Belonging to financier and New York Yacht Club member Howard Gould, the steam yacht Niagara was a fine fixture in the bay at the turn of the century. Built in 1898 by Harland & Hollingsworth from the design of W. G. Shackford, the steel twin-screw ship was originally built as a bark, measuring 272 feet loa. Refit within her first decade without spars, sails and mizzen mast, the main was moved behind the deckhouse. Most likely Willis was directly commissioned to portray the yacht immediately, catching her in her finest condition.
The detailed embroidery, painted sky background are softly muted while the green sea is quite strong. Quite exceptional are the number of people Willis has depicted onboard, with crew members in white, while gentlemen have blue coats and white hats, and one woman in a skirt stands behind figures in reclining chairs. The Goulds, Morgans, Astors, Vanderbilts and other key members of American society all launched yachts upon which they lavishly entertained and remained in the public’s eye.
The yacht proudly flies the N.Y.Y.C. burgee, Gould’s private signal and the American ensign. She would be purchased from Gould in 1917 by the U.S. Navy and was converted into an armored patrol yacht. Her record of service includes World War I escort duty, and a decade of hydrographic work charting the Gulf of Venezuela and the coasts of Central America, retiring in 1933.
Original Willis Label Verso “Marine Pictures in Silk”
Provenance: Howard Gould, New York; Jay Gould, New York; Grandson Charles Gould, Long Island, 1995; Private Michigan Collection.
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