An 1850s group of personal letters written by the captain of the China clipper ship Surprise, $7000 (£5600) at Merrill’s Auctioneers.

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It went beyond a modest estimate of $400-600 to hammer at $7000 (£5600).

Captain Charles A Ranlett was skipper of the Surprise, an 1850-built clipper ship used in Chinese trade. He found himself in Shanghai in the 1850s and dispatched a series of letters to his sons Seth and Alonzo at their home in Charlestown.

Interestingly, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s mother Sara transited on ship as part of the Delano’s family business trading in China and later recounted the master of the Surprise as “a young man of excellent education”.

“His name was Ranlett,” she recalled, “and before we got to China, he and I had a grand birthday celebration.”

The collection included a Chinese document, wrapped in a paper, with a Ranlett family note stating it was the last pass issued to transit the Bocca Tigres Forts, which guarded Canton during the Battle of the Bogue in November 1856 during the Second Opium War.