The SS Ponce at Sea by Antonio Jacobsen – $25,000
Oil on Board, 19 ½” x 35″ sight.
Signed and dated and inscribed ‘Antonio Jacobsen 1912’
Antonio Jacobsen (1850-1921).
The single-screw steamer Ponce was built for the New York & Porto Rico Steamship company by Harlan & Hollingsworth at Wilmington, Delaware, in 1899. Registered at 3,506 tons, she measured 317 feet in length with a 42’ beam, and could make 12 knots at full steam. With accommodation for 70 First and 30 Second Class passengers, she sailed the New York to the West Indies route for many years until reportedly sold to Chinese owners in 1956, after which she was renamed.
Despite her exceptionally long service life, by far the most interesting episode in Ponce’s otherwise mundane career actually took place in September 1899, whilst the ship was running her trials off the eastern seaboard of the United States. These trials coincided with that year’s America’s Cup races and the Italian wireless pioneer Signor Marconi, who had agreed to report the races for the New York Herald newspaper, chose Ponce as his floating headquarters. Thus it was that the first ever ship-to-shore wireless telegraph message within the United States was transmitted from Ponce on 29th September 1899 whilst the ship was in New York harbor participating in the naval parade to welcome Admiral Dewey home from his victorious campaign in the Philippines. This was reported in the next day’s newspaper and the America’s Cup race reports followed immediately afterward.
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