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William D. Lawrence was an full-rigged sailing ship built in Maitlandmarker, Nova Scotiamarker along the Minas Basinmarker and named after her builder, the merchant and politician William Dawson Lawrence (1817-1886).

Built in 1874, she was the largest wooden sailing ship ever built in Canadamarker. (Two larger wooden sailing barques were built at Quebecmarker in 1824 and 1825, but they were temporary log barges designed for one-way voyages across the Atlantic.) William Lawrence was a fierce opponent of Canadian Confederation which he predicted would bring ruin to Nova Scotia's flourishing shipbuilding industry. Initially planning to build a smaller vessel, he deliberately increased the size of William D. Lawrence to create a landmark vessel for the province's shipping industry before it declined. The vessel defied critics who claimed that a wooden vessel of its size would be unmanagable and lose money.

After several profitable years, the ship was sold to Norwegian owners in 1883 and renamed Kommander Svend Foyn. She was stranded in the English Channelmarker in 1891 and converted to a barge, later sinking in Dakarmarker, Africa.

The ship was the subject of at least three formal ship portraits, one at the Nova Scotia Museummarker displayed at Lawrence House in Maitland, one at the Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management in Halifax and one at the Musée national de la Marinemarker in Paris, Francemarker.

The vessel's achievement is commemorated in Maitland by a National Historic Site monument at the restored home of her builder, Lawrence House, part of the Nova Scotia Museummarker. Maitland celebrates the launch of William D. Lawrence every September at a weekend festival called "Launch Days".


  1. "William D. Lawrence" Maritime Museum of the Atlantic Frequently Asked Questions
  2. "The Ship William D. Lawrence", attributed to E. Adams, 67.304.37, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic William D. Lawrence Infosheet
  3. Portrait by E. Petit, NSARM, Accession #: 1979-147.88, Tall Ships of Atlantic Canada – Ship Portrait
  4. The Canadian Encyclopedia
  5. Maitland, NS Launch Days Festival

Other Sources

  • Sailing Ships of the Maritime (by Charles Armour and Thomas Lackey. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1975)

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