collections of papers of John O. Falkinburg.

Materials Cataloged Separately

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

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Processing and Other Information


Physical copies of the collection were printed at the time of processing for access and conservation purposes.

Preferred Citation

John O. Falkinburg Papers, MS 505

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Processing Information

This collection was processed by David D'Onofrio in May 2019. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in May 2019.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • China -- Description and travel
  • Falkinburg Family
  • Falkinburg, John O., 1848-1928
  • Iroquois (Steam sloop-of-war)
  • Japan -- Description and travel
  • Piscataqua (Screw steamer)
  • Sailors -- United States -- Diaries
  • United States. Navy -- Sea life
  • United States. Navy. Asiatic Squadron

Genre Terms

  • Diaries
  • Electronic documents
  • Manuscripts
  • Memoirs
  • Photographs

Additional Creator/Author

  • Falkinburg, Emily L.
  • Sawtelle, Jeffrey S.
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Introduction by Jeffrey S. Sawtelle, 2002

Box 1 Folder 2

Journal, 1867-1870, 1918-1929

Box 1 Folder 3

Journal - Transcript (1866), 2002

The journal begins with Falkinburg traveling to New York City in June 1866, where he enlisted in the Navy on July 19 for three years of service. Notable entries for the year include descriptions of U.S.S. Dunderberg (Monitor) fitting out (July 9); daily routine aboard the receiving ship U.S.S. Vermont (August 2); and a reception for Queen Emma of Hawaii (August 10). Throughout, Falkinburg notes the arrivals and departures of various other Navy vessels in New York.

Box 1 Folder 4

Journal - Transcript (1867), 2002

The journal's entries for 1867 begin with Falkinburg still assigned to the receiving ship U.S.S. Vermont, but soon thereafter turns to his transfer to the recommissioned U.S.S. Iroquois (Steam sloop-of-war) for duty with the Asiatic Squadron (January 7). Notable entries include the drowning of seaman James Harty (February 4); description of Pointe-à-Pitre on Guadeloupe (February 25); description of Ceará, Brazil (March 19); the desertion of Thomas Keefe (March 23); description of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (April 7 and 18); Courts martial results (May 1); sailing through heavy gales (May 9, 11, and 16); the burial at sea of John Harrington, conducted by Executive Officer Alfred Thayer Mahan (May 25); description of Simon's Town, South Africa (May 28); anchoring in Augustine Bay, Madagascar, with descriptions of the natives and trade with them (July 9-11); description of the architecture and Muslim inhabitants of Johanna (Anjouan) Island (July 25 and 28); description and tour of Aden, Yemen (August 11 and 15); sailing through seas of bioluminescent organisms (August 21); description of Muscat, Oman and a war with a neighboring kingdom (August 26 and 28); description of and liberty in Bombay, India (September 5 and 7); fears of typhoons off the Malabar Coast (September 21); arrival at and description of Hong Kong (November 1); drunkenness and general misconduct aboard ship, and resulting disciplinary action (November 4-6); descriptions of the Chinese coast (November 28-December 2); description of Nagasaki harbor (December 7); the political climate in Japan regarding the opening of additional ports (December 8); and steaming the Japanese coast with U.S.S. Hartford (Screw sloop-of-war) and U.S.S. Aroostook (Gunboat), with calls at Shimonoseki and Hyogo (Kobe), Japan (December 17-31).

Box 1 Folder 5

Journal - Transcript (1868), 2002

1868 commences with Falkinburg and the Iroquois still at Hyogo and the announcement that the Japanese ports were opened without incident. For much of the year, the Iroquois alternated between Hyogo (Kobe) and Osaka, with occasional stops at Nagasaki and other Japanese ports before sailing for Shanghai, Taiwan, and Manila in December. Entries of note for the year include the drowning of Admiral Henry H. Bell and his entourage at Osaka, and their funerals (January 11 and 14); news of battles outside Edo and Kyoto, and advances by Satsuma forces during the Boshin War (January 29-February 3); skirmishes between Japanese rebels and U.S. Navy sailors at Hyogo (February 4-8); news of Satsuma forces approaching Yokohama (March 30-31); description of a fort above Hyogo (Kobe) (July 22); an investigation at Hakodate into the seizure of a Spanish ship by Chinese laborers (November 2-11); and a description of a tour of Shanghai (November 25).

Box 1 Folder 6

Journal - Transcript (1869), 2002

Throughout 1869, Falkinburg cruised between Manila, Hong Kong, Whampoa, Amoy (Xiamen), Nagasaki, Yokohama, and Macao. The journal's entries for the year begin with the Iroquois in Manila, with Falkinburg visiting the city's new cathedral (January 2), followed by a search for a missing French gunboat (January 18-26). On February 21, Falkinburg was transferred to the Asiatic Squadron flagship, U.S.S. Piscataqua (Screw steamer), as the ship's apothecary. Other notable entries include the drowning of Charles H. McCurtain while attempting to escape custody (May 7); a visit to Papenberg Island in Nagasaki Bay (June 1); renaming of the ship from Piscataqua to U.S.S. Delaware (July 28); description of a brief tour of Edo (August 22); witnessing an execution at Kanagawa (September 14); description of the landscape around Kobe (October 27); and a description of Nagasaki (November 9).

Box 1 Folder 7

Journal - Transcript (1870), 2002

For the first eight months of 1870, the Delaware continued to cruise among the ports at Hong Kong, Manila, Yokohama, and Singapore. The entries begin with Falkinburg visiting a monument in Hong Kong to crew members of the U.S.S. Powhatan (Steam frigate) and H.M.S. Rattler lost in a battle with Chinese pirates at Kahlon (Tai O) Bay. Other notable entries include the wrecking of U.S.S. Oneida (February 7); a Japanese festival in Yokohama (May 14); a visit to Kamakura (May 19); touring the Singapore flower gardens (July 14); and the change of command of the Squadron from Admiral Rowan to Admiral Rogers (August 19). On August 22, U.S.S. Delaware departed for home, with stops at Cape Town, St. Helena. On November 18, Delaware sighted Absecon Lighthouse and was off New York the following day.

Box 1 Folder 8

Memoirs, 1928 (approximate)

Box 1 Folder 9

Memoirs - Transcript, 2002

Box 1 Folder 10

Photographs - Family, 1889-1908, undated

Includes photographs of John O. Falkinburg, Emily Luella Jacobs Falkinburg, Clara E. Falkinburg, and Allan W. Sawtelle.

Box 1 Folder 11

Photographs - Navy, 1860 (approximate) - 1902, undated

Includes a portrait of Falkinburg in his Navy uniform, as well as images of the Navy vessels he served upon and references.

Box 1 Folder 12

CDs, 2002

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