Pictures to Go: Whatever Floats Your Boat!

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing–absolutely nothing–half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”
— The Water Rat, in The Wind in the Willows

The following is a guest post by Marilyn Ibach, Reference Specialist, Prints and Photographs Division. It is part of the Pictures to Go series of posts about transportation images.

Fashion model on edge of boat...Montego Bay, Jamaica. Photo by Toni Frissell, Nov. 1946. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ds.07071

Fashion model on edge of boat…Montego Bay, Jamaica. Photo by Toni Frissell, Nov. 1946. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ds.07071

Sports - rowing - Cambridge crew. Photo by George Grantham Bain, between 1910 and 1915. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.19493

Sports – rowing – Cambridge crew. Photo by George Grantham Bain, between 1910 and 1915. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.19493

Boating and fishing along Cane River on Fourth of July near Natchitoches, Louisiana. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott, 1940 July. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8c30572

Boating and fishing along Cane River on Fourth of July near Natchitoches, Louisiana. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott, 1940 July. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8c30572

Oh, what joy to be in a small boat. Perhaps, like me, you were lucky enough to have spent time near the water as a child. Or maybe you enjoy a sport that involves being in a small boat, such as canoeing, kayaking, sailing, or fishing. My childhood vacations on the Eastern Shore and Tidewater Virginia included going crabbing and exploring the mud flats in a Boston Whaler. Later, I learned to sail, navigating through mangrove swamps and bays in Florida.

Being in a boat on the water appeals to many people. A boat can provide recreational challenges, but it also connects you with nature. It can provide transport as well as a delightful escape. It can offer adventure, freedom, and sometimes quiet contemplation. It’s also a small space that can be shared with a companion, away from other people–which may be why scenes of courtship are so frequently set in boats.

In addition to its many photographs of boats and boating, the Prints and Photographs Division has plenty of historic non-photographic images of boating, from posters to photochrom prints, and from cartoons to popular prints.

Watchful weighting. Color lithograph by W.D. Goldbeck. Cover of Puck, vol. 75, published 1914 Aug. 1. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.28072

Watchful weighting. Color lithograph by W.D. Goldbeck. Cover of Puck, vol. 75, published 1914 Aug. 1. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.28072

"It's a whole big fun thing." Poster by Tomi Ungerer, 1972. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.43513

“It’s a whole big fun thing.” Poster by Tomi Ungerer, 1972. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.43513

Illustrations of boats are as varied as boating’s attractions. Associated themes can include the idea of a journey or provide a humorous or sentimental exploration of courtship and love.  Whatever floats your boat!

Learn More:

Pictures to Go: Moving Forward

Methods of transportation, from horse-drawn carriages to helicopters, from airplanes to automobiles, and from trains to trolleys offer a seemingly endless variety of visual inspiration. Some images capture a singular moment in history, some a flight of fancy which does not last, while others show us the progression over time as clever minds invent and […]