James Frothingham
Elias Haskett Derby
Oil on canvas
1800 - 1825
Peabody Essex Museum

"James Frothingham's posthumous portrait celebrates the life of a man who never went to sea, yet made his fame and fortune during Salem's maritime heyday. Elias Haskett Derby (1739 - 1799) owned seven vessels at the outbreak of the American Revolution, four of which were quickly captured by the enemy. He converted his remaining ships to privateers to attack British merchantmen, purchasing more privateers with proceeds from the vessels they captured. From 1776 - 1782, Derby owned, in part or whole, eighty-five privateers that employed eight thousand men. These ships captured 144 enemy vessels, while only 19 of Derby's were lost. Following the war, he returned to maritime commerce, sending the first New England ship, Grand Turk, to China to trade American ginseng for silk and tea. At his death, Derby left what was probably the largest sing-owned business in America. The Reverend William Bentley said that wealth flowed 'with full tide in upon that successful man.'"

Quoted from Maritime Art - The Sea: Art and Experience. Peabody Essex Museum Gallery Guide, n.d.