James Queen. "Explosion of the Alfred Thomas at Easton Pa. March 6th. 1860."
Easton: Bixler & Corwin, Easton Pa, 1860. Chromolithograph by P.S. Duval & Son. 12 1/4 x 20 3/4. Excellent condition. Deàk: 755; Reps: 3391.
A rare print of a disaster in Easton, Pennsylvania in 1860. The Alfred Thomas was a small passenger steamship built to run on the Delaware River between Belvidere, New Jersey and Port Jervis, New York, a distance of about 60 miles. Thomas Bishop of Easton was hired to build the hull and Mr. Wells of the South Easton Works commissioned for the steam engine and machinery. The ship, constructed at Easton, was completed and after some trials was declared ready for its maiden voyage. On Tuesday morning, March 6th, the Alfred Thomas set off from Easton, filled with an official party of about 100 passengers and watched by many spectators along the shore. After sailing down the Lehigh and then starting up the Delaware toward Belvidere, the Alfred Thomas moored near the Northampton Street Bridge to let off many of the passengers. The boat, with about 40 remaining passengers, then started upriver but had to put in to shore in order to build up enough steam to proceed against the current. As it set off again, the boiler, which had been brought to full pressure, suddenly erupted in a huge explosion, throwing the passengers far into the air and totally wrecking the boat. The chaos that followed was terrible. "The scene on shore after the explosion, it is altogether impossible to describe. Women, who were fearful that their relations were on board, ran up and down almost distracted, questioning almost every one they met in regard to the dreadful affair." (New York Times, March 7, 1860.) Many were seriously injured and twelve died, including two of the three owners of the boat. This print shows that explosion and it was said to have been based on a "Sketch from Nature" by James Queen, who likely visited the site shortly after the event. It is a classic "disaster" print, the moment of explosion sensationally depicted, with the city of Easton depicted in the left background. It is also a very nice example of the work of the important American artist James Queen and of the chromolithographic work of Philadelphia printmaker, P.S. Duval & Son.