I am attempting to determine the class, size, features, history of the British ship "Dragon" c. 1732 that was known to arrive in Philadelphia on September 30, 1732 with 173 men, women and children Palatine immigrants AND crew total from Rotterdam under the (assumed) command of Charles Hargrave per the following document.

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In one document (1 only, and unsourced) I have also seen it referred to as the "The Good Dragon".

I know there is a lot of information copied about the passengers on it, but I am curious about the ship itself.

Lloyds Register does not go back that far beginning in the 1760s and it may have changed names by that time and likely captains. Other references ships named Dragon I have found so far do not in service during this time.

My primary question is the class of the ship itself and where I may find general information about learning further about that class or even that specific ship.

  • There are plenty of references to that particular arrival in Philadelphia but they give very little extra information. One does suggest that the ship was registered in London and had arrived in Philadelphia on August 11th carrying Hans George Heill. (books.google.co.uk/…) As that person is not on the list for the September 30th arrival, it suggests that the vessel was operating the route regularly.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 11:12
  • Notice someone posted the exact same question here in Norwegian.
    – Spencer
    Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 22:55

4 Answers 4


I did find a reference to HMS Dragon 13 Dec 1709. Perhaps that's a different ship. Because I found below pretty conclusive evidence Charles Hargrave was a merchantman in 1747.

I found Charles Hargrave page 180 in 1744/47 as master of a different ship "Mercury" at the port of Annapolis Maryland.

Charles had a pretty interesting life.... Found this about Charles Hargrave also 1747.

cell 1013

Captured ship: the Mercury: master Charles Hargrave (as a French prize, Reneau (Renneaux) ).

Nationality: British merchant ship retaken from France.

Documents: claim; examinations of re-captors; papers of French captors 1747

Cell 65

Captured ship: L'Aventurier: master Mathieu Vincent.

Nationality: French privateer, formerly the English merchant ship Mercury (master Charles Bell).

Documents: allegation, claim, with attestation, examinations, ship's papers 1747

  • The HMS Dragon that existed in 1709 was wrecked near Alderney in March 1711, so wouldn't have been that vessel. As noted in a comment on Tyler's answer, the next vessel with the same name was operating in British waters in 1732.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 21:48

I could find no records of the ship, but almost certainly it was an English frigate or a smaller 3-masted barque. Frigates were the desirable mode of transoceanic passage in the 1730s. In many cases the British admiralty would rent out old navy ships for use as passenger vessels. One possibility for the exact type would be what was called a "fifth rate" or "sixth rate" two-decker". Unfortunately, a list of Royal Navy frigates does not show any named Dragon. Sometimes ships were renamed when they entered civilian service so it is possible one of the 5th or 6th-rate ships on this list is actually the ship wanted.

Another possibility was that it was a smaller, commercial barque. Barks were relatively small ships that were used for the poorer emigrants. They were stuffed in and suffered high mortality rates. The passage was very dangerous because the ships were barely seaworthy for such a long voyage (6-8 weeks). Barks had a lot of different sizes and configuration. A typical bark looked like this:

18th century barque

I realize that you are hoping for some kind of exact record of the ship, but the higher probability is that none exists. There were thousands of small barques in those days and if you even know the name of them, it is an exception. Also, those ships frequently changed names so a ship might be one thing, and the next year something else.

  • 4
    Since Charles Hargrave is listed as Master rather than Captain, I would think it's more likely to be a merchant vessel.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 21:15
  • @SteveBird: Ships of the age had both Masters and Captains, with different responsibilities and requiring different skills, with the two roles frequently vested in different individuals. Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 22:07
  • 2
    @Pieter: The ship's Master on a British frigate was never the ship's commander (unless all of the commissioned officers were dead). Command would have been in the hands of a Post-Captain. On a Merchant, the ship's "Master" was the captain (and was referred to as 'captain' on-board) but on the ship's official documents he'd be called the "Master" to avoid confusion with the naval rank of (Post-)Captain.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 23:16
  • There was an HMS Dragon in this period. It was originally commissioned as the Ormonde, a 54-gun 4th Rate, in 1711 and renamed as Dragon in 1715. Records seem to show it being in home waters from 1727-1733 (under Captain Francis Hume) (ref: British Warships in the Age of Sail 1714-1792, R.Winfield (Seaforth, 2007), pg 142)
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 23:32
  • @SteveBird Naval vessels that were rented out for commercial use had a commercial crew, not a navy crew. The Ormonde/Dragon was only in service in the West Indies. It was not used for the Palatine trade. Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 23:55

in the historical records one anthony crow deserted from the Ship Dragon after 1775. I found several years ago in the ETSU library, the Dragon with the name of my ancestor from Palatine Germany. He and his wife Anna came on the Dragon to Philidelphia in 1732. His name was Peter Schlosser. I do not have that research information written down or remember the book that I found the Dragon. This historical record is, Virginians in the Revolution 1775-1781, page195.

  • 4
    If you wish to add additional information to an answer, please edit the original rather than posting a second answer.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 16:30
  • 3
    Edits to clarify answers are highly encouraged, so thank you for coming back to this! However, please use the "edit" link a the bottom of the answer to do so, rather than posting a new answer.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 17:19

My 5th Great Grandfather arrived on the Dragon in 1732. I wrote in my book "The Cobler Family Story; From Palatinate Germany to 20th century America" that it was most likely a 3-Mast Barque, which was typically used for poor Travelers

  • What lead you to the conclusion that it was a barque?
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 9:14

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