Samuel Walters

The iron screw barque African requesting a Liverpool pilot off the Skerries, Anglesey, North Wales

Oil on canvas: 36(h) x 60(w) in /

91.44(h) x 152.4(w) cm

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AT 76



Born at sea 1811 – 1882 Bootle


The iron screw barque African requesting a Liverpool pilot off the Skerries, Anglesey, North Wales


Painted between 1855 and 1863

Canvas: 36 x 60 in / 91.5 x 152 cm

Frame size: 43 x 67 ½ in / 109.2 x 171.4 cm



Private collection, England



The application of steam power to shipping revolutionised ocean travel. For the first time in history, mankind was not wholly dependent on the vagaries of the winds. The initial steam-powered ships were paddle steamers. In the late 1830s the more efficient method of screw propulsion was developed; the Admiralty Board ordered the construction of the first screw steamer in 1840.


The African was built in Glasgow by Smith & Rodger in 1855. She was of iron hull construction, 1,529 gross tons, length 281 ft and beam 34 ½ ft, with a clipper stem, one funnel, three masts rigged for sail, a single screw and a speed of ten knots. The African was owned by Dixon & Co of Liverpool, whose pennants fly at the main masthead. This dates the picture to before 1863, when the African was sold to the Inman Line of Liverpool and renamed City of Limerick.


The Inman Line was founded by William Inman in 1850 as the Liverpool & Philadelphia Steam Ship Company. It was a pioneer of screw propulsion, as this machinery allowed for larger hold space, and thus greater profits. By the mid-nineteenth century Liverpool had become the major port for emigration from the UK to the United States of America, with thousands pouring out of poverty-stricken Ireland in search of a better life. Passage with the Inman Line took fourteen days and cost 6 gns, including cooked meals, a huge improvement on the conditions in the sailing packets. By 1860, Inman was running a weekly service from Liverpool employing eight steamships and carrying 16,000 emigrants annually to America. Although he painted the African before she was bought by Inman, Samuel Walters painted at least fourteen ships of the Inman Line (all named after different cities) between 1855 and 1881[1].


The African made her first voyage from Liverpool to New York for the Inman Line on 29th May 1863. In 1870 she was rebuilt to 2,536 gross tons, lengthened to 331 ft and fitted with compound engines by G Forrester & Co., Liverpool, making crossings to New York and Philadelphia. In 1879 she was sold to the Thistle Line of London. She set out from New York bound for Liverpool on 8th January 1882 and disappeared forever into the grey Atlantic[2].  


Report compiled with information kindly provided by Sam Davidson. SAMUEL WALTERS

Born at sea 1811 – 1882 Bootle


Born in 1811 at sea on a passage between Bideford and London, Samuel Walters was the son of the shipwright and marine painter Miles Walters (1774-1849). By 1832 the family had moved to Liverpool. Samuel trained and collaborated with his father and some of their joint paintings are signed Walters and Son. In 1830 he showed his first work, Dutch boats in a fresh breeze, at the Liverpool Academy Annual Exhibition, and continued to exhibit there for thirty-five years, becoming a member in 1841. Between 1842 and 1861 he exhibited at the Royal Academy, specialising in coastal views.  


Samuel Walters lived in London 1845-47, before returning to Liverpool, which was enjoying its greatest shipping boom. He gained commissions for ship portraits from all the major owners. Walters died in Bootle in 1882 – by family tradition, shortly after signing his final painting. His son George Stanfield Walters (1838-1924) was also a painter.


The work of Samuel Walters is represented in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich; the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool and the Peabody Museum of Salem, Massachusetts. 



[1] AS Davidson, Samuel Walters, Coventry 1992, pp.91 and 202.

[2] NRP Bonsor, North Atlantic Seaway, vol. I, pp.240-1.

MarineSamuel Walters