Terrible Conflagration and Destruction of the Steamboat "New Jersey"


This hand-colored lithograph from 1856 shows a dramatic view of the steamboat New Jersey, engulfed in flames and smoke on the Delaware River. Panicked passengers huddle, jump, and dive into the icy river, where the water is already teeming with disaster victims. The men and women in the river bob and swim. Passengers lie on, attempt to stay upon, and assist others onto floes of ice and bits of debris. In the lower right of the image, a rowboat containing a rower and a man holding a baby (as well as a victim hanging on to the rear of the vessel) arrives at the nearby wharf. The rescuer hands the limp baby to a woman, as a man stands nearby with a look of concern. In the left background, signage for “Baths” can be seen on the riverbank. The New Jersey, captained by Ebenezer Corson, was mid-voyage to Camden from Philadelphia (using an alternate elongated route due to heavy ice), when it caught fire on the night of March 15, 1856. The fire started as a result of defective boilers, a fireplace, and brick work. With the fire spreading rapidly, Corson retreated to Arch Street Wharf in Philadelphia, and came within 30 feet of the pier when the pilot house collapsed, leaving the boat unmanned and out of control. Corson survived by leaping ashore before the uncontrolled ship drifted back out on the river. This print was published by John L. Magee (born circa 1820) and Alfred Pharazyn (circa 1833–circa 1878). Magee was an artist, engraver, and lithographer who specialized in cartoons and event prints. Active in Philadelphia by 1855, he produced portraits, church views, political cartoons, and event prints, including Civil War imagery. Pharazyn operated a print coloring establishment in Philadelphia between the 1850s and the 1870s.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

J.L. Magee and A. Pharazyn, Philadelphia


Title in Original Language

Terrible conflagration and destruction of the steamboat "New Jersey," on the Delaware River, above Smith's Island, on the night of March 15th, between 8 and 9 o'clock, in which dreadful calamity over 50 lives are supposed to have been lost

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 print : lithograph, hand-colored ; 22 x 34 centimeters


  • Digital catalog number: POS 745

Last updated: January 9, 2018