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Catalog entry

inv. 267
Merchantmen Off Boston Harbor
1853
Oil on canvas
24 1/4 x 39 1/4 in. (61.6 x 99.7 cm)
Signed and dated lower right: F.H. Lane / 1853

Commentary

Although titled as a view of shipping activity in Boston Harbor, the nondescript skyline bears no resemblance to those in Lane’s other titled depictions of that port. The latter have very recognizable skyline features, the most familiar being the Massachusetts State House. Moreover, the skyline appears more distant, as is Manhattan’s West Side when seen from the New Jersey side of the Hudson River.

Vessel activity in this painting could be representative of either city. At left, a harbor tug (an early example for Boston but commonplace for New York) is taking a lumber brig to a wharf for unloading. The lumber brig’s deck load is of interest for the very heavy dimensions of the timber, which would be suitable for framing large buildings or decks of wharves. Just beyond is a small coasting schooner, sailing light, having unloaded, and likely headed to another pier for new cargo or for hauling-out and maintenance. Off her port quarter is a merchant ship, and beyond her, a coastal side-wheel steamer of smaller size, built for transporting people and small-quantity goods to and from smaller coastal ports along the Long Island and Connecticut shores.

In the right foreground, a packet ship whose very large size is more typical of New York vessels in this trade, is about to be boarded—probably by some of the ship’s officers. She is riding high and her sails are hanging in loose bights to air out while she waits for a tug to bring her to a loading port. Any Boston equivalents of this size would have had trouble finding sufficient cargos to operate at a profit. New York’s advantage was her access to high-value inland produce via the Hudson River, the Erie Canal, and other waterway connections. Beyond the packet and to the left of her stern is a merchant ship at anchor. To the right are a bark and a coasting schooner, the former being suited for long voyages when speed was not a necessity.

– Erik Ronnberg

[+] See More

 

Explore catalog entries by keywords view all keywords »

Subject Types:   Harbor Scene »   //   Townscape »
Vessel Types:   Bark / Demi-Bark »   //   Brig »   //   Schooner »   //   Steamship »   //   Tow Boat / Tug Boat »
Massachusetts Locales:   Boston / Boston Harbor »
Other Locales:   N.Y.: New York Harbor »
Activities of People:   Rowing »
Objects:   Anchor »   //   Flotsam »

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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Boston Locales, Businesses, & Buildings: Boston Harbor

During the years after the war of 1812 and before the Civil War, the port of Boston was a center of American deep-water shipping. Trading with China, India, and the West Indies, which had fueled maritime growth in the early years of the century gave way to re-exporting these goods and foreign trade based on the shoe and textile trades. Although second to New York in terms of shipping tonnage, many of New York's shipbuilders and merchants were Boston based. In addition, ship building continued in Boston. Also, the coastal trade (the domestic trade up and down the coast) was still the most efficient way to transport goods and passengers, and accounts for much of the tonnage and shipping traffic.

Although dwarfed by New York, Boston was an active port in the 1840s and 1850s. Its registered tonnage rose from 149,186 in 1840 to 270,510 in 1850. The harbor was a crowded place. For example, on September 18, 1850, 32 ships, 49 barks, 47 brigs, and 52 schooners were reported at Boston.(1)

In 1849, foreign entries at Boston included 215 ships, 305 barks, 908 brigs, and 52 schooners. Coastwise arrivals included 193 ships, 488 barks, 1087 brigs, 4287 schooners, 89 sloops, and 65 schooners.(2)

(1) W.H. Bunting, p.8.

(2) Ibid.

For more information:

Samuel Eliot Morrison, The Maritime History of Massachusetts, 1783-1860

W.H. Bunting, Portrait of a Port, Boston 1852-1914 Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1971.

artwork
View of the City of Boston from Dorchester Heights
Robert Havhell, Jr.
1841
Boston Atheneum
[+]
artwork
Vue du Port de Boston
Garneray del.; Himely sculp.
14 1/2 x 18 in.
Boston Public Library
[+]
artwork
Boston Harbor from Constitution Wharf
Robert Salmon
1833
Oil on canvas
26 1/4 x 41 in.
United States Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Md.
[+]
publication
1848 street plan of Boston showing location of Tremont Temple
S. N. Dickinson
1848
Printed map inside Boston Almanac
Published by B. B. Mussey & Co. and Thomas Groom, Boston
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive (R910.45 B65 1848)

Map at front of almanac with Tremont Temple highlighted.

Also filed under: Boston City Views »   //  Maps »   //  Tremont Temple »

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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.

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artwork
"Britannia" in the Ice
A. de Vaudricourt
Tinted lithograph with color by Bouvé & Sharp, drawn on stone by A. de Vaudricourt from a sketch by John C. King
17 1/4 x 24 7/8 in.
American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass.
Image: American Antiquarian Society
[+]
artwork
Simpson's Patent Drydock
M. M. Tidd
c.1860
Tinted lithograph with hand coloring
13 7/8 x 22 3/8 in.
Boston Athenaeum

From Sally Pierce and Catharina Slautterback, Boston Lithography, 1825–1880: The Boston Atheneaum Collection (BostonAthenaeum1991): "Tidd drew this print when he was a consulting engineer for Simpson's. He has depicted the clipper ship 'Southern Cross' in the dry dock. Built in 1851, she was known for having sailed from San Francisco to Hong Kong in the record breaking time of thirty-two days. The Bethlehem Ship Building Company eventually took over this location and operated a dry dock there until the mid 1940s."

Image: Boston Athenaeum
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illustration
The "Britannia" steamship leaving Boston, U.S.
Wood engraving in The Illustrated London News (October 23, 1847) p.272
Library of Congress Catalog Number 2004671768
Image: Illustrated London News
[+]
chart
U.S. Coast Pilot chart
1893
U.S. Coast Pilot, Atlantic Coast Part 3.
Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.

Detail of Coast Pilot chart showing Point Allerton.

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artwork
View of Boston Harbor
John White Allen Scott
oil on panel
1853
Bostonian Society (1884.0209)

Also filed under: Scott, John W. A. »

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artwork
View of Boston in 1848 from East Boston
C.W. Burton, lithographer, Edwin Whitefield, artist
Boston : Published by Whitefield and Smith, 1848.
1 print : lithograph, tinted ; image 50.3 x 111.9 cm., 68.7 x 121.2 cm.
View of the city of Boston from East Boston showing Boston Harbor. The wharves of East Boston can be seen in the foreground.
Number nine of thirty-eight city views published in "Whitefield's Original Views of (North) American Cities (Scenery).
On stone by Charles W. Burton after a drawing by Edwin Whitefield.
Inscribed in brown ink lower right corner of sheet: "Boston Athenaeum from Josiah Quincy. September 28, 1848."
Local Notes:#1848.1.
Image: Boston Athenaeum
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[ top]
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 »

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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) »

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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 »

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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 »

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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
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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."

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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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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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]

In the ninteenth century, the term "bark" was applied to a large sailing vessel having three masts, the first two (fore and main) being square-rigged; the third (mizzen), fore-and-aft rigged. The reduced square-rig made the vessel easier and more economical to handle, using a smaller crew. (1)

Barks had significant presence in mid-nineteenth-century America, as indicated by Lane’s depictions of them. Hardly any are to be found in his scenes of major ports, but some do appear in his Cape Ann scenes (see The Fort and Ten Pound Island, Gloucester (Harbor Scene), 1848 (inv. 58), View of Gloucester, 1859 (inv. 91), Gloucester Harbor, 1850s (inv. 391), and Bark "Eastern Star" of Boston, 1853 (not published)), also in views of other small ports and of coastal shipping (see Clipper Ship "Southern Cross" in Boston Harbor, 1851 (inv. 253), Merchantmen Off Boston Harbor, 1853 (inv. 267), Approaching Storm, Owl's Head, 1860 (not published), and Bark "Mary" (inv. 629)).

Brigs, and to a lesser extent ships, were the vessels of choice for Gloucester’s foreign trade in the first half of the nineteenth century. They brought cargos from the West Indies, South America, and Europe, anchoring in the deeper parts of the Inner Harbor while lighters off-loaded the goods and landed them at the wharves in Harbor Cove, by then too shallow for the newer, larger merchant vessels coming into use. (2) By mid-century, barks were gradually replacing brigs and ships, while the trade with Surinam was removed to Boston in 1860. (3)

Some bulk cargos still had to be landed in Gloucester, salt for curing fish being the most important. “Salt barks” brought Tortugas salt from the West Indies, and in the 1870s, Italian salt barks began bringing Trapani salt from Sicily. The importation of salt by sailing ships ended with the outbreak of World War I. (4)

The term barkentine, like the bark, pre-dates the nineteenth century, but in the mid- to late 1800s referred to a large vessel of three masts (or more), with only the fore mast square-rigged, the others being fore-and-aft-rigged. In Lane’s time, the term was little known in the United States, while many other names were coined for the rig. One of these early terms was demi-bark, probably from the French demi-barque, which was applied to a very different kind of vessel. (5) Lane’s depictions of these rigs include a lithograph of the steam demi-bark "Antelope" View of Newburyport, (From Salisbury), 1845 (inv. 499) and at least three depictions of Cunard steamships The "Britannia" Entering Boston Harbor, 1848 (inv. 49), Cunard Steamship Entering Boston Harbor (inv. 197), and Cunard Liner "Britannia", 1842 (inv. 259). (6) None of these subjects typify the barkentine rig as applied to sails-only rigs as they developed in the years after Lane’s death.

– Erik Ronnberg (May, 2015)

References:

1. R[ichard] H[enry] Dana, Jr., The Seaman's Friend (Boston; Thomas Groom & Co., 1841. 13th ed., 1873), 97 and Plate IV with captions; and M.H. Parry, et al., Aak to Zumbra: A Dictionary of the World's Watercraft (Newport News, VA: The Mariners’ Museum, 2000), 43.

2. Alfred Mansfield Brooks, Gloucester Recollected (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1974), 56, note 10; 67, note 7.

3. James R. Pringle, History of the Town and City of Gloucester (1892. Reprint: Gloucester, MA, 1997), 106–08.

4. Raymond McFarland, A History of the New England Fisheries (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1911), 95–96; and Mark Kurlansky, Salt: A World History (New York: Walker & Co., 2002), 419–420.

5. Parry, 44, 167. Dana has neither definition nor illustration of this rig.

6. J[ohn] W. Griffiths, “The Japan and China Propeller Antelope," U.S. Nautical Magazine III (October 1855): 11–17. This article includes an impression of Lane’s lithograph on folded tissue.

photo (historical)
Photo of Bark
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illustration
Barkentine
1885
Engraving in Merchant Vessels of the Unite States (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1885)

See fig. XX.

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artwork
The Fort and Ten Pound Island, Gloucester (Harbor Scene)
Fitz Henry Lane
1848
Oil on canvas
20 x 30 in.
Newark Museum, N.J., Gift of Mrs. Chant Owen, 1959 (59.87)

Detail of harbor scene.

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photo (historical)
Cape Ann Scenery: No. 44 Gloucester Harbor
John S. E. Rogers, Publisher
c.1875
Stereograph card
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

This view of Gloucester's Inner Harbor shows three square-rigged vessels in the salt trade at anchor. The one at left is a (full-rigged) ship; the other two are barks. By the nature of their cargos, they were known as "salt ships" and "salt barks" respectively. Due to their draft (too deep to unload at wharfside) they were partially unloaded at anchor by "lighters" before being brought to the wharves for final unloading.

– Erik Ronnberg

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illustration
Bark
Engraving in R. H. Dana, The Seaman's Friend, 13th ed. (Thomas Groom & Co. Publisher, 1873)

A bark is square-rigged at her fore and main masts, and differs from a ship in having no top, and carrying only fore-and-aft sails at her mizzenmast. 

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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]

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) »

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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 »

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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. 

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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]

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.

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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.

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

Also filed under: Lobstering »

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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 »

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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.

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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."

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photo (current)
"Friendship of Salem"
Built in 1998

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

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

Engraving of ship.

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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
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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.

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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
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"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)
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Steamer Lewiston, at the Wharf, Castine
George E. Collins
Stereograph card
Castine Historical Society Collections (2015.03)

Also filed under: Historic Photographs »   //  Steamers »

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model
Harbor ferry "Little Giant"
John Gardner Weld
early 20th century
Wood and metal
Cape Ann Museum (1200)
Image: Erik Ronnberg
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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
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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
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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

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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
view ]
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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Tug boat is a general term for vessels of a variety of sizes designed to tow and push large vessels into and out of harbor berths, through confined waterways, and undertake towing and salvage work in deep water. Tugs designed for towing large vessels over long ocean routes are called tow boats, and are larger and more powerful than their harbor-based counterparts.

Throughout the nineteenth century, tug boats were powered with a variety of steam reciprocating engines, the "cross-head" and "walking beam" types being suitable for the early vessels driven by paddle wheels and used in protected harbors. The introduction of the screw propeller and more compact compound engines, made tug boats less susceptible to damage when used in open ocean, leading to the development of tow boats. (1)

New York Harbor was the first American seaport to make extensive use of harbor tugs, due to the size of New York Bay and anchorages therein. A multitude of wharves along the shorelines of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the New Jersey side (not to mention river traffic from points north on the Hudson River and barge traffic from the Delaware and Hudson Canal) all contributed to a demand for their services. (2)

Boston Harbor, by contrast, was much smaller, with its wharves confined to a compact waterfront. Here, it was easier to move a vessel by warping it from pierhead to pierhead than to use a tug boat for such short-distance work. Even with expansion of the waterfront in the late nineteenth century, Boston had a far smaller harbor tug fleet than New York. (3)

What Boston did need were a few large tow boats for coastwise work. Most large shipyards north of Cape Cod needed tow boat services for sending the ships they built to southern ports for fitting-out. New York had a particular need for this service so vessels built in other yards (including Boston's) could be towed to it for completion (including sails, boats, cabin finish work, marine hardware, and sometimes even masts and rigging). Boston's proximity to New England shipyards made it the logical place to operate a towing service, and Robert Bennet Forbes was one of the first to act on this opportunity. An iron-hull, screw-propelled tow boat was built to his specifications in 1846 for Boston underwriters, who named it in his honor. (4)

– Erik Ronnberg

References:

1. Steven Lang and Peter H. Spectre, On the Hawser: A Tugboat Album (Camden, ME: Down East Books, 1980), xi–xii, 2–5.

2. Harry Johnson and Frederick S. Lightfoot, Maritime New York in Nineteenth-Century Photographs (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1980), ix–xii, 3, 7–8.

3. W.H. Bunting, Portrait of a Port: Boston, 1852–1914 (Boston: Belknap Press, 1977), 150.

4. Forbes, Robert Bennet, Personal Reminiscences (Boston: Little, Brown, & Co., 1892), listing of iron steam tug R.B. Forbes in appended "List of Vessels."

artwork
A Calm Sea
Fitz Henry Lane
1860
Oil on canvas
24 x 26 1/4 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., Estate of Catalina Davis, 1932 (642.13b)

Detail of tug boat.

Image: Cape Ann Museum
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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: New York Harbor »

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artwork
City of New York from Jersey City
1849
Lithograph
Published by N. Currier, New York
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The timber trade played an important role in New England’s economy from Colonial days through the mid-19th century, supplying the vast quantities of lumber which a rapidly growing nation demanded.  While Cape Ann’s woodlands were depleted early on, timber continued to be harvested from northern New England and the Maritime Provinces right up to the Civil War.

With a deep and safe harbor, Gloucester often served as a layover spot where vessels bound from Maine to Boston, New York or Baltimore and heavily laden with lumber could ride out bad weather.  Because of this, Fitz Henry Lane’s paintings of Gloucester Harbor often show a schooner or a brig, loads of lumber clearly visible on their decks, sheltering along the Western Shore.

References:

Honey, Mark E., "King Pine, Queen Spruce, Jack Tar," An Intimate History of Lumbering on the Union River, Volumes 1-5. This source, in its entirety, lays down the foundation of Downeast Maine's unique culture which was built upon pine lumber and timber, the cod fisheries, coasting, shipbuilding, and the interrelationships of family and community.

Lumber schooner in Gloucester Harbor
1852
Photograph
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Bangor Log Raft
Advertisement for The Bangor News Company, est. January 31, 1881
Castine Historical Society Collections (2008.02)

Also filed under: Historic Photographs »

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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

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Packet shipping was conducted by vessels of many types in many regions over the last four centuries, but the packets depicted by Lane were the products of nineteenth-century mercantilism and the Industrial Revolution. The packets sailing out of Boston and New York for European ports were large vessels, invariably ship-rigged, and if not as sharp-ended as clipper ships, had sufficiently fine hull forms to make fast, if not record, passages.

A packet ship's highest priority was delivery of mail on a regular schedule. Passengers and high-value trade goods occupied the considerable remaining hold space. This was particularly true of west-bound passages, which brought fine European wares and throngs of immigrants to America. East-bound passages brought professionals, students, travelers, and high-value raw and semi-finished materials to European ports, mainly Britain and France, and to a lesser extent, the Netherlands and Germany.

East-bound cargos were dominated by southern products - baled cotton, rice, tobacco, and naval stores. These were delivered to New York and other northern ports by coastal packets (mainly brigs and small ships) for transatlantic shipment. Northern products included flaxseed, iron ore, fruit, wool, hides, and flour. Delivery times were on average well within 30 days, giving credence to the packet lines' promise of scheduled delivery.

West-bound passages, which meant sailing against the wind, took longer—34 to 40 days on average, depending on the port of departure. Cargos and passengers were a far more varied lot with little of the consistency of east-bound counterparts.

Lane's paintings depict Boston and New York packet ships in the peak years of their employment. The Civil War, coupled with the development of reliable steam engines for marine propulsion, posed challenges the sailing ship could not overcome. Coastal packet lines went quickly, the transatlantic lines lasting into the 1870s.

– Erik Ronnberg

Reference:

Robert G. Albion, Square-Riggers on Schedule (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1938).

Related tables: Ship (Full-Rigged) »  //  Sloop »
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: New York Harbor »

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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
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Provenance (Information known to date; research ongoing.)

Exhibition History

1954–56 Smithsonian Institutution: Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, Washington, District of Columbia, Nineteenth Century American Paintings, 1815–1865: From the Private Collection of Maxim Karolik.

Published References

Wittman 1954: Nineteenth Century American Paintings, 1815–1865.
American Neptune 1965: The American Neptune, Pictorial Supplement VII: A Selection of Marine Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane, 1804–1865, plate XXVII, no. 108. ⇒ includes text
Wilmerding 1971a: Fitz Hugh Lane.
Muller 1976: Paintings and Drawings at the Shelburne Museum, no. 113.

Related historical materials

Boston Locales, Businesses, & Buildings
New York City Locales, Businesses, & Buildings
Vessel Types
Maritime & Other Industries & Facilities
Citation: "Merchantmen Off Boston Harbor, 1853 (inv. 267)." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/catalog/entry.php?id=267 (accessed November 24, 2017).
Record last updated January 28, 2016. Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
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