On February 9th, the NOAA Central Library celebrated the restoration of their historic painting of the Coast and Geodetic Survey Ship Pathfinder, painted by Antonio Jacobsen in 1899 and restored in 2017. Jacobsen was a well-known painter sometimes called “the Audubon of steamships.” In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, he painted over 6,000 ships, including the Pathfinder.
The NOAA Central Library was awarded a grant from the NOAA Preserve America Initiative to have the Pathfinder restored in 2017. The painting had suffered quite a bit of damage over its 100-plus years of life and was cleaned, restored, and reframed by Hartmann Fine Art Conservation Services. The event on February 9th celebrated its restoration and return to the NOAA Central Library.
In honor of the painting and the ship it depicts, the Library invited Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet (USN, ret.), NOAA assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, to speak, as well as Rear Adm. Shep Smith, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, and Skip Theberge, NOAA Central Library’s resident historian. OAR Assistant Administrator Craig McLean served as the event’s emcee. Rear Adm. Gallaudet spoke about preserving NOAA heritage and the importance of hydrography, and Rear Adm. Smith introduced the ship Pathfinder, and its crew, mission, and legacy. Finally, Skip Theberge gave a thorough history of the ship from its first missions in Alaska, its service in charting the Philippines for the United States, and its role as a training ship for the Philippine Coast & Geodetic Survey before its loss at the beginning of World War II.
The NOAA Central Library is proud to have this painting restored and back at its home in the Library. Thank you to everyone who attended the event! If you missed it, there is a recording available here, and you can also read Skip Theberge’s history of the Pathfinder here. Please come down to the library and see the painting in person as it is now hangs right behind our front desk!