Marine Paintings and Drawings
in the
Peabody Essex Museum

painting

Packet Ship UNITED STATES
Robert Salmon (1775 ca. 1845)
Oil on canvas, 27 in. by 40 in., 1817.

The vessel is preparing to anchor at the "Tail of the Bank" opposite Greenock. Although Liverpool thought of Robert Salmon as one of her sons, Greenock has the better claim to the peripatetic Robert Salmon, based on the length of residence. However, in view of the close maritime connections between the two ports and the intermediate port of Whitehaven now known to be his birthplace, it is most appropriate to include this important and informative picture. Named after the renowned U.S. frigate launched at Philadelphia on 10 May 1797, this is one of the relatively few instances where Salmon identifies a specific ship. In addition to the nameboard at the bow, her name and national emblem are displayed below the lowest reefing points on the foresail.

Shown in three views, sail is being progressively reduced from left to right in the painting. The final stern view, with nearly all sails clewed up, shows the packet about to release anchor. Set in surroundings of great natural beauty, the renowned "Tail of the Bank" anchorage was so called because further navigation eastward to Glasgow (off to the right), was impeded for large vessels by an extensive sandbank. This was a favorite composition of the artist's, with at least three other very similar views being known. A common feature in all cases is the prominent light-colored building seen here just in front of the mainmast. Known locally as "The Duke's Stables", the greater part still remains today minus the prominent tower. The early paddle steamer in the background on the left is a timely reminder that the Clyde River was the cradle of steam navigation in Great Britain. Regular steamer service from Glasgow commenced in 1812, some five years later than in America.


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Last updated November 25, 1996