Sir Frank Short, R.A., P.R.E. 1857-1945.
The Breaking-Up of the Great Eastern, No. 2. 1890. Etching. Hardie 247. 7 7/8 x 10 (sheet 11 3/8 x 14 3/8). Hardie notes that few impressions were printed. A rich impression with plate tone printed on cream laid paper with full margins. Signed in pencil. An extremely rare and historically significant image. $450.
The SS Great Eastern was Brunel's massive 22,500-ton steamship that was so far ahead of her time that her length (nearly 700 feet) and tonnage would remain unmatched for four more decades. She was by far the largest ship the World had ever seen and was intended for the passenger and cargo trade between England and Ceylon.
Though christened Leviathan during a initial launching attempt in early November 1857, she was thereafter always known as Great Eastern, No. 2. Nearly three month's costly struggle to get her afloat, and more problems while she was completing, left her original company bankrupt. New owners decided to employ her on the route between Britain and North America. However, insufficient capitalisation restricted outfitting to luxury accomodations, thus ignoring the decidedly non-luxurious, but very profitable immigrant trade. The ship financial difficulties continued, compounded by a series of accidents.
At the end of its days, in August 1888, having been used as a fairground and advertising hoarding, the fate of the Great Eastern, No. 2 was sealed when it was sold for scrap. Deconstruction work on the ship started on 1 January 1889, on the banks of the Mersey. Taking the iron hull apart was a matter of brute force, and over the next two years men chiselled, levered and hammered its plates apart until there was nothing left. A sad end for a magnificent 'Wonder of the Industrial World'.
The destruction of the ship gave birth to the macabre legend that two skeletons, the remains of a riveter and his bash-boy, were found inside the sealed double bottomed hull. At the time it was thought that perhaps it had been the souls of these poor unfortunates that had cursed the great ship with so much bad luck.
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