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Catalog entry

inv. 248
"Sweepstakes"
Clipper Ship "Sweepstakes"
1853
Oil on canvas
26 x 48 1/4 in. (66 x 122.6 cm)
Signed, inscribed, and dated lower right: Fitz Henry Lane. / Gloucester, Mass. / 1853.

Commentary

This very fine ship portrait of 1853 has helped to rectify the one-hundred-year-old misnomer of the artist Fitz Henry Lane as Fitz "Hugh" Lane. After Lane’s death in 1865, his work had fallen out of favor as European and romantic tastes became fashionable. He was all but forgotten until some of his work was included in a show of marine art mounted by the India House, a private club in lower New York City that was founded in 1914—nearly fifty years after Lane's death. As biographers have noted, there are multiple references in the early twentieth century to Fitz "Hugh" Lane. By the 1940s, all further scholarship referenced these earlier sources.

The painting is signed in the lower right corner: "Fitz Henry Lane, Gloucester, Mass. 1853." (See below.) This is one of only two known works signed "Fitz Henry Lane." Interestingly, the other is also a New York ship portrait from 1854, The "Golden State" Entering New York Harbor, 1854 (inv. 238). "Golden State" was a clipper ship with the same ownership, Chambers and Heiser, and they presumably commissioned both paintings.

Perhaps Lane wanted to be sure his full name and address were known in New York. This was the largest and most important art market, and he was just breaking into it. He typically signed his paintings "F.H. Lane" or "Fitz H. Lane" and was certainly well known by those abbreviated initials in Boston and Gloucester.

All we know about the clipper ship "Sweepstakes" is that she was built in 1853 by Daniel and Aaron Westervelt of New York for Chambers and Heiser of New York. She was the last and largest clipper ship built by the Westervelts. She went ashore in the Strait of Malacca and was condemned at Batavia in May 1862.

This is quite a large ship's portrait, fully four feet wide, and shows all of Lane’s mastery of the genre. The ship is shown hove-to in a typical profile, but Lane has covered only half the canvas with her. In the right half he shows a full-rigged ship, possibly a naval vessel, heading away on a diagonal, giving depth to the composition. A hermaphrodite brig angling towards the clipper adds additional interest. In the foreground is a square-sterned yawl boat with a man standing in the stern who is clearly hailing the "Sweepstakes."

The location is unknown, but it may well be in the broad bay at the mouth of New York harbor. It is a blustery day with scudding clouds and a frothy chop in the very green water. The ship is flying a blue-and-white swallowtail pennant with a red tail—the house flag of Chambers and Heiser—on its foremast. An American flag flies off its stern gaff.

– Sam Holdsworth

[+] See More

Supplementary Images

Lane's signature
 

Explore catalog entries by keywords view all keywords »

Subject Types:   Ship Portrait »
Vessel Types:   Brig »   //   Clipper Ship »   //   Named Vessel »   //   Pilot's Boat »   //   Schooner »   //   Steamship »
Other Locales:   N.Y.: New York Harbor »
Activities of People:   Rowing »
Objects:   American Flag / Ensign »   //   Vessel Signal Flag / Pennant »

Historical Materials
Below is historical information related to the Lane work above. To see complete information on a subject on the Historical Materials page, click on the subject name (in bold and underlined).

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New York City Locales, Businesses, & Buildings: New York Harbor

New York City's large population and busy harbor meant that in the mid-nineteenth century it served as the largest domestic market for American products as well as the supplier for most of the export goods for the United States. In 1850 its population was larger than that of Philadelphia and nearly five times as large as that of Boston. (1)

The large broad harbor of New York, easily accessible from the Atlantic, encouraged foreign trade. But it also provided access to western New England and upstate New York via the Hudson River and southern New England via Long Island Sound. Between 1841-1850 New York handled an average of 60% of the U.S. imports and 30.5% of exports. (2) Piers, wharves, and docks ringed the south end of Manhattan: in 1850 over 60 on the East River served the foreign trade, while the 50 or more on the Hudson were filled with steamships and river boats to go up the river. (3) New York kept its position as the largest American seaport through its role as a market, a financial center, and its important position in the trade routes, but another advantage was its low wharfage rates. Although the wharves were notorious for their poor condition, in 1852 the cost to unload 1700 bales of cotton over two days in Boston or Baltimore was $68 while at a Hudson River pier it cost a mere $4.88. (4)

References:

See also: Robert Albion, The Rise of New York Port [1850-1871], David & Charles, 1971.

(1) Edward Spann, The New Metropolis: New York City 1840-1857, Columbia University Press, 1981, p.430.

(2) Spann p.436.

(3) Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, Oxford University Press, 1999, p.652.

(4) Burrows & Wallace, p.654

artwork
City of New York
C. Parsons
1856
Color lithograph
Published by N. Currier, New York
LoC Catalog Number 90715981

Bird's-eye view of New York City with Battery Park in the foreground and Brooklyn Heights in the lower right corner.

Also filed under: Castle Garden »

[+]
photo (historical)
Pilot schooner "John D. Jones" off Staten Island, New York
1860s
Photograph
Johnson, H. and Lightfoot, F.S.: Maritime New York in Nineteenth-Century Photographs, Dover Publications, Inc., New York

The New York pilot boats would sail out to meet large incoming ships, flying the blue and white flag. The pilot would board the large ship and guide her into harbor. On outgoing trips the pilot boat would pick up the pilot after the ship in his charge had cleared the harbor.

Also filed under: Schooner (Pilot) »

[+]
photo (historical)
Aerial view of Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Governors Island, New York, c. 1876
c.1876
Print
15 1/2 x 13 1/2 in
New York Public Library
Barcode number 33333159142682

Also filed under: Tow Boat / Tug Boat »

[+]
photo (historical)
Black Ball Packet Ships in New York Harbor
Anthony Brothers
1860
Photograph
Johnson, H. and Lightfoot, F.S.: Maritime New York in Nineteenth-Century Photographs, Dover Publications, Inc., New York

Also filed under: Packet Shipping »

[+]
map
U.S. Coast Survey Chart No. 21: New York Bay and Harbor, New York
1861
Survey of the Coast of the United States, New York Harbors, Washington, D.C.
Collection of Erik Ronnberg.

Also filed under: Maps »

[+]
View of New York: from Brooklyn Heights
c.1849
Lithograph
Published by N. Currier, New York
Library of Congress Catalog Number 2002698126
[+]
publication
1850 Gloucester Telegraph 2.6.1850
2.6.1850
Newspaper
Gloucester Telegraph, p. 2, col. 1
American Antiquarian Society

"F.H. Lane, Esq., with characteristic generosity has loaned some of his grand paintings to increase the interest of the occasion. A look at the Stiff Breeze in New York Harbor, one of the finest of his fine productions, and enough in itself to secure him enduring fame, is worth many times over the price of the admittance fee. A sailor could scarecely gaze upon the brig going in stays, without every moment expecting to hear the command given to 'let go and haul.'"

Image: Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society
[+]
publication
1857 Gloucester Telegraph 9.16.1857
9.16.1857
Telegraph and News
p. 2 column 2

"Fine Picture– Mr. F. H. Lane has placed in the Marine Insurance Office a very handsome picture of New York Harbor, which he has just completed. All sorts of vessels are represented in the foreground, with every particular rope in its proper place while in the background is the city with its forests of masts around the wharves it is truly a fine specimen of his artistic skill."

[+]
artwork
A Sketch of Castle Garden, New York
Jasper F. Cropsey
1851
Oil on canvas
10 1/2 x 16 3/8 in.
Inscribed to Jenny Lind
New-York Historical Society, Purchase, Thomas Jefferson Bryan Fund (1977.76)

Also filed under: Castle Garden »

[+]
artwork
City of New York from Jersey City
1849
Lithograph
Published by N. Currier, New York
[+]
map
Map of the City of New-York with Part of Brooklyn and Williamsburgh
Mayer & Korff's Lithographers
1850
Hand-colored lithograph
35 x 25 cm. on sheet 48 x 30 cm.
Published by Magnus & Co.
New York Public Library

Covers Manhattan up to 34th Street on the west side and 51st Street on the east side. Includes views of New York City and Harbor, and Trinity Church above the upper neat line. Also includes list of churches, hotels, and places of amusement.

Image: New York Public Library

Also filed under: Castle Garden »   //  Maps »

[+]
artwork
Morning over New York
Charles Herbert Moore
1861
Oil on canvas
11 1/2 x 30 in.
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Gift of Matthew Vassar (1864.1.60)
[+]
artwork
New York Harbor
Fitz Henry Lane
c.1855
Oil on canvas
36 x 60 1/4 in.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Gift of Maxim Karolik for the M. and M. Karolik Collection of American Paintings, 1815–65 (48.446)

Detail of Whitehall boat.

Image: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Also filed under: Whitehall Boat »

[+]
artwork
New York Harbor
Thomas Birch
1831
Oil on canvas
20 1/4 x 30 1/4 in.
New-York Historical Society, Gift of Mrs. Ethel McCullough Scott, John G. McCullough, and Mrs. Edith McCullough Heaphy (1971.118)
Image: New York Historical Society
[+]
View of New York: from Weehawken
N. Currier
c.1849
Lithograph
Published by N. Currier, New York
Library of Congress Catalog Number 2002698127
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[ top]
Vessels (Specific / Named): "Sweepstakes" (Clipper Ship)

The clipper ship "Sweepstakes" was built in 1853 by Daniel and Aaron Westervelt of New York for Chambers and Heiser, N.Y.. She was the last and largest clipper ship built by the Westervelts. She went ashore in the Strait of Malacca and was condemned at Batavia in May 1862.

– Erik Ronnberg

Related tables: Ship (Full-Rigged) »
[ top]

In general, brigs were small to medium size merchant vessels, generally ranging between 80 and 120 feet in hull length. Their hull forms ranged from sharp-ended (for greater speed; see Brig "Antelope" in Boston Harbor, 1863 (inv. 43)) to “kettle-bottom” (a contemporary term for full-ended with wide hull bottom for maximum cargo capacity; see Ships in Ice off Ten Pound Island, Gloucester, 1850s (inv. 44) and Boston Harbor, c. 1850 (inv. 48)). The former were widely used in the packet trade (coastwise or transoceanic); the latter were bulk-carriers designed for long passages on regular routes. (1) This rig was favored by Gloucester merchants in the Surinam Trade, which led to vessels so-rigged being referred to by recent historians as Surinam brigs (see Brig "Cadet" in Gloucester Harbor, late 1840s (inv. 13) and Gloucester Harbor (not published)). (2)

Brigs are two-masted square-rigged vessels which fall into three categories:

Full-rigged brigs—simply called brigs—were fully square-rigged on both masts. A sub-type—called a snow—had a trysail mast on the aft side of the lower main mast, on which the spanker, with its gaff and boom, was set. (3)

Brigantines were square-rigged on the fore mast, but set only square topsails on the main mast. This type was rarely seen in America in Lane’s time, but was still used for some naval vessels and European merchant vessels. The term is commonly misapplied to hermaphrodite brigs. (4)

Hermaphrodite brigs—more commonly called half-brigs by American seamen and merchants—were square-rigged only on the fore mast, the main mast being rigged with a spanker and a gaff-topsail. Staysails were often set between the fore and main masts, there being no gaff-rigged sail on the fore mast.

– Erik Ronnberg

References:

1. Howard I. Chapelle, The National Watercraft Collection (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1960), 64–68.

2. Alfred Mansfield Brooks, Gloucester Recollected: A Familiar History (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1974), 62–74. A candid and witty view of Gloucester’s Surinam Trade, which employed brigs and barks.

3. R[ichard] H[enry] Dana, Jr., The Seaman's Friend (Boston: Thomas Groom & Co., 1841. 13th ed., 1873), 100 and Plate 4 and captions; and M.H. Parry, et al., Aak to Zumbra: A Dictionary of the World's Watercraft (Newport News, VA: The Mariners’ Museum, 2000), 95.

4. Parry, 95, see Definition 1.

artwork
Brig "Cadet" in Gloucester Harbor
Fitz Henry Lane
late 1840s
Oil on canvas
17 1/4 x 25 3/4 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., Gift of Isabel Babson Lane, 1946 (1147.a)
Photo: Cape Ann Museum

Detail of brig "Cadet."

Also filed under: "Cadet" (Brig) »

[+]
chart
Chart showing the voyage of the brig Cadet
c.1980
Painting on board
72 x 48 in.
Collection of Erik Ronnberg

Chart showing the voyage of the brig Cadet to Surinam and return, March 10–June 11, 1840.

Image: Erik Ronnberg

Also filed under: "Cadet" (Brig) »   //  Surinam Trade »

[+]
illustration
Full-rigged Brig
Engraving in R. H. Dana, The Seaman's Friend, 13th ed. (Thomas Groom & Co. Publisher, 1873)

Detail of a full-rigged brig is square-rigged at both her masts. 

[+]
artwork
Silhouettes of vessel types
Charles G. Davis
Book illustrations from "Shipping and Craft in Silhouette" by Charles G. Davis, Salem, Mass. Marine Research Society, 1929. Selected images
[+]
artwork
The "Antelope," Russell & Co. Clipper Ship [sic] in Boston Harbor
c.1843
Lithograph
Forbes House Museum, Milton, Mass.

Lane's depiction of "Antelope" was based on an earlier painting, probably contemporary to the vessel and very possibly made by a Chinese artist. This painting was reproduced in Old Shipping Days in Boston (State Street Trust, 1918), p. 17, and in Robinson and Dow, The Sailing Ships of New England (first series, Salem, 1922), plate 13.

– Erik Ronnberg

Image: Forbes House Museum

Also filed under: "Antelope" (Brig) »

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[ top]

Schooners in Lane’s time were, with few exceptions, two-masted vessels carrying a fore-and-aft rig having one or two jibs, a fore staysail, gaff-rigged fore- and main sails, and often fore- and main topsails. One variant was the topsail schooner, which set a square topsail on the fore topmast. The hulls of both types were basically similar, their rigs having been chosen for sailing close to the wind. This was an advantage in the coastal trade, where entering confined ports required sailing into the wind and frequent tacking. The square topsail proved useful on longer coastwise voyages, the topsail providing a steadier motion in offshore swells, reducing wear and tear on canvas from the slatting of the fore-and-aft sails. (1)

Schooners of the types portrayed by Lane varied in size from 70 to 100 feet on deck. Their weight was never determined, and the term “tonnage” was a figure derived from a formula which assigned an approximation of hull volume for purposes of imposing duties (port taxes) on cargoes and other official levies. (2)

Crews of smaller schooners numbered three or four men. Larger schooners might carry four to six if a lengthy voyage was planned. The relative simplicity of the rig made sail handling much easier than on a square-rigged vessel. Schooner captains often owned shares in their vessels, but most schooners were majority-owned by land-based firms or by individuals who had the time and business connections to manage the tasks of acquiring and distributing the goods to be carried. (3)

Many schooners were informally “classified” by the nature of their work or the cargoes they carried, the terminology coined by their owners, agents, and crews—even sometimes by casual bystanders. In Lane’s lifetime, the following terms were commonly used for the schooner types he portrayed:

Coasting schooners: This is the most general term, applied to any merchant schooner carrying cargo from one coastal port to another along the United States coast (see Bar Island and Mt. Desert Mountains from Somes Settlement, 1850 (not published), right foreground). (4)

Packet schooners: Like packet sloops, these vessels carried passengers and various higher-value goods to and from specific ports on regular schedules. They were generally better-maintained and finished than schooners carrying bulk cargoes (see The Old Fort and Ten Pound Island, Gloucester, 1850s (inv. 30), center; and Gloucester Inner Harbor, 1850 (inv. 240), stern view). (5)

Lumber schooners: Built for the most common specialized trade of Lane’s time, they were fitted with bow ports for loading lumber in their holds (see View of Southwest Harbor, Maine: Entrance to Somes Sound, 1852 (not published)) and carried large deck loads as well (Stage Rocks and the Western Shore of Gloucester Outer Harbor, 1857 (inv. 8), right). Lumber schooners intended for long coastal trips were often rigged with square topsails on their fore masts (see Becalmed Off Halfway Rock, 1860 (inv. 344), left; Maverick House, 1835 (not published); and Lumber Schooner in a Gale (not published)). (6)

Schooners in other specialized trades. Some coasting schooners built for carrying varied cargoes would be used for, or converted to, special trades. This was true in the stone trade where stone schooners (like stone sloops) would be adapted for carrying stone from quarries to a coastal destination. A Lane depiction of a stone schooner is yet to be found. Marsh hay was a priority cargo for gundalows operating around salt marshes, and it is likely that some coasting schooners made a specialty of transporting this necessity for horses to urban ports which relied heavily on horses for transportation needs. Lane depicted at least two examples of hay schooners (see Gloucester Harbor, 1850s (inv. 391), left; and Coasting Schooner off Boon Island (not published)), their decks neatly piled high with bales of hay, well secured with rope and tarpaulins.

– Erik Ronnberg

References:

1. Howard I. Chapelle, The History of American Sailing Ships (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1935), 258. While three-masted schooners were in use in Lane’s time, none have appeared in his surviving work; and Charles S. Morgan, “New England Coasting Schooners”, The American Neptune 23, no. 1 (DATE): 5–9, from an article which deals mostly with later and larger schooner types.

2. John Lyman, “Register Tonnage and its Measurement”, The American Neptune V, nos. 3–4 (DATE). American tonnage laws in force in Lane’s lifetime are discussed in no. 3, pp. 226–27 and no. 4, p. 322.

3. Ship Registers of the District of Gloucester, Massachusetts, 1789–1875 (Salem, MA: The Essex Institute, 1944). Vessels whose shipping or fishing voyages included visits to foreign ports were required to register with the Federal Customs agent at their home port. While the vessel’s trade or work was unrecorded, their owners and master were listed, in addition to registry dimensions and place where built. Records kept by the National Archives can be consulted for information on specific voyages and ports visited.

4. Howard I. Chapelle, The National Watercraft Collection (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1960), 40, 42–43.

5. Ibid., 42–43, 73.

6. Ibid., 74–76.

photo (historical)
Coasting schooner "Polly"
Photograph
[+]
Lumber schooner in Gloucester Harbor
1852
Photograph

Also filed under: Lumber Industry »

[+]
illustration
Topsail Schooner
In R. H. Dana, The Seaman's Friend, 13th ed. (Thomas Groom & Co. Publisher, 1873)

A topsail schooner has no tops at her foremast, and is fore-and-aft rigged at her mainmast. She differs from an hermaphrodite brig in that she is not properly square-rigged at her foremast, having no top, and carrying a fore-and-aft foresail instead of a square foresail and a spencer.

[+]
object
1892 Gloucester Harbor Diorama (detail of marine railway)
Lawrence Jensen, Erik. A.R. Ronnberg, Jr.
Detail views: marine railway and hauling cradle for vessel
Wood rails, metal rollers, chain; wood cradle. Scale: ½" = 1' (1:24)
Original diorama components made, 1892; replacements made, 1993.
Cape Ann Museum, from Gloucester Chamber of Commerce, 1925 (2014.071)

A schooner is shown hauled out on a cradle which travels over racks of rollers on a wood and metal track.

[+]
photo (historical)
Lobsterman and dory at Lane's Cove
Photographer unknown
c. 1900
Glass plate negative
Collection of Erik Ronnberg

Also filed under: Lobstering »

[+]
PDF
view ]
publication
Maine Register for 1855 (Lumber)
George Adams, publisher
"The Maine Register for the Year 1855, embracing State and County Officers, and an abstract of the law and resolves; together with a complete business directory of the state, and a variety of useful information."

Details about Maine's lumber trade in 1855, see pp. 250–52

Also filed under: Castine »   //  Lumber Industry »

[+]
illustration
View of the Old Fort and Harbor 1837
Fitz Henry Lane, attr.
1860
In John J. Babson, History of the Town Gloucester (Gloucester, MA: Procter Brothers, 1860)
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, Mass.

See p. 474.

[+]
[ top]

The term "ship," as used by nineteenth-century merchants and seamen, referred to a large three-masted sailing vessel which was square-rigged on all three masts. (1) In that same period, sailing warships of the largest classes were also called ships, or more formally, ships of the line, their size qualifying them to engage the enemy in a line of battle. (2) In the second half of the nineteenth century, as sailing vessels were replaced by engine-powered vessels, the term ship was applied to any large vessel, regardless of propulsion or use. (3)

Ships were often further defined by their specialized uses or modifications, clipper ships and packet ships being the most noted examples. Built for speed, clipper ships were employed in carrying high-value or perishable goods over long distances. (4) Lane painted formal portraits of clipper ships for their owners, as well as generic examples for his port paintings. (5)

Packet ships were designed for carrying capacity which required some sacrifice in speed while still being able to make scheduled passages within a reasonable time frame between regular destinations. In the packet trade with European ports, mail, passengers, and bulk cargos such as cotton, textiles, and farm produce made the eastward passages. Mail, passengers (usually in much larger numbers), and finished wares were the usual cargos for return trips. (6) Lane depicted these vessels in portraits for their owners, and in his port scenes of Boston and New York Harbors.

Ships in specific trades were often identified by their cargos: salt ships which brought salt to Gloucester for curing dried fish; tea clippers in the China Trade; coffee ships in the West Indies and South American trades, and  cotton ships bringing cotton to mills in New England or to European ports.  Some trades were identified by the special destination of a ship’s regular voyages; hence Gloucester vessels in the trade with Surinam were identified as Surinam ships (or barks, or brigs, depending on their rigs). In Lane’s Gloucester Harbor scenes, there are likely (though not identifiable) examples of Surinam ships, but only the ship "California" in his depiction of the Burnham marine railway in Gloucester (see Three Master on the Gloucester Railways, 1857 (inv. 29)) is so identified. (7)

– Erik Ronnberg

References:

1. R[ichard)] H[enry] Dana, Jr., The Seaman’s Friend, 13th ed. (Boston: Thomas Groom & Co., 1873), p. 121 and Plate IV with captions.

2. A Naval Encyclopaedia (Philadelphia: L. R. Hamersly & Co., 1884), 739, 741.

3.  M.H. Parry, et al., Aak to Zumbra: A Dictionary of the World’s Watercraft (Newport News, VA: The Mariners’ Museum, 2000), 536.

4. Howard I. Chapelle, The History of American Sailing Ships (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1935), 281–87.

5. Ibid.

6. Howard I. Chapelle, The National Watercraft Collection (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1960), 26–30.

7. Alfred Mansfield Brooks, Gloucester Recollected: A Familiar History (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1974), 67–69.

Golden State
1884
Photograph
From American Clipper Ships 1833–1858, by Octavius T. Howe and Frederick C. Matthews, vol. 1 (Salem, MA: Marine Research Society, 1926).

Photo caption reads: "'Golden State' 1363 tons, built at New York, in 1852. From a photograph showing her in dock at Quebec in 1884."

[+]
photo (current)
"Friendship of Salem"
Built in 1998

A replica of an early nineteenth-century full-rigged ship.

[+]
artwork
Homeward Bound
c.1865
Hand-colored lithograph
Published by N. Currier, New York
Library of Congress (2002695891)
[+]
illustration
Ship
1885
Engraving from Merchant Vessels of the United States (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office)

Engraving of ship.

[+]
artwork
Packet "Nonantum" Riding out a Gale
Samuel Walters
1842
Oil on canvas
24 x 35 in.
Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.

Walters' painting depicts the "Nonantum" homeward bound for Boston from Liverpool in 1842. The paddle-steamer is one of the four Clyde-built Britannia-class vessels, of which one is visible crossing in the opposite direction.

Image: Peabody Essex Museum
[+]
illustration
Ship
Engraving in R. H. Dana, The Seaman's Friend, 13th ed. (Thomas Groom & Co. Publisher, 1873)

A ship is square-rigged throughout; that is, she has tops, and carries square sails on all three of her masts.

[+]
artwork
Silhouettes of vessel types
Charles G. Davis
Book illustrations from "Shipping and Craft in Silhouette" by Charles G. Davis, Salem, Mass. Marine Research Society, 1929. Selected images
[+]
[ top]

"Engine-powered vessel" is a collective term used by nautical historians to include all vessel types using engine power of any type for propulsion, whether assisted by sails, oars, or other motive power. In Lane's time, steam reciprocating engines fueled by wood or coal were the only practical source of this power for ships using paddle-wheels or screw propellers to convert heat energy into motion.

For most of the nineteenth century, steamships had sails for auxiliary power; indeed the earliest examples relied principally on sails, using engine power in calm weather to shorten the voyage time or keep to a schedule. As engines became more efficient, powerful, and reliable, sail plans were reduced, to be used only to steady a vessel's motion in a seaway (for the sake of seasick passengers), or to maintain headway if the engine broke down. Only harbor craft, ferry boats, and coastwise passenger steamers relied solely on engine power.

Among Lane's depictions of steamships, the auxiliary steam packet Auxiliary Steam Packet Ship Massachusetts (inv. 442) is a good example of primary reliance on sails, while the steam demi-bark The "Britannia" Entering Boston Harbor, 1848 (inv. 49) and the Cunard Liner "Britannia", 1842 (inv. 259) have relegated sails to secondary (or simply emergency) motive power.

– Erik Ronnberg

artwork
Boston Harbor (detail of steamship)
Fitz Henry Lane
Boston Harbor
1856
Oil on canvas
25 1/2 x 42 1/2 in. (64.8 x 108 cm)
Dated verso: 1856
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Tex. (1977.14)
[+]
Steamer Lewiston, at the Wharf, Castine
George E. Collins
Stereograph card
Castine Historical Society Collections (2015.03)

Also filed under: Historic Photographs »   //  Steamers »

[+]
model
Harbor ferry "Little Giant"
John Gardner Weld
early 20th century
Wood and metal
Cape Ann Museum (1200)
Image: Erik Ronnberg
[+]
publication
Boston Directory
George Adams
1848
Published by James French, Boston
Volume 1848-49
Boston Public Library
Call number 39999059856813

See p. 30 of directory.

Image: Boston Public Library
[+]
illustration
Bound to Beat
Serrell & Perkins, Printer and Publisher
c.1851
Cartoon
9 1/4 x 13 3/4 in (23.495 x 34.925 cm)
Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.

Jonny and a Yankee:

Jonny: "Ho my Hi! 'ow she goes!! it his'nt fair I ham sure t'aint!!! She must 'av an engine hunder the keel..."

Yankee: "Where are your yachts now, Jonny? s-a-y- Do you think your wash tubs can come up to a real Yankee Clipper? Sorry for you, Jonny, but it can't be helped... A Yankee Ship a Yankee Crew, you know Jonny."

Image: Peabody Essex Museum
[+]
Patent drawings for paddle wheel steamer
1842
Lithograph
Library of Congress Catalog Number 2002706878

Design of side wheel steamer showing wheel mechanism, side view and cross-section in ten figures. This design proved a failure in the few vessels that employed it. The paddle wheel enclosures filled with water, causing resistance which greatly impaired efficiency and increased fuel consumption.

– Erik Ronnberg

[+]
artwork
"T.F. Secor" Passenger Steamship
Unknown
c. 1855
Oil on canvas
Maine Maritime Museum
Image: Maine Maritime Museum

Also filed under: Castine »

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PDF
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publication
The Maine Register for the Year 1855 (Steamer Schedule)
George Adams, publisher
"The Maine Register for the Year 1855, embracing State and County Officers, and an abstract of the law and resolves; together with a complete business directory of the state, and a variety of useful information."

Steamer schedules for 1855, including the schedule for the steamer, "T. F. Secor" which served Castine, see pp. 234–35.

Also filed under: "T. F. Secor" (Steamboat) »   //  Castine »   //  Publications »   //  Steamers »

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The ensign of the United States refers to the flag of the United States when used as a maritime flag to indentify nationality. As required on entering port, a vessel would fly her own ensign at the stern, but a conventional  token of respect to the host country would be to fly the flag of the host country (the United States in Boston Harbor, for example) at the foremast. See The "Britannia" Entering Boston Harbor, 1848 (inv. 49) for an example of a ship doing this. The American ensign often had the stars in the canton arranged in a circle with one large star in the center; an alternative on merchant ensigns was star-shaped constellation. In times of distress a ship would fly the ensign upside down, as can be seen in Wreck of the Roma, 1846 (inv. 250).

 The use of flags on vessels is different from the use of flags on land. The importance and history of the flagpole in Fresh Water Cove in Gloucester is still being studied.

The modern meaning of the flag was forged in December 1860, when Major Robert Anderson moved the U.S. garrison from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Adam Goodheart argues this was the opening move of the American Civil War, and the flag was used throughout northern states to symbolize American nationalism and rejection of secessionism.

Before that day, the flag had served mostly as a military ensign or a convenient marking of American territory, flown from forts, embassies, and ships, and displayed on special occasions like American Independence day. But in the weeks after Major Anderson's surprising stand, it became something different. Suddenly the Stars and Stripes flew—as it does today, and especially as it did after the September 11 attacks in 2001—from houses, from storefronts, from churches; above the village greens and college quads. For the first time American flags were mass-produced rather than individually stitched and even so, manufacturers could not keep up with demand. As the long winter of 1861 turned into spring, that old flag meant something new. The abstraction of the Union cause was transfigured into a physical thing: strips of cloth that millions of people would fight for, and many thousands die for.

– Adam Goodheart, Prologue of 1861: The Civil War Awakening (2011).

 
photo (historical)
Cape Ann Scenery: No. 52 Fresh Water Cove
John S. E. Rogers, Publisher
1860s
Stereograph card
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

A view of a Cove on the western side of Gloucester Harbor, with the landing at Brookbank. Houses are seen in the woods back. A boat with two men is in the foreground.

Also filed under: Brookbank »   //  Fresh Water Cove »   //  Historic Photographs »

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publication
Oak Hall Pictorial: This is Oak Hall, in North Street Boston
Friend to American Enterprise
Unpaginated booklet
Courtesy American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass. (CL.F9116.011.1854 CL.F9116.011.1854)

Also filed under: Oak Hall »

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artwork
Oak Hall Pictorial: This is the flag that waves on high
Friend to American Enterprise
Unpaginated booklet
Courtesy American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass. (CL.F9116.011.1854)

Also filed under: Oak Hall »

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The use of signal flags, for ship-to-ship communication, generally preceded land-based chains of maritime semaphore stations, the latter using flags or rotating arms, until the advent of the electric or magnetic telegraph.

Until the end of the Napoleonic wars, merchant ships generally sailed in convoy as ordered by the escorting warship(s) using a few simple flags. Peace brought independent voyaging, the end of the convoy system, and the realization by various authorities that merchant vessels now needed their own separate means of signaling to each other. This resulted in a handful of rival codes, each with its individual flags and syntax. In general, they each had a section enabling ship identification and also a "vocabulary" section for transmitting selected messages. It was not until 1857 that a common Commercial Code became available for international use, only gradually replacing the earlier ones. All existed side by side for a decade or two.

Signal systems for American ships were originally intended to identify a vessel by name and owner; only later were more advanced systems developed to convey messages. Most basic were private signals, or "house flags", each of a different design or pattern, identifying the vessel's owner; identification charts were local and poorly distributed, limiting their usefulness. A secondary signal, a flag or large pennant bearing the vessel's name, was sometimes flown by larger ships, but pictorial records of them are uncommon. These private signal flags usually flew from the foremasthead or main masthead if a three master ship. Pilot boats had their own identifying flags, blue and white as seen in Spitfire Entering Boston Harbor (not published). Small vessels, such as schooners, often had a "tell-tale" pennant, an often-unmarked and often red flag, that was used to determine wind direction.

A numerical code flag system, identifying vessels by the code numbers, was introduced by Captain Frederick Marryat R.N. in 1817 for English vessels. American vessels soon adopted this system. Elford's "marine telegraphic system" was the first American equivalent to the Marryat code flags, first issued in 1823, and with changes, remaining in use until the late 1850s. Most of the signal flags on vessels depicted by Lane use Elford's; Brig "Antelope" in Boston Harbor, 1863 (inv. 43) is a noteworthy example of his depiction of Marryat's. The Elford's Code was popular in America on account of its simplicity and only required six blue and white flags. Eventually these changed to red and white, although it is unclear exactly when this happened. Instructions and a key ot the Elford's Code's use are included in successive editions of the Boston Harbor Signal Book.

Whereas the other codes employ at least ten flags of diverse shapes and colours, there are only six Elford flags in total, representing the numbers one to six. All are uniformly rectangular and monochrome in colour (either blue and white or red and white—or even black and white as in an early photograph). Selected from these six flags each individual vessel is allotted a combination of four flags to be prominently displayed as a vertical hoist. Reading from above down these convey its "designated number." Armed with this number and the type of vessel (e.g. ship, bark, brig, schooner /or steamer) the subject can be uniquely identified by reference to a copy of the Boston Harbor Signal Book for the appropriate year.

– A. Sam Davidson 

illustration
Table of private signals, Boston, c.1860
Allan Forbes, Ralph M. Eastman
c.1860
As reproduced in Yankee Sailing Ship Cards by Allan Forbes and Ralph M. Eastman (Boston: State Street Trust Company, 1948).
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publication
Boston Harbor Signal Book
John T. Smith
Boston: William White, 1857.
Harvard Depository: Widener (NAV 578.57)

For digitized version, click here.

Also filed under: Boston Harbor »

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publication
Elford Code (from "Signal Book for Boston Harbor")
Hudson & Smith
1848
Boston: Eastburn's Press
New York Public Library

Complete book is included in Google Books, click here.

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publication
Merchants' private signals
M. V. Brewington
c. 1833
In The American Neptune 3, no. 3 (July 1943): 205–21.
Peabody Essex Museum

Descriptions of Marryat, Elford, Rogers, and commercial code signal systems, and private signals. Includes illustrations of flag systems with color keys.

Image: Peabody Essex Museum
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Lane usually signed his works, "F.H.L." or "F.H.Lane." Only two paintings are known to have his complete signature. His use of initials in his signature led to the confusion about his middle name. For a complete discussion of this see Sarah Dunlap and Stephanie Buck's article on his name change.

publication
1913 Boston Evening Transcript 1.2.1913
Arthur Williams, Jr.
1.2.1913
Newsprint
Boston Evening Transcript

"Old Clipper Ships: Wanted – Paintings of old Clipper Ships. Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane Preferred. Address D.A.W. Boston Transcript."

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publication
Constitution of Boston Artists Association
Boston Athenaeum
MSS .S300
no date

includes Lane's signature as member, and lists him as "Painter, Gloucester" on p. 32

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publication
Constitution of Boston Artists Association (detail of Lane's signature)
F.H. Lane
Boston Athenaeum
MSS .S300
p.32
no date
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artwork
Gloucester Harbor- detail of signature
Fitz Henry Lane
1852
Oil on canvas
28 x 48 1/2 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., Deposited by the City of Gloucester, Given to the city by Mrs. Julian James in memory of her grandfather Sidney Mason, 1952 (DEP. 200)

Detail of Lane's signature. The image has been color enhanced for legibility.

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letter
Letter on verso of Dream Painting
Fitz Henry Lane
1862
Letter
Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago

A letter affixed to the verso of Lane's Dream Painting of 1862 in which he describes how the idea for the painting came to him in a dream. Lane writes: "This picture, the Property of John S. Webber Esq, Collector of the Port and District of Gloucester, was (suggested) to the artist by a dream. Sometime last fall while asleep in bed, a richly furnished room was presented to my imagination. Upon the wall my attention was attracted to a picture which I have here endeavored to reproduce. The dream was very vivid and on awakening I retained it in memory for a long time. The effect was so beautiful in the dream that I determined to attempt its reproduction, and this picture is the result. The drawing is very correct, but the effect falls far short of what I saw, and it would be impossible to convey to canvas such gorgeous and brilliant colouring as was presented to me. This picture, however, will give to the beholder some faint idea of the ideal. /signed/ Fitz H. Lane."

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Provenance (Information known to date; research ongoing.)

Exhibition History

1989–93 United States Embassy, France: United States Embassy, Paris, Art in Embassies Program.
1996–97 Museum of the City of New York: Museum of the City of New York, New York, New York, Revisiting the Scene: New Evidence, New Discoveries.
2007 Cape Ann Museum: Cape Ann Historical Museum, Gloucester, Massachusetts, The Mysteries of Fitz Henry Lane, no. 1, ill. in color, p. 49, as Clipper Ship "Sweepstakes".
2013 Museum of the City of New York: Museum of the City of New York, New York, New York, Selections from the Marine Painting Collection.

Published References

Museum of the City of New York 1974: Museum of the City of New York.
Als, et al. 1997: Our Town: Images and Stories from the Collection of the Museum of the City of New York.
Ramirez 2000: Painting the Town: Cityscapes of New York; Paintings from the Museum of the City of New York, ill., p. 125.
Dunlap and Buck 2005: "Fitz Who? The Artist Latterly Known as Fitz Hugh Lane," p. 14. ⇒ includes text
Gustafson 2005: "Collectors' Notes: Fitz who Lane?."
Vogel 2005: "Fitz Hugh or Fitz Henry?."
McCabe 2006: "Art World Adjusts to Lane Change. It's Fitz Henry, Not Fitz Hugh, Gloucester Archivists Discover."
Safran 2007: "Fitz Henry Lane and Mary Blood Mellen."
Wilmerding 2007: "Fitz Henry Lane & Mary Blood Mellen," p. 167, as Clipper Ship "Sweepstakes".
Wilmerding 2007a: Fitz Henry Lane & Mary Blood Mellen: Old Mysteries and New Discoveries, no. 1, p. 49, as Clipper Ship "Sweepstakes". ⇒ includes text

Related historical materials

New York City Locales, Businesses, & Buildings
Vessels (Specific / Named)
Vessel Types
Flags, Lighthouses, & Navigation Aids
Fitz Henry Lane Biography
Citation: ""Sweepstakes", 1853 (inv. 248)." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/catalog/entry.php?id=248 (accessed March 27, 2017).
Record last updated January 27, 2016. Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
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