(San Francisco) Shanghai / Macao / Hong Kong: The Trans-Pacific Chinese Junk Expedition, Inc. 1938 - 1939. Letters are dated: Nov 20, 1938; Jan 18th, 1939; Jan 27th, 1939; and Feb 16th, 1939. Though typewritten and mimeographed, all four are personally signed by Halliburton. Pages within the letters: 5, 3, 4, 3 [Total of 16 typewritten pages]. Two black and white Kodak photographs are included, printed in 1957, presumably from a negative of Robert Pullen's famous shots of the "Sea Dragon", taken just before its doomed maiden voyage. Letters: 14" x 8-1/2". Photographs: Letters typewritten to buff paper, envelopes with blue seal of the "Sea Dragon" with illustration printed to front. Modest wear to paper (some light age-toning and rubbing to papers). Envelopes rubbed and worn. Withal, a VG lot. Item #41578
Who took the first aerial picture of Mount Everest after receiving express permission by stunning the Majarajah of Nepal with bi-plane aerobatics? Richard Halliburton was a legendary American travel writer and adventurer. Reading stories of his feats and antics seem surreal - after all, who flies an airplane upside down over the Taj Mahal? Halliburton was born in January of 1900 in Brownsville, Tennessee. Deciding at an early age not to settle down and grow old with a wife and family as the rest of his family and friends seemed to be doing. After graduating from Princeton, Halliburton traveled on as many adventures as possible and published his first novel, The Royal Road to Romance, in 1925 at the tender age of 25. His first novel became a bestseller, and was followed by more published adventures in 1927 and 1929. He enjoyed fame and adventures for a little over a decade, before deciding in 1938 that his next grand feat would be to cross the Pacific ocean from Hong Kong to the San Francisco International Exposition in a Chinese Junk ship, made expressly for his purposes. It is on this voyage that Halliburton and the entire crew of the Junk the "Sea Dragon" were lost at sea, having gotten caught in a typhoon. In 1945 a 150-foot ship outline with Chinese lettering washed ashore in California, this thought to possibly be some of the wreckage of the "Sea Dragon."
Letter I: Halliburton describes the arrival in China and purpose of the expedition, as well as his interest in junks stemming from a 1 ft. scale model he sailed as a child. He explains that he chose to use a junk for his journey because of their stability, and notes that it is possible it will not be the smoothest ride. He quips: "If the junk should be small, the storms violent, and the voyage long - all the better. For if there is no hazard, no battle, where is the sport?" He introduces the "friends" of the expedition to his crew of Captain John Welch, Henry von Fehren, "Bru" Potter, among others. Halliburton also spends a significant amount of time discussing the war with China and Japan and the Japanese belief systems.
Letter 2: The second letter discusses the search for an appropriate junk, and the ultimate decision to build their own that could be modified for the journey. Working with the man said to be the best ship-builder in Hong Kong (Mr. Fat Kau), and the appropriation of a few more crew members (a chef and a radio operator).
Letter 3: The third letter, posted from Canton, desribes their taking the Sea Dragon out for a "shake down" cruise, with Mr. Fat Kau as his guest (who, though a builder of ships, had never sailed on one), and with high seas nearly everyone aboard became seasick. Halliburton notes the dry deck despite the high waves and believes he was right about the Sea Dragon's sea-worthiness. Much of the rest of the letter is spent discussing Canton, the disputes between the Chinese and Japanese, the destruction, the looters, and other conditions in the city.
Letter 4: After setting out on their voyage, the Sea Dragon needed to return after only 2 days due to sickness on the boat. Though Halliburton seems only a trifle annoyed at the delay of their voyage, he is excited enough to try again, and leaves his readers with this: "In about another week we plan to leave again, to slip away as quietly as possible, and head east, once more around the southern tip of Formosa - and straight on to Midway. If all goes well, the next letter, the fifth, will carry an American stamp, for Midway Island is American. When this, the fourth letter, reaches you, we'll be a thousand miles along the way - I hope. Many thanks, again, for your interest and good will. Faithfully, Richard Halliburton"