59 School Street, Box 1310, Edgartown MA 02539 - 508.627.4441
Martha's Vineyard Museum MV Museum

A Finding Aid to the Gustavus D. S. Trask Family Papers

Descriptive Summary

RepositoryMartha's Vineyard MuseumGale Huntington Research Library
59 School Street
P.O. Box 1310
Edgartown, MA 02539
Call NumberRU476
Creator - creatorTrask, Gustavus D. S., 1837-1914
TitleGustavus D. S. Trask family papers
Date1821-1862, 1883, 1914, undated
Extent9 folders + 1 oversize folder (0.120 cubic feet)
LanguageThe materials are in English.
AbstractThe collection contains correspondence and copies of legal records, 1821-1914, created by Gustavus D. S. Trask and members of his family.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions to access.

Use and Reproduction Restrictions

Requests to reproduce material from this collection should be directed to museum staff. Reproduction fees may apply.

Preferred Citation

Martha's Vineyard Museum, RU 476, Gustavus D. S. Trask Family Papers.

Acquisition Information

Letters and documents related to the Trask family, gift of Adaline Trask, daughter of Gustavus D. S. Trask, April 4, 1952. (Accession no. 1952.006). Letter from Gustavus D. S. Trask to Benjamin Trask, gift of Adaline Trask, August 6, 1952. (Accession no. 1952.030).

Publication Information

Martha's Vineyard Museum

Gale Huntington Research Library
59 School Street
P.O. Box 1310
Edgartown, MA 02539

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Insley Julier in January 2014. Finding aid completed by Lara J. Ullman in July 2014. Finding aid machine-encoded by Nathaniel Janick, July 2014.

 Creation of this finding aid was sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Related Materials

Related Materials

Two deeds which likely formed part of this collection were removed by a previous processor to RU 132 Deed Collection of Martha's Vineyard. See the deeds from Leonard Merry to Benjamin Trask for land in Tisbury, September 9, 1802, and from Meletiah Davis to Benjamin Trask for land on the West Side of the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, June 28, 1810. These transactions pertain to Tisbury physician Benjamin Trask, 1744-1821, the grandfather of Gustavus D. S. Trask.

Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Marine Society of the City of New York, in the State of New York
  • Sailors' Snug Harbor (Institution)


  • Correspondence

Geographic Name(s)

  • Homes Hole (Mass.)
  • New York (N.Y.)
  • Staten Island (New York, N.Y.)
  • Tisbury (Mass. : Town)
  • Vineyard Haven (Mass.)


  • Trask, Benjamin, 1744-1821
  • Trask, Benjamin I. H., 1800-1871


  • Sailors--Societies, etc.
  • Seafaring life
  • Ship captains

Biography/Historical Note

Gustavus Dunham Smith Trask was born in Tisbury, Massachusetts, May 14, 1837, to Benjamin I. H. Trask (1800-1871) and Sarah Skiff Smith Trask (1802-1878). In the 1840s, the family moved to New York. Gustavus D. S. Trask had two elder brothers, Benjamin I. H. Trask and John G. W. Trask. Gustavus attended the Hamilton Collegiate Institute in White Plains, New York an "English and classical boarding school for young gentlemen." Like his father, who sailed as master of a Liverpool packet for the Collins Line, Gustavus D. S. Trask became a mariner. He commanded his first vessel at the age of 20 and was master of the ships Switzerland, Manchester, Carrier Dove and General McClellan which traveled between New York and Liverpool. In 1866 Gustavus married Ella Frances Donnell, 1846-, the daughter of John E. Donnell, a well-known shipbuilder in Portland, Maine. The pair settled in Brooklyn, New York and later on Staten Island. They had six surviving children: George, John, Lillian, Ella, Benjamin and Adaline.

Gustavus D. S. Trask was a prominent member of the New York maritime community. Following his marriage, Trask worked for the New York Board of Underwriters as a marine surveyor. He later served as Governor of the Sailors' Snug Harbor, 1884-1898, on Staten Island. This organization was a retirement community for aged and infirm seamen. Trask oversaw several building projects for the institution, including the addition of a chapel and music hall. He was a member of the Marine Society of the City of New York from 1859 to 1914, and on January 8, 1900, he was elected President of the society, serving for one year. Additionally, Trask wrote a history of the society and served as its Treasurer for a number of years. Trask was also a member of the council of the American Shipmasters' Association, the New York Yacht Club, the Staten Island Club, the Staten Island Baseball and Cricket Club, and the New York Chamber of Commerce. Gustavus D. S. Trask died on March 15, 1914. Upon his death, the Marine Society published a tribute pamphlet containing "its profound appreciation of the high character and lofty intellectual capacity of Captain Trask, and of the long and disinterested service rendered by him, not only to the specific objects of the Society, but the kindred charities which concern themselves with the children and families of seamen."

Scope and Content Note

The collection contains letters, an invitation, a program and a seaman's protection certificate created by Gustavus D. S. Trask, dated 1853-1883, as well as biographical notes and a printed tribute describing Trask and his achievements, 1914 and undated. In addition, there are copies of wills, codicils, probate records, and an original fire insurance policy, 1821-1836, created by other members of the Trask family, including Gustavus Trask's father, Benjamin I. H. Trask (1800-1871); Gustavus' grandfather Benjamin Trask (1744-1821); and Gustavus' grandmother, Sally Trask (1770-1833). There is one miscellaneous circular letter from the New England Protective Union dated 1851 and addressed to Benjamin Davis of Tisbury.


The collection is arranged chronologically. The material is housed in a box with other small collections.

Collection Inventory


Copy and True Copy of Will and Codicil of Benjamin Trask, 1821 September 10, 1821 October 24 


Copy of Letter of Administration Appointing Sally Trask Administratrix, 1822 January 21 


Fire Insurance Policy for Tisbury Dwelling, Benjamin I. H. Trask, 1836 July 23 

OS GEN 739

Circular Letter from New England Protective Union, 1851 March 20 


Item is addressed to Benjamin Davis.


Seamen's Protection Certificate, 1853 May 14 


Issued by the Collector of the District of New York.


Letter to Benjamin Trask from Gustavus D. S. Trask and Transcription, 1859 March 22, undated 


Letter from Passengers on Board ship Manchester, 1862 June 09 


Letter thanks Trask for a safe passage.


New York and Brooklyn Bridge Opening Ceremonies Invitation and Program, 1883 


Tribute of the Marine Society of the City of New York…To the Memory of Gustavus D. S. Trask, 1914 


Notes and Biographical Sketch, undated