Thistlethwaite Americana | Portrait of the Ship “Samuel H. Hawes”
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Portrait of the Ship “Samuel H. Hawes”

Samuel H Hawes

William Pierce Stubbs (1842-1909)


Oil on Canvas

Circa 1880

Canvas 24” H x 36” W

This painting is of the ship “Samuel H. Hawes.” The ship was likely owned by Samuel Horace Hawes who was an extremely influential merchant, businessman, and banker in the Richmond, Virginia area. No information is available on the specifics of this ship, however, due to the fact this painting was previously owned by Valentine Museum, which collects works of Richmond history, re-enforces the idea that this painting is of a ship owned by Hawes.

The Hawes family is noted for being one of the oldest families in America and their ancestry can be traced back as far as the 16th century. They were early merchants and traders from Virginia to Barbados. Samuel nearly three centuries later maintained the family legacy. Samuel Horace Hawes was the son of Samuel Piece and Judith Anna Hawes. He was born on June 5th, 1838, in Powhatan County, Virginia. Samuel was taught the family mercantile business and became a general merchant in Richmond, Virginia. During the American Civil War, Hawes found for the Confederate States army from April 19th, 1861, to June 1st, 1865. He was a lieutenant in the First Regiment of Virginia Artillery and fought in some of the toughest battles. In 1864, he was a prisoner of war at Fort Delaware. Post-Civil War, Samuel was an extremely influential businessman in Richmond.  He became the director of the National State and City Bank of Richmond. This position he would hold for around ten years. He also was a member of the prestigious Westmoreland Club. During his time post-war is likely when he carried on the century-long family business of being a merchant.

The “Samuel. H. Hawes” likely travel up and down the eastern seaboard and can be identified from three specific areas. Two flags read “S.H.H.” and “Samuel. H. Hawes.” On the rear left side of the ship is once again the name of the vessel. While the two flags identify the vessel name, two other flags identify nationality. The ship contains the American flag and the United States Union Jack flag. The Jack flag contains sixteen white stars against a navy background, however, during the 1880s, the flag likely would have had twice that since there were 38 official states. The ship is in full sail passing a lighthouse in the distance.

William Pierce Stubbs was a maritime painter based out of Boston, Massachusetts. His signature can be found in the lower left corner. Stubbs was born in Orrington, Maine in 1842. He was the son of a shipmaster and likely even became a master of his father’s ship during the mid to late 19th century. From his experience on the water, he began painting ship portraits and by 1876, became a marine painter in the Boston directory. He would travel between Boston and Charlestown to his studios to complete commissioned works. It is unclear where he would have painted this work of art since both he and the ship traveled up and down the coast.

Provenance: EX. Valentine Museum, Richmond, VA

WHY WE LOVE IT: The beautiful portrait of “Samuel H. Hawes” depicts the ship sailing up and down the Easter seaboard. Stubbs’s attention to detail reflects that he has a great understanding of maritime construction.