Historical information

John Bliss (1795-1857) was born in Connecticut, trained as a silversmith and clock maker in Vermont, and began in business as a jeweller in New York around 1830. In 1834, now trading as Bliss & Creighton, he made and marketed chronometers and other items for navigational use. The firm became John Bliss & Son in 1855 and John Bliss & Co. in 1857. It remained in business until 1957.
Truman Hotchkiss, a sea captain from Stratford, Connecticut, designed a mechanical Taff rail log in which the recording mechanism was placed on taffrail (or upper part of the stern) of the ship. After acquiring the rights to Hotchkiss’s patents of 1864 and 1867, John Bliss & Co. began advertising the "American Patent Taffrail Log." The firm also offered mechanical logs based on patents granted to John Bliss, Jnr and his brother George, as well as English instruments based on Massey’s and Walker’s patents.


The SPECULANT is historically significant as the largest ship to have been registered in Warrnambool, and is believed to have been the largest barquentine to visit Melbourne. It is evidence of the final days of large commercial sailing vessels involved in the Victorian and New Zealand timber trade. The SPECULANT is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register VHR S626

Physical description

John Bliss Taffrail ship log incomplete, rope and spinner missing used on the vessel "Speculant " ( See "Notes" at the end of this document for further information)

Inscriptions & markings

"Taffrail Log Patented Nov .. Apr .. June .. Sep 1.", dial registers 1/4, units and 10's. with 3 sets of dials, 2 with hands missing