Search this catalogue
 [?]
 [?]
 [?]
 [?]
print this page

Catalog entry

inv. 6
A Calm Sea
c.1860
Oil on canvas
24 x 26 1/4 in. (61 x 66.7 cm)
No inscription found
On view at the Cape Ann Museum

Commentary

With the sun rising over a large bay, three vessels lie at anchor in the fore- and middle grounds. At left, a whaling schooner awaits the return of one of her whaleboats, the double-ended boat in the foreground with two men rowing while a third steers—the only movement in this calm scene. At right, a large packet ship awaits a tugboat to bring her to her berth for unloading. A merchant sloop lies alongside. In the background, another merchant ship, a brig, and other smaller vessels are faintly visible. Beyond them lies a shoreline with a low profile and subtle contours.

The evidence that A Calm Sea depicts New York Bay is compelling. The tugboat and packet are very similar to those in a much larger depiction of New York Harbor by Lane: New York Harbor, c.1855 (inv. 46). The sloop alongside the packet shows hull characteristics and a color scheme very common to Hudson River sloops. All are vessel types that are intimately—even uniquely—connected to that port and that period. The tugboat, then termed a steam propeller (for its screw propulsion in place of paddle wheels), was to be seen only in New York Harbor in this period.

The low background topography corresponds to Long Island’s west end, running south from Flatbush to Fort Hamilton. A contemporary chart has permitted a reconstruction of Lane's viewing point, which was probably on the northeast shore of Staten Island, just above the quarantine hospital at Tompkinsville, looking a few degrees south of due east. (See map below.)

Proximity to the quarantine hospital would explain why a whaler and a packet (presumably inbound) would be anchored here and not tied up at wharfside. The packet has presumably cleared quarantine, hence is off-loading some trade goods to the sloop while awaiting the tugboat. Quarantine would have been necessary for the whaler if she had stopped at a foreign port (presumably the Azores).

There is one anomalous feature in this vessel: two whaleboats, indicated by two pairs of davits on the starboard (right-hand) side. The after boat, absent from the davits, is presumably the one in the foreground. In place of the forward boat, there was normally a gangway for cutting-in the whale and boarding the blanket piece (blubber). No davits were used in this process, the blanket piece being hauled up and inboard with a heavy cutting-in tackle rigged from the masts. Lane was not apt to make a mistake of this magnitude, leading to the possibility (and only a possibility!) that the owners of whaling vessels from the New York area had ideas of their own for the arrangement of boats and gear.

The calm water and diffused light of the sun rising out of a humid horizon creates the feeling of suspended time and deep space that is characteristic of Lane’s mature work. The subject here is the light and atmosphere of a particular time of day and place. The boats are incidental characters positioned to lead the eye down the sun’s reflected path across the harbor. The blue and yellow tonality of the sky arches over the predominantly red highlights of the vessels and the greens of the water, a subtle use of complementary colors.

Compared to Lane’s other New York and Boston Harbor views, this example does not have the taut organization necessitated by the greater number of vessels that appear in most of those works. The painting employs the same central shaft of the sun’s reflection on the water to lead one deep into the harbor space and to impart this sense of tranquility and arrested time to a harbor still half-asleep. A Calm Sea was painted on commission from Captain Obadiah Woodbury (1784–1873).

– Erik Ronnberg and Sam Holdsworth

[+] See More

Supplementary Images

Overall infrared image reveals ruled horizon line underdrawn. There also appear to be dark drawn lin... [more]es for the rigging of the boat at left and faint lines used for the sails on the boat at right. – Marcia Steele
Photo: J. Neubecker, Cleveland Museum of Art
© Cape Ann Museum
Viewpoint chart showing Lane's location when making this image
 

Explore catalog entries by keywords view all keywords »

Subject Types:   Harbor Scene »
Seasons / Weather:   Calm Seas »   //   Sunrise »
Vessel Types:   Brig »   //   Schooner »   //   Sloop »   //   Tow Boat / Tug Boat »
Other Locales:   N.Y.: New York Harbor »

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

This is the only known depiction of a whaling schooner (detail) in Lane's work, believed to be in New York Harbor.

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

Detail of tug boat.

Image: Cape Ann Museum
[ top]
New York City Locales, Businesses, & Buildings: New York Harbor

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

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

References:

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

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

(2) Spann p.436.

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

(4) Burrows & Wallace, p.654

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

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

Also filed under: Castle Garden »

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

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

Also filed under: Schooner (Pilot) »

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

Also filed under: Tow Boat / Tug Boat »

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

Also filed under: Packet Shipping »

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

Also filed under: Maps »

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

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

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

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

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

Also filed under: Castle Garden »

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

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

Image: New York Public Library

Also filed under: Castle Garden »   //  Maps »

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

Detail of Whitehall boat.

Image: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Also filed under: Whitehall Boat »

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

Whaling schooners carried the standard two-masted fore-and-aft rig, almost always without square topsails, and were of moderate size (70 to 80 feet on deck), some later examples being larger. When built specifically for whaling, their bottoms had strong deadrise to keep ballast low in the hull and close to the centerline. This allowed easy initial heeling so the cutting-in tackle hung over the whale's carcass when cutting-in. Beyond that angle, the hull became much more resistant to heeling.

Distinguished by their whaleboats carried on side davits, there is currently only one known example of a whaling schooner depicted by Lane (see A Calm Sea, c.1860 (inv. 6), right foreground), and aspects of the boats and davits are open to question. It was customary for a small whaler to carry two boats on the port side and only one to starboard, leaving the midships part of the starboard side clear for cutting-in the whale. The davits in Lane's painting also differ in form and construction, having horizontal "arms" instead of curved ones.

The strong deadrise in whaling schooner bottoms had the added effect of making their bows and sterns sharper (below the waterline), while the need for work space on deck made their topside ends full and buoyant. A schooner built for whaling could be very able in heavy seas, and while not built for speed, was hardly the dull sailer imagined by many.

Whaling schooners carried three whaleboats ready for action, and often a "spare boat"—upside down—on the "tail feathers" as depicted by Lane. One of the whaleboats in his painting (Inv. 6 foreground) can be seen returning to the schooner. When "going on a whale." there were six men on —five rowing and one steering.

– Erik Ronnberg

References:

1. Clifford W. Ashley, The Yankee Whaler (Cambridge, MA: The Riverside Press, 1938), 45–47, 57–64.

2. James Templeman Brown, "The Whalemen, Vessels, Apparatus of the Fishery", in G. Brown Goode, The Fisheries and Fishery Industries of the United States (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1887), Section V, Vol. II, 232–35, 240–47.

3. Albert Cook Church, Whale Ships and Whaling (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1938), see photo nos. 2-6, 93-97, 114–23.

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

This is the only known depiction of a whaling schooner (detail) in Lane's work, believed to be in New York Harbor.

Also filed under: Whale Fishery »

[+]
[ top]

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

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

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

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

– Erik Ronnberg

References:

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

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

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

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

5. Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Engraving of ship.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

[+]
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 »

[+]
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.

[+]
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]

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

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

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

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

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

– Erik Ronnberg

References:

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

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

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

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

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

Detail of tug boat.

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

Also filed under: New York Harbor »

[+]
artwork
City of New York from Jersey City
1849
Lithograph
Published by N. Currier, New York
[+]
[ top]

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
[+]
[ top]
Maritime & Other Industries & Facilities: Whale Fishery

Given the preeminence of fishing and the foreign trade in Gloucester, it is hardly surprising that Lane gave so little attention to the whale fishery which was barely existent in seaports north of Cape Cod. Gloucester merchants made attempts at whaling in two periods: 1788–96 and 1833–36 with one other voyage in 1853-1854 and a failed attempt in the 1840s - ten voyages in a 60-year time span. There were whaling voyages out of nearby ports—Beverly, Salem, Lynn, and Boston—all on a similar scale, barely noticeable by comparison with other mercantile activity, not to mention the thriving whaling industry in New Bedford. (1)

While Lane made a lithograph of the port of New Bedford in View of New Bedford / From the Fort Near Fairhaven, 1845 (inv. 313), it was from another artist's drawing. There is no record of his having visited that city until 1856, when he observed and sketched the New York Yacht Club's regatta for a subsequent series of paintings (see New York Yacht Club Regatta, 1856 (inv. 66), New York Yacht Club Regatta, 1856 (inv. 270), New York Yacht Club Regatta, Mid 1850 (not published), New York Yacht Club Regatta, 1857 (not published)). There is also no evidence that he remained in New Bedford for any length of time to depict whaling vessels. As with New Bedford artist William Bradford and Albert van Beest, had friction developed between Lane and Bradford, who was also busy with his own depiction of the regatta? (2)

Lane's only known depiction of a whaling vessel—a whaling schooner—is apparently set in New York Harbor, probably at the time of his first visit (on record) to that city, in 1850. The schooner's hull and rig are typical for the period, the only jarring detail being two pairs of davits on the starboard (right-hand) side for the whaleboats when there should be only one. The forward davits and whaleboat should be on the port (left-hand) side, leaving the starboard midships unobstructed for cutting-in and boarding the whale's "blanket piece" (a wide strip if skin and blubber peeled continuously in a spiral). Given the possibility that this schooner hailed from a New York-based port with its own ideas of whaling, Lane may have rendered accurately a very atypical davit configuration. The whaleboats—including the one approaching the schooner—are accurately depicted. (3)

– Erik Ronnberg

References:

1. Alexander Starbuck, "History of the American Whale Fishery from Its Earliest Inception to the Year 1875", in Report of the Commissioner for 1875-76 (Washington: U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries, 1878), in tables showing returns of whaling vessels for ports and years cited.

2. Richard C. Kugler, "William Bradford", in Richard C Kugler (editor), William Bradford: Sailing Ships & Arctic Seas (New Bedford, Seattle, and London: New Bedford Whaling Museum and the University of Washington Press, 2003), 8–9.

3. G. Brown Goode, The Fish and Fisheries of the United States, Section V, Plates (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1887), see plates 185, 186, 188, 190.

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

This is the only known depiction of a whaling schooner (detail) in Lane's work, believed to be in New York Harbor.

Also filed under: Schooner (Whaling) »

[+]
[ top]

Captain Obadiah Woodbury (1784–1873) was a Gloucester Surinam trader who collaborated with George H. Rogers early in his career. (1) He commissioned Lane to paint "A Rough Sea." After growing up in poverty, Woodbury became a shoemaker and then a Surinam trader.

(1) Sarah Dunlap and Stephanie Buck, Fitz Henry Lane: Family and Friends (Gloucester, MAChurch & Mason Publishing; in association with the Cape Ann Historical Museum2007), 34–35.

See also: Alfred Mansfield Brooks, Gloucester Recollected: A Familiar History (Peter Smith, 1974), 65–69.

Related tables: Rogers, George H. »

Exhibition History

1993–94 Cape Ann Museum: Cape Ann Historical Association, Gloucester, Massachusetts, Training the Eye and Hand: Fitz Hugh Lane and Nineteenth Century American Drawing Books.

Published References

Wilmerding 1964: Fitz Hugh Lane, 1804–1865: American Marine Painter, p. 38.
American Neptune 1965: The American Neptune, Pictorial Supplement VII: A Selection of Marine Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane, 1804–1865, pl. XV, no. 83. ⇒ includes text
Worley 2004: "Fitz Hugh Lane and the Legacy of the Codfish Aristocracy," p. 72. ⇒ includes text
view all »

Interactive feature

Related historical materials

New York City Locales, Businesses, & Buildings
Vessel Types
Maritime & Other Industries & Facilities
People
Citation: "A Calm Sea, c.1860 (inv. 6)." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/catalog/entry.php?id=6 (accessed April 30, 2017).
Record last updated November 6, 2016. Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
Please share your knowledge with us: click here to leave feedback.