to Mr. Fish.
St Petersburg, October 9, 1876. (Received October 26.)
Sir: According to your instructions No. 53, I have the honor to transmit herewith information concerning the Life-Saving Society of Russia, furnished through the courtesy of Admiral Possiet, its president, and of Captain Baronoff, chief inspector of the association. * * * * The first life-saving system was established in 1865, and comprised but five stations. This was purely a governmental affair, and continued with very limited apparatus until 1872, when the present system was inaugurated by private enterprise, under sanction of the government, and for the past two years aided by it.
Supported by voluntary contributions the income amounts annually to 120,000 roubles ($84,000 United States currency), including, however, an annual subscription of 25,000 roubles ($17,500 in United States currency) from the government. The society is under the especial patronage [Page 463]of the Hereditary Grand Duchess, and is officered by a board of twelve members of council, composed of government officials and wealthy merchants, presided over by His Excellency Vice-Admiral Possiet, minister of the department of ways and communications, its material efficacy being secured by two inspectors, one for each of the geographical districts of the empire covered by the society’s operations. These inspectors are captains in the navy, and have their bureaus at St. Petersburg (Captain Baronoff’s), and at Nicolaieff (Captain Nebolsine’s), while at Reval Captain Sharnberg is local inspector under the first named. The districts are, respectively, the northern, comprising that part of the empire lying north of a line passing from east to west through Tchernigoif, Kursk, Varonish, and Kamishin; and the southern district embracing the territory south of this line. The stations now number 36 on the sea-coast, and 80 on the great lakes and rivers, and their positions are displayed on the maps sent.
At stations remote from settlements the force is permanent 5 at others only a small percentage of continuously employed men is kept; a code of signals, in case of need, summoning a full detail, who are paid according to the work performed.
Originally beginning with the Peake (English) system, the changes necessary have been made as the society’s means have allowed, and notwithstanding the progress still advisable, the lack of funds only authorizes a gradual adoption of improved appliances and the creation of new stations.
The Francis life-boat is the only distinctively American invention used, and the only apparatus not taken from the systems of other nations are comprised in the ice-ladder (shown at pages 38 and 39 of the pamphlet “Glory of saving human life”), the ice-boat, the Finnish boat, the cutter, and the improved life-boat. Of these four boats I have the honor to hand you tracings, as already stated. The statistics of the society, its regulations, history, and apparatus, are fully set forth in the pamphlets supplied, and there appear to be no important variations from appliances already in use in England and Germany, with the exceptions noted. * * * *
The Russian society will be very thankful to receive as much detailed information concerning the life-saving service of the United States as may be furnished, and express willingness to supplement the information I now have the honor to transmit.
I have, &c.,