Sailing Ship Norfolk
Artist Unknown

The sailing ship Norfolk, of London, was identified in this painting by the signal flags KVPN flying from her mizzen mast.   The signal flags of the Commercial Code (became the International Code) were found in the 1874 British Code List.  The painting was likely done by an amateur, possibly a member of her crew.  On her mainmast is the house flag of the owners.  We have not been able to identify this house flag for certain, however, the Norfolk was owned first by Money Wigram and Company, shipbuilders in Blackwall, on the Thames River.  They probably built  Norfolk for their own account.  However, Wigram and Company had a different house flag than is depicted in the painting.  The house flag may be that of the second owners, G. Stanton & TSD Shephard.  The Blue Peter (letter "P" of the Commercial Code) flies from the foremast, and the British Red Duster (Ensign) of the British Merchant Marine flies from the staff.   

Norfolk was built in 1857, was 196 feet in length, and 963 Tons.  Her Official Number was 11920.  Records such as Lloyd's Register don't list shipbuilders for this period, however, Wigram and Company were likely the builders.  They were well known shipbuilders, building vessels for the British Admiralty.  Norfolk is listed in Lloyd's from the late 1850s through the 1860s, then is dropped, appearing again in the late 1870s.  During her early years, Norfolk was employed in the London to Australia trade.  She was lost in 1879 at Boa Vista Island, Cape Verde Islands.

Although it would be classified as naive, the painting of the Norfolk is very desirable, very beautiful.  Likely, it is the only image of this vessel, and consequently numerous valuable things can be learned.  For example, the sail plan, the fact she had a figurehead, her hull color, and the fact that she had a gold stripe painted on her hull.  While the latter might seem inconsequential, details like these were used to confirm the identity of an unnamed American Blackball Line Packet ship in another painting (outside of this collection), based on having been notable enough to be mentioned in a launching notice in the New York Times of 1869. 

The Steamship Historical Society of America is dedicated to the history and preservation of powered vessels; however, it is the first to acknowledge that sailing vessels are the ancestors of powered vessels and therefore, sailing vessels are important to the history of the powered vessel.   For this reason it is appropriate for paintings of sailing ships to be included in this virtual museum.

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