Ship facing left in image aglow in flames: people jumping off right end and lining up off left end to be lowered into boats by rope. Others clinging to debris in water. Sail boat off to left. Duplicate image , with same title but slightly different (2004.D03.666). Difference is size of print of title – .666 is a larger print and flame color is muddy.
One of the worst ship disasters of the 19th century occurred in 1858 when the steamship Austria caught on fire and more than 500 people perished. Many people leapt to their deaths from the burning ship. The 67 survivors provided accounts of the disaster including the cause of the fire: the fumigation of the steerage compartment with burning tar. A crew member dropped the burning tar when it became too hot. The tar ignited the interior of the vessel and those that were not burned either suffocated or drown. Newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic ran full accounts of the event and named survivors as well as all those who perished. The public was eager for images of the disaster and Currier & Ives quickly published this print based on the many harrowing details related by survivors.