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Gallery Text

The compositional references of Colman’s impressive bustling port scene are as rich as the shifting histories of global maritime trade and postbellum ambivalence depicted. The curvilinear depth of field—drawn from Claude Lorrain through to Asher B. Durand—provides us with a knowing yet removed view of the famed packet cargo ship "Glad Tidings" being unloaded. "Glad Tidings" was one of the first ships to resume the export of North American cotton to England after the U.S. Civil War. Overstuffed bales (and the enslaved and sharecropping persons whose labor cultivated the cash crop) are juxtaposed with leaking barrels of petroleum (and the largely Irish and German-speaking immigrants who served as coopers and drilled and refined crude). The wind power that drove early-modern global commerce until the mid-19th century is being contrasted with the ascendant steam-powered vessels and fuel resource that would come to define the 20th century.

[label included image of wood engraving of "The ship Glad Tidings, with a cargo of American Cotton..." (Illustrated London News, Nov. 4, 1865)]

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Samuel Colman, American (Portland, ME 1832 - 1920 New York, NY)
Ships Unloading, New York
Work Type
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2100, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, Centuries of Tradition, Changing Times: Art for an Uncertain Age
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Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas mounted on board
104.9 × 76 cm (41 5/16 × 29 15/16 in.)
Frame: 127 × 97.5 cm (50 × 38 3/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: lower left: S. Colman 1868

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection
Object Number
European and American Art

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Exhibition History

  • 32Q: 2100 19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 03/20/2023 - 03/20/2026

Verification Level

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