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Historical Materials: Vessel Types

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Brig (Hermaphrodite or Half)

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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. (1)

The half-brig was the most common brig type used in the coasting trade and appears often in Lane’s coastal and harbor scenes. The type was further identified by the cargo it carried, if it was conspicuously limited to a specialized trade. Lumber brigs (see Shipping in Down East Waters, 1854 (inv. 212) and View of Southwest Harbor, Maine: Entrance to Somes Sound, 1852 (inv. 260)) and hay brigs (see Lighthouse at Camden, Maine, 1851 (inv. 320)) were recognizable by their conspicuous deck loads. Whaling brigs were easily distinguished by their whaleboats carried on side davits (see Ships in the Harbor (not published)). (2)

 – Erik Ronnberg


1. M.H. Parry, et al., Aaak to Zumbra: A Dictionary of the World's Watercraft Newport News, VA: The Mariners’ Museum, 2000), 268, 274; and A Naval Encyclopaedia (L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1884. Reprint: Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1971), 93, under "Brig-schooner."

2. W.H. Bunting, An Eye for the Coast (Gardiner, ME: Tilbury House: 1998), 52–54, 68–69; and W.H. Bunting, A Day's Work, part 1 (Gardiner, ME: Tilbury House: 1997), 52.

Related tables: Brig »

photo (historical)
Canadian Brig "Ohio" in East Gloucester

Canadian brig "Ohio" iced in off Reed & Gamage Wharf, East Gloucester.

photo (historical)
A half brig being towed to the Bay in New York Harbor
George Stacy
Johnson, H. and Lightfoot, F.S.: Maritime New York in Nineteenth-Century Photographs, Dover Publications, Inc., New York
Hermaphrodite Brig
Engraving in R. H. Dana, The Seaman's Friend, 13th ed. (Thomas Groom & Co. Publisher, 1873)

An hermaphrodite brig is square-rigged at her foremast; but has no top, and only fore-and-aft sails at her main mast.

Lumber Brig in High Seas
Fitz Henry Lane
Oil on canvas
10 1/8 x 16 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., Gift of the Estate of Anne K. Garland, 1990 (2676.00)

Detail of lumber brig.

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
Citation: "Vessel Types." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum.§ion=Brig+%28Hermaphrodite+or+Half%29&ref=catalog:446 (accessed July 20, 2024).
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