Painting of the Great Republic

Painting of the Great Republic

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Great Republic was designed by Donald McKay and built in 1853. It was built in East Boston and originally measured 335 feet long and 4,555 tons. Great Republic was the largest clipper ship ever built in the United States designed to carry 6,000 tons dead weight.
The first Great Republic was partially destroyed by a fire while in New York in 1853. Great Republic was insured by INA along with New York Mutual at $175,000. After the fire, the policy was cancelled and the premium was returned. Nothing in INA records indicates what exclusion may have prompted this action. The ship was bought by A.A. Low & Brother of New York and rebuilt in Greenpoint, Long Island by Sneeden & Whitlock under the supervision of Captain N.B. Palmer. It was rebuilt to a smaller scale with three decks instead of four and with a reduced length of 302 feet and a tonnage of 3,357.
Great Republic was first captained by Joseph Limeburner. Shortly after its first voyage from New York to Liverpool the ship was contracted by the French to run supplies to Marseilles at 17 shillings per ton per month. Following the completion of the contract with France, Great Republic primarily traded between San Francisco and New York, making several stops in Liverpool as well. In 1861, during the Civil War, the ship was detained at New York because a majority of her owners were southerners. The shares of the southerners were bought by A.A. Low & Brother, co-owners, and the ship was released. Great Republic was then contracted by the United States Government for transport purposes, and made a trip to Port Royal, Jamaica. On the Great Republic's last voyage in 1864 from New York to San Francisco the ship was captained by Josiah Paul. In 1865, it was laid up for a year in New York. The ship was then sold in 1866 to parties in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and was captained by J. Smith Hatfield. The Great Republic was purchased again in 1868 by the Merchants Trading Company and was renamed the Denmark. On a trip to load lumber for Great Britain she began to leak and was abandoned.
The painting shows Great Republic's portside profile, as it was rebuilt after the fire. Several small sailing vessels are also included, as well as a pilot ship with #2 on the sail. Artist James Guy Evans was born circa 1810 and died in 1859. He moved to New Orleans in 1843 and opened a studio specializing in the portraits of ships and boats. He worked in New Orleans partnered with Edward Arnold circa 1840.
Currently not on view
Object Name
painting, oil
date made
ca 1853
Evans, J. G.
Physical Description
oil on canvas (overall material)
mounted on panel (overall production method/technique)
without frame: 28 1/2 in x 35 1/2 in; 72.39 cm x 90.17 cm
with frame: 37 in x 44 1/2 in; 93.98 cm x 113.03 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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