Since her figurehead is entirely in shadow, it is not possible to unmask the identity of this classic Dawson study of a full-rigger in the moonlight except to confirm that she belongs to the White Diamond Line's fleet of North Atlantic packet ships made famous for the speed and reliability of their crossings in the decade after 1845.
Colonel Enoch Train founded his 'White Diamond' Line of Boston to Liverpool packets in 1844 despite the failure of two similar services in the 1820s and notwithstanding the fact that New York was already emerging as the dominant entry port for North Atlantic traffic in both freight and passengers. In the first year, the line's sailings from Lewis Wharf, Boston, were very irregular and the service was regarded with some amusement by the citizens of Boston. The shipping community in Liverpool also doubted it would succeed yet from the moment Train took delivery of his first ship from Donald McKay, the company's fortunes began to improve. McKay, the builder of so many great clippers in the years following, delighted Train with his 620-ton Joshua Bates and, as other similar thoroughbreds followed her into service, the White Diamond Line rapidly became a force to be reckoned with, especially in the emigrant trade. All McKay's ships were designed with extensive steerage accommodation and soon acquired a solid reputation for steadiness and safety which survived intact despite several disasters, most notably the spectacular loss by fire of the Ocean Monarch off North Wales in 1848. By the early 1850s, the White Diamond fleet was one of the largest and most successful American lines operating on the lucrative North Atlantic ferry until suddenly, in the autumn of 1854, unexpected financial problems forced the company's sale to Warren & Thayer. Even though the new owners retained the Train name until 1856, it was not long before the hugely distinctive black 'T' which decorated the fore-topsail of every White Diamond packet ship began to disappear and the once famous name it signified was consigned to history.
For another of Dawson's famous "White Diamonds", please see lot 517 in this catalogue.