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Catalog entry

inv. 48
Boston Harbor
Boston Harbor at Sunset
c. 1850
Oil on canvas
26 x 42 in. (66 x 106.7 cm)
No inscription found

Commentary

Boston Harbor was a regular subject for Lane from at least 1847 through the late 1850s. It was an obvious subject for the marine painter who had lived and worked in various lithography studios overlooking the harbor and whose first Boston patrons were all involved in the maritime trades. The range of Lane’s Boston Harbor works over the years is fascinating. (See Earl A. Powell’s essay “The Boston Harbor Pictures” and, for example, Boston Harbor, 1856 (inv. 203) and Harbor of Boston, with the City in the Distance, c.1846–47 (inv. 88).) The influence of Robert Salmon is particularly strong in the early works, which are typically crowded scenes of intense activity, with the wind, clouds, and waves creating repeating patterns of movement that show the energy and ambition of the great port at its peak.

This painting, owned by the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (MFA), and its companion Boston Harbor, Sunset, 1850–55 (inv. 242) at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) must be treated together as they are fully developed variants on the same composition. They create a very different impression than Lane’s earlier Boston Harbor works. Here the subject is the hanging moment between day and night, between wind and calm, light and shadow, sails set and furled, boats entering and leaving, the enormity of the vessels and the smallness of man. Lane is in full mastery of his medium. In conception and execution these paintings go well beyond his previous harbor scenes. He has transformed a typical genre subject of vessels in a crowded harbor into poems of stillness, silence, and light, all hung on the geometric armature of the magnificent vessels and their alignment to the sun setting over the still harbor. Lane has taken the view as if one is low on the water in a small boat just behind the two men rowing into the path of the sunset, emphasizing the sheer mass of the great hulls and soaring height of sails and spars looming over them. The ships have seemingly transformed into enormous sentient beings of a mute order as they align themselves along a processional corridor, parting to let the rays of the setting sun reflect off the water and fill the viewer’s field of vision.

 

Boston Harbor, Sunset, 1850–55 (inv. 242)

Oil on canvas, 24 x 39 1/4 in.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of Jo Ann and Julian Ganz, Jr.,
in honor of the museum's 25th anniversary (AC1993.229.1)


The two paintings need to be seen together to appreciate the extent of Lane’s mastery of the subtle variations of sunset color and reflection in the two works, one keyed in shades of blue and yellow, the other in pinks, oranges, and browns. Also compare the organization of the great full-rigged merchant and packet ships that dominate the composition. In the MFA painting the ship on the right is facing the sunset, and the brig on the left with all sails set is facing the viewer. In the LACMA painting the order has been reversed, though they are different ships. Note also the ship on the right has all sails set, and the ship’s sails on the left are partially furled, another reversal of the MFA painting. In both paintings there are a surprising number of vessels (more in the MFA picture), yet both paintings feel spacious and almost empty in the reverential calm and order they evoke.

Both paintings can be dated sometime after 1853 as that was the year the steeple of the First Baptist Church was completed, shown just to the right of the State House dome on the horizon. The paintings were probably not done as companions for a single buyer as they are of a slightly different size. However, it’s hard to imagine Lane didn’t have both in his studio at the same time as he fully engaged in the variations on his theme. This author’s guess is he did the MFA painting first with its greater number of vessels, particularly those in the foreground. Following the reductive theme we see over Lane’s whole career, he then reduced the vessel numbers, simplified the foreground, and emphasized the direction of the composition by having the rowers align to the sunset. Note the vessel on the very far left in the MFA picture is angled away from the sunset; in the LACMA picture it is now pointed towards the sunset. Also note how Lane has tilted the lower yard arm of the far left vessel in the LACMA picture, creating a tension not present in the strict horizontals of the yard arms in the MFA work. The flawless palette shift to a dominant blue and yellow in the LACMA painting from the pinks and oranges of the MFA work is a further example of Lane’s full engagement and mastery of his medium. He is never content to copy but is always pushing the boundary of what he could do with a scene, here with extraordinary effect.  

– Sam Holdsworth

 

  1. Packet ship (2)
  2. Brig (2)
  3. Bark with harbor tug
  4. Half-brig (hermaphrodite brig)
  5. Schooner (2)
  6. Small coasting schooner with cargo of hay
  7. Sloop
  8. Yawl boat with sailing rig
  9. Coastal packet steamer

– Erik Ronnberg

 

 

[+] See More

Related Work in the Catalog

Supplementary Images

Microscope image (detail of State House)
Photo: Sandra Kelberlau
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Microscope image (detail of man rowing)
Photo: Sandra Kelberlau
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Boston Harbor (detail)
Photo: Sandra Kelberlau
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Boston Harbor (detail under transmitted light)
Photo: Sandra Kelberlau
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Boston Harbor (detail of pin pricks under transmitted light)
Photo: Sandra Kelberlau
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
 

Explore catalog entries by keywords view all keywords »

Subject Types:   Harbor Scene »
Seasons / Weather:   Sunset »
Vessel Types:   Brig »   //   New England Boat »   //   Schooner »   //   Sloop »   //   Steamship »
Massachusetts Locales:   Boston / Boston Harbor »
Activities of People:   Rowing »
Objects:   Barrel »   //   Vessel Signal Flag / Pennant »

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

[ top]
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.

[+]
map
1847 plan of the City of Boston
S.N. Dickinson, Printer
1847
Map insert to Boston Almanac and Directory
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

Also filed under: Maps »   //  Residences »   //  Tremont Temple »

[+]
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 Harbor »   //  Maps »   //  Tremont Temple »

[+]
map
1852 Map of the City of Boston and immediate neighborhood
Henry McIntyre
1852
Boston
Boston Public Library: Norman B. Leventhal Map Center
Call Number: G3764.B6 1852.M35

Also filed under: Maps »   //  Residences »

[+]
illustration
Boston, and Bunker Hill (from the east)
W.H. Bartlett
Book
American Scenery by N.P. Willis, Esq.
with 121 steel plate engravings from drawings by W.H. Bartlett
Imprint Society Barre, Massachusetts, 1971
[+]
illustration
View of State Street, Boston
W.H. Bartlett
Book
American Scenery by N.P. Willis, Esq.
with 121 steel plate engravings from drawings by W.H. Bartlett
Imprint Society Barre, Massachusetts, 1971
[+]
[ 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 »

[+]
publication
Boston Harbor Signal Book
John T. Smith
Boston: William White, 1857.
Harvard Depository: Widener (NAV 578.57)

For digitized version, click here.

[+]
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
[+]
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
[+]
[ top]
Boston Locales, Businesses, & Buildings: State House

The "new" State House is located across from the Boston Common on the top of Beacon Hill, and serves as the Massachusetts state capital. The land was once owned by Massachusetts's first elected governor, John Hancock. Charles Bullfinch was the architect of the building, which was completed in 1798.

The dome was originally roofed with wood shingles, which leaked. In 1802 it was covered with copper by Paul Revere's Revere Copper Company. The dome was first painted gray and then light yellow before being gilded with gold leaf in 1874.

photo (historical)
Massachusetts State House c. 1860
c 1860s
Photograph
Courtesy of the Bostonian Society
Image: Courtesy of the Bostonian Society
[+]
artwork
Old State House in Flames
Robert Salmon
The Bostonian Society (1883.0107)
lithograph
1832
"Salmon pinxt" at lower left; "Pendleton, Boston" at lower right
[+]
View of Boston
c.1848
Lithograph
Published by N. Currier, New York
Library of Congress Catalog Number 2002698122
[+]
[ top]

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

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

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

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

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

– Erik Ronnberg

References:

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

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

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

4. Parry, 95, see Definition 1.

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

Detail of brig "Cadet."

Also filed under: "Cadet" (Brig) »

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

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

Image: Erik Ronnberg

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

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

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

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

The colonial American shallop is the ancestor of many regional types of New England fishing craft found in Lane's paintings and drawings, including "New England Boats" (known as "boats"), and later descendents, such as "Chebacco Boats," "Dogbodies," and "Pinkies." (discussed elsewhere)

These boats were very common work boat types on Cape Ann throughout the 1800s. They were primarily used for inshore coastal fishing, which included lobstering, gill-netting, fish-trapping, hand-lining, and the like. They were usually sailed by one or two men, sometimes with a boy, and could be rowed as well as sailed. An ordinary catch would include rock cod, flounder, fluke, dabs, or other small flat fish. The catch would be eaten fresh, or salted and stored for later consumption, or used as bait fish. Gill-netting would catch herring and alewives when spawning. Wooden lobster traps were marked with buoys much as they are today, and hauled over the low sides of the boat, emptied of lobsters and any by-catch, re-baited and thrown back.

THE SHALLOP

Like other colonial vessel types, shallops were defined in many ways, including size, construction, and rig. Most commonly, they were open boats with square or sharp sterns, 20 to 30 feet in length, two-masted rigs, and heavy sawn­frame construction which in time became lighter. (1)

The smaller shallops developed into a type called the Hampton Boat early in the nineteenth century, becoming the earliest named regional variant of what is now collectively termed the New England Boat. Other variants were named for their regions of origin: Isles of Shoals Boat, Casco Bay Boat, No Mans Land Boat, to name a few. No regional name for a Cape Ann version has survived, and "boat," or "two­-masted boat" seems to have sufficed. (2)

Gloucester's New England Boats were mostly double-­enders (sharp sterns) ranging in length from 25 to 30 feet, with two masts and two sails (no bowsprit or jib). They were used in the shore fisheries: hand­lining, gill­netting, and gathering or trapping shellfish (see View from Kettle Cove, Manchester-by-the-Sea, 1847 (inv. 94), View of Gloucester Harbor, 1848 (inv. 97), and /entry: 240/). (3)

Larger, double­-ended shallops became decked and evolved in Ipswich (the part now called Essex) to become Chebacco Boats. (4) This variant retained the two­-mast, two-­sail rig, but evolved further, acquiring a bowsprit and jib and becoming known as a pinky (see Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck, 1844 (inv. 14), The Western Shore with Norman's Woe, 1862 (inv. 18), and The Old Fort and Ten Pound Island, Gloucester, 1850s (inv. 30)). The Chebacco Boat became a distinct type by the mid-eighteenth century giving rise to the pinky in the early ninetennth century; the latter, by the early 1900s. (5)

References:

1. William A. Baker, Sloops & Shallops (Barre, MA: Barre Publishing Co., 1966), 27–­33; and “Vessel Types of Colonial Massachusetts,” in Seafaring in Colonial Massachusetts (Boston: The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1980), 13­–15, see figs. 10, 11.

2. Howard I. Chapelle, American Small Sailing Craft (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1951), 136­–45.

3. Ibid., 145, upper photo, fourth page of plates.

4. Baker, 82–91.

5. Chapelle, The American Fishing Schooners, 1825­–1935 (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1973), 23­–54.

THE NEW ENGLAND BOAT

By the 1840s, the Gloucester version of the New England Boat had evolved into a distinct regional type. Referred to locally as “boats,” the most common version was a double-ender, i.e. having a pointed stern, unlike the less common version having a square stern.

Both variants had two masts, a foresail, a mainsail, but no bowsprit or jib. Lane depicted both in several paintings, beginning in the mid­-1840s (see View from Kettle Cove, Manchester-by-the-Sea, 1847 (inv. 94), View of Gloucester Harbor, 1848 (inv. 97), and /entry: 240/), all ranging 25 to 30 feet in length. In View of Gloucester Harbor, 1848 (inv. 97) and Gloucester Inner Harbor, 1850 (inv. 240), a double-­ender can be seen on the beach while a square-stern version lies at anchor in the harbor, just to the right of the former. (1)

Lane’s depictions of the double-­enders show lapstrake hull planking in View of Gloucester Harbor, 1848 (inv. 97) and Gloucester Inner Harbor, 1850 (inv. 240), and cuddies (short decking) inboard at the ends for shelter and stowage of fishing gear in View from Kettle Cove, Manchester-by-the-Sea, 1847 (inv. 94). The few square-­stern examples (see View of Gloucester Harbor, 1848 (inv. 97) and Gloucester Inner Harbor, 1850 (inv. 240)) suggest carvel (smooth) planking and paint finish, rather than oil and tar. The presence of an example of the latter variant in Boston Harbor, as noted in Boston Harbor, c. 1850 (inv. 48), suggests a broader geographical range for this sub­type. (2)

The primary use of Cape Ann’s “boats” was fishing, making “day trips” to coastal grounds for cod, herring, mackerel, hake, flounder, and lobster, depending on the season. Fishing gear included hooks and lines, gill nets, and various traps made of wood and fish net.

Some boats worked out of Gloucester Harbor, but other communities on Cape Ann had larger fleets, such as Sandy Bay, Pigeon Cove, Folly Cove, Lanesville, Bay View, and Annisquam. Lane’s depictions of these places and their boats are rare to nonexistent. (3)

The double­-ended boat served Lane in marking the passage of time in Gloucester Harbor. In View from Kettle Cove, Manchester-by-the-Sea, 1847 (inv. 94), we see new boats setting out to fish, but in View of Gloucester Harbor, 1848 (inv. 97) and Gloucester Inner Harbor, 1850 (inv. 240), a boat of the same type is depicted in a progressively worn state. In Stage Fort across Gloucester Harbor, 1862 (inv. 237), the boat is a stove hulk on a beach, and in the same year, Lane depicted the type’s shattered bottom frame and planking lying on the shore at Norman’s Woe in Norman's Woe, Gloucester Harbor, 1862 (inv. 1).

Regional variants of the New England Boat appear in Lane’s paintings of Maine harbors, including one­ and two­-masted versions, collectively called Hampton Boats (see Bear Island, Northeast Harbor, 1855 (inv. 24), Ten Pound Island at Sunset, 1851 (inv. 25), Fishing Party, 1850 (inv. 50), Father's (Steven's) Old Boat, 1851 (inv. 190), and "General Gates" at Anchor off Our Encampment at Bar Island in Somes Sound, Mount Desert, Maine, 1850 (inv. 192)). Some distinctive regional types were given names, i.e. Casco Bay Boats ("General Gates" at Anchor off Our Encampment at Bar Island in Somes Sound, Mount Desert, Maine, 1850 (inv. 192) may be one), but many local type names, if they were coined, have been lost. (4)

References:

1. Howard I. Chapelle, American Small Sailing Craft (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1951), 141–42.

2. Ibid., 152­–55.

3. Sylvanus Smith, Fisheries of Cape Ann (Gloucester, MA: Press of the Gloucester Times, 1915), 96–­97, 102–05, 110­–13.

4. Chapelle, 152–55.

photo (historical)
Casco Bay boat "Grey Eagle" at head of Lobster Cove, Annisquam
Martha Hale Harvey
1890s
Photograph
Cape Ann Museum Library and Archives

Variant of the New England boat described by Howard I. Chapelle in American Small Sailing Craft (1951), pp. 152–55.

[+]
model
Colonial Shallop model (broadside)
MIT Museum
Image: Colonial Shallop Model made by Malcolm Gidley under supervision of William A. Baker, N.A. Courtesy of Hart Nautical Collections, MIT Museum, Cambridge

Also filed under: Ship Models »

[+]
model
Colonial Shallop model (stern view)
MIT Museum
Image: Colonial Shallop Model made by Malcolm Gidley under supervision of William A. Baker, N.A. Courtesy of Hart Nautical Collections, MIT Museum, Cambridge

Also filed under: Ship Models »

[+]
[ top]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Erik Ronnberg

References:

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

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

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

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

5. Ibid., 42–43, 73.

6. Ibid., 74–76.

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

Also filed under: Lumber Industry »

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

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

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

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

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

Also filed under: Lobstering »

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

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

Also filed under: Castine »   //  Lumber Industry »

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

See p. 474.

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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.

[+]
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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Sloops are one-masted sailing vessels which, in American examples, set fore-and-aft sails but usually no square sails. Thus, staysails, or jibs, are set from the fore stay(s) and a quadrilateral mainsail is set from the mast and spread by a gaff and a boom. The larger sloops would often set a triangular topsail over the main sail. (1)

The sloops depicted by Lane were used in various coastal trades, each with its own requirements, which dictated the sizes and details of their hulls and rigs. Most elegant were the packet sloops, which transported passengers, mail, and higher value goods between specific ports on regular schedules. They usually measured between sixty and seventy-five feet on deck, as dictated by anticipated shipping volume. Finely finished, they usually had stern galleries—a row of windows across the transom with ornamental moldings—and varied color schemes. Examples of packet sloops are in Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck, 1844 (inv. 14) (center, middle ground) and Study of Ships, 1851 (inv. 141) (foreground), both of which probably made trips between Gloucester and Boston, or Gloucester and Newburyport. (2)

Another specialized sloop of similar size was the stone sloop, used to ship granite blocks from stone-loading piers around Cape Ann to other ports. They were similar in rig to packet sloops, but of heavier construction with greater hold capacity and absence of decoration. Their stout appearance was augmented by simple color schemes, or even tarred topsides, reflecting the wear and strain imposed by their heavy cargos. Lane depicted these vessels in his painting of Fresh Water Cove from Dolliver's Neck, Gloucester, Early 1850s (inv. 45), with a sloop (at left) preparing to load at wharf-side, and another (at right) sailing out with a cargo. (3)

Sloops of the more work-a-day sort are the most commonly seen examples in Lane’s paintings, most of them appearing in his views of Boston Harbor. Usually deep-loaded and looking weather-worn, they contrast sharply with the packet- and clipper ships which dominate the scene. Sloops of this type are rarely seen in Lane’s paintings of Gloucester Harbor and the Maine coast, although they were certainly needed for short-distance transportation (see Bear Island, Northeast Harbor, 1855 (inv. 24), View of Camden Mountains from Penobscot Bay, c.1852 (inv. 207), Sunrise on the Maine Coast, Mount Desert Island, 1856 (not published)). For coastal Maine, lack of railroads for heavier freight and greater distances between ports made the use of schooners with larger carrying capacity a greater necessity. (4)

In Lane’s views of New York Harbor, a regional sloop variant, the Hudson River Sloop, appears in New York Harbor, c.1855 (inv. 46) (bow view, left) and A Calm Sea, c.1860 (inv. 6) (stern view, right). This type had become prominent in the Hudson River packet trade between New York City, Albany, and beyond to points north and west as far as the eastern terminus of the Erie Canal.  Large vessels for their rigs, they were well-finished and well-kept, reflecting pride of ownership and rivalry among their owners and crews. (5)

– Erik Ronnberg

References:

1. A Naval Encyclopaedia (Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1884. Reprint: Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1971), 59.  See first definition of "sloop" and definition of "sloop-rigged."

2. Robert Greenhalgh Albion, William A. Baker, and Benjamin Woods Labaree, New England and the Sea (Mystic, CT: Mystic Seaport Museum, 1972; reprinted in 1994), 127–28.

3. Howard I. Chapelle, The History of American Sailing Ships (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1935), 300–02.

4. Ibid., 300.

5. Ibid., 298–300.

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

A sloop has one mast, fore-and-aft rigged.

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publication
Bermudian sloop
1884
A Naval Encyclopaedia:
Dictionary of nautical words and phrases
Special Articles on Naval Art and Science
Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersly & Co.

'Mudian, "Mugian, or Bermudian. A boat special to the Bermuda islands, usually decked, with the exception of a hatch; from 2 to 20 tons burden; it is short, of good beam, and great draft of water abaft, the stem and keel forming a curved line. It carries an immense quantity of ballast. Besides a long main- and short jib-boom, it has a long, taperking, raking mast, stepped just over the forefoot, generally unsupported by shrouds or stays; on it a jib-headed mainsail is hoisted to a height of twice, and sometimes three times, the length of the keel. This sail is triangular, stretched at its foot by a long boom. The only other sail is a small foresail or jib. They claim to be the fastest craft in the world for working to windward in smooth water, it being recorded of one that she made five miles dead to windward in the hour during a race; and though they may be laid over until they fill with water, they will not capsize.

[+]
artwork
Bermudian sloop in St. Georges Harbor, Bermuda
Edward James
c. 1864
St. George's Historical Society
Detail of painting of St. George's Harbour, Bermuda, during US Civil War, with a Confederate blockade runner anchored in the foreground.

Also filed under: Puerto Rico »

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object
Scale model of stone sloop "Albert Baldwin"
William Niemi
c.1940
Wood, metal, cordage, cloth, paint.
Scale: ¼ in. = 1ft. (1:48)
Cape Ann Museum. Gift of Roland and Martta Blanchet (1997.17.3)

Although built in 1890 and larger than the stone sloops of Lane’s time, the "Albert Baldwin’s" hull form, rig, and loading boom are very similar to those of the 1840s and 1850s.

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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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The term “wherry”—variously spelled—has a long history with many hull types, some dating from the fifteenth century. (1) The version known to Lane appears to be a variant of the dory hull form and probably was developed by French and English fishermen in the Newfoundland fisheries before 1700. (2) From that time, the wherry and the dory co-evolved, their similarities the result of their construction, their differences the result of use. By the early nineteenth century, their forms reached their final states, if fragments of contemporary descriptions are any indication. (3)

By the time Lane was depicting wherries, the type (as used for fishing) resembled a larger, wider version of a dory. The extra width was due to greater bottom width (both types had flat bottoms), with a wider transom at the stern instead of the narrow, v-shaped “tombstone.” These features are easy to see in one of his drawings (see Three Men, One in a Wherry (inv. 225)) and a painting (see Sunrise through Mist, 1852 (inv. 98)), the latter depicted alongside a dory, clearly showing the differences.

No published descriptions of the uses of wherries on Cape Ann in Lane’s time have come to light, but an example in broadside view offers one use. In Becalmed Off Halfway Rock, 1860 (inv. 344), a pinky (in right foreground) has a dory and a wherry in tow, the latter loaded with a gill net for catching mackerel. (4) The greater size of the wherry is required for stowing the net, as well as setting it while the dory tows away one end to set it in way of the mackerel school.

In Lane’s time, wherries would have been used where bulky gear was called for in the coastal fisheries, i.e. gill nets, and fish traps such as pound nets, fyke nets, and lobster traps. Migrating fish schools (herring, mackerel) and shellfish were the target species.

The dory’s development was first dictated by its use in shore fishing, where small size and light weight made it easy to maneuver around rocks and shallows, and to haul ashore at the end of a day’s work. Its simple design made it easy and cheap to build. This is borne out by the standardized construction and sizes used by Simon Lowell’s boat shop at Salisbury Point, Massachusetts at the turn of the nineteenth century. Lowell called his boats “wherries,” but in Swampscott, Massachusetts, the fishermen, who used them called them “dories,” which may mark the beginning of the latter term’s wider use. (5)

The dories we see in Lane’s paintings are in virtually every way like the ones we know today. One of the best examples (see View from Kettle Cove, Manchester-by-the-Sea, 1847 (inv. 94)) even shows interior detail, including frames, leaving no doubt about its construction. Other good examples are found in Salem Harbor, 1853 (inv. 53), View of Gloucester Harbor, 1848 (inv. 97), and Sunrise through Mist, 1852 (inv. 98).

For inshore fishing, dories were used to catch mackerel and herring, either with hook and line or with small nets. Hooks and line were used for flat fish (flounder, dab, and fluke), rock cod, hake, and cunner. Eels were speared (see View from Kettle Cove, Manchester-by-the-Sea, 1847 (inv. 94)), clams were dug, and lobsters trapped. In Lane’s later years, the use of dories in trawling (setting long “trawl lines” with many baited hooks) was in its earliest. This method required six to ten dories carried on board a schooner to fish on the distant banks off New England and Canada. Early records of dory trawling in New England are fragmentary, giving the mid-1840s as the time of introduction. (6) The Gloucester-owned schooner "Anna"  made a successful dory trawling trip to the Grand Banks in 1854, but no depiction of this vessel by Lane has been found or recorded. (5) Despite successful early efforts, dory trawling from Gloucester was slow to be accepted, and the fishery had very limited growth prior to 1860. (7)

– Erik Ronnberg

References:

1. M.H. Parry et al., Aak to Zumbra (Newport News, VA: The Mariners’ Museum, 2000), 634.

2. John Gardner, The Dory Book (Camden, ME: International Marine Publishing Company, 1978), 5–9.

3. Ibid., 25–29.

4. John Wilmerding, ed., Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1988), 89, 92. The “possibly discarded whaleboat” is definitely a wherry.

5. Gardner, 9, 10.

6. Wesley George Pierce, Goin’ Fishin’ (Salem, MA: Marine Research Society, 1934), 63–64.

7. Raymond McFarland, A History of New England Fisheries (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1911), 279.

photo (historical)
Lobsterman's dory beached at Salt Island
Martha Hale Harvey
1890s
Photograph
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive
[+]
photo (historical)
Cape Ann Scenery: No. 114 Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck
John S. E. Rogers
c.1870
Stereograph card
Procter Brothers, Publisher
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

"Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck, Looking Southwest. This gives a portion of the Harbor lying between Ten Pound Island and Eastern Point. At the time of taking this picture the wind was from the northeast, and a large fleet of fishing and other vessels were in the harbor. In the range of the picture about one hundred vessels were at anchor. In the small Cove in the foreground quite a number of dories are moored. Eastern Point appears on the left in the background."

Southeast Harbor was known for being a safe harbor.

[+]
model
Model of the pinky "Essex" with dory and wherry alongside
Model and photography by Erik A.R. Ronnberg, Jr.
[+]
illustration
Hull chart
In Howard I. Chappelle, American Small Sailing Craft (New York: Norton, 1951), p. 154

See fig. 56.

[+]
model
Joseph A. Proctor (Gloucester, MA) fisherman's dory
Wood
Gloucester, MA
4 x 33 1/2 x 7 1/4 in (10.16 x 85.09 x 18.415 cm)
Peabody Essex Museum
Image: Peabody Essex Museum

Also filed under: Objects »   //  Ship Models »

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

Also filed under: Historic Photographs »   //  Steamers »

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

See p. 30 of directory.

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

Jonny and a Yankee:

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

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

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

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

– Erik Ronnberg

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

Also filed under: Castine »

[+]
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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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).
[+]
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 »

[+]
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.

[+]
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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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 »

[+]
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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From the days of the earliest English settlements on Cape Ann through Fitz Henry Lane’s lifetime, subsistence farmers harvested hay during the summer and autumn months and stored it away to feed livestock during the winter. They also sold it to others in the community for cash or bartered it for other goods and services. Two types of hay were harvested: English hay, meaning hay that was cultivated, and salt marsh hay which was cut from tidal areas where it grew naturally. Many farmers dealt in both. Hay was transported either in wagons drawn by horses or oxen, or by gundalows, flat bottom work boats which could easily maneuver in shallow marsh areas. One example of a family who engaged in haying was the Ellerys who lived at Gloucester’s old Town Green. An account book which Benjamin Ellery (1744–1825) kept is preserved in the archives of the Cape Ann Museum. It reveals that Ellery dealt in both cultivated and natural hay as well as other commodities. He also owned a gundilow, oxen and wagons, all of which he used for his own purposes and made available to others on a barter basis. The practice of haying died out on Cape Ann as automobiles and trucks came into use during the first quarter of the twentieth century and livestock disappeared from the area.

– Martha Oaks (April, 2015)

artwork
Babson and Ellery Houses, Gloucester
Fitz Henry Lane
1863
Oil on canvas
22 x 36 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., Gift of Roger W. Babson, 1937 (779.02)

Detail showing a flat-bottomed gundalow loaded with marsh hay and being propelled by men with long sweeps.

Also filed under: Babson House »   //  Gundalow / Scow »

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Vessel ornamentation assumed two forms: carvings and color schemes. Carvings, or "ship carvings," as they are called by maritime scholars, are usually crafted in wood and painted or gilt. Many vessels were too small or their owners too frugal to permit carved embellishments, in which cases the enhancement of the vessel's color scheme was a practical alternative. This can be seen in many of the coastal vessels along the new England coast. Pinkies and Chebacco boats had handsome color schemes using only black and green with white sheer lines and limited use of red and yellow. Other combinations of inexpensive pigments were used to improve the simple looks of sloops and schooners in the packet trade, while small pleasure craft and pilot schooners enhanced their appearance in similar ways. Clipper ship owners, finding their vessels' appearance impressive without adding color, settled for unrelieved black hulls. Naval vessels as well preserved their formidable looks with black, relieved only with a white belt in way of the gunports. 

The more elaborate ship carvings can be classified in the following categories:

Billetheads: mounted on the bow, at the end of a simple gammon knee, or on the forward end of an elaborate stem-head, they can be scrolls of less or greater intricacy, or sometimes the heads of animals, eagles being the most common. Examples of a sea serpent's head, a pointing hand, and other animal heads have been found. (See Brig "Cadet" in Gloucester Harbor, late 1840s (inv. 13); Brig "Antelope" in Boston Harbor, 1863 (inv. 43); and Brig Off the Maine Coast, 1851 (inv. 241))

Figureheads: mounted on bows of larger vessels, often with elaborate stem joinerwork (trailboards and headboards with associated knees and rails). Usually these were full-length figures representing the ship's owner, a famous citizen, a mythological person or animal, or an eagle. (See Portrait of the "National Eagle", 1853 (inv. 35) (eagle); New York Harbor, c.1855 (inv. 46); The "Britannia" Entering Boston Harbor, 1848 (inv. 49) (female figures); The Ships "Winged Arrow" and "Southern Cross" in Boston Harbor, 1853 (inv. 54) (dragon and eagle); "Starlight" in Harbor, c.1855 (inv. 249) (dragon); and Steam demi bark Antelope, 615 tons, c.1855 (inv. 375) (antelope))

Trailboards: carved vines or scrollwork abaft the figurehead which trail aft along the stem head in a graceful descending arc, terminating at the hawse pipes. They are usually gilt and frequently ornamented with carved rosettes and other devices. (See Brig "Cadet" in Gloucester Harbor, late 1840s (inv. 13); Portrait of the "National Eagle", 1853 (inv. 35); Brig "Antelope" in Boston Harbor, 1863 (inv. 43);  New York Harbor, c.1855 (inv. 46); and The Ships "Winged Arrow" and "Southern Cross" in Boston Harbor, 1853 (inv. 54))

Headboards: boards mounted to headrails connecting the figurehead to the ship's mainrail at the catheads. While seldom given any decorative carvings, the vessel's nameboards were often mounted to them. (See Brig "Cadet" in Gloucester Harbor, late 1840s (inv. 13); Portrait of the "National Eagle", 1853 (inv. 35); Brig "Antelope" in Boston Harbor, 1863 (inv. 43); The Ships "Winged Arrow" and "Southern Cross" in Boston Harbor, 1853 (inv. 54); Clipper Ship "Southern Cross" in Boston Harbor, 1851 (inv. 253); and Mary Ann, 1846 (not published))

Catheads: Carved lion heads mounted on the outboard ends of the cathead knees. This term is so archaic that the knees and carvings are treated as one and the same, as in their use, i.e. "catting the anchor" (securing the anchor ring to the cathead). (See Brig "Antelope" in Boston Harbor, 1863 (inv. 43); and An American Frigate Hove-to Off the New England Coast (not published))

Quarterboards: Name boards mounted to the vessel's side near the stern, they usually had ornamental edge moldings and sometimes stars or simple scrollwork at each end of the name. (See Portrait of the "National Eagle", 1853 (inv. 35); Mary Ann, 1846 (not published); and Spitfire Entering Boston Harbor (not published))

Transom arches: arch-form panels fitted to the transom, often over gallery lights (windows) or other carvings. They usually have edge moldings, decorative scrollwork, and sometimes a bust or other carved figure at the center.

Other transom carvings: carved eagles, busts, scrollwork and coats of arms can occupy the space between the transom arch and the sternboard. If galleries are present, carved scrollwork may be fitted between the frames of the gallery lights. (See Boston Harbor, c. 1850 (inv. 48); Topsail Schooner, 1846 (not published) (eagle); Baltimore Harbor, 1850 (not published) (eagle); and Rough Sea, Schooners, c.1856 (not published) (eagle and flags))

Sternboard: often the bottom plank of the transom on which the vessel's name is carved or painted, seldom with decoration (stars or scrollwork). There is usually simple protective molding above and below the lettering.

Sideboards, or gangway boards: boards on either side of an entry way at main rail level on a large ship, usually between the main and mizen masts. They are carved and painted or (if of fine hardwood) varnished. Most commonly seen on larger vaval vessels, packet ships, and clipper ships.

– Erik Ronnberg

References:

1. Brewington, M. V., Shipcarvers of North America, (Barre, MA: Barre Publishing Co., 1962).

2. The American Neptune, Pictorial Supplement XIX, "The Art of the Shipcarver" (Salem, MA: The Peabody Museum, 1977).

3. Ship Figureheads (Boston: State Street Trust Co., n.d.).

4. Edouard A. Stackpole, Figureheads & Carvings at Mystic Seaport (Mystic, CT: The Marine Historical Association, Inc., 1964).  

Billet head
Unknown
1855
Carved wood with paint and gilt
12 x 22 x 8 in.
Cape Ann Museum. Gift of George W. Woodbury, 1936 (747)

This sea serpent billet head came from the schooner "Diadem" which was built in Essex, Massachusetts, in 1855 and owned by D. Elwell Woodbury and John H. Welsh of Gloucester.

Sea serpents were reportedly sighted here on Cape Ann from colonial times through the mid-nineteenth century. In 1817, more than 50 people, many of them prominent members of the community, reported seeing a serpent in the waters of Gloucester Harbor just off Pavilion Beach. So credible were the reports that the Linnaean Society of New England collected depositions from witnesses and published their findings in a small pamphlet entitled Report of a Committee of the Linnaean Society of New England relative to a Large Marine Animal Supposed to be A Serpent, seen Near Cape Ann, Massachusetts, in August 1817.

Also filed under: Objects »   //  Pavilion (Publick) Beach »

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publication
Ship Carvers of North America
M. V. Brewington
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Robert Salmon was born in Whitehaven, Cumberland, England as Robert Salomon in 1775. He spent his early years working in England specializing in marine art. He then emigrated to Boston in 1828. He prospered in the Boston art scene and quickly became a prominent artist. In 1842 he left Boston and returned to Europe where he painted until 1845.

Reference:

John Wilmerding, Robert Salmon: Painter of Ship & Shore. Salem: Peabody Museum.

publication
1847 Gloucester Telegraph 12.25.1847
12.25.1847
Newspaper
Gloucester Telegraph

In this article, a moonlight view of the harbor of Cape Ann by Lane is described in detail by a viewer and his skill in depicting the Cape Ann coastline is praised. Lane's associates, Salmon and Birch, are mentioned, but as comparisons to Lane. "Those who visited his room, were highly pleased with the skill he manifested in portraying the beauties of our coast."

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publication
1851 Boston Evening Transcript 10.31.1851
"Art Intelligence"

"-Mr. Lane, the distinguished painter of marine views, is in town on a flying visit. Lane is a resident of Gloucester in this State. Since Salmon's death, we have no one, who can paint a ship and an ocean prospect like him. His "squalls at sea" are the best things of the kind, that we remember to have seen."

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publication
1851 Gloucester Telegraph 11.5.1851
11.5.1851
Newsprint
Gloucester Telegraph: pg. 2, Column. 4
Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society

"The Boston Transcript, speaking of our fellow townsman Lane, says: - 'Since Salmon's death, we have no one, who can paint a ship and an ocean prospect like him. His "squalls at sea" are the best things of the kind, that we remember to have seen.'"

Image: Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society
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publication
1856 Gloucester Telegraph 4.25.1856
4.25.1856
Newspaper

"...It was my good fortune, in the company of a few friends, to visit Mr. Lane's studio where are several fine paintings. Among these were a night scene, with the full moon shining upon the dark tranquil waters with a fire in the distance, which uniting with the soft rays of the moon gave it a most delightful effect. Also a view of Boston with its magnificent harbor, on which are many fine vessels, steamboats, &c. The picture represents a beautiful, calm day, with many fine craft all ready for sea, with their graceful shadows reflected so life-like in the waters, that one feels he too is standing on board, will soon be moving on that expanse which Mr. Lane has made so delightfully placid, that even the greatest coward would be allured into a sea voyage.

I suppose it is generally known that Mr. Lane stands highest– as a marine artist– in the world. Salmon by many was considered his superior, while others gave Lane the precedence. Salmon has passed away with the last year, leaving his immortal gifts and laurels to Europe, while Mr. Lane still lives to bring down the glorious clouds, and make the mighty ocean subservient to his tastes.–

May he long live to gladden the world with his precious gifts, and enjoy his delightful home which refined tastes are beautifying.

His residence commands one of the finest water prospects in town. Standing upon the threshold of his delightful home, we witnessed one of those glorious sunsets which can only be seen in our New England Springs, and as we looked abroad, my friend remarked,"truly, Mr. L. has made the waste places glad." –LOUISE.

[The view in Boston Harbor of which our fair correspondent speaks has been placed on exhibition for a few days in the Reading Room of the Marine Insurance Company. It is a rare specimen of excellence in naval painting. There is a type of almost all the various classes of vessels composing our marine, and so truthfully rendered as to defy criticism. –Ed.Tel]

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artwork
Old State House in Flames
Robert Salmon
The Bostonian Society (1883.0107)
lithograph
1832
"Salmon pinxt" at lower left; "Pendleton, Boston" at lower right
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artwork
Soft Glides the Sea, Bounding and Free
Pendleton's Lithography
1831
Lithographic sheet music
11 x 7 1/4 in.
Boston Athenaeum
Image: Boston Athenaeum
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artwork
U.S. Navy Yard, Charleston, Mass.
Robert Salmon
1828
Lithograph
4 x 5 3/4 in
Pendleton's Lithography
American Antiquarian Society, Worcester
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Exhibition History

1976 Galleria nazionale: Galleria nazionale d'arte moderna, Valle Giulai, Rome, 200 anni di pittura americana (1776–1976), lent by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
1980 National Gallery of Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, District of Columbia, American Light: The Luminist Movement, 1850–1875.
1980–81 Museum of Fine Arts: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and American Federation of Arts, Des Moines, Iowa, The Boston Tradition, lent by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
1988 National Gallery of Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, District of Columbia, Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane, no. 24, ill. in color, 51, as Boston Harbor.

Published References

Wilmerding 1968: A History of American Marine Painting.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 1969: American Paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 1970: 100 Paintings from the Boston Museum.
Wilmerding 1971a: Fitz Hugh Lane.
Wilmerding 1971b: Robert Salmon: Painter of Ship & Shore.
Gustafson 1978: "Museum Accessions."
Troyen 1980: The Boston Tradition: American Paintings from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Wilmerding 1980a: American Light: The Luminist Movement, 1850–1875, fig. 239, p. 42, text, pp. 111, 221.
Novak 1980b: Nature and Culture: American Landscape Painting, 1825–1875.
Hoffman 1983: "The Art of Fitz Hugh Lane," p. 32.
Novak 1984: "The Meteorological Vision in American Landscape Painting."
Fazio 1986: Masterpiece Paintings from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Wilmerding 1988a: Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane, ill. in color p. 51, ill. in b/w p. 100 cat. 24, as Boston Harbor at Sunset.
Cape Ann 1993: Training the Eye and the Hand: Fitz Hugh Lane and 19th Century Drawing Books, p. 26-27; p. 33, fig. 26, as Boston Harbor at Sunset.
Davis 1995: "American Drawing Books and Their Impact on Fitz Hugh Lane," fig. 9, p. 97, text, p. 96. ⇒ includes text
Novak 1995: Nature and Culture: American Landscape Painting, 1825–1875, no. 150, ill. in color as insert, as Boston Harbor at Sunset.
Hughes 1997: American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America.
Troyen, Moore, and Diamond 1997: American Painting in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue.
Bjelajac 2000: American Art: A Cultural History.
Wilmerding 2005: Fitz Henry Lane, ill. 76, as Boston Harbor at Sunset.
Craig 2006a: Fitz H. Lane: An Artist's Voyage through Nineteenth-Century America, pl. 8, as Boston Harbor at Sunset.
Scheller 2008: America A History in Art: American Journey Told by Painters, Sculptors, Photographers, and Architects.
Newton and Steele 2009: "The Series Paintings of Fitz Henry Lane: From Field Sketch to Studio Painting," fig. 3, p. 201, text, p. 198, as Boston Harbor at Sunset. ⇒ includes text
Newton 2010: "Fitz Henry Lane's Series Paintings of "Brace's Rock": Meaning and Technique," as Boston Harbor. ⇒ includes text
view all »

Interactive feature

Citation: "Boston Harbor, c. 1850 (inv. 48)." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/catalog/entry.php?id=48 (accessed May 23, 2017).
Record last updated March 14, 2017. Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
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