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Wreck of Gold Rush steamship Winfield Scott unveiled at Maritime Museum

Fabled ship on display at Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

Posted: March 15, 2011 1:59 p.m.
Updated: March 15, 2011 1:59 p.m.

The S.S. Winfield Scott was a side-wheeler that sank off the California coast in 1853.

Santa Barbara -- The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is pleased to unveil its newest permanent exhibit, the shipwreck of the California Gold Rush steamship Winfield Scott.

During the California Gold Rush, ships propelled by steam regularly carried passengers and cargos between San Francisco and Panama. One such vessel was the Pacific Mail Steamship Company's side-wheel steamer, Winfield Scott.

In 1853, the steamer was en-route from San Francisco south bound to Panama with more than 500 passengers and a cargo of gold and mail when it ran aground on Anacapa Island, becoming permanently stranded.

"Several passenger steamships were lost in 1853. Winfield Scott was the final act that plagued the movement of passengers and cargo," said Robert Schwemmer, Maritime Heritage Coordinator for Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. "Few shipwrecks have been lost while on their way to Panama, and the Winfield Scott furthers our understanding of what people were taking away from California."

This new exhibit will feature intriguing stories of shipwreck survival as told by the marooned passengers, historic artifacts and imagery. Schwemmer will present "Winfield Scott, Life and Death of California Gold Rush Steamship" on May 3 at 7 p.m., in the Museum's Munger Theater.

Local historian Willard Thompson will present "Going for the Gold; how Pacific Mail Steamship Company brought miners to California" on May 17 at 7 p.m., in the Museum's Munger Theater.

For additional information, call (805) 962-8404, ext. 111 or visit


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