William Halsall: Artist of ‘Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor’

Marine artist William Formby Halsall’s 1882 “Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor” painting is a favorite of New Englanders and Mayflower descendants. What do we know about the painter – was he also a Mayflower descendant?

painting: “Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor” by William Formby Halsall

Painting: “Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor” by William Formby Halsall, 1882. Source: Wikipedia.

William Halsall was born 20 March 1841 in Kirkdale, Lancashire, England, and came to America in 1858 at age 17.

During the Civil War, Halsall enlisted in the U.S. Navy. His naval experience clearly shows in the theme of his paintings.

Following the war he married Josephine A. Nickerson (1841-1915) in Roxbury, Suffolk County, Massachusetts. He was naturalized a U.S. citizen on 24 January 1872 at the U.S. District Court in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts. He died 7 November 1919 in Winthrop, Suffolk County, Massachusetts.

While William was not a descendant of the Mayflower Pilgrims, his wife Josephine was. She was a descendant of Pilgrim Stephen Hopkins.

There are many newspaper articles in GenealogyBank about William Halsall, including this one published a few weeks after his death.

article about the artist William Formby Halsall, Momento newspaper article 15 November 1919

Momento (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 15 November 1919, page 3

The old 1900s news article describes the hanging of his painting “The Arrival in Boston Bay of the Fleet Bearing Governor John Winthrop’s Company of Colonists,” saying that it “…is a large canvas, in which the light of the early morning is flooding the spaces of the sea and sky with a rosy tone.”

GenealogyBank is your go-to source for thousands of newspaper articles and historical documents about the Mayflower Pilgrims and their descendants.

Related Mayflower Genealogy Articles & Resources:

History of the Plymouth Rock Landmark

Plymouth Rock, a large boulder on the edge of Plymouth Harbor, Massachusetts, is traditionally identified as the place where the Pilgrims first stepped ashore from the Mayflower in 1620 to found Plymouth Colony.

photo of Plymouth Rock

Credit: Wikipedia

Plymouth Rock has been visited, celebrated, and written about for centuries.

In 1835 Alexis de Tocqueville, a French author traveling throughout the United States, wrote:

“This Rock has become an object of veneration in the United States. I have seen bits of it carefully preserved in several towns in the Union. Does this sufficiently show that all human power and greatness is in the soul of man? Here is a stone which the feet of a few outcasts pressed for an instant; and the stone becomes famous; it is treasured by a great nation; its very dust is shared as a relic.”

Articles about Plymouth Rock have appeared in America’s newspapers since the early days of the nation.

Here is a verse from an early poem about Plymouth Rock written by Thomas Paine (1737-1809), published in 1799.

poem about Plymouth Rock by Thomas Paine, Federal Observer newspaper article 4 January 1799

Federal Observer (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), 4 January 1799, page 4

GenealogyBank has many newspaper articles reporting on Plymouth Rock celebrations over the years, including the 1820 celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing.

Celebration of the Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers at Plymouth, New England Palladium newspaper article 25 December 1800

New England Palladium (Boston, Massachusetts), 25 December 1800, page 4