William Henry Bartlett and his Steamship Adventures

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William Henry Bartlett, from volume 1 of “American Scenery” by Nathaniel Parker Willis, 1840. Many of Bartlett’s images appear in Willis’ books. TMMP Library, E165 .W73 Rare.

I have recently spent a lot of time with an artist named William Henry Bartlett (1809-1854*). Not really him, more like the printed engravings made from his artwork, but we have over 100 in the collection so I kind of feel like he is family now. After cataloging so many of his prints I started to notice that I was typing the same thing over and over: steamship in the background, steam coming from the funnels. The more I looked the more I saw them, sometimes featured in the image but often in the far distant background. That made me wonder, what was it about these steamships that fascinated Bartlett so much that he included them in his artwork on a regular basis?

*As an aside, there is a second British artist named William Henry Bartlett who lived from 1858-1932.   Read more