I got lucky again with this identified portrait taken in the studio of John Holyland between 1865 and 1880.
On the back is written in old but still quite legible ink, “Mr. Wm. E. Woodall a dear friend of Baltimore Md. shipbuilder.”
Research in census records quickly turned up a William E. Woodall, ship builder, born in England in 1837. Through research in a newspaper archive, I learned that William E. Woodall & Co. was founded by three partners in Baltimore in 1873: William Woodall, his brother James, and Charles A. Witler. The announcement of the new partnership related that the yard was located on “the north side of the basin, near Reese’s Furnace.”
According to Robert C. Keith’s Baltimore Harbor: A Pictorial History (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005), William Easley Woodall arrived in Baltimore from Liverpool in 1853, at the age of 15 (pp. 102-103). Woodall’s yard built and refitted all sorts of vessels until its closure in 1929. It is now remembered chiefly for its drydock:
“The yard he created had the harbor’s first drydock, a floating affair built at the Reeder wharf on Federal Hill in 1874. The 270-by-60-ft. drydock was a harbor landmark for 62 years. It could be sunk in 30 minutes to pick up a ship in need of paint or repair, and handled 50 or more vessels a year” (Baltimore Harbor, p. 103).
Keith’s volume includes a map of the harbor showing the location of the Woodall yard and many other docks.
Woodall died in 1884; his brother James in 1915. James is buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Baltimore; it seems likely William is there as well. A third brother, Henry Easby or Easley Woodall (1827-1909), settled in Baltimore as a rigger after a career at sea and in the California gold fields. They may have had an elder sister, Hester Woodall Richardson, wife of ship’s joiner James Richardson.
John Holyland, chose a simple, vignetted bust for Woodall’s portrait. Subtle side-lighting delineates the features of a successful, confident, and vigorous man in the prime of life.