Live Auction

The February 2023 Auctions: Day 2

Fri, Feb 17, 2023 11:00AM EST
Lot 1001

Seth Arca Whipple (American, 1855-1901) Oil On Canvas 1881, The Towboat Martin Swain, H 20'' W 34''

Estimate: $30,000 - $50,000

Bid Increments

Price Bid Increment
$0 $5
$30 $10
$100 $25
$400 $50
$900 $100
$2,000 $250
$5,000 $500
$10,000 $1,000
$20,000 $2,500
$50,000 $5,000
$150,000 $10,000
Seth Arca Whipple (American, 1855-1901) Oil On Canvas 1881, The Towboat Martin Swain, H 20'' W 34'' | Signed lower left "S. Whipple" and dated "5 1881". Depicting the Grummond's Line steam powered towboat, the Martin Swain. The ship is flying the Grummond's Line flag with the company's signature gold weather cock atop the pilothouse. The Swain is depicted on the same tack as a three masted Great Lakes sailing ship and is believed to be Whipple's commentary on how steam power was on a collision course with, and overtaking, sail power in the Great Lakes maritime industry. This work and was completed only three years after Whipple's seminal work, "Champion and Tow". The Martin Swain was built in 1881 in the Detroit Dry Dock Co. Shipyard for the S.B. Grummond Line and was named for the legendary Detroit wrecking tug Captain Martin Swain (1843-1925). The Martin Swain was a 123.8' wood construction vessel that served as a wrecking tug in the Great Lakes from 1881-1898. Captain Swain was, and still is, considered the most successful wrecking tug captain in the Great Lakes. He is credited with salvaging 358 vessels having a total value of $75M. In 1867. Upon returning to Detroit after the Civil War, Captain Swain first served as Master of the Tug "Dispatch" (operated by H.N. Strong) under Captain Stephen B. Grummond (1834-1894). Captain Swain and Captain Grummond remained lifelong friends and were both members of the International Shipmasters Association Lodge No. 7 (Where Seth Arca Whipple served as Chaplain). In 1880, Captain Grummond, as the owner of the S.B. Grummond Lines, ordered the construction of the Towboat M. Swain with the Detroit Dry Dock Company and commissioned Seth Arca Whipple to commemorate the ship and his friendship with Captain Swain. This painting hung in the S.B. Grummond offices until it was donated to the International Shipmasters Association Lodge No. 7 circa 1895 - where it hung until it was gifted to Past President Arthur C. Johnson in recognition of his service to the lodge. Provenance: Stephen B. Grummond Lines; International Shipmasters Association Lodge No. 7; Gifted c.1932-34 to Arthur C. Johnson, Detroit, MI (Past President of Lodge No. 7); By descent to his widow, Molly Johnson, Detroit, MI; by descent to Mary E. Johnson-Chambers, Farmington Hills, MI; by descent to Charles A. Chambers, consignor.


Retaining its original canvas, frame and stretcher. There is an expertly done repair on the right center of the canvas where a patch was used on the verso. This work is very finely done and is one of the finest examples of Whipple's works in private hands. Please note all lots show signs of wear commensurate with age and use, and the lack of a statement regarding condition does not imply the lot is in perfect condition or completely free from defects or the effects of aging. Unless otherwise stated, all information provided is the opinion of DuMouchellesĂ­ specialists. Should you have any additional questions regarding the condition of this lot, please email conditions@dumouchelles.com.