1876 Irish Nationalist Australian Prison Escape Lithograph "the Catalpa Rescue" For Sale
Exceptionally rare and fascinating, original, 1876 hand colored Stone Lithograph of the American Whaling Ship "Catalpa" which was used in the daring rescue of 6 Irish Nationalist / Fenian Prisoners from the British Penal Colony in Western Australia returning them safely to New York under the protection of the American Flag. The Catalpa Rescue was among the most celebrated escapes of Irish Political Prisoners of the late 19th century and was an expensive and well planned operation executed by supporters of Irish Independence in both the United States and Ireland.
This very rare Lithograph is titled "The Catalpa / The Rescuers and the Rescued". It measures 19 1/2" by 15 1/4" (sight) and is framed in a simple wooden frame (overall size of frame is 20 3/4" by 17"). The Print features a central image of the Whaling Ship "Catalpa" under full sail flying the American Flag and surrounded by smaller ships (likely a view of the Catalpa's triumphant return to the United States with the rescued Irish Heroes).
This central image is surrounded by buts portraits of the Six rescued prisoners and the 6 men most responsible for their successful flight to freedom. The "Rescuers" are pictured across the top of the sheet and are (left to right) John Breslin (an Irishman who went to Australia to organize the escape), Denis Duggan (a member of the Irish republican organization in the United States known as the "Clan na Gael" and a crew member), Thomas Desmond (a crew member), Thomas Brennan (another Irish American who traveled to Australia in preparation for the arrival of the catalpa), Captain Anthony (the captain of the ship). On the left and right hand sides of the central image there are portraits of the six "Fenian escapees" - Michael Harrington, Thomas Darragh, James McNally Wilson, Thomas Hassett, Martin J. Hogan, and Robert Cranston. The border areas also feature decorations of green shamrocks and Irish Harps.
The Print is undated but does carry the mark of the Lithographer Britton & Rey of San Francisco, California. Extensive internet research has found only one example of this rare Lithograph in Museum and Library Collections (held by the National Gallery of Australia). We believe that this Print is exceptionally rare.
This exceptionally rare and important, 1876 Catalpa Rescue Lithograph is, unfortunately, in good condition only - trimmed on three edges and damaged along the right hand edge. The strike is strong and the hand coloring bright. There is some light soiling to the surface and some scattered light foxing but no areas of dark staining. There are a number of short edge tears and, as stated above the sheet has been trimmed on all edges with damage affecting the portraits along the right hand edge. There is also some light, horizontal wrinkling to the paper. Please see the scans below for a good indication of the condition of this historically important Irish / American Lithograph. Certainly the Print is worthy of a professional conservation and restoration due to its rarity and subject matter!!
An exceptionally rare and historically important, 1876 hand colored Stone Lithograph of the American Whaling Ship "Catalpa" which was used in the daring rescue of 6 Irish Nationalist / Fenian Prisoners from the British Penal Colony in Western Australia and a fantastic addition to any collection!!!!
The Fascinating Story of the CATALPA RESCUE:
The "Catalpa Rescue" was the escape, in 1876, of six Irish Fenian prisoners from what was then the British penal colony of Western Australia.
From 1865 to 1867, British authorities rounded up supporters of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, an Irish independence movement, and transported sixty-two of them to the penal colony of Western Australia. Among them was John Boyle O'Reilly, later to become the editor of the Boston newspaper The Pilot. They were sent on the convict ship Hougoumont and landed at Fremantle, in January 1868, after which they were moved to the Convict Establishment (now Fremantle Prison).
Two years later in 1869, O'Reilly escaped on the whaling ship Gazelle. In the summer of 1870, Father McCabe received a letter from O'Reilly, who now used another name. He had reached Boston and had beaten the warders of the British colony. Two years after arrival in Boston, O'Reilly became editor of The Pilot. In 1871, another Fenian, John Devoy, was granted amnesty in England, among others, on condition that he settle outside Ireland, and he sailed to New York City. He also became a newspaperman, for the New York Herald. He joined the Clan na Gael, an organization that supported armed insurrection in Ireland.
In 1869, pardons had been issued to many of the imprisoned Fenians. Another round of pardons were issued in 1871, after which only a small group of militant Fenians remained in Western Australia's penal system. In 1873, Devoy received a smuggled letter from imprisoned Fenian James Wilson, who was among those the British had not released. He asked them to aid the escape of the remaining Fenian prisoners. Devoy discussed the matter with O'Reilly and Thomas McCarthy Fennell, and Fennell suggested that a ship be purchased, laden with a legitimate cargo, and sailed to Western Australia, where it would not be expected to arouse suspicion. The Fenian prisoners would then be rescued by stealth rather than force of arms. Devoy approached the 1874 convention of the Clan na Gael and got the Clan to agree to fund a rescue of the men. He then approached whaling agent John T. Richardson, who told them to contact his son-in-law, whaling captain George Smith Anthony, who agreed to help.
James Reynolds, a member of the Clan and on the committee to rescue the prisoners, bought under his name for the Clan a three-masted whaling bark Catalpa for $5,200, and George Anthony recruited twenty-two sailors. On 29 April 1875, Catalpa sailed from New Bedford, Massachusetts. At first, most of the crew was unaware of their real mission. Anthony noticed too late that the ship's marine chronometer was broken, so he had to rely on his own skills for navigation. First they sailed to Faial Island in Azores, where they off-loaded 210 barrels of sperm whale oil. Unfortunately, much of the crew deserted the ship, and they had to leave three sick men behind. Anthony recruited replacement crew members and set sail for Western Australia.
At the same time, two Fenian agents, John Breslin and Tom Desmond, had arrived in Western Australia in September. Breslin masqueraded as an American businessman "James Collins", with suitable letter of introduction, and got acquainted with Sir William Cleaver Robinson, Governor of Western Australia. Robinson took Breslin on a tour of the Convict Establishment (now Fremantle Prison). Desmond took a job as a wheelwright and recruited five local Irishmen who were to cut the telegraph lines connecting Australia on the day of escape.
Catalpa fell behind the intended schedule due to a serious storm, in which she lost her foremast. She dropped anchor off Bunbury on 27 March 1876. Captain Anthony and Breslin met and began to prepare for the rescue. The first intended day for escape was 6 April, but the appearance of HMS Convict and other Royal Navy ships and customs officers quickly led to a postponement. The escape was rearranged for 17 April, when most of the Convict Establishment garrison was watching the Royal Perth Yacht Club regatta.
On that day the Catalpa dropped anchor in international waters off Rockingham and dispatched a whaleboat to the shore. At 8.30 am, six Fenians who were working in work parties outside the prison walls, absconded - Thomas Darragh, Martin Hogan, Michael Harrington, Thomas Hassett, Robert Cranston and James Wilson – were met by Breslin and Desmond and picked up in carriages. A seventh Fenian, James Kiely, had been exposed as an informer by his fellow prisoners and left behind. The men raced 50 km south to Rockingham where Anthony awaited them on the beach with a rowboat. A local he had spoken to earlier saw the men and quickly alerted the authorities.
The rowboat faced difficulties on its return to the Catalpa due to a storm that lasted till dawn on 18 April. The storm was so intense that Anthony later stated that he didn't expect the small boat to survive. At 7am, with the storm over, they again made for the Catalpa but an hour later spotted the steamship SS Georgette which had been commandeered by the colonial governor making for the whaler. The men lay down in the rowboat and it was not seen by the Georgette which was forced to return to Fremantle to refuel after following the Catalpa for several hours.
As the rowboat again made for the ship a police cutter with 30 - 40 armed men was spotted. The two boats raced to reach the Catalpa first, with the rowboat winning and the men climbing aboard as the police cutter passed by. The cutter turned, lingered briefly beside the Catalpa, and then headed to shore.
Early on 19 April the refueled and now heavily armed Georgette returned and came alongside the whaler, demanding the surrender of the prisoners and attempting to herd the ship back into Australian waters. They fired a warning shot with the 12 pounder (5 kg) cannon that had been installed the night before. Ignoring the demand to surrender, Anthony had raised, and then pointed towards, the U.S. flag, informed the Georgette that an attack on the Catalpa would be considered an act of war against the USA, and proceeded westward. Georgette pursued until it was low on fuel and turned away. Catalpa slipped into the Indian Ocean.
Due to cut telegraph cables, news of the escape did not reach London until June. The cables were cut by volunteers John Durham and Denis F. McCarthy, a native of Kenmare, Co. Kerry. At the same time, the Catalpa did its best to avoid Royal Navy ships on its way back to the USA. O'Reilly received the news of the escape on 6 June (Stevens 2003, p. 352) and released the news to the press. The news sparked celebrations in the United States and Ireland and anger in Britain and Australia (although there was also sympathy for the cause within the Australian population).
A purge of prison officials in Fremantle followed. The Catalpa returned to New York harbor on 19 August 1876.
George Smith Anthony could no longer sail in international waters because the Royal Navy could have arrested him on sight. With the help of a journalist, Z. W. Pease, he published an account of his journey, The Catalpa Expedition, in 1897. The Catalpa was presented as a gift to Captain Anthony, John Richardson and Henry Hathaway, it was eventually sold and turned into a coal barge. Not of great value in this capacity, Catalpa was finally condemned at the port of Belize, British Honduras.
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1876 Irish Nationalist Australian Prison Escape Lithograph "the Catalpa Rescue": $878