Clipper Captain Malaga Smith

Footnotes to Long Island History

Clipper Captain Malaga Smith


Thomas R. Bayles

           The Brooklyn Eagle of February 22, 1907, carried an article about the death of Captain Malaga Smith who was born in East Patchogue in 1830.  It described an interesting ocean race in which Captain Smith won the contract for carrying the United States mails from New York to South America in 1874.

            Captain Smith’s vessel had for some time held the mail carrying contract, and one of his rivals, B.J. Weinberg, was anxious to get it away from him.  He built a fast clipper ship with which to beat the Long Islander.  When the race was started from New York on the long voyage of 4,200 miles each captain was given a hearty send off, and then each did his best to win the race.

            At the end of 20 days Capt. Smith brought his ship into port several hours ahead of Weinberg’s clipper, and made the voyage in exactly 19 days and six hours.

            Capt. Weinberg, in recognition of his successful rival’s victory, presented “Capt. Mag” as he was familiarly known hereabouts, with a fine stovepipe hat the crown of which written: “ Presented to Capt. Malaga Smith by B.J. Weinburg for beating his clipper from New York to South America, June 30, 1874. Capt. Smith wore the hat for 15 years and highly prized it.

            Capt. Smith was a prominent seafaring man, and also a leading politician in his native town.  He left school at 14 years of age to ship abroad a full rigged brig bound for Italy.  He rose rapidly and made his fourth voyage as master of the vessel, and during his active life visited nearly every port in the world.  He retired in 1878, took up farming and was prominent in local politics, serving as town trustee and highway commissioner.

            He died in 1907, leaving a widow and two sons, Gilbert P. Smith of Brooklyn and Jonas Smith of East Patchogue.

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