Original Painting of the Steamship "Quaker City" Moored at Naples on its Excursion to the Holy Land

August, 1867

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Original Painting of the Steamship "Quaker City" Moored at Naples on its Excursion to the Holy Land
Historical artifacts
1 page | SMC 2303

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      "P.S.—The very beautiful and substantial side-wheel steamship 'Quaker City' has been chartered for the occasion, and will leave New York June 8th. Letters have been issued by the government commending the party to courtesies abroad." - Prospectus, EXCURSION TO THE HOLY LAND, EGYPT, THE CRIMEA, GREECE, AND INTERMEDIATE POINTS OF INTEREST, BROOKLYN, February 1st, 1867.

      Twain, who knew a thing or two about steamships, as both pilot and passenger, described the 1867 voyage he was about to make famous aboard the "Quaker City" in his book about the trip, Innocents Abroad:

      It was a novelty in the way of excursions—its like had not been thought of before, and it compelled that interest which attractive novelties always command. It was to be a picnic on a gigantic scale. The participants in it, instead of freighting an ungainly steam ferry-boat... were to sail away in a great steamship with flags flying and cannon pealing, and... to sail for months over the breezy Atlantic and the sunny Mediterranean; they were to scamper about the decks by day, filling the ship with shouts and laughter - or read novels and poetry in the shade of the smokestacks, or watch for the jelly-fish and the nautilus over the side, and the shark, the whale, and other strange monsters of the deep; and at night they were to dance in the open air, on the upper deck, in the midst of a ballroom that stretched from horizon to horizon, and was domed by the bending heavens and lighted by no meaner lamps than the stars and the magnificent moon - dance, and promenade, and smoke, and sing, and make love...

      The vessel chosen for this momentous tour was the Quaker City, a long, heavy side-wheel steamship built in 1854 which, in short order, saw service in the Union Navy as one of its most effective blockaders. Then, decommissioned, it was re-purposed for luxury, cruising on average a stately 10 knots, and rigged out with a battery of guns (for firing salutes), musical instruments, and as many bibles, hymnals and guide books as a devout traveler might requite. Passage for the 5 month voyage to Europe and the Holy Land was a neat $1,250 - with another $750 suggested for "incidentals." Twain cajoled the San Francisco Alta California newspaper to fork over the fee in return for a series of travel "letters" - which, ultimately, would become his break-out bestseller, The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims' Progress.

      This painting depicts the ship moored in the picturesque Bay of Naples where, for 7 days, it was quarantined. Twain, who had left the ship to travel inland, met up with Quaker City in Naples, from which he reported its doleful circumstance:

      She is in prison, now. The passengers probably spend the long, blazing days looking out from under the awnings at Vesuvius and the beautiful city - and in swearing... We go out every day in a boat and request them to come ashore. It soothes them. We lie ten steps from the ship and tell them how splendid the city is; and how much better the hotel fare is here than any where else in Europe; and how cool it is; and what frozen continents of ice cream there are; and what a time we having cavorting about the country and sailing to the islands in the Bay. This tranquilizes them.

      Later, the Quaker City, having made travel and literary history, again met with a kind of ignominy. Sold into the Haitian Navy in 1869, she was ultimately lost at sea, off Bermuda, in 1871.

      Painting of the steamship "Quaker City," on its "Great Pleasure Excursion" to Europe and the Holy Land, made famous by Mark Twain in Innocent's Abroad (1869,) portrayed moored in the Bay of Naples, Italy, 1867. Measuring 16 by 28 3/4 inches. Ex-William R. Hoel (passenger, the "Quaker City" excursion.) Signed [indistingusiable].


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