Old Dominion University Libraries

Special Collections & University Archives

Events & Exhibits

Search Special Collections


Monday - Friday:
9 am - 4:30 pm

Other times by appointment


The Special Collections is located on the east side of the Library at the front of the 3rd floor.

Contact Information

Patricia W. & J. Douglas Perry Library
Norfolk, Virginia 23529-0256
telephone (757) 683-5350
fax (757) 683-5954




John Randolph Tucker was born January 31, 1812 in Alexandria, Virginia.  His parents were John Tucker, originally from Bermuda, and Sara Douglas, daughter of Dr. Charles Douglas, a physician who came to America after the Revolution. The Tucker family, some of whom had been in Virginia since before the Revolution, produced a number of prominent men in Virginia's political and social life.

After attending private schools in Alexandria, Tucker entered the U.S. Navy as a midshipman on June 1, 1826. Although six years later he passed the examination for advancement, there were no vacancies at that time and he had to wait until December 20, 1837 to be promoted to Lieutenant. As Lieutenant Commander he commanded the Stromboli during the Mexican War. Tucker received his commission as Commander on September 14, 1855 when he took over the command of the Pennsylvania. His last duty in the U.S. Navy was as Ordnance Officer of the Norfolk Navy Yard, from which he resigned due to the secession of Virginia.

Tucker was appointed Commander, first of the Virginia Navy and then the Confederate States Navy, at which time he assumed command of the Patrick Henry, formerly a U.S. Navy Steamer which was seized and converted into a Confederate man-of-war. As commander of the Patrick Henry, Tucker participated in battles with the Union Navy at Hampton Roads and Drewry's Bluff. In August of 1862, Tucker took over command of the Chicora at Charleston, South Carolina. Following Tucker's surrender in April 1865 at the Battle of Saylor's Creek, he was sent North as a prisoner of war. After his release July 24, 1865, he returned to the South to work as an agent of the Southern Express Company of Raleigh, North Carolina.

While Tucker was in Raleigh, the Peruvian Minister to the United States contacted him to arrange an interview in Washington. Peru, which was at war with Spain, invited Tucker to join their Navy as a Rear Admiral, bringing with him two staff officers. Tucker accepted and went to Peru with Captain David Porter McCorkle and Commander Walter Raleigh Butt. Although some Peruvian Naval Officers objected to a foreigner in command of their fleet, Tucker distinguished himself in battle with Spain.

Following his resignation in 1871 from the Peruvian Navy, Tucker was appointed President of the Peruvian Hydrographical Commission of the Amazon. This Commission, which explored and surveyed the Upper Amazon River and its tributaries, discovered two new rivers, the Trinidad and the Herrera-yacu. Upon completion of the expedition, Tucker traveled to New York to meet with engravers to make maps and atlases from the Commission's findings.

Tucker retired to Petersburg, Virginia, until his sudden death on June 12, 1883. He was buried in Norfolk next to his wife, the former Virginia Webb, whom he married June 7, 1838, and who died in 1858. Their children were Randolph Tucker, Tarleton Webb Tucker, and Virginius Tucker.


The John Randolph Tucker papers, many of which are in Spanish, deal primarily with his service as President of the Peruvian Hydrographical Commission of the Amazon. They are divided into four series: Correspondence, Legal and Business Papers, Publications and Newspaper Clippings, and Miscellaneous. Of these, Series I: Correspondence is by far the most extensive and important. The letters describe the expedition of the steamer Tambo and the difficulties encountered by Tucker and the Commission. These include hostile natives, as well as financial and other problems in their dealings with the Peruvian government. Correspondence from Captain James H. Rochelle, Tucker's friend and a Commission member, indicates that for years afterward Tucker and Rochelle suffered from malaria contracted on the expedition. Letters in Subseries C written by Tucker's son and Rochelle's nephew reveal that as late as 1897, years after the deaths of Tucker and Rochelle, the Peruvian government still had not paid the Commission members the money owed them.


Gift of Commander Douglas Tucker, USN, January 8, 1980


Open to researchers without restrictions. Questions on literary property rights should be directed to the Special Collections Librarian.


One hollinger documents case


MG - 40


Box 1

Series I: Correspondence

Subseries A: Admiral John R. Tucker

Folder 1 Admiral John R. Tucker: 1870
Folder 2 Admiral John R. Tucker: 1871
Folder 3 Admiral John R. Tucker: 1872-1873
Folder 4 Admiral John R. Tucker: 1874
Folder 5 Admiral John R. Tucker: 1877-1880
Folder 6 Admiral John R. Tucker: undated
Folder 7 Admiral John R. Tucker (incoming): 1865-1866
Folder 8 Admiral John R. Tucker (incoming): 1867
Folder 9 Admiral John R. Tucker (incoming): 1868-1869
Folder 10 Admiral John R. Tucker (incoming): 1870
Folder 11 Admiral John R. Tucker (incoming): 1871
Folder 12 Admiral John R. Tucker (incoming): 1872
Folder 13 Admiral John R. Tucker (incoming): 1873
Folder 14 Admiral John R. Tucker (incoming): 1874
Folder 15 Admiral John R. Tucker (incoming): 1877
Folder 16 Admiral John R. Tucker (incoming): 1880
Folder 17 Admiral John R. Tucker (incoming): undated

Subseries B: Captain James H. Rochelle

Folder 18 Captain James H. Rochelle: 1872
Folder 19 Captain James H. Rochelle: 1873-1874
Folder 20 Captain James H. Rochelle: January-April, 1876
Folder 21 Captain James H. Rochelle: June-December, 1876
Folder 22 Captain James H. Rochelle: January-April, 1877
Folder 23 Captain James H. Rochelle: May-December, 1877
Folder 24 Captain James H. Rochelle: 1878-1882
Folder 25 Captain James H. Rochelle (incoming): 1865, 1878

Subseries C: John Randolph Tucker

Folder 26 John Randolph Tucker (incoming): 1897
Folder 27 John Randolph Tucker (incoming): 1895-1896

Subseries D: Correspondence--Other

Folder 28 Other: 1794 (copy)
Folder 29 Other: 1865 (copy)
Folder 30 Other: 1873-1874
Folder 31 Other: 1897
Folder 32 Other: undated

Series II: Legal and Business Papers

Folder 33 Registro Meteorologico by F. L. Galt: March-June 1873
Folder 34 Contract between Admiral J. R. Tucker and Pusey, Jones and Company: October 13, 1869
Folder 35 Passport for Admiral J. R. Tucker: December 17, 1873
Folder 36 Certificate for services rendered on the Mario issued to Admiral J. R. Tucker: May 12, 1874
Folder 37 Receipt--land purchased by Admiral J. R. Tucker: October 3, 1870
Folder 38 Receipts--for Admiral J. R. Tucker: 1874, 1879

Series III: Publications and Newspaper Clippings

Folder 39 Newspaper Clippings (English): ca. 1864-1865
Folder 40 Newspaper Clippings (Spanish): ca. 1868-1872
Folder 41 Brief for the Defense: ca. 1869
Folder 42 Congressional materials: ca. 1878
Folder 43 Advertisements for forthcoming books: ca. 1870's

Series IV: Miscellaneous

Folder 44 Calling cards: n.d.
Folder 45 Unattached envelopes: ca. 1880's
Folder 46 Other: n.d.

Revised: 7/14/08