Oil Painting, Collins Line Steamship SS Atlantic

In 1840, Canadian Samuel Cunard inaugurated regular transatlantic steamship service from Liverpool, England to North America. Within a few years, he had two competitors, one of whom was American Edward Knight Collins (1802-1878), owner of the Dramatic Line of Atlantic sailing packets.
Collins had been lobbying the U.S. government for nearly a decade for the subsidy of an American overseas steamship mail service, and in 1847 Congress authorized an annual transatlantic mail contract for $385,000. Won by Collins, the contract called for five steamships and bimonthly mail service from New York to Liverpool.
Collins founded the New York and Liverpool United States Mail Steamship Company (known as the Collins Line) and commissioned the four sister steamships Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic and Baltic. When service started in 1850, the Collins ships were the fastest, largest, and most magnificently appointed steamships in the world, with stained glass skylights, steam heat in the public rooms and 3,500-bottle wine cellars.
This painting shows the arrival of the Collins liner Atlantic in May 1850 after her maiden voyage from New York to Liverpool. Measuring 282 feet long and 2,856 tons, the Atlantic set a speed record on this passage, while consuming 87 tons of coal per day. Although the Collins line ceased operations in February 1858, the Atlantic was acquired by the U.S. Government for Civil War service. After the war it was operated by other owners until scrapped in 1871.
Object Name
painting, oil
date made
US Congress awarded an annual transatlantic mail contract to Collins
Collins Line service started
Collins Line service ended
Atlantic acquired by the government for Civil War service
Atlantic scrapped
Collins steamship line
New York and Liverpool United States Mail Steamship Company
ship owner
Collins, Edward Knight
ship owner and Knight's competitor
Cunard, Samuel
built SS Atlantic
Dramatic Line of Atlantic Sailing Packets
Louis Honore Frederick Gamain
Physical Description
oil paint (paint material)
wood (frame material)
overall: 26 3/4 in x 37 1/4 in x 2 1/4 in; 67.945 cm x 94.615 cm x 5.715 cm
ship sailed
United States: New York, New York
United Kingdom: England, Liverpool
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
On the Water exhibit
Expansion and Reform
Civil War
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
On the Water exhibit
On the Water
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Publication title
On the Water online exhibition
Publication URL

Visitor Comments

4/13/2015 2:25:03 PM
Robert Mann
What is the source for the information in the third paragraph above regarding the steam heat, stained glass, and 3,500-bottle wine cellar aboard the ship? Thanks.
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