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Chase Leavitt & Company | Maine Maritime Museum Manuscript Collection Online Catalog

Name: Chase Leavitt & Company


Historical Note:

In 1854 retired sea captains Charles H. Chase (1824-1897) and Charles Littlejohn formed Littlejohn and Chase, a Portland, ME, company acting as ship brokers and agents with offices at 4 Central Wharf.  About the same time Capt. Edward M. Leavitt and an unidentified partner started a similar business called Chase, Leavitt & Co. and located on Widgery’s Wharf.  Little is known about the latter business, except that Capt. Leavitt died in 1863 as a result of wounds received at Bull Run.  Sometime between 1863 and 1870 the name Littlejohn and Chase was changed to Charles H. Chase & Co.  Mr. Littlejohn apparently having retired, his interests were succeeded by Tewksbury L. Sweat.  The new company, which had offices at 113 Commercial St. on the Portland waterfront, may have taken over the late Capt. Leavitt’s business as well.  In 1876 Mr. Chase, wishing to retire to pursue other interests, sold the business to Capt. William Leavitt (1824-1911), a cousin of Capt. Edward, and Tewksbury L. Sweat, who reorganized the company under the old name Chase, Leavitt & Co.  Today it is the oldest shipping firm on the East Coast still operated by the same family.

            The company has remained under the direct leadership of the Leavitt family since 1876.  Capt. William Leavitt served as president until his death in 1911.  His son William Jr. (1864-1926), who joined the firm in 1882, succeeded him and served until 1926.  Ralph Ames Leavitt (1898-1977), son of William Jr. and grandson of the founder, joined the company in 1918 and served as president from 1926 to 1965.  He served as chairman of the board until his death twelve years later.  A third William Leavitt (1928-), great grandson of the founder, joined the company in 1955 after serving as a captain in the merchant marine and is the current president.  His children Jonathan Ames Leavitt (1959-) and Alison Leavitt (1962-) are also presently involved in the company.  Jonathan runs the ship chandlery business, and Alison manages the international freight forwarding aspect.

            The company’s original purpose, acting as ship brokers and agents, remains much the same today.  However, several other aspects have been added over the years.  These include international freight forwarding, customs house brokerage, stevedoring, and cruise ship arrangements.  They have also added offices in Boston, MA and in Miami, FL.  In addition to bulk cargoes such as grain, oil, or clay for the paper industry, the company handles many containerized cargoes.  They now service vessels coming into Searsport, Bucksport, Wiscasset, and Yarmouth, ME, and into Portsmouth, NH, as well those coming into Portland.  They are a logistics company, handling all the transportation and other arrangements from the cargo’s point of origin to its point of delivery, whether by airplane, ship or truck.

            Chase, Leavitt & Co., as ship’s agents, represents the vessel’s interests as it approaches port, while it is in port, and as it departs.  Duties include making arrangements for any legal problems of the ship or crew; handling customs requirements, pilotage, stevedoring; unloading of the cargo; arranging for forwarding of the cargo if necessary; paying the crew; resupplying the ship; noting marine protests [see Box 343/1] and arranging for repairs; handling all accounts and money transactions; dealing with medical problems; and arranging for the reloading of the vessel.  In other words, they are import, export and logistics managers.  All of these activities are well documented in the folders.

            Chase, Leavitt & Co.’s original offices were located at 167 Commercial St., Portland.  By 1923 the company had moved to 179 Commercial St., and in 1970 they moved to 10 Dana St., their present location.  In 1918 the company was incorporated in the state of Maine.  Capt. William Leavitt, also a retired sea captain, was in addition a marine surveyor for the Record of American and Foreign Shipping in Portland and added this dimension to the firm’s activities.  In 1894 they became agents for Lloyds and still report all Maine ship movements on a regular basis






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