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Catalog entry

inv. 475
Departure of the "Jamestown" for Cork, Ireland
Boston, March 28th 1847 Departure of the Jamestown, for Cork, Ireland, R. B. B. Forbes, Commander; Departure of the Jamestown, for Cork, Ireland, R. B. B. Forbes, Commander
1847
Lithograph on paper
8 x 4 1/2 in. (20.3 x 11.4 cm)
Sheet: H. 5 1/2 x 23.5 in. (14 cm) 9 1/4 (frontispiece in book)
Boston, March 28, 1847
F.H. Lane del.
Lane & Scott's Lith, Tremont Temple, Boston

Commentary

This lithograph was drawn by Lane and printed at Lane & Scott as a frontispiece for Robert Bennet Forbes's book, Voyage of the Jamestown in Her Errand of Mercy.

 

When news of the second year of the devastating Irish potato famine reached Boston in 1846, Bostonians formed a relief committee and began to look for ways to help. Robert Bennet Forbes lobbied the U.S. Navy for use of the "Jamestown," a sloop-of-war that was lying idle in Charlestown Navy Yard. On March 3, 1847, by United States Congressional resolution, R.B. Forbes was authorized to take command of the "Jamestown," while Captain George Coleman McKay was authorized to command USS "Macedonian," then at New York Navy Yard. Tons of food and $151,000 were donated and loaded onto the "Jamestown" by the Boston Labourers Society (mostly Irish), free of charge. On March 28, 1847, the "Jamestown" left Boston at 8:30 a.m. under the command of R.B. Forbes, who managed to complete the Atlantic crossing in a record-breaking seventeen days.

Upon his return, Forbes wrote a book about the voyage, Voyage of the Jamestown in Her Errand of Mercy. In 1847, Lane was running his own lithography shop in Boston with his partner John Scott. Lane had already made two lithographs of Forbes's innvotative steam-powered vessels in 1845, Auxiliary Steam Packet Ship Massachusetts (inv. 442) and Steam packet ship Mass., in a Squall, Nov. 10, 1845 (inv. 443). It was natural that, in 1847, Forbes would turn to Lane to make a lithograph for the frontispiece of his book.

In the print, the vessel is sitting low in the water, attesting to its heavy load. Forbes's steam towboat, the "R.B. Forbes," is in the water behind the "Jamestown," and the buildings of Boston and Charlestown can be seen behind that.

–Melissa Geisler Trafton

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Related Work in the Catalog

 

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Types of Objects:   Book Illustration »
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Vessel Types:   Naval Vessel »   //   Steamship »   //   Tow Boat / Tug Boat »
Massachusetts Locales:   Boston / Boston Harbor »
Activities of People:   Rowing »
Objects:   American Flag / Ensign »   //   Vessel Signal Flag / Pennant »
Building Types:   Commercial Building »

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).

[ top]
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.

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

Also filed under: Scott, John W. A. »

[+]
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]
Vessels (Specific / Named): "Jamestown" (U.S. Sloop of War)

The first ship named "Jamestown" was a sloop of war launched in 1844 at the Gosport Navy Yard, Virginia, the first American warship to be given that name. Classed as a “ship sloop”, a.k.a. “sloop of war” the “Jamestown” was built at Norfolk Navy Yard in 1843-44 to a design by Naval Constructor Foster Rhodes. Her 1844 battery consisted of four 8-inch shell guns and eighteen 32-pound muzzle-loading cannon. Her registry (not overall) dimensions were: length 157’ 6” between perpendiculars (rudder post to stem rabbet at main deck), beam 35’ , and depth in hold of 16’ 2” for a register (not actual) tonnage of 985 tons.

Leaving Hampton Roads on June 25, 1845, she was the flagship of Commodore Charles W. Skinner, then in command of U.S. naval vessels operating off the western coast of Africa to suppress the slave trade. The sloop returned to the U.S. and ported in Boston on August 6, 1846.

While the "Jamestown" was moored in Boston, the Cunard Line steamer "Hibernia" arrived with news of the the second consecutive year that blight had ruined the potato crop in Ireland and the resulting Irish famine, and Bostonians responded immmediately. Mayor Josiah Quincy hosted a meeting attended by about four thousand people at Fanueil Hall on February 18, 1847. A New England Relief committee was formed, which included Robert Bennet and John Murray Forbes. R. B. Forbes began to lobby for the "Jamestown" which was lying idle in Charlestown Navy Yard. On March 3, by U.S. Congressional resolution, R. B. Forbes was authorized to take command of the "Jamestown," while Captain George Coleman McKay was authorized to command USS "Macedonian," then at New York Navy Yard.

$151,000 and tons of food were donated and loaded onto the vessel by the Boston Labourers Society (mostly Irish), free of charge. R.B. Forbes supervised this and the refitting of the ship, including removal of all but two of its cannon."When the "Jamestown" left Boston at 8:30 a.m. on March 28, 1847, she carried 800 tons of provisions worth $40,038. The cargo comprised various grains, such as oats, rye, flour, indian corn, and beans but also 400 barrels of port, 100 tierces of ham and some mutton, as well as some dried local apples. There were also 28 barrels of clothing and 800 empty sacks to be used for distributing the barreled train in smaller units." 

R. B. Forbes completed the Atlantic crossing in a record 17 days. Forbes wrote a book about it, and had Lane draw a lithograph as frontispiece. The “Jamestown” proved to be an excellent sailer, but slightly top-heavy unless carefully ballasted and trimmed. Her passage from Boston to Ireland was very fast, due to hard driving.

After the Civil War, the “Jamestown” was placed in ordinary, forgotten by the public, and never returned to active service. Her last years were spent as a marine hospital in New York Harbor, still afloat in 1932.

This is taken from "Jamestown" account, summarized and prepared for Forbes House Museum by John Colhoun, Erik Ronnberg's research, and Catherine Shannon's account (via Forbes House).

 

References:

Howard I. Chapelle, “History of the American Sailing Navy” (NY: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1949), pp. 440, 443 (hull Plan), 494 (spar dimensions), 544 (index notes).

Lieut. George F. Emmons, U.S.N., “The Navy of the United States, from the Commencement, 1775 to 1853” (Washington: Gideon & Co., 1853), pp. 100, 101.

Wheel of the "Jamestown"
Wooden ship's wheel
Collection of the Forbes House Museum, Milton, Massachusetts

Gift to R. B. Forbes from the U.S. Navy to commemorate voyage of the "Jamestown."

Image: Forbes House Museum

Also filed under: Forbes, Robert Bennet »

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artwork
The Jamestown
George M. Atkinson
c.1847
Collection of the Forbes House Museum, Milton, Mass.

Scene depicts the "Jamestown" being towed out of Charlestown Navy Yard. Plaque reads: "To Captain R. Bennett [sic] Forbes / From his English friends. / The "Jamestown" American Sloop of War as she left Boston under his command / bound to CORK with DONATIONS of FOOD / freight free for the Irish. / 1847."

Image: Forbes House Museum

Also filed under: Forbes, Robert Bennet »

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publication
"Splendid Naval Victory"
Danvers Courier as published in unidentified publication
Robert Bennet Forbes scrapbook
vol. 1, p. 4
Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum (SCR 4)

"SPLENDID NAVAL VICTORY. We have received intelligence by the arrival of the Caledonia of one of the most splendid naval victories ever achieved under the American flag..." This article is a humorous metaphor, comparing Forbes' mission to bring food to the starving Irish to a naval assault on the city of Cork.

Image: Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum
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publication
The Voyage of the "Jamestown" on her Errand of Mercy
Robert Bennet Forbes
1847
Boston
Eastburn's Press

Link to Google Books.

[+]
artwork
U.S. Sloop of War, "Jamestown"
George W. Atkinson
Lithograph, hand-colored
16 1/2 x 20 1/2 in., on sheet 18 1/8 x 22 1/2 in.
Courtesy American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass.

One of these lithographs was given to R. B. Forbes at an event held on the 19th of April at the Cork Temperance Institute.

"U.S. Sloop of war, Jamestown: Capt. R. B. Forbes. This print, commemorative of the splendid generosity of the American government in dismantling a ship of war for a mission of peace and charity, & of the noble-hearted citizens who humanely & benevolently responded to the call of Irish distress, is respectfully dedicated to the President, House of Representatives, Congress and people of the United States of America, by their obedt. servants, George M. W. Atkinson, William Scraggs, Cove of Cork 13th April, 1847"

Also filed under: Forbes, Robert Bennet »

[+]
artwork
USS Jamestown 1844-92
W. Deguire (attr.)
1844-92
Oil on canvas
U.S. Naval Academy Museum
Image: U.S. Naval Academy Museum
[+]
[ top]

One of the earliest steam tow boats built in the United States for coastwise towing, the "R. B. Forbes" was built in Boston by Otis Tufts for the Boston Board of Marine Underwriters, at the behest of Robert Bennet Forbes, for whom the vessel was named. The first iron-hull vessel built in Boston, she measured 320 tons. Her two Ericson screw propellers were driven by a pair of condensing engines, each with a bore of 36 inches and a 32-inch stroke. (1)

A pioneer in coastwise towing, the "R. B. Forbes" was mainly used to tow newly-built sailing ships from New England shipyards to New York, where their owners would complete the fitting-out process and send them to sea. Unable to use her profitably to this end, the owners sold her, as did her subsequent owners. She was sold to the U.S. Navy in 1861, soon after the outbreak of the Civil War. She was lost when she went aground on the coast of North Carolina, near the Hatteras Inlet on February 25, 1862, a total loss. (2)

 – Erik Ronnberg

 References:

1. R[obert] B[ennet] Forbes, Personal Reminiscences (3rd. ed. Revised, Boston, 1892), appended list of vessels.

 2. Francis B.C. Bradlee, “Some Account of Steam Navigation in New England,” The Essex Institute Historical Collections LVI (1920): 187.  

publication
Description of the wreck of the "California" in 1857
Alfred Mansfield Brooks (Joseph E. Garland, footnote editor)
c.1857
Book excerpt
Joseph E. Garland, "Gloucester Recollected: A Familiar History," (Gloucester, Massachusetts, Peter Smith Publishers. 1974), 69, n. 9.
[+]
PDF
view ]
publication
List of ships owned by R. B. Forbes
Robert Bennet Forbes
1876
Table within book

From R. B. Forbes, Personal Reminiscences (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., first published 1876).

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[ top]

Government-owned vessels were mainly concerned with defense of the nation (i.e. the U.S. Navy), the regulation of foreign commerce via enforcement of tariffs and seizure of contraband (i.e. the U.S. Revenue Service), and aids to navigation (i.e. the U.S. Lighthouse Service; coastal life-saving was in the hands of civic organizations).

Naval vessels were classified according to a multitude of duties, which in turn determined hull form and size, propulsion (sail, engine-powered, oars), and numbers and duties of crews.

Revenue service vessels varied from small harbor craft, swift-sailing schooners for coastal and harbor patrols, and large square-rigged (and later engine-powered) ships for off-shore duty. These vessels worked closely with customs houses in seaports with significant foreign commerce.

Related tables: Ship (Full-Rigged) »
artwork
The "Constitution" in Boston Harbor
Fitz Henry Lane
1848–49
Oil on canvas
15 3/4 x 23 1/4 in.
Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga, Tenn., Museum Purchase (1968.4)

Detail of navel vessel.

Image: Hunter Museum of Art
[+]
artwork
The U.S. Frigate "President" Engaging the British Squadron
Fitz Henry Lane
1850
Oil on canvas
28 x 42 in.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Corcoran Collection (Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Lansdell K. Christie) (2014.136.82)

Detail of naval vessel.

Image: National Gallery of Art, Corcoran Collection
[+]
U.S. steam frigate "Mississippi," in the Gulf of Mexico, March 1847
1848
Hand-colored lithograph
Published by N. Currier, New York
Library of Congress catalog number 93514426
Image: Library of Congress
[+]
[ 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."

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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
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[ 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

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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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[ top]

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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Robert Bennet Forbes (1804–89) of Boston was a key figure in his family's business in the China trade. While his brothers and cousins took positions as land-based merchants stationed either in Boston or Canton, Robert Bennet Forbes chose life at sea. He went on many trips to China, starting in 1817 as a cabin boy—thirteen years old—and eventually as a ship captain.

Forbes became a partner in the firm in 1832, known by then as Russell & Co., Canton, and went for a two-year trip to China in 1838–40 as a merchant. He was a proponent of steam power, which helped ships on the long voyage to China and Japan, and gave them the speed to evade the pirates who were ever present in the opium trade. His firm built about 70 ships, of which he was owner or part owner of several.

Robert Bennet Forbes also helped to introduce yachting as a sport, and participated in some of the first yacht races. His book Personal Reminiscences, published in 1892, lists many of these exploits, as well as all of the vessels he owned and built.

Forbes was known for his adventurous spirit. In 1846, when news of the Irish famine reached Boston, he convinced the U.S.Navy to lend him the "USS Jamestown" to take food to famine sufferers in 1847. He was the first civilian given the honor of commanding a naval vessel, and he crossed the Atlantic in a record seventeen days. Forbes wrote a book about his trans-Atlantic voyage for which he commissioned Lane to make the frontispiece illustration.

The "Jamestown" commission was one of several works Lane made for Forbes. Forbes was not only adventurous but innovative, and he commissioned Lane to make works after two of his newly designed steam vessels: the "Massachusetts," a packet ship that used steam power to supplement wind power, and the "Antelope," that relied primarily on steam power.

The Forbes family lived in Milton, Massachusetts, and also had a home in Beverly, Massachusetts. In 1856 Forbes bought land in West Manchester and built a summer home there which he christened "Masconomo" after the sagamore, chief of the Agawam.

In 1834 Captain Forbes married Rose Greene Smith. She died September 18, 1885, having borne her husband three children: Robert Bennet Forbes (1837–June 30, 1891); Edith Forbes, who married Charles Eliot Perkins; and James Murray Forbes (b. July 17, 1845). He died on November 23, 1889 in Milton.

artwork
Portrait of Captain Robert Bennet Forbes
Chester Harding
c.1846
Copy of original
Courtesy of Forbes House Museum, Milton, Mass.
Image: Forbes House Museum
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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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photo (historical)
Captain Robert Bennet Forbes in his workshop at The Birches
Edith Perkins Cunningham, ed.
1939
"Family Photographs" I:140
Privately Printed: The Riverside Press
Courtesy of the Forbes House Museum
Image: Forbes House Museum
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photo (historical)
Robert B. Forbes with Grandchildren
Edith Perkins Cunningham, ed.
1939
Book: "Family Photographs"
Privately Printed: Riverside Press
Collection of the Forbes House Museum

Daguerreotype from about 1848

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photo (historical)
The Birches, The Robert B. Forbes House, Milton, Massachusetts
Ruth Perkins Cunningham, ed.
1939
"Family Photographs" I:43
Privately Printed: The Riverside Press
Courtesy of the Forbes House Museum
Image: Forbes House Museum
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PDF
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publication
"Auxiliary Screw Packet Ship 'Massachusetts:' Forbes's New Rig"
Robert Bennet Forbes
Pamphlet publication of article from the April 1853 "Nautical Magazine"
Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum
1011.2 F695
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PDF
view ]
publication
Auxiliary Steamships and R.B. Forbes
Cedric Ridgely-Nevitt
"The American Neptune"
vol. 1, no. 1
January 1941
pp. 51-57
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manuscript
Description of photograph of "Masconomo"
c. 1970
Typed transcription of photograph caption
Manchester Historical Museum, Manchester, Mass.
Image: Manchester Historical Museum

Also filed under: Manchester, Mass. »

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PDF
view ]
publication
List of ships owned by R. B. Forbes
Robert Bennet Forbes
1876
Table within book

From R. B. Forbes, Personal Reminiscences (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., first published 1876).

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map
Map of Manchester, Massachusetts
1872
map
Manchester Historical Museum
Image: Manchester Historical Museum

Also filed under: Manchester, Mass. »

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photo (historical)
"Masconomo", Manchester, Mass.
Photograph
c. 1857
Manchester Historical Museum

In 1856 Robert Bennet Forbes bought nineteen acres of land for $2,800 from Israel F. Tappan in the section of the West Manchester shore known in those days as Newport. There he built Masconomo, named for the sagamore of the Agawam. In her unpublished letters to her son Robert, his wife Rose Greene Forbes wrote:

"...I think Father will put up a good sized cheap summer house, rough pillars, pine furniture etc., and very likely we shall all be there for two months next summer. He means to show people how rational people ought to live at the seaside. What nice times we shall have..."

The house was sold to Benjamin G. Boardman in 1865.

Image: Manchester Historical Museum

Also filed under: Manchester, Mass. »

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photo (historical)
"Masconomo", Manchester, Massachusetts, The Robert Forbes House, 1856
Edith Perkins Cunningham
1939
Book "Family Photographs" 1:45
Privately Printed: The Riverside Press
Collection of the Forbes House Museum.
Image: Forbes House Museum
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publication
Personal Reminiscences
Robert Bennet Forbes
1876 (first edition)
Book
University Press, John Wilson and Sons, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Second edition, 1882, contains "Rambling Recollections Connected with China."  Google book version.

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artwork
Portrait of Margaret Perkins Forbes
Collection of the Forbes House Museum, Milton, Mass.

Also filed under: Forbes, John Murray »

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PDF
view ]
publication
Regatta at New Bedford, August 8, 1856
Robert Bennet Forbes
1856
Reprinted in American Neptune, Vol. 10, 1950, pp. 213-234

First-hand account by Robert Bennet Forbes of the 1856 New-York Yacht Club regatta. 

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photo (historical)
Robert Bennet Forbes About 1850
Edith Perkins Cunningham, ed.
1939
Book 'Family Photographs" vol. 1
Privately Printed: The Riverside Press
Image: Forbes House Museum
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Silver Salver
c. 1847
Gift to Robert Bennet Forbes from the people of Cork
Collection of the Forbes House Museum

Delivered to Forbes after his voyage of the "Jamestown." Brought back on the "Macedonian," which also made a relief voyage.

Image: Forbes House Museum
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publication
"Splendid Naval Victory"
Danvers Courier as published in unidentified publication
Robert Bennet Forbes scrapbook
vol. 1, p. 4
Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum (SCR 4)

"SPLENDID NAVAL VICTORY. We have received intelligence by the arrival of the Caledonia of one of the most splendid naval victories ever achieved under the American flag..." This article is a humorous metaphor, comparing Forbes' mission to bring food to the starving Irish to a naval assault on the city of Cork.

Image: Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum
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artwork
Sylph
Painting
Collection of the Forbes House Museum, Milton, Mass.

Painting of the yacht sailed by R. B. Forbes in the first yacht race in America, off Nantucket on August 3, 1835.

Image: Forbes House Museum
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artwork
"The Haide"
c.1830
Perhaps painted in Canton
Collection of the Forbes House Museum
Given to the Forbes House Museum by H.A. Crosby Forbes, Ph.D., Robert P. Forbes, Ph.D., and Douglas B. Forbes in 2012

The painting was commissioned by Robert Bennet Forbes to commemorate the death of his brother, Thomas Tunno Forbes, in 1829 on "The Haide" during a storm off the coast of Macao.

Image: Forbes House Museum
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artwork
The Jamestown
George M. Atkinson
c.1847
Collection of the Forbes House Museum, Milton, Mass.

Scene depicts the "Jamestown" being towed out of Charlestown Navy Yard. Plaque reads: "To Captain R. Bennett [sic] Forbes / From his English friends. / The "Jamestown" American Sloop of War as she left Boston under his command / bound to CORK with DONATIONS of FOOD / freight free for the Irish. / 1847."

Image: Forbes House Museum
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photo (historical)
The Red Drawing-Room at the Birches, Milton, Massachuetts
Edith Perkins Cunningham
1939
"Family Photographs" 1:44
Privately Printed: The Riverside Press
Courtesy of the Forbes House Museum
Image: Forbes House Museum
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publication
The Voyage of the "Jamestown" on her Errand of Mercy
Robert Bennet Forbes
1847
Boston
Eastburn's Press

Link to Google Books.

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artwork
U.S. Sloop of War, "Jamestown"
George W. Atkinson
Lithograph, hand-colored
16 1/2 x 20 1/2 in., on sheet 18 1/8 x 22 1/2 in.
Courtesy American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass.

One of these lithographs was given to R. B. Forbes at an event held on the 19th of April at the Cork Temperance Institute.

"U.S. Sloop of war, Jamestown: Capt. R. B. Forbes. This print, commemorative of the splendid generosity of the American government in dismantling a ship of war for a mission of peace and charity, & of the noble-hearted citizens who humanely & benevolently responded to the call of Irish distress, is respectfully dedicated to the President, House of Representatives, Congress and people of the United States of America, by their obedt. servants, George M. W. Atkinson, William Scraggs, Cove of Cork 13th April, 1847"

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Wheel of the "Jamestown"
Wooden ship's wheel
Collection of the Forbes House Museum, Milton, Massachusetts

Gift to R. B. Forbes from the U.S. Navy to commemorate voyage of the "Jamestown."

Image: Forbes House Museum
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Lane & Scott's Lithography was a Boston-based firm formed by Fitz Henry Lane and John W. A. Scott. The partnership spanned 1844–48, after both artists had apprenticed for prominent Boston lithographer, William Pendleton. The firm was located at 16 Tremont Temple, Boston and created sheet music covers, book illustrations, advertisements, prints, and town views. Lane left the firm around 1847 or 1848 and Scott printed some works under his own name.

This information has been summarized from Boston Lithography 1825–1880 by Sally Pierce and Catharina Slautterback. 

map
1837 plan of the City of Boston
Charles Stimpson
1837
9 x 14 in.
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

Showing Lane's neighborhood while working in Boston. Lane had studios at the intersection of Washington and State Streets, Summer, Tremont and School Streets.

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

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map
A Map of Plymouth Village
Lane & Scott Lith.
Frontispiece of " Pilgrim memorials, and guide for visitors to Plymouth Village: : with a lithographic map, and seven copperplate engravings." / By Wm. S. Russell, recording secretary of the Pilgrim Society. ; [Eight lines from Oliver Wendell Holmes]
Boston: : Printed for the author, by C.C.P. Moody, Old Dickinson Office–52 Washington Street., 1851
Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester.
Call Number LML Plym Russ P851

American Antiquarian Society copy of book inscribed: Belonging to J.G. Orton. Bought in Pilgrim Hall Plymouth, Mass. Oct. 10th 1851

Map of Plymouth Village in 1846 signed: Lane & Scott's Lith., Boston

Image: American Antiquarian Society
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publication
The Voyage of the "Jamestown" on her Errand of Mercy
Robert Bennet Forbes
1847
Boston
Eastburn's Press

Link to Google Books.

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Provenance (Information known to date; research ongoing.)

See IMPRESSIONS tab for provenance.

Exhibition History

2017–18 Cape Ann Museum: Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Massachusetts, Drawn From Nature & on Stone: The Lithographs of Fitz Henry Lane [Impression: Cape Ann Museum (inv. 406)].

Published References

Forbes 1847: Voyage of the Jamestown in Her Errand of Mercy, frontispiece, Departure of the "Jamestown" for Cork, Ireland.
Crossman 1985: "Lithographs of Fitz Hugh Lane," p.90. ⇒ includes text
Craig 2006a: Fitz H. Lane: An Artist's Voyage through Nineteenth-Century America, fig. 32. [Impression: Boston Athenaeum (inv. 427)].
Cape Ann Museum 2017: Drawn from Nature & on Stone: the Lithographs of Fitz Henry Lane, fig. 58, text, p. 35, Departure of the "Jamestown" for Cork, Ireland. [Impression: Cape Ann Museum (inv. 406)]. ⇒ includes text

Impression information

American Antiquarian Society (inv. 630)

no image available
Boston, March 28, 1847 F.H. Lane del. Lane & Scott's Lith, Tremont Temple, Boston.
American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass.

Boston Athenaeum (inv. 427)

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Photo: Boston Athenaeum
Departure of the Jamestown, for Cork, Ireland, R. B. B. Forbes, Commander
Inscribed across bottom: Printed below image left to right: F. H. Lane, del. , Lane & Scotts Lith. Tremont Temple Boston.
Boston Athenaeum, Gift of Charles E. Mason, Jr., 1975 (1975.30)

Cape Ann Museum (inv. 406)

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Photo: Cape Ann Museum (inv. 406)
Boston, March 28, 1847 F.H. Lane del. Lane & Scott's Lith, Tremont Temple, Boston.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass.
On view at the Cape Ann Museum

The Huntington Library (inv. 716)

no image available
Boston, March 28, 1847 F.H. Lane del. Lane & Scott's Lith, Tremont Temple, Boston.
The Huntington Library, San Marino, California. The Jay T. Last Collection.

Peabody Essex Museum (inv. 664)

no image available
Boston, March 28, 1847 F.H. Lane del. Lane & Scott's Lith, Tremont Temple, Boston.
Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass. (M14300)

Peabody Essex Museum (inv. 741)

no image available
Boston, March 28, 1847 F.H. Lane del. Lane & Scott's Lith, Tremont Temple, Boston.
Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts (DA950.7.f67 1847)

Princeton University Library Rare Books and Special Collections (inv. 738)

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Photo: Princeton University Library (inv. 738)
Boston, March 28, 1847 F.H. Lane del. Lane & Scott's Lith, Tremont Temple, Boston.
Princeton University Library Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton , New Jersey, (GAX ND237.L24 F67)
Citation: "Departure of the "Jamestown" for Cork, Ireland, 1847 (inv. 475)." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/catalog/entry.php?id=475 (accessed January 20, 2020).
Record last updated July 27, 2016. Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
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