The ribs of a partially built schooner rest on the sands of the Carver Shipyard in Searsport, Maine, in John H. Snow’s Schooner On the Ways from 1918. Under the blue sky and sparse clouds, a steam shed, oakum shop and storage buildings color the background.
Carver Shipyard, named after the master shipbuilder John Carver, began producing boats in 1824. The first boat built there was the schooner Boston, which Carver himself worked on. Within 40 years, the yard produced 25 schooners, six brigs and five barks, among other ships. The yard then passed to Carver’s son George, who continued to produce boats after the death of his father. Frederick Frasier Black, author of Searsport Sea Captains, wrote, “Of the early ship builders, and there were many, John Carver was outstanding.”
When Snow painted Schooner On the Ways, shipbuilding in Searsport, and most of Maine, was long over. In fact, the last schooner built in the town, The Conner, was launched in 1890. To re-create this scene, Snow relied on his imagination, his historical knowledge and a sense of space.
Snow was born in 1875 in Newton, Massachusetts, to Caroline and Henry Snow, a stair builder. Married twice, John Snow had no children. In the 1880s, he worked as a draftsman for an unknown company in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There, he refined his knowledge of engineering and construction, as well as his drawing skills. Later, he moved to Waltham, where he continued his work as a draftsman at Waltham Public Works.
The subject matter of Snow’s work is largely
focused on landscapes and outdoor scenes in coastal New England towns such as Ipswich, Massachusetts, and Searsport. Despite his skills as a painter and his knowledge of engineering, Snow has remained somewhat obscure as an artist. In 1939, he died from unknown causes. Even now, it’s not clear who commissioned this painting. Today, it is part of the permanent collection at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, as it documents an integral way of life, history and culture in the region. —Lidia Goldberg
This article was originally published in the February 2023 issue.