There* no indication that any ofthem actually carried cabbages, but the sailing ships whose portraits form the center ofa small but fascinating exhibition
at Duxburys King Caesar historic house carriedjust about everything eke you could make a dollar on in the 19* century. Coffee from Brazil, cotton from Charleston to England, wool from Turkey, fresh fruit from the Mediterranean, salt fish to the West Indies and molasses back, unknown cargoes and quite -
possibly 49ers to San Francisco.
In the era of sealing wax and whalebone corsets, these Duxbury-built, -owned or -captained ships were engines of the young republics surging economy. The local shipbuilding and
shipping industries provided livelihoods for generations of families - Drews and Soules and Winsore among them - which are memorialized in local street names and mansions. Two of the most successful of these Yankee captains ofcommerce, Ezra Weston St. and Jr., were each in his time referred to by townspeople as "King Caesar."
The nickname was not entirely complimentary, but it was accurate. In the 1830s, the family business was reputed to be worth more than $1 million.
The pride these ship owners and masters felt for the vessels that carried their flags and enterprises throughout the world can be felt in these gallantly posed, crisply executed marine portraits. Sails cower and billow taudy, flags snap in the breeze and the complexities of rigging are precisely drawn. The small towns cosmopolitan connections are noted in the captions painted by the artists at the bottom of many of the pictures:"Brig Lion of Duxbury entering Smyrna (Turkey)... 1840" or"Brig Leander entering port of Palermo (Sicily),June 1828."
Many ship portraits were themselves commercial productions of a sort, quickly but competently painted waprcolors by artists in the foreign ports who specialized in this work. For example^ Rafaele Cossini. who worked in Smyrna, painted several of the portraits, including the one of the Lion, a work in pristine condition that is certainly the star of the show, loaned by Mr. and Mrs. R.C Vose
from page 22
III, of the family that owns Bostons Vose Galleries.
In the course of assembling this show, new historical information and
Other paintings, some ofthem oila, are copies by local painters of European
originals; in one of them, Cossinis name is reproduced but misspelled. And some
connections were unearthed. Accord
are primitive or folk originals.
ing to Sally Redmond, the historical society's exhibitions chair, a list of more than 300 sailing vessels with Duxbury connections was compiled, and die information aided the Peabody Essex Museum in identifying 14
The best-known ship represented is the clipper Flying Cloud, built at Donald McKay's yard in East Boston but captained for part of her life by Henry Otis Winsor of Duxbury. The bark Maid of Orleans, built in Salem and captained by Martin Waterman of Duxbury, u seen in a high-quality photo graphic reproduction ofa painting owned by the Peabody Essex Museum of Salem and attributed to Benjamin West, the first American artist to train and
previously unknown ships.
work in Europe.
The core of the exhibition is the half dozen or so marine portraits owned by the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society, which operates the King Caesar
house and organized the show. Other paintings and memorabilia of 19* century
seafaring life were contributed by Duxbury families induding'the Voses, and several photographic reproductions were loaned by the Peabody Essex Museum from its vast collection of New England marine art. (Please see page 30)
Point South Magazine, July 2002
Although dicte paintings are for the molt part a* celebratory as wed ding portraits, there are a few glimpses of more sober aspects of 19* century life. One of the objects in the show is a half hull model of die brig Soule, with a brass plaque in memory of Captain
Thomas Soule and his son, Albert, lost during a passage from Boston to Antwerp in 1834.
And one of the reproductions from die Peabody Essex Museum is of
a painting of die Duxbury brig Herald entering Dixcpve, a small trading station in Gold Coast, Africa. The slave trade is not mentioned in die historical society's wall label but it's
hard to think ofanother reason for the
vessel being there.
It is glimpses of real, live' history like that that give this show its impact.
The cxhibirion,"Duxbury on the High Seas*continues dirough Sep tember at the King Caesar House, King Caesar Road on Powder Point, Duxbury. Hours are 1-4 p.m. Wednes
day through Sunday. Phone 781-9346106. Upstair* in the King Caesar House is anodier small exhibition, of
photographs ofvanished buildings, views, lifestyle* and industries in the
town, including the shipbuilding industry.* Jen L&mau it tficdanu wriltr on At am who lira in Diabury. Hi maj k nahti efpnkhmtnl