06-05-2005 06-05-2005
Skinner Auctions
Skinner Auctions Boston MA
2295 Boston
June 5, 2005 11:00 AMCalender

J.P. Fisk, (Boston, ac. late 19th century), Painting of the "Union Wadding Co." Fire, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, 1870

Auction: American Furniture & Decorative Arts - 2295 Location: Boston Date / Time: June 05, 2005 11:00AM


J.P. Fisk, (Boston, ac. late 19th century),

Painting of the "Union Wadding Co." Fire, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, 1870, signed "J.P. Fisk Boston" in the lower left, this manufactory near the railroad produced cotton wadding and batting and suffered one of Pawtucket, Rhode Island's, most destructive fires on September 10, 1870, which was sketched by railroad commuter and eyewitness, J.P. Fisk, the artist whose work carefully and accurately records the position of the buildings, the steamers, the firemen, the passing railroad trains, the churches and dwellings in the distance, as well as the onlookers in meticulous detail, against the backdrop of Pawtucket's skyline lit by the fire's orange glow, 51 1/2 x 73 3/4 in., framed (sight) Condition: Relined, laid down, varnished, replaced 3 in. frame.

Note: According to the Providence Daily Journal's contemporary account in the Sept. 10, 1870, issue: "The mill of the Union Wadding Company in Pawtucket was destroyed by fire, last night with all the machinery and stock in process of manufacture, making a total loss from $150,000 to $200,000...the watchman...found the new dye room at the south end of the building to be on fire. He gave the alarm which does not appear however to have been communicated with much alertness and by the time the engines were all on the ground, the fire had gained considerable headway and was running along inside the whole length of the building. Rough and Ready Company were first on the ground. Water was scarce and the small quantity in the cisterns in the neighborhood was soon exhausted without much effect on the devouring flames which poured a fiery rain of sparks through the windows and fed rapidly on the rafters of the roof. There was a light westerly breeze blowing and it was feared that the boiler house and engine picker-house and waste house would also be burnt but these buildings--as well as the storehouses and machine shops--were saved. The firemen were compelled to obtain water from Jackie's Pond fourteen hundred feet from the mill.
The firefighting efforts of the steam engines and the hoses which played water on the buildings saved the stock but water damaged it. It was the main building, built of stone 332 feet x forty feet and 2 1/2 stories high that was totally destroyed. This same Union Wadding Mill was burnt to the ground about fifteen years ago and was rebuilt and enlarged. Over eighty hands are thrown out of employment by this accident; but rebuilding, it is understood, will at once be commenced. Before the fire, the mill was producing 6000 pounds of cotton wadding...the demand at the present is beyond that capacity."
According to the Pawtucket Gazette and Chronicle, May 1872: "the Union Wadding Company was the largest and best arranged establishment of the kind in the country.
The Pawtucket Gazette and Chronicle also reported in 1872 that "through the efforts of the Fairmount Steam Fire Engine Co. no. 3, this scene is being transferred to canvas by a Boston artist." Later, May 1872, they reported: "This beautiful work of art was planned to be exhibited the end of May 1872 in order to raise money to pay for the picture. Photographs of the painting of different sizes will be offered for sale at the festival." The same year the mill was re-built "in large proportions and with more perfect machinery. It is driven by a Croliss engine of 300 horsepower. The mill and necessary adjoining buildings occupy an area of about f our acres and are twice the size of any wadding manufactory in the world."

Provenance: This painting hung within the Union Wadding Co., whose records date to 1771, until its recent closing.

Note: Three books relating to the Union Wadding Co. accompany this lot: a ledger, dated 1870-76, showing accounts and balances from the books of the company owners, beginning in 1860: Goff, Cranston and Brownell; a ledger identified "Providence Nov. 1, 1870-March 30, 1872"; and a book Lamb's Textile Industries of the United State by E. Everton Foster, vol. II, Boston 1916. It includes a biographical chapter on Darius Lee Goff, who began the parent company of Union Wadding Co. in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, in 1840. In 1844 he extended his business by building a mill in Providence. By 1847 he moved the company to Pawtucket. In 1860 the new firm of the Union Wadding Co. was formed, consisting of Darius Goff, John Cranston, Stephen Brownell and Henry A. Stearns.
Estimate $75,000-125,000


Union Wadding Co., Pawtucket, J.P. Fisk, Stephen Brownell, machinery, Rhode Island, Providence Daily Journal, US Federal Reserve, Union Wadding Mill, The Pawtucket Gazette, John Cranston, Darius Goff, Boston artist , Fairmount Steam Fire Engine Co., Lamb's Textile Industries, Rehoboth, Massachusetts, Henry A. Stearns