'Taboga, Bay of Panama - Islands of Perico, Hill over Panama &c in the distance, March 1850'

(Updated, February 2014) No. 39 in Fanshawe's Pacific album, 1849 - 52. Fold-out panoramic drawing on two joined sheets, the right one stuck down on the album page and captioned by the artist below the image, as title. 'Daphne' was lying at the island of Taboga on 21 March when Fanshawe wrote to his brother-in-law, Edward Cardwell MP, about the effects of the 1849 California gold-rush at Panama. At the time many people, mainly Americans, were thronging there to try and get to the 'diggings' by sea but generally getting fleeced in Panama saloons and gambling dens run by their own compatriots. The problem extended to Taboga, which had many ships carrying '49-ers' stopping there: 'This island is the watering place for the ships, and is about eight miles from Panama. It is fertile and supplies Panama with fruit. A few years ago it was a favourite resort for those who wanted quiet and seclusion; now it is a den of lawless deserters from English and American ships, of whom there is a gang of about forty armed, who hold together and defy all attempts to capture them. They are now generally in the "bush" on account of our presence, but they are destroying the fruit trees and crops of the natives, out of sheer wantonness, besides the robberies and forced sales of provisions by which they subsist....: there is one large English ship here with only two men on board, the rest being with the gang in the bush. If I have sufficient information to attempt to capture these ruffians, I mean to send an armed force...' (Fanshawe [1904] pp. 256-57). While 'Daphne' was at Panama itself, Fanshawe (through the British consul) was asked to help by the Spanish Governor and mounted a raid on Taboga at his and the US and British consuls' request: ' At the time there were only three or four ships at Taboga, so ruffianism was rather slack, and only nine men were arrested', most being Americans (p. 258). From left to right across the drawing, one sees the village of Taboga with its white church standing prominently above: the 'Daphne' is probably the large sailing ship with the pennant, second from left in the anchorage. The twin-masted paddle steamer further right lies in front of the offshore islet of El Morro, flying what appears to be the stars-and-stripes ensign of the USA. Next right is the low blue/grey cone of distant Cerro Ancon (Ancon hill) which conceals the city of Panama beyond, round to its right: today, on its left, one would be looking north directly into the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal at Balboa. The Perico Islands are the small dun-coloured islets further right: Naos and Perico itself, with low Culebra just visible between, and Flamenco to the right. The white speck is a distant sail, with San Jose rock a little to its right. The twin-masted paddle steamer shown is consistent with those of the British-flagged Pacific Steam Navigation Co.’s 'Peru' (1840), 'Chile' (1840) and 'Bolivia (1849), which sailed from Taboga to Valparaiso. Their service started in 1845, using El Morro as a base and leasing it from July 1850. They later bought it and built an extensive ship-repair and coaling works there. The Pacific Mail Steamship Co. started sailing from Panama to San Francisco in 1849 and also used Taboga as a port facility. It was US-owned but its first three paddle steamers in 1849-50, the 'California' (1848), 'Oregon' (1848) and 'Panama' (1848), and the 'Tennessee' (1848, which first reached Panama in March 1850), were all three-masters. However, there may have been other two-masted American vessels present at what, as shown here, was the very start of the California traffic. Fanshawe preserved four views of Panama, all made in March 1850: the others are PAI4641, PAI4643 and PAI4644. (We are grateful for corrections supplied by Dr Stewart Redwood, Panama.)

Object Details

ID: PAI4646
Type: Drawing
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Fanshawe, Edward Gennys
Places: Panama
Date made: Mar 1850
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Sheet: 176 x 515 mm
Parts: Album of watercolours of Madeira, Brazil, the Falkland and Pacific Islands, Chile, Panama, Mexico, Vancouver, and California (Album)

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