Painting, USS Pennsylvania

USS Pennsylvania was built in 1872 by Wm. Cramp & Sons in Philadelphia, PA. The ship measured 375 feet in length, 43 feet 8 inches in beam, and 3,104 tons. Pennsylvania was one of the first four iron transatlantic liners built in the United States. Sister ships were Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. The Pennsylvania was sold in 1884 to the International Navigation company. Later, in 1898 the ship was sold to the Alaska Steamship Company. The Pennsylvania made its first Atlantic crossing in May 1873. While returning from Europe in 1874, Pennsylvania encountered a severe gale which swept the captain, first and second officers, and two seamen from the bridge of the ship. They were drowned, leaving no one to command the ship. One of the passengers, C. L. Brady, formerly the third officer on the White Star liner Atlantic, took over and brought the ship in.
The painting shows a portside profile of the steamer in vigorous seas. To the distant left, a small sailing craft is approaching. The plate on the original frame reads "American Line Ship S/S Pennsylvania, Organized by the Penna. R.R. 1871, First Crossing to England, 1873, Built by Wm. Cramp & Sons." The CIGNA collection contains a painting of Pennsylvania's sister ship Indiana.
The painter, James Hamilton (1819-1878), was born in Ireland and came to Philadelphia with his family at age 15. He probably painted this picture sometime between the time the ship was built in 1872 and 1875, when he sold most of his possessions in order to take a trip around the world. In 1878, he died while in San Francisco, before his journey was complete.
Currently not on view
date made
after 1872
Hamilton, James
Physical Description
oil on canvas (overall material)
without frame: 36 in x 60 in; 91.44 cm x 152.4 cm
with frame: 49 in x 73 in; 124.46 cm x 185.42 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
Cigna Maritime Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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