Auction Report: Pocket Watches Recovered From Steamship ‘Pulaski’ Auctioning At Skinner

On the evening of June 14, 1838, the steamship Pulaski was sailing north from Charleston, South Carolina, to Baltimore, Maryland, when its starboard boiler exploded, killing several passengers instantly and destroying the central portion of the ship, which sunk soon after and claimed approximately 128 lives. Only 59 survived. 

At the time, the Pulaski disaster was perhaps the greatest ocean-faring catastrophe in American history, and its casualties included a former United States Congressman from New York, William B. Rochester. A contemporary newspaper account tells of the harrowing minutes following the explosion. Lifeboats were lowered to the water, two of which quickly took on water, with one sinking after a “fruitless attempt to bail her.” Memories faded with time, and the wreck, its victims, and all that was lost remained hidden off the Carolina coast.  

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