Richard Henry Dana Goes to Sea



On this day in 1834, 19-year-old Richard Henry Dana, author of Two Years Before the Mast, begins his two-year stint as a seaman.

Dana was born in Cambridge and enrolled in Harvard, but a case of the measles in college left his eyes weak. He went to work as a sailor while he recuperated. During his two years at sea, he sailed to California, then around Cape Horn, then back to Boston. He resumed his studies and became an attorney.

In 1840, he published Two Years Before the Mast, an autobiographical account of the abuse endured by seamen. The book was highly popular. The following year, he published The Seaman’s Friend, a complete guide to the legal rights of seamen. Dana published several other books while practicing law, including To Cuba and Back (1859)


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