Apr 15, 2021 - Sale 2564

Sale 2564 - Lot 265

Estimate: $ 300 - $ 400
(NEW YORK.) Loss of the Steamboat Swallow, on the Night of the 7th April 1845. Hand-colored lithograph, 9 1/2 x 13 3/4 inches; minimal wear. [New York: James S. Baillie, 1845]

Additional Details

A dramatic rendering of a night-time steamship disaster on the upper part of the Hudson River between the towns of Athens and Hudson. The ship is seen in flames, with passengers leaping from the wreck which torch-wielding rescuers in rowboats seek survivors and two other steamships close in to help with the rescue.

The American Antiquarian Society holds the only known institutional example of this print, but bearing the credit line of James Baillie as the lithographer and publisher. Nathaniel Currier published a very similar lithograph of this scene, basically a mirror image, but this version has a few additional details, including flags identifying the rescue ships. The Currier version has a similar caption but lists the death toll at "nearly 40 lives," while here "nearly 100 lives are supposed to be lost." The early press reports placed the death toll at between 30 and 40, since revised downward to the mid-twenties. We suspect that one of these rival lithographers pirated the other. As Baillie tripled the death toll of the newspaper reports, and then apparently removed his name from the stone, we suspect this may be the pirated one--but it remains a compelling view.