A historic painting marking the iron screw steamers rise to dominance in the American passenger trade, the MERRIMAC was the twin to the S.S. MISSISSIPPI, the first all-iron American ships. Birthed from Harrison Loring and Company’s Boston yard and Samuel Pooks’ design, the order came from the Union Steamship Company. Since no local mills were capable of producing the 1 inch thick iron plating, the pieces were shipped from Baltimore at no small expense.
Launched with the Civil War underway, MERRIMAC was immediately chartered to the U.S. quartermaster corps in the summer of 1862 by the Union Steamship Co. owner, John H. Foster and Company of Boston, whose house flag is on the main beneath the naval commissioning pennant. The ship flies an impressive array of flags for her inaugural voyage, with a complement of union soldiers and civil passengers headed for points along the east coast from Boston to New Orleans. Her charter was priced at $1,350 per day. It is subjective, but possible that Smith’s son William is onboard. An inman city liner arrives from across the Atlantic, and two variations of coastal schooners sail near.
MERRIMAC would transport troops for three years, and then under a variety of owners over a period of 25 years make 10 round-trips to New Orleans, 37 to Brazil, and visited the ports of Mexico, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Savannah and Charleston. Chartered to North American Lloyd, she made one transatlantic journey to Bremen in 1866. Smith has expertly captured her prestigious initiation and public blessing off the Boston coast.
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