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Yachting, America’s Cup, Staten Island, Louis Prang, Antique Print, Boston, 1887


Julian O. Davidson (1853-1894) (after)
The Start: America’s Cup Race Off Staten Island Sept. 7th 1886
Louis Prang & Co., Boston: 1887
20.25 x 27.5 inches overall

Print depicting a famous 1886 America’s Cup yacht race, described in the subtitle as “between the American Sloop Mayflower and the English Cutter Galatea. Distance sailed about 38 miles. Mayflower wins by 13 minutes 18 seconds corrected time.” The yacht club associations and designers of the boats are noted in the lower margin: “Cutter Galatea of Royal Northern Yacht Club, designer J. Beavor-Webb; Sloop Mayflower of Eastern Yacht Club, designer Edward Burgess.” The dimensions of the boats are specified as well.

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This particular print is considered part of “an important series called Pictures of American Sport” that was published by Prang in the 1880s (see McClinton, which also includes a full-page plate of this print from the collection of the Library of Congress). This famous race inspired numerous other prints, paintings and photographs, further described by maritime art scholar A.J. Peluso, Jr., who also lists this Davidson lithograph by Prang as one of the significant artworks commemorating the event:

In September 1886 newspapers ran breathless accounts of the latest America’s Cup challenge.  Like all others, before and after, they were high-stakes yacht races: America against the [British] Empire.  The challenge and the positive patriotic results became validating symbols of national pride, pride in which all could partake, whatever one’s “station.”  One of the oft-told tales described the Edward Burgess-designed Mayflower, at 100′ the longest in America, against the J. Beavor-Webb-designed Galatea at 107’7″. Galatea was at a disadvantage, however, with her 81-ton keel racing against “the queenly Mayflower, the fairest anemone that ever bloomed on American waters.”  As in the 1885 race between Puritan and Genesta involving the same designers, England lost each race.  Galatea’s loser-owner Lieutenant William Henn (Royal Navy, retired) and his wife were unbowed. They stayed in America for a year, entertained by the gracious winners.  A further measure of the importance of these events was the inspired attention of America’s marine artists.  The market’s demand for their work was extraordinary.

Julian O. Davidson was an American artist and illustrator specializing in maritime and naval subjects, painted in formats ranging from periodical and children’s book illustrations to mural-sized canvases.  An adventurous spirit who loved the ocean, after receiving a boarding school education and a brief apprenticeship at his father’s civil engineering firm, Davidson went off to sea at the age of 17 on the crew of a steamship sailing to the Mediterranean and Far East via the Suez Canal.  He documented his travels in sketchbooks, and on returning to the U.S. studied art in New York with Mauritz F.H. de Haas, and was introduced to painters of the Hudson River School including Winslow Homer, Albert Bierstadt and Frederick Church.  He forged his style from these artistic influences and his in-depth observation of the water.  Davidson was also a championship sculler and lived near the Hudson River in Nyack, New York.  During the Civil War, his facility with marine scenes led to commissioned illustrations of naval battles for magazines such as Harper’s and Century.   Later, Davidson produced a series of major oils of naval battles from the War of 1812.  His painting of The Battle of Lake Erie (1887), a large canvas over eight feet long, was displayed at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 and is now on display at the Erie Art Museum in Pennsylvania.  This popular image was reproduced on Pennsylvania license plates in the 1990s.  Davidson exhibited at the National Academy of Design from 1877 until his untimely death in 1894.  His paintings are also in the collections of the Hudson River Museum, the New-York Historical Society, and other museums.

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.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall toning and wear.  Professionally cleaned with color retouched, some scattered small mostly marginal cracks and tears professionally restored.  Faint oxidation from former wood backing. Overall with bright colors and attractive, the above condition aspects typical for separately issued prints of this period.


Bloom, Loren.  “Julian Oliver Davidson: Artist.”  The Battle of Lake Erie Art: Julian Oliver Davidson’s Painting.  2008. (28 October 2011).

Brewington, Dorothy E.R.  Dictionary of Marine Artists.  Mystic, Connecticut: Mystic Seaport Museum, 1982.  p. 106 (Davidson).

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 (Prang).

John, Anthony.  Ian Dear, Ed.  The Early Challenges of the America’s Cup (1851-1937).  Sydney: Pierson, 1986.  p. 27, pp. 53-55.

“Julian Oliver Davidson.”  2000-2011. (28 October 2011).

McClinton, Katharine Morrison.  The Chromolithographs of Louis Prang.  New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1973, pp. 161-162 (illus).

Peluso, A.J, Jr. “Mayflower Beats Galatea. Everyone Was There — Franklyn Bassford Too.”  Maine Antique Digest.  August 2006. (26 October 2011).

Peters, Harry T.  America on Stone.  U.S.: Doubleday, Doran, 1931.  pp. 327-328.

Additional information


19th Century