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Oak Figurehead, The Edinburgh
Anyone familiar with maritime history will recognize the graceful figures of men and women that once rode proudly on the bows of America's ships.

In colonial times, ship figurehead carving was a skilled craft that required an apprenticeship under a master. Figureheads were carved in pieces and joined with wooden pegs. Detachable arms could be removed to prevent damage during storms.

Figureheads depicted gods and goddesses, ship owners, and American presidents. Decorative scrolls were also popular.

The names of many craftsmen have been lost to us over time. But their work lives on in watercolor paintings made by artists of the Index of American Design project (1935-1941).

The galleries herein display some of these prints from the 1930s.
 
Kay Davis, University of Virginia, © 2000-2003