USS Iowa

Accession number:

Fred Pansing

Historical period:
ca. 1900

Miltary branch:


H x W: 20 in. / 47 in.

Acquisition date:

Credit line:
The Army and Navy Club Library Trust Fund

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The exact date of the print is unknown. It is traceable to the late 1890s, when artist Fred Pansing worked for American Lithography, creating detailed pictures of steamships for prestigious ocean lines. Furthermore, the foreground ship is flying the Jack of the United States, a maritime flag flown on the jackstaff on the bow of American vessels that are moored or anchored. The stars on the flag are in a 5x9 rectangle. While the Jack never had that precise pattern, it most closely resembles those from the early 20th century.

This print depicts the cargo and passenger steamship, SS Indiana, sailing in a flotilla of several other ships, possibly its sister ships—Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois. At the time of their construction, these were the largest iron ships ever built in the U.S. They were among the first to be fitted with compound steam engines and also among the first ships to challenge British dominance of the transatlantic trade since the American Civil War. The Indiana was launched on March 25, 1873.

About the artist: Born in Bremen, Germany, Fred Pansing became a sailor at age 16. After five years at sea, he settled in Hoboken, New Jersey, establishing himself as a marine painter and portraitist in 1865. An excellent draftsman, he also worked in New York City and Brooklyn as an artist, illustrating sheet music and painting names on steamboats.

In the late 1890s, Pansing worked for American Lithography in Jersey City, creating oil paintings which have been celebrated for their "luminous color and finely detailed lines," attributes which were easily translated into the printed medium and typically published as chromolithographs.

Pansing is best known for painting steamships for prestigious ocean lines. He obtained regular commissions from Cunard and White Star Lines. His works were seen as sailing posters, promotional materials aboard ships, and in ticket offices. His paintings were also reproduced on postcards and puzzles as souvenirs for transatlantic passengers, historical mementos from a romantic era.