Observed on the open water of Greater New York Harbor, crossing before the cityscape on a voyage that would begin daily 18 miles up the Hudson River, is the steamship BENJAMIN FRANKLIN of the aptly named Benjamin Franklin Transportation Co. The company was informally founded by Captain Joseph Peene and his 1834 Hudson River sloop, also named BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, who traveled from Yonkers to New York City on a regular schedule. His sons would continue the company which would also be known as the Peene Line. The steamer in this fine painting by the preeminent ship portraitist Antonio Jacobsen would be the primary vessel of the company for more than 25 years.
This portrait shows the large propeller-driven steamship before the elongated covered wharfs and warehouses of New York City. The 144.8'L x 28.8'B x 10.1'D commercial cargo and passenger carrier was built by J.S. Ellis in his Tottenville, Staten Island yard in 1894. Possessing the look of a stalwart ocean-going tugboat of an extreme size, complete with a gilt pilot house eagle, bell and steam whistle, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN was purchased directly by the brothers when launched and converted for their purpose of carrying passengers and freight between Yonkers and New York City.
The artist has portrayed the bright white-hulled steamer churning the bay’s water as a stiff headwind pushes clouds overhead and the pilot jack and American flags. The painting is crisp and has a depth of coloration that isn’t present in many of Jacobsen’s original paintings. With a mind for aesthetics, the vessel has numerous windows and doors to accommodate the viewing pleasures of the passengers onboard.
Provenance: Peene Line, New York; Hutchins Art Shop, Massachusetts; Private Florida Collection.
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