Painting, Packet Ship Ontario

Painting, Packet Ship Ontario

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Grinnell, Minturn & Company owned two ships named Ontario. Benjamin Minturn also owned a third ship named Ontario with John T. Champlin. The ship featured in the painting is most likely Ontario (II). It was built in New Castle, Maine for Grinnell, Minturn & Company in 1854, measuring 202 feet in length, 40 feet 3 inches in beam, 20 feet in depth of hold, and 1,501 tons. The ship entered the Blue Swallowtail Line service in 1854, sailing regularly from New York to Liverpool until 1858. From 1858 to 1863 it conducted regular service from New York to London for the Red Swallowtail Line. Both the Blue Swallowtail Line and Red Swallowtail Line were owned by Grinnell, Minturn & Company. After 1863 the ship did not sail for any regular service but made trips between New York and Europe when needed. The company was active until about 1880.
The painting shows a right profile of the vessel sailing off Dover Castle, one of the oldest and largest castles in England. This site is known as "the Gateway to England," as it marks the shortest distance across the English Channel to France. Ontario is showing the U.S. jack in diminutive form and is calling for a pilot; all its sails are unfurled except one in the rear. The ship is flying the Marryat Code 1/9162. The Grinnell house flag, which is blue and white with a swallow tail, is also flying. There is a carved flag swag on the bow of the ship. Other sailing and steam vessels can be seen in the distance.
Richard B. Spencer was a British painter active between 1840 and 1873. His subjects were mainly sailing vessels or naval engagements. Spencer is considered a folk artist, as he had no formal training in art.
Currently not on view
Object Name
painting, oil
Spencer, R. B.
Physical Description
oil on canvas (overall material)
without frame: 23 in x 27 in; 58.42 cm x 68.58 cm
with frame: 31 in x 45 in; 78.74 cm x 114.3 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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Hello: Just wondering on the dates as it states he was active between 1840-1873? This oil painting is supposedly dated 1874? (According to date by signature) Just curious.

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