CURRIER & IVES, publishers. - Charles PARSONS (1821-1910)
The Royal Mail Steam Ship "Australasian" 3100 Tons, To the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Sip Company this print is ... dedicated
New York: Currier & Ives, 1861. Hand-coloured lithograph signature in image, "C. Parsons". Image size: 17 x 27 1/2 inches. Sheet size: 20 1/4 x 29 inches. Various expert repairs.
A spectacular Currier & Ives portrait of the beautiful but unfortunate "Australasian": the Cunard Line's "first iron screw mail steamer ... [and] the worst vessel that the company ever owned".
The Australasian was built in Clydebank, Scotland, in 1857, "at a time when auxiliaries [vessels with both steam and sail power available to them] were much in favour and when she was regarded as a magnificent vessel" (India House p.63). She was a 338-foot iron screw steamer, designed to carry mail for the European and Australian Royal Mail Company, with two smokestacks and three masts. "the company for which she was built did not last very long, and she was purchased by the Cunard Line [initially called the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Ship Company], in whose fleet she was the first screw mail steamer. They adapted her to their requirements ... but she was never a success. It was often said that she was the worst vessel that the company ever owned, for although a remarkable fast ship in smooth water, she rolled like a barrel when it was rough, and her vibration was excessive" (India House pp.63-4).
Charles Parsons, British born, spent most of his long life in America creating superb marine prints and paintings. Much of his print work was published by the two major New York lithography firms: Currier & Ives and Endicott & Co. His ship portraits are among the finest of the era and demonstrate a love and a profound understanding of ships, their constuction and life at sea.
A Descriptive Catalogue of the Marine Collection to be found at India House (New York: 1935) item number 255; Gale 5673; Parker & Bowen Mail and Passenger Steamships of the Nineteenth Century (london: 1928) pp.24-5.