Original drawing of the Wall Street Ferry signed by famed artist Alfred Waud

A[lfred R.] Waud, Wall Street Ferry 1855. New York, 1855.
Pen and ink on cream wove paper, 11¾”h x 19½”w at neat line on a 19 5/8”h x 26 3/8”w sheet of heavy wove paper, titled. Titled, dated, and signed “A. Waud fec.” at lower right; moderate toning, tipped along top edge to later stiff paper. The drawing was toned when I acquired it but has cleaned beautifully. There is only some very minor residual soiling, along with a few expert repairs and restorations to margins and corners (visible only with backlighting).

A refined antebellum drawing of New York City’s Wall Street Ferry by Alfred R. Waud, who went on to become one of the most accomplished and best-known journalist-illustrators of the Civil War.

The view depicts the eastern end of Wall Street as seen from the West, with the artist possibly standing near the intersection with Wall Street. In the middle ground is the new terminal of the Wall Street Ferry Company, constructed in 1853, with the East River and Brooklyn shoreline in the background. A crowd is lined up in front of the terminal awaiting the next available boat. When Waud drew this scene in 1855 Wall Street was already a major commercial center and the setting for Melville’s classic 1853 short story “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street,” but it would be another decade before it became home to the New York Stock Exchange. A Wall Street Ferry operates to this day, though its terminal is at Pier 11 about a half-block to the south.

I’m no art critic but to my eye the view is very nicely done, with the terminal nicely framed by the adjacent buildings and merchant vessels, convincing use of perspective, considerable attention to architectural and maritime detail, and nice elements of enlivening humanity. I find no record of the view having ever been published. Indeed, Stokes’ Iconography of Manhattan Island, admittedly written nearly a century ago, records no early views of the ferry.

Alfred R. Waud
Waud (1828-1891) was born in London, England and emigrated to the United States in 1850. While still in England he had studied at the Government School of Design in London, intending to pursue a career as a maritime painter, but working all the while painting theatrical scenery. Fortunately for posterity, neither the professional ambition nor the side hustle panned out, and once in the United States he was compelled to take work as an illustrator.

With the outbreak of the Civil War the News hired Waud and assigned him to cover the Army of the Potomac as a “special artist”. At the end of 1861 he was nabbed by Harper’s Weekly, though he continued as a special artist on the Army of the Potomac beat through the end of the war and ended up covering every one of its major engagements as well as life in camp. Perhaps his most famous illustration is of Pickett’s charge, as it is thought to be the only eyewitness rendering of the event. Theodore Davis, one of Waud’s fellow special artists, later stated that Waud “made for himself a reputation, and became recognized as the best special artist in the field. His collection of sketches is by far the most complete and valuable made during the war”.

Waud continued his illustration work after the war, concentrating largely on historical subjects, though he also contributed to Willem Cullen Bryant’s Picturesque America (1872-74). He seems to have prospered mightily, for the mid-1870s he and his family moved into a 22-room mansion in New York City.  He died in Marietta, Georgia, while on a tour of southern battlefields.

All original artwork by Waud is rare, and per RareBookHub this fine rendering is the only example his antebellum work to have appeared on the antiquarian market.

David Meschutt, “Ward, Alfred R.” at American National Biography.