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Catalog entry

inv. 395
Yacht "America" from Three Views
Three Views of Yacht "America"
c. 1851
Oil on canvas
18 1/2 x 27 1/2 in. (47 x 69.8 cm)
No inscription found

Commentary

From the date of her launching (May 3, 1851) to the date of her departure for England (June 21, 1851), the schooner yacht America was afloat in American waters for only seven weeks. Lane would have been aware of her building, but it is unlikely that he would have taken time to travel to New York to sketch an unproven vessel, particularly if he was preparing another visit to Maine that summer. Under such circumstances, graphic sources for a painting would have been limited and not very accurate. Buttersworth portrayed America quite accurately in his painting of her race with the sloop Maria, but its date of completion is uncertain, for its derivative lithograph wasn't published until 1852.

Lane's painting of this schooner is one of his most unusual ship's portraits and one of his most puzzling. While the hull profile and sail plan are unmistakably those of America, many details do not agree or are simply absent, raising questions about his sources and when he painted the picture.

–Erik Ronnberg from Granby 2005, p.174

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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).

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While the schooner yacht "America" was built in 1851 for a syndicate of New York yachtsmen to race in England, her design concept appears to have originated in the previous year, when Fitz Henry Lane happened to be in New York City. Lane's painting, Yacht "America" from Three Views, c.1851 (inv. 395), shows details he surely would have corrected had he seen the vessel as built in 1851, pointing to the likelihood that he was portraying the schooner in its design state. His later painting, based on the Dutton lithograph from a sketch by Brierly, clearly points out his attention to subsequent changes in the schooner's design. 

– Erik Ronnberg

model
Model of yacht "America"
Model and photography by Erik A.R. Ronnberg. Jr.
2012
Wood, metal, cordage, Egyptian cotton sail cloth
Scale: 3/8" = 1'
Private collection

Plaque reads: "Schooner Yacht America. Designed by George Steers and built by William H. Brown at New York City, 1851 Winner of the Royal Yacht Squadron £100 Cup in a race around the Isle of Wight, August 22, 1851." 

 

Also filed under: Ship Models »

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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
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publication
Clipper Polka
Aborsong, publisher
1851-1856
Paper, ink
13 x 10 in (33.02 x 25.4 cm)
Peabody Essex Museum (M26784)

"composed and inscribed to Colonel Baquiere, Owner of the "America" Schooner, 1851-1856"

Image: Peabody Essex Museum
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model
Half model of "America"
19th century
Wood
New York
35 1/2 x 37 x 5 1/2 in. (90.17 x 93.98 x 13.97 cm)
Peabody Essex Museum
Image: Peabody Essex Museum

Also filed under: Ship Models »

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artwork
The "America" Winning the Match at Cowes for the Club Cup
Thomas Dutton
1851
Lithograph
21 x 29 inches
Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass., Gift of Mr. D. A. Newhall, 1968
M13340
Image: Peabody Essex Museum
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illustration
The America Schottisch
Wm. Hall & Son, publisher
Late 19th century
Ink, paper
13 x 10 in (33.02 x 25.4 cm)
Peabody Essex Museum
Image: Peabody Essex Museum
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illustration
The Clipper America Polka, sheet music cover
J.O. Sheppard, publisher
late 19th century
Ink on paper
13 x 10 inches
Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass. (M26750)
Image: Peabody Essex Museum
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object
Tiller
1851
Wood
105 x 5 x 4 inches (266.7 x 12.7 x 10.16 cm)
Peabody Essex Museum

Tiller used in navigating the yacht "America" across the Atlantic in 1851.

Image: Walter Silver

Also filed under: Objects »

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object
Tiller plaque, close-up
1851
Wood
105 x 5 x 4 inches (266.7 x 12.7 x 10.16 cm)
Peabody Essex Museum

Tiller used in navigating the yacht "America" across the Atlantic in 1851.

Image: Peabody Essex Museum
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artwork
Yacht "America"
Unknown
1851
Oil on canvas
22 1/8 x 30 1/8 in.
New-York Historical Society, Gift of Henry O. Havemeyer (1949.47)

While this painting of "America" might be regarded as "primitive," it contains much accurate detail of the sail plan and rigging which agrees closely with surviving documentation of these aspects. Note the jib and jib-boom which were set during the Cowes regatta, only to be quickly taken in when the jib-boom broke, and never used again.

– Erik Ronnberg

Image: New York Historical Society
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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 The Yacht "Northern Light" in Boston Harbor, 1845 (inv. 268)) 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 one The Yacht "America" Winning the International Race, 1851 (inv. 255) was 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 painting Yacht "America" from Three Views, c.1851 (inv. 395) was 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 earliest New York Yacht Club Regatta (3), After 1856 (inv. 396) shows 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 New York Yacht Club Regatta (2), 1856 (inv. 270) shows the start of the first class; the third New York Yacht Club Regatta (4), 1857 (inv. 397), the race after the start with the large sloops and schooners taking the lead. The fourth New York Yacht Club Regatta (1), 1856 (inv. 66), 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 View of Gloucester, (From Rocky Neck), 1846 (inv. 57) (right foreground) being smaller, with a wider bottom for greater stability. New England boats (see Norman's Woe, Gloucester Harbor, 1862 (inv. 1), View of Gloucester, 1859 (inv. 91), and Castine Harbor and Town, 1851 (inv. 272)) 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 The Old Fort and Ten Pound Island, Gloucester, 1850s (inv. 30) (left foreground), Fresh Water Cove from Dolliver's Neck, Gloucester, Early 1850s (inv. 45) (center left), and Coming Ashore near Brace's Rock, Gloucester, Massachusetts, c.1860 (inv. 60) (right foreground). The yawl rig is seen in View of Coffin's Beach, 1862 (inv. 41) (right middle ground), and schooners in Fresh Water Cove from Dolliver's Neck, Gloucester, Early 1850s (inv. 45) (right middle ground) and View of Gloucester, Mass., 1859 (not published) (foreground). These rigs differ only moderately from today's versions; their hull designs remain popular among admirers and owners of "traditional boats."

– Erik Ronnberg

References:

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."

artwork
New York Yacht Club Regatta
Fitz Henry Lane
1856
Oil on canvas
28 x 50 in.
The Preservation Society of Newport County / Collection at Chepstow (PSNC.8727)

Detail of yacht.

Image: The Preservation Society of Newport County
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artwork
Norman's Woe
Fitz Henry Lane
1862
Oil on canvas
27 1/4 x 49 1/4 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., Bequest of Margaret Farrell Lynch, 1999 (1999.76)

Detail of pleasure craft.

Image: Cape Ann Museum
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artwork
Drawing showing lines of the yacht "Northern Light"
William P. Stephens
Illustration from William Picard Stephens, Traditions & Memories of American Yachting (Camden, ME: International Marine Publishing Company, 1981).

See p. 163.

Image: International Marine Publishing Company
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publication
Arouse ye gay comrades
Bufford (in image); Thayer (lith.)
1840
Parker & Ditson
Courtesy American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass.

Dedicated to the Tiger Boat Club.

Image: American Antiquarian Society
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PDF
view ]
publication
Article in The Rudder magazine about "Northern Light"
Winfield M. Thompson
1904
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."
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model
Model of the yacht "Northern Light" based on Lane's painting
Model by Rob Napier, photo by Erik Ronnberg
1991
wood, metal, cordage
Model of schooner yacht "Northern Light" of Boston, 1839
Scale 1:32
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model
Model of the yacht "Northern Light," stern view, based on Lane's painting
Model by Rob Napier, photo by Erik Ronnberg
1991
wood, metal, cordage
Model of schooner yacht "Northern Light" of Boston, 1839
Scale 1:32
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Provenance (Information known to date; research ongoing.)

Exhibition History

No known exhibitions.

Published References

Wilmerding 1988a: Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane, p.77, fig. 17, Three Views of Yacht "America".
Granby 2005: A Yachtsman's Eye: The Glen S. Foster Collection of Marine Paintings, pl. III.14, p.175.
Ronnberg 2010: "Fitz Henry Lane's Yacht America from Three Views: Vessel Portrait or Artist's Concept," Yacht "America" from Three Views. ⇒ includes text

Related historical materials

Vessels (Specific / Named)
Vessel Types
Citation: "Yacht "America" from Three Views, c. 1851 (inv. 395)." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/catalog/entry.php?id=395 (accessed February 23, 2024).
Record last updated March 16, 2023. Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
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