William A. Coulter

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Coulter's San Francisco Fire, 1906
20 cent, 1923 US postage stamp of Golden Gate, based on painting by William Alexander Coulter

William A. Coulter, born William Alexander Coulter (March 7, 1849 – March 13, 1936), was an American painter of marine subjects. Coulter was a native of Glenariff, County Antrim, in what is today Northern Ireland. He became an apprentice seaman at the age of 13, and after seven years at sea, came to settle in San Francisco in 1869.[1] In the late 1870s, he went to Europe to study with marine artists Vilhelm Melbye, François Musin, and J. C. Jacobsen. In 1896, he joined the art staff of the San Francisco Call.[2] Between 1909 and 1920, he painted five 16-by-18-foot murals for the Assembly Room of the Merchants Exchange Building. Coulter resided in the San Francisco Bay Area until his death at the age of 87, in his Sausalito home. During the course of his life, his paintings chronicled the history of shipping and navigation in the San Francisco and San Pablo bays.[3]


William A. Coulter's most famous work was his San Francisco Fire, 1906. The SS William A. Coulter was a Liberty ship which was constructed and deployed in 1943, and named in his honor.[4] In 1923, the United States Post Office issued a commemorative 20-cent stamp with one of Coulter’s paintings.[5] The Hawaii State Art Museum, the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Oakland Museum of California, the Orange County Museum of Art (Newport Beach, CA), and the U.S. Navy Museum (Washington, DC) are among the public collections holding work by William A. Coulter.[6]


  • Hughes, Edan, Artists in California 1786-1940, Sacramento, Crocker Art Museum, 2002.
  • Severson, Don R. Finding Paradise: Island Art in Private Collections, University of Hawaii Press, 2002, pp. 81–2.

External links

  • William A. Coulter Exhibition (website of the Paul and Linda Kahn Foundation)
  • 20-cent Golden Gate stamp A painting by W.A. Coulter inspired the vignette.
  • William Coulter at Visual Arts Cork, Irish artist Encyclopedia


  1. ^ Hughes, Edan, 2002
  2. ^ Hughes, Edan, 2002
  3. ^ "Artist Biography: William Coulter, 1849 - 1936". Edan Milton Hughes: Specializing in the Art of Early California since 1960. (edanhughes.com). Retrieved January 26, 2009. 
  4. ^ "William A. Coulter". The Maritime Heritage Project (maritimeheritage.org). Retrieved January 26, 2009. 
  5. ^ Hughes, Edan, 2002
  6. ^ AskArt.com

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