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Historical Materials: Vessel Types
Yacht & Small Pleasure Craft
Yachts and yachting in ninteenth-century America were the preserve of the wealthy, and in Lane's early career were just beginning to organize as yacht clubs with scheduled regattas. The New York Yacht Club, founded in 1844, was the first such organization and had few rival clubs for racing or cruising until after the Civil War. (1) In Boston, by contrast, yachts of any size were few. Instead of regattas, competition was in the form of match races, between two vessels, with cash prizes as a substitute for trophies. Often, the only serious competition for a Boston-owned yacht was one of the crack pilot schooners, and it was not uncommon for a yacht to be sold for pilot service or vice-versa. (2)
If Lane had opportunity to portray any yachts in Boston, only his depiction of schooner "Northern Light" (see) has been found to date, and that was based on a drawing by Robert Salmon. (3) It seems likely that he would have depicted more Boston yachts, some of which images might still exist in private collections not currently accessible. For more depictions of yachts by Lane, we must look to New York.
Lane is known to have made two paintings of the schooner yacht "America." The more familiar onewas based on a lithograph derived from a painting by Oswald Brierly who witnessed and sketched "America" as she raced for the trophy that now bears her name. (4)
The other paintingwas very possibly based on sketches of the designer's half-model, or even the actual vessel under construction. In either case, Lane's drawings and any notes would have been made before the hull and deck details were finalized. (5)
It would not be until August 8, 1856 that Lane would see and sketch a major yacht regatta—held by the New York Yacht Club at New Bedford, Massachusetts. From this event, he painted four known views, each depicting a different moment in the race. The earliestshows the yachts under way to the starting line, with the smallest yachts (third class) starting at 10:50 a.m. The second class would start at 10:55 a.m. and the first (largest yachts) at 11:00 a.m. The second view shows the start of the first class; the third , the race after the start with the large sloops and schooners taking the lead. The fourth , depicting the finish, shows the winning sloop "Julia" over the line, lowering her racing sails, while the rest of the fleet follows her to the finish line. (6 and 7)
As interest in yachting increased, so did leisure pursuits in smaller craft, using rowing and sailing boats for rowing, fishing, and day-sailing. These activities had a commercial side which is covered in the Party Boats descriptive essay, but this essay will deal with boats used for non-commercial recreation.
Hull types and rigs for small pleasure craft were varied, some being traditional work boat designs with a few added amenities for comfort. Others were designed and built for leisure boating, often in the styles of yachts, but smaller and simpler. Among rowing boats, the dory was a logical choice, the version in(right foreground) being smaller, with a wider bottom for greater stability. New England boats (see , , and ) are also to be found in settings more akin to leisure than to work. (8)
Sailing craft custom-built for pleasure were also depicted by Lane. Examples with sloop rigs are found in(left foreground), (center left), and (right foreground). The yawl rig is seen in (right middle ground), and schooners in (right middle ground) and (foreground). These rigs differ only moderately from today's versions; their hull designs remain popular among admirers and owners of "traditional boats."
– Erik Ronnberg
1. William P. Stephens, Traditions and Memories of American Yachting (Camden, ME: International Marine Publishing Co., 1981), 157–59.
2. Ibid., 159–61, 164–66.
3. John Wilmerding, Fitz Hugh Lane, 1804–1865: American Marine Painter (Salem, MA: Essex Institute,1964), 29–30.
4. Erik A.R. Ronnberg, Jr., "Fitz Henry Lane's Yacht America from Three Views: Vessel Portrait or Artist's Concept?," Antiques & Fine Art (Summer/Autumn 2010): 175.
5. Ibid., 174–79.
6. U.S. Nautical Magazine and Naval Journal V (October 1956–March 1857): 16–18.
7. The American Neptune X, no. 3 (July 1950): 231–34. Reprint of an unidentified newspaper account of the 1856 New Bedford Regatta by Robert Bennet Forbes.
8. See the descriptive essay on "New England Boat."
The Rudder Vol. XV Part 1–3; pp. 387–390, 456–460, 483–486
"Historic American Yachts: Early Boston Vessels, The Northern Light and Coquette."