Search this catalogue

Historical Materials: Vessel Types

Historical Materials  »  Vessel Types  »  Party Boat

Party Boat

View related Fitz Henry Lane catalog entries (17) »

"Party boat" is a colloquial term for any kind of small craft adapted or used for taking guests (customarily for hire) on sightseeing trips or fishing for pleasure. (1) The term survives to this day on Cape Ann and other places for vessels engaged in the same activities. (2) In Lane's time, party boating was a calling of opportunity, and a fisherman's boat might be used in season - regularly or occasionally - to take "rusticators" fishing. Likewise, a boat used for its owner's own pleasure might be hired to take sightseers sailing for an afternoon. The latter use is seen in Lane's 1844 view of Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck (see the yawl-rigged sailboat in the foreground of Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck, 1844 (inv. 14)).

By the early 1850s, summer visitor activity, encouraged by the building of the Pavilion Hotel on Gloucester's waterfront, led to increased pleasure boating activity, if Lane's painting Gloucester Harbor, 1852 (inv. 38) of Pavilion Beach and Sidney Mason's hotel is any indication. (3) Lane's Gloucester Harbor scenes from this decade show a number of pleasure craft suitable for taking passengers for hire (see Fresh Water Cove from Dolliver's Neck, Gloucester, Early 1850s (inv. 45), Coming Ashore near Brace's Rock, Gloucester, Massachusetts, c.1860 (inv. 60), and View of Gloucester from "Brookbank," the Sawyer Homestead, c.1856 (inv. 95)). Small working craft suitable for this purpose are seen in The Old Fort and Ten Pound Island, Gloucester, 1850s (inv. 30), Gloucester Harbor, 1852 (inv. 38) (right foreground), View of Gloucester, 1859 (inv. 91) (foreground), and Watch House Point, 1860 (inv. 292) (right foreground). In View of Gloucester Harbor, 1848 (inv. 97), we see passengers boarding a small sloop-rigged boat hidden by the rocks at Duncan's Point (left middle ground).

In coastal waters south of Gloucester, a few of Lane's paintings offer pleasure craft as candidates for taking paying passengers. Phantom of Boston, c.1850s (inv. 574) depicts a cruising yawl "Phantom" of Boston, beached with hunting gear unloaded alongside while two of the crew await an approaching party in a rowing boat. The location is unidentified, but a possibility is the barrier beach around the marshes of Lynn, Massachusetts, which were once very popular hunting grounds for migrating waterfowl. A second candidate is a small sloop with a party of four on an evening sail off Halfway Rock in Becalmed Off Halfway Rock, 1860 (inv. 344) (far right).

Lane found similar uses of working watercraft in Maine, where the families of a small coastal community would travel by their workboats to a gathering place for a clambake or similar festive outing (see View of Indian Bar Cove, Brooksville, Maine, 1850 (inv. 61)). The artist became a "rusticator" himself when he, Joseph Stevens, and friends explored Mount Desert Island and vicinity in the "General Gates," a sloop-rigged Maine version of a New England Boat (View of Bar Island and Mount Desert Mountains, from the Bay in Front of Somes Settlement, 1850 (inv. 177) and Castine Harbor and Town, 1851 (inv. 272)).

When Lane traveled to New Bedford in 1856 to observe and sketch a regatta held by the New York Yacht Club, he observed and sketched it while on board an unknown vessel near the starting and finishing line, formed by the race committee boat "Emblem" and her yawl-boat.

Close by was a small party boat with observers on board, probably a fishing sloop, given its work-a-day looks. In the ensuing year, Lane painted four detailed views of this race, the party boat appearing in New York Yacht Club Regatta (1), 1856 (inv. 66) (right foreground); New York Yacht Club Regatta (2), 1856 (inv. 270) (right margin); New York Yacht Club Regatta (3), After 1856 (inv. 396) (center); and New York Yacht Club Regatta (4), 1857 (inv. 397) (left foreground). (4)

– Erik Ronnberg


1. M. H. Parry and others, Aak to Zumbra: A Dictionary of the World's Watercraft (Newport News, VA: The Mariners' Museum, 2000), 436.

2. Ibid.

3. Proctor's Able Sheet (a Gloucester newspaper), January 1857: "Gloucester House reopened—refitted—boats always ready to take parties cruising or fishing..." 

4. John Wilmerding, Fitz Henry Lane, 2nd ed. (Cape Ann, MA: Cape Ann Historical Association, 2005), 52–54. Lane's 1852 cruise in the Mount Desert region in the sloop "Superior" was reprinted as an appendix to Wilmerding's essay in Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1988), 125–26.

Related tables: "General Gates" (New England Boat; Casco Bay Boat) »

Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck
Fitz Henry Lane
Oil on canvas
34 x 45 3/4 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., Gift of Mrs. Jane Parker Stacy (Mrs. George O. Stacy),1948 (1289.1a)

Detail of party boat.

The Old Fort and Ten Pound Island
Fitz Henry Lane
Oil on canvas
22 x 36 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., deposited by the Collection of Addison Gilbert Hospital, 1978 (DEP. 201)

Detail of party boat.

1846 Gloucester Telegraph 8.19.1846
Ad in Gloucester Telegraph


"Persons desirous of enjoying a SAILING or FISHING EXCURSION, are informed that the subscriber will be in readiness with the Boat EUREKA, to attend to all who may favor him with their patronage. JOHN J. FERSON"

1857 Gloucester Advertiser, 9.15.1857, "Gloucester House"
Ad for Gloucester House
Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass.

See p. 4, column 2.

View of Gloucester Harbor
Fitz H. Lane
Oil on canvas mounted on panel
27 x 41 in.
Frame: 41 5/8 x 55 3/8 in.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Museum Purchase, The Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund (62.32)

Detail of party boat.

Citation: "Vessel Types." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum.§ion=Party+Boat (accessed July 23, 2024).
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.