An inscription below the title describes the scene, and others in the lower left and right margins give background information about the yachts’ sponsors, designers and dimensions:
“America’s” Cup Race, off Sandy Hook, Sept. 16th 1885
between the American Sloop “Puritan” and the English Cutter “Genesta.”
Distance sailed about 40 miles, “Puritan” wins by 1 m 38 s corrected time.
“Puritan” of Boston. Eastern Yacht Club.
Designer: Edward Burgess.
Length over all 93 ft.
Length on Water Line 81 ft.
Extreme Beam 22 ft. 7 in.
Draught 8 ft. 4 in.
“Genesta” of Glasgow. Royal Yacht Squadron.
Designer: J. Beavor Webb.
Length over all 96 ft. 5 in.
Length on Water Line 81 ft. 7 1/2 in.
Extreme Beam 15 ft.
Draught 13 ft. 6 in.
In 1884, the Royal Yacht Squadron challenged the New York Yacht Club for the America’s Cup. The club accepted the challenge of a race against the yacht Genesta and searched for a vessel they felt would be competitive. Finding none, they commissioned a large racing yacht from the young Boston designer, Edward Burgess. The decision met with a great deal of skepticism on several counts: Burgess was young, he had never designed anything on this scale, and he was from Boston. Initially, his boat, the yacht Puritan, was sarcastically dubbed “the Boston Bean boat.” But his innovative design proved effective once it began entering races, and after besting other boats in trials, Puritan was officially designated to defend the Cup. In the first race, a mishap occurred in which Genesta’s bowspit punctured Puritan’s mainsail and the bowspit snapped in two. According to the rules, Genesta had the right of way, and the British owner could have claimed the race, but refused to do so, earning praise for his sportsmanship. The second race was hard fought, and Puritan came in first by only 1 minute, 38 seconds. Having won two races, the Cup remained with the New York Yacht Club.
William Formby Halsall was a marine painter based in Massachusetts. Born in England, his family settled in Boston when he was young. Halsall worked as a sailor for seven years until 1859. In 1860 he began studying fresco painting with William E. Norton, a marine artist and contemporary of his in Boston who was also a former sailor. He served for two years in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War, and returned to Boston to resume his studies, this time concentrating on marine painting at the Lowell Institute, from 1862 to 1870. His painting First Battle of the Ironclads was purchased by the United States government in 1887, and hung in the Capitol in Washington, D.C. He also produced a color lithograph of the America’s Cup Race of 1885 for Louis Prang Publishers, titled The Finish. Halsall exhibited often in Boston, and also exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and Art Institute of Chicago. Halsall’s paintings are in the collections of many American museums including the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Virginia; the Peabody Museum in Salem, Massachusetts; and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
Louis Prang (1824-1909) was a lithographer and wood engraver. He trained as a calico printer in his native Germany, but fled the country under suspicion of participation in the Revolution of 1848 and eventually emigrated to the U.S. in 1850. He learned wood engraving in Boston and worked at that trade until 1856 when he went into the lithography business with Julius Mayer as Prang & Mayer. In 1861 he established Louis Prang & Co. The company published a variety of hand colored lithographs and chromolithographs including views, historical subjects, illustrations of events and portraits of important figures of the Civil War, prints after paintings by famous artists including Winslow Homer, and maps. Prang started a successful line of Christmas cards in the 1870s as well as an annual card design contest that attracted top artists, and had a central role in popularizing the custom of sending them in America. He also branched out into selling art supplies — the Prang brand is still sold today. In addition, he published a popular series of instructional drawing books. Prang retired in 1899.
Full publication information: “Painted by Wm. F. Halsall. Published by L. Prang & Co. Boston. Copyright 1885, by L. Prang & Co. Boston.”
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear. Few marginal abrasions and short tears professionally restored.
Brewington, Dorothy E.R. Dictionary of Marine Artists. Mystic, Connecticut: Mystic Seaport Museum, 1982. pp. 171 and 280.
Groce, George C. and Wallace, David H. The New-York Historical Society’s Dictionary of Artists in America 1564-1860. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969. p. 514.
John, Anthony. Ian Dear, Ed. The Early Challenges of the America’s Cup (1851-1937). Sydney: Pierson, 1986. p. 27, pp. 53-55.
McClinton, Katharine Morrison. The Chromolithographs of Louis Prang. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1973, p. 161.
Peters, Harry T. America on Stone. U.S.: Doubleday, Doran, 1931. pp. 327-328.
“William Formby Halsall.” AskArt.com. 2000-2009. http://www.askart.com/askart/artist.aspx?artist=20309 (12 June 2009).