The Edwin Jesse De Haven Papers, comprising ten linear inches of documents, spans from 1832 to 1928. The papers document, in varying levels of detail, the naval career of Edwin De Haven, with special focus on the Grinnell Arctic Expedition of 1850 to 1851 and De Haven's subsequent service with the Coast Survey until 1857.
The collection consists largely of correspondence and journals, with a smaller number of official navy records, reference materials, a single photograph, and a single publication.
The Edwin Jesse De Haven Papers are organized into five series based on document type. CORRESPONDENCE, 1835-1878, consists of incoming and outgoing letters of both a professional and personal nature. Absent from this series are any official orders, which despite their resemblance to general correspondence, are filed elsewhere with the official naval records. DIARIES AND JOURNALS, 1843-1926, consists of three diaries/journals originally written by Edwin De Haven, as well as excerpts from a journal by English explorer W. Parker Snow. U.S. NAVY FILES, 1832-1857, includes a sampling of De Haven's official orders, service record, reference material, and winter regulations aboard the U.S.S. Advance during the Grinnell Expedition. PHOTOGRAPHS contains a single portrait of Edwin De Haven, and PUBLICATIONS, 1928, contains a single issue of Proceedings of the United Sates Naval Institute.
In addition to the personal history of Edwin Jesse De Haven, research topics served by the De Haven papers include the history and methods of early Arctic exploration, especially the search for English explorer Sir John Franklin, and the hydrographic activities of the Coast Survey.
Edwin Jesse De Haven was born on May 7, 1816 to parents William and Maria (McKeever) De Haven in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On October 2, 1829, De Haven entered the Navy as a midshipman, serving on the U.S.S. Natchez (sloop-of-war) in the West Indies. Upon transferring to the Brazil Squadron (1832-1835), De Haven served aboard the U.S.S. Lexington (sloop-of-war) and again aboard the Natchez, whereupon he achieved the rank of passed midshipman.
In 1839, De Haven received his first lessons in polar exploration after joining the sloop-of-war U.S.S. Vincennes, flagship of the United States Exploring Expedition under the command of Lieutenant Charles Wilkes. The U.S. Exploring Expedition explored Antarctica, as well as the islands of the Pacific and the west coast of North America. It is during this expedition that De Haven is reputed to have saved the lives of several crew members of the U.S.S. Peacock (sloop-of-war) when it was wrecked at the mouth of the Columbia River. After being promoted to lieutenant in September 1841, De Haven served a succession of yearlong posts with the Home Squadron, including stations aboard the brigs Oregon (1842), Truxtun (1843), and Somers (1845), serving as recruiting officer aboard the latter. In 1848, he was assigned to the steamer U.S.S. Mississippi, seeing action in the Mexican War, including duties charting the Gulf of Mexico.
After a brief tenure at the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, De Haven was chosen to command the first Grinnell Expedition (1850-1851) in search of Sir John Franklin and his party, who had disappeared during an expedition in the Arctic in 1845. In May 1850, the American expedition, consisting of the brigs Advance and Rescue, sailed from New York. While finding only traces of the Franklin Expedition, De Haven and his crew did discover and name Grinnell Land, now part of Ellesmere Island, Canada. The expedition returned to New York on September 30, 1851.
In 1852, De Haven sailed aboard the sloop-of-war U.S.S. Decatur in the North Atlantic, guarding American fishing interests. Shortly thereafter, in 1853, De Haven transferred to the Coast Survey, commanding a survey team consisting of the schooners Arago and Belle. After four years of service with the Coast Survey, which included, among other duties, conducting deep-sea soundings off the southern coast of the U.S., De Haven was detached from the Coast Survey on February 19, 1857 due to deteriorating eye sight, and was officially placed on the retired list in 1862. Edwin Jesse De Haven died in Philadelphia on May 1, 1865 and was buried in Old Christ Church Burial Ground, Philadelphia. He was survived by his wife, Mary Norris De Haven, and at least two children, a son Norris and a daughter Kate.