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State Street Trust Company, 

Some Ships of the 
Clipper Ship Era 













Their Builders ^ Owners, and Captains 







19 13 BY THE 





in presenting to you the seventh of the historical brochures 
that it has issued annually during the past six years. 

It hopes that this will be of interest, as the pamphlet pre- 
sents a phase of Boston's past, during which the foundation 
of New England's mercantile supremacy was being laid by the 
captains and merchants of this important era. In fact, the be- 
ginning of Boston's prosperity goes back to the days of its mer- 
chant traders, whose ships made the American flag so well known 
in Asiatic, Australian, and Californian ports. 

An attempt has been made to give a bird's-eye view of the 
clipper ships which during their history have had some connec- 
tion with Boston either through their captains, their builders, or 
their owners. The pamphlet does not purpose to be more than 
an outline presentation of the subject that has been so fully covered 
by Captain Arthur H. Clark in his book on Clipper Ships and by 

The Company desires to acknowledge its indebtedness to Dr. 
O, T. Howe, whose exhaustive study of the clipper ship era was 
placed freely at its disposal, as well as to the "Clipper Ship Era" 
by Captain Arthur H. Clark. Thanks are also due for their 
assistance in the preparation of this book or for permission to 
photograph paintings or prints in their possession to Charles H. 
Taylor, Jr., the heirs of William F. Weld and William G. Weld, 
Louis Bacon, C. M. Baker, C. H. Millett, B. B. Crowninshield, 
Captain Horace N. Berry, Senior Port Warden of Boston, Frank 
Cousins, Richard Martin, A. W. Longfellow, Portsmouth Athe- 
naeum, Portsmouth, N.H., George H. Allen, Captain Sylvanus 
Nickerson, Lawrence W. Jenkins, of the Peabody Museum, and to 
the Bostonian Society. 



THE clipper ships have passed from the seas, and with 
them has gone the golden age of the American mer- 
chant marine. All that is left of the long, swift-sailing 
clippers, with their rakish masts, yacht-like lines, and clouds of 
canvas, lies either at the bottom of the ocean, on reefs of far- 
away islands, on granite ledges off Cape Horn, or may be found 
serving ignominiously their last days as coal barges or landing 
stages for passengers from other ships. Many were ruthlessly 
destroyed by the "Alabama" and other privateers during the 
Civil War. 

Most of their masters and owners, too, have gone. The few 
captains who survive are either living in weather-beaten, lichen- 
covered, gray farm-houses of their native Cape Cod towns on 
the savings of their strenuous sea-faring days or earning, in towns 
not far from the sea they loved so well, a meagre livelihood as 
port wardens or minor custom-house officers. Descendants of 
some of the owners are now the heads of well-known New Eng- 
land or New York families, the foundation of whose prosperity 
was laid by the consummate seamanship, intrepid daring, tireless 
energy, shrewd Yankee bargaining, and sterling integrity of the 
clipper ship captains. The clipper era was at its height from 
1848 to 1860, and this period, too, saw the most flourishing years 
of the American merchant marine. 

The very name "clipper ship" conveys an idea of speed, — 
the main purpose of their builders, — and was derived from the 
word "clip." Dryden, speaking of the falcon, says, "Straight 
flies at check and clips it down the wind." And as "to clip" 
meant to run or fly fast, so the word "clipper" soon came to 
describe the fast-sailing cargo carriers with sharp concave bows 


and long tapering sterns. Originally built to meet the demand 
for fast voyages in the tea trade, the construction of these vessels 
received a great impetus from the discovery of gold in California, 
when all the supplies were shipped from the East, and the price 
that cargoes brought was governed by the speed with which 
they were delivered in San Francisco. So great grew the demand 
for clippers that the ship-building geniuses of Boston, New York, 
and Portsmouth were soon sending from their ways ship after 
ship, each one of which was intended to be faster than its prede- 
cessor, and it was not long before the flags of Boston, New York, 
and Baltimore merchants flew from the maintrucks of ships that 
had no peers in beauty or speed, and were the envy of merchants 
the world over. Some of the clippers were so swift that they 
even announced in Boston their own arrival in Canton, and many 
made the voyage from New York or Boston to San Francisco 
at almost steamship speed, making the trip under 100 days, while 
the ordinary ship took from 200 to 300 days for the voyage. 

The "Lightning," commanded by James Nicol Forbes, during 
a voyage from Boston to Liverpool made 436 nautical, or 502.64 
statute, miles in 24 hours, — a speed faster than that of any 
ocean steamship of her day, and faster than any vessel, up to 
that time, had been moved by sail. She made the whole voyage 
in 13 days, 193^-2 hours. Her 24-hour speed was not equalled by 
steamer until the advent of the "Oregon" in the 80 's. Her 24- 
hour run was at an average rate of almost eighteen knots. The 
"James Baines" made the passage from Boston to Liverpool 
in the fall of 1854 in 12 days and 6 hours, the quickest voyage 
on record; and she made the voyage from Liverpool to Mel- 
bourne in 63 days and home in 69, thus going around the 
world in the record time of 132 days. The "Red Jacket" 
went from New York to Liverpool in 1854, under Captain 
Eldridge, in 13 days, 1 hour, and 25 minutes; while the famous 
Red Cross Line packet ship "Dreadnought," commanded by 
Captain Samuels, made a passage from New York to Liverpool 


in 13 days, 8 hours, and the voyage from Sandy Hook to oflf 
Queenstown in 9 days and 17 hours. Both the "Flying Cloud" 
and the "Andrew Jackson" went from New York to San Francisco 
in 89 days; while the "Sea Witch" went from Canton to New 
York in 74 days, 14 hours. 

To find the beginning of the clipper ships, one must turn to 
the War of 1812, when certain swift privateers, modelled after 
the French "lugger," were built in Baltimore, and took the name 
"Baltimore clippers." The building of the opium clippers, from 
1832 to 1851, for Robert Bennett Forbes and John Murray 
Forbes and Russell & Co., to control the opium trade between 
India and Canton, was another step toward ships modelled 
like clippers. One of these, the "Antelope," was so swift 
and such a good sailer that, under Captain Philip Dumaresq, 
she was said to be the only square-rigged vessel that could beat up 
the Formosa Channel against the north-east monsoon. English 
competition led in 1851 to the building of the famous clipper 
schooners "Minna" and "Brenda" — 300 tons each, with yacht- 
like lines and clouds of canvas — that were very swift and carried 
large crews, and were well armed to meet the Chinese pirates, 
whose vessels swarmed the China seas. These two schooners were 
built for John M. Forbes and others by George Raynes, of Ports- 
mouth, and earned large sums before steamers drove them from 
the seas. 

Few of these early clippers were over 200 tons. The "Ann 
McKim," of 493 tons burden and 143 feet long, built in 1832 
at Baltimore, represented the first effort to reproduce the large 
clipper-like lines of the small vessels in the lines of larger ones. 
She was beautifully fitted, and, as she was engaged in the China 
trade, carried guns for protection against pirates. Eventually, 
she fell into the hands of Howland & Aspinwall, ship-owners of 
New York, and led them in 1843 to embody in the "Rainbow," 
the first real clipper ship ever built, the design of a clipper which 
John W. Griffiths had suggested in a model he had shown at the 



American Institute in 1841. The "Rainbow," which was of 
750 tons, was built by Smith & Dimon, and under the cap- 
taincy of John Land proved very fast. So enthusiastic was Land 
that he dechired she was the fastest boat in the world, and boast- 
ingly said that no boat could be built to beat her. Her success 
set the builders of New York, Boston, and Portsmouth to turning 
out clipper ships, and the discovery of gold in California and. 


later, in Australia greatly accelerated clipper ship construc- 
tion. The greatest number were built between 1850 and 1855. 
The out})reak of the Civil War, with its privateers and the compe- 
tition of steam, drove the clij)per ships from the sea, and with 
their disappearance began the decadence of the American mer- 
chant marine. Such in outline is the story of the clip])er ship 
era. Let us glance more closely at some of the famous ships 
which were either built in Boston or were owned or sailed by 
Boston men. The "Canton Packet" was the type of fast-sailing 


merchant ship which preceded the true clipper ship, and was a 
bark built for J. & T. H. Perkins and others. 

Robert Bennett Forbes, who was employed as office-boy in 
the firm of J. & T. H. Perkins, spent his spare time visiting 
their ships while they were unloading at Central Wharf, which 
was near the office on Foster's Wliarf, and sometimes his uncle, 
T. H. Perkins, would remark, when Bob was taking dinner with 
him and being served with the pudding, "You won't get any 
so good off the Cape of Good Hope." Forbes thus early became 
familiar with the idea that he "was born to eat bad puddings 
off the Cape." 

At the age of thirteen Forbes went as a cabin-boy on the 
"Canton Packet," under Captain John King, and he was on her 
altogether six years, becoming an officer at the age of sixteen 
and captain of the "Levant" before he was twenty. 

The original partners in Russell & Co., one of the best-known 
American firms then doing business at Canton, China, were 
Samuel Russell and Philip Amraidon. William H. Low, Augustine 
Heard, John M. Forbes, John C. Green, Warren Delano, W. C. 
Hunter, Joseph Coolidge, Russell Sturgis, Richard Starr Dana, 
W. H. Forbes, R. B. Forbes, Paul S. Forbes, J. Murray Forbes, 
and Edward King were, at one time or other, partners in this firm. 
The firm was founded in 1818 by Samuel Russell, of Middletown, 
Conn., and was first known as Samuel Russell & Co. In 1824 
the firm became Russell & Co., and had a career rarely equalled 
in the Chinese trade. John Perkins Gushing, who had been 
a representative of J. & T. H. Perkins in China, was one of 
those who had much to do with the starting of the firm, as 
he transferred to Russell & Co. a portion of the commission 
business which had grown too large for Perkins & Co. to 

The cause of the Opium War, which interrupted trade for 
a time, was a peculiarly flagrant piece of smuggling, which so 
aroused the Chinese government that its commissioner appeared 


at the foreign settlement, demanded the opium, and dumped it 
into the ditches. The trouble was finally adjusted by England 
compelling China to pay an indemnity, and trade was resumed. 
The opium had been brought for some time from India in the 
swift-sailing vessels, or "clippers," we have already described, 
and was smuggled into Canton by various means. As all for- 
eigners lived in a narrow suburb on the river and were never 


allowed within the city, business was transacted with Chinese 
middlemen, one of whom, Houqua, was ever the warm friend of 
Russell & Co. 

The "Brenda," a sister-ship to the "Minna," was one of the 
last of the opium clippers, and, like all of these ships, was beauti- 
fully modelled, carried clouds of canvas, and was very fast. As 
the Chinese pirates were numerous, she went heavily armed and 
had a large crew. She was built in 1852 at Portsmouth, and was 
sent to China for Russell & Co. 


Another clipper in the China trade was the brig "Antelope," 
of 370 tons, built in 1843 at East Boston by Samuel Hall, for Rus- 
sell & Co. The "Antelope" and her captain were very popular, 
and no vessel could be unloaded or refitted in port until the "An- 
telope" was cared for. She, and the "Brenda," "Zephyr," "Ma- 
zeppa," "Ariel," and others, were Russell & Co.'s fastest opium 
clippers, and soon enabled the company almost to control the 


opium trade with China. With the discovery of gold in California 
began the construction of larger, wider, deeper, and faster ships, of 
heavier tonnage, and 1850 witnessed the launching of some of the 
most famous of the clipper ships. One of the earliest was the 
"John Bertram," a very sharp ship, which was built by R. E. 
Jackson at East Boston for Glidden & Williams of Boston. An 
eagle on the wing was her figure-head, and a medallion bust of 
John Bertram, of Salem, adorned the stern. She was commanded 
by Captain Landholm, and in 1852 went to San Francisco from 

Length, isei' 

R. B. FOR HI': 

Tonnage, 756 

Length, 198' 


Tonnage, i.i'iO 


Boston in 105 days, actual sailing time, and returned in 90 days, 
beating the "Northern Light" by 8 days. In 1869 she went 
under the German flag. 

The "R. B. Forbes" left Boston September 26, 1851, the year 
she was built, crossed the line in 30 days, rounded Cape Horn 
in 60 days, and reached Honolulu in the then record time of 
99 days from Boston. She was a close copy of the "Game 
Cock," and was built by Samuel Hall for J. T. Coolidge, Charles 
Brewer, and others. She was sold in 1863 at Hong Kong 
to foreign owners for $17,000, and was renamed the "Maria 

The "Game Cock," owned by Daniel C. Bacon, of Boston, 
was one of a number of clipper ships upon which many a wager 
was laid in 1851 by the ships' owners who congregated at the 
Astor House, New York, or the Merchants' Exchange, Boston, 
to discuss the shipping news and the speed of the California 
clippers. She was built in 1850 by Samuel Hall, of East 
Boston, was commanded by Captain Hollis, and designed by 
Samuel H. Pook, a well-known naval designer. Her figure-head, 
indicative of her name and game qualities, was a rooster with 
head and neck in the attitude of combat. Her best record was 
a passage from Honolulu to Hong Kong in the remarkable time 
of 19 days. In 1880 she was condemned at the Cape of Good 

A famous clipper was the " Witchcraft," whose prow was a 
tiger crouching for a spring, and encircling whose stern was a 
huge serpent. Every line of the beautiful craft, which was built 
by Curtis & Taylor, of Medford, indicated the speed for which 
she was primarily built. Her owners were Samuel Rogers and 
W. D. Pickman, of Salem, and her captain, William C. Rogers, 
was the son of one of the owners. Captain Rogers afterward 
distinguished himself in the Civil War by capturing, while in 
command of the clipper bark "William G. Anderson," the Con- 
federate privateer "Beauregard." He later married a grand- 

Length, 193' 

W 1 It H(. KAH 1 

Tonnage, 1310 

Length, 215' 


Tonnage, 1.53,5 


daughter of Nathaniel Bowditch. One of the "Witchcraft's" 
records was from New York to San Francisco in 97 days, actual 
sailing time. She once sailed from the Chincha Islands, Peru, 
to New York in 67 days, under Captain Freeman, — a record at 
that time. On a voyage from San Francisco to Hong Kong in 
1852 she lost her main and mizzen masts in a squall, and, being 
unable to find suitable spars, she was obliged to have them 
made of teakwood at $1.50 a foot, her repairs costing $28,832. 
She once sailed for the Chincha Islands and thence to New 
York, making the round voyage in 8 months, 14 days, — one 
month better than ever done before. She was finally, in 1868, 
wrecked off Cape Hatteras, under Captain Booth, while on her 
way from Callao, and thirteen sailors and five passengers were 

With the launching of the "Stag Hound" from the ways of 
Donald McKay at East Boston, December 7, 1850, the size of 
the clippers began to increase, although the raciness of line was 
still preserved. When she was launched, the "Stag Hound" 
was the largest merchant ship yet built, being 215 feet long 
and having a register of 1,535 tons. No less than 15,000 people 
gathered to see her launched despite the cold, and, as the tallow 
froze, boiling whale oil was poured upon the ways. When she 
began to slide, the foreman of the yard broke a bottle of Med- 
ford rum on her forefoot, shouting in his nervousness, as he did 
so, "'Stag Hound,' your name's 'Stag Hound,'" instead of the 
usual phraseology used at a launching. 

She was regarded as the ideal type of clipj)er ship, and was built 
for Sampson & Tappan and George B. Upton, of Boston, and was 
commanded by Captain Josiah Richardson. At this i)eriod 
nearly all of the clipper ships were constructed for the California 
trade, in which freights were high and prices depended upon the 
speed with which goods were delivered in California. Many 
of the clippers costing from $70,000 to $80,000 paid for them- 
selves on their first voyage. Cargo capacity was often sacri- 


ficed for speed, and sail was carried as long as possible, so that 
much canvas was lost, and much rigging, and often topmasts 
carried away on each voyage. One sea captain, RolxM-t ^Yaterman, 
was said to padlock his gear so that sailors could not take in sail 
without orders. On the "Stag Hound's" first trip to San Fran- 
cisco, during which she beat to Valparaiso the "John Bertram" 
and the "Sea Serpent," she made the voyage from New York 
in 107 days, actual sailing time, although a storm, when she 
was a few days out of New York, cost her a maintopmast and 
three topgallant masts. She sailed from Boston Light to the 
equator in a record time of 13 days; the best time ever made 
by a sailing vessel from New York to Canton being 77 days, 
by the "Sea Witch," in 1848, commanded by Captain R. H. 
Waterman. The "Stag Hound" took fire in 1863 near the coast 
of Brazil, was burned to the water's edge, and sank. All that 
was left of her was the ensign, which Captain Behm brought 
back to the owners. 

The "Flying Cloud," built in 1851 by Donald McKay for Enoch 
Train, and purchased by Grinnell, Minturn & Co. of New York, 
was one of the fastest clippers ever launched. She had a figure- 
head of an angel on the wing, with a speaking-trumpet in her 
hand. Her mainmast, including the topmast and skysail pole, 
towered to the height of '200 feet; her mainyard measured 82 
feet, and her bowsprit and jib-boom projected 58 feet, while 
her masts raked 13^ inches to the foot. 

She sailed from New York to San Francisco in 1851 in 89 
days and 21 hours, under Captain Josiah Perkins Cressy. In 
one day she covered 433}^ statute miles, 42 miles faster than 
any steamship had then done in the same time. On this occasion 
some of the crew had to be put in irons, though they were sub- 
sequently released to work the shij), and the first officer was 
suspended from duty because he cut the rigging contrary to 
orders. So driven was the "Flying Cloud" that for a number of 
days she averaged 13}^ knots, and sailed no less than 5,912 miles 


at an average of 227 miles a day. She sprung her mainmast, 
split her staysails at both fore and maintopmasts, and lost her 
fore-topgallant mast. Again in 1854 the "Flying Cloud" sailed 
eight days after the "Archer," another fast clipper, and beat 
her into San Francisco by 9 days, and the "Game Cock" 20 days, 
making the passage in 89 days and 8 hours, — a record that was 
only exceeded in 1860 by the "Andrew Jackson," which made 
the voyage in 89 days and 4 hours. One of those who was 
on the ship at the time she made her record trip, and who is 
still living, is Richard Martin, of Swampscott, who remembers 
well the excitement that attended the trip. Upon the return 
of Captain Cressy to New York he was given a banquet at the 
Astor House and presented a silver service set by the New York 
and Boston underwriters. 

There was much rivalry at this time between the clipper ships, 
and they were constantly racing. As they sailed from San Fran- 
cisco to China and came back with tea, so great was the compe- 
tition between the American and the English ships that, when 
the Illustrated London News in 1852 stated that the "Chrysolite" 
and "Stornoway," two English clippers, had beaten the "Ori- 
ental" and the "Surprise," the article aroused the interest of the 
New York and Boston clipper ship owners, and the American 
Navigation Club was formed by Daniel C. Bacon, Thomas H» 
Perkins, J. P. Cushing, William H. Boardman, John M. Forbes, 
Warren Delano, and Edward King. The club published a chal- 
lenge in Bell's Life of London, offering to race an American 
clipper ship, to be modelled, manned, and officered by citizens of 
the United States, against any English clipper, modelled and 
officered by Englishmen, for £10,000 a side. But the challenge 
was never accepted. 

The "Flying Cloud" was probably the fastest - sailing ship 
that went to San Francisco, if not the fastest that sailed any- 
where at any time, for she made four passages to San Francisco 
in 89, 89, 105, and 108 days, or an average of 97% days, which 


was at least a day's better time than the best average made by 
the "Andrew Jackson." Despite the great rivalry and efforts to 
make fast voyages, the ties of humanity were never forgotten. 
"NMiile the "Flying Cloud" was in the vicinity of Madagascar, 
running twelve knots, April 2, 1856, she lost a sailor overboard. 
Mrs. Cressy, who saw the accident from her cabin window, no 
one else seeing it, rushed on deck and threw over the life buoy, 
at the same time giving an alarm. The ship was hove to and a 
boat sent out, but after a long search it returned without finding 
the sailor. Captain Cressy determined to rescue him, and, send- 
ing out two boats, ordered them to keep up the search until 
night. Four hours later the man was picked up, almost dead, 
about two miles from the ship. He was brought to the ship, 
placed in Mrs. Cressy's cabin, and nursed by her back to health. 
The "Flying Cloud" was finally sold to James Baines & Co. 
of Liverpool, and eventually was destroyed by fire at St. John, 
N.B., in 1874. 

The "Flying Fish" was another boat built in 1851 by Donald 
McKay for Sampson & Tappan, and was captained by Edward 
Nickels, whose dinners and luncheons on his ships to his shore 
friends were quite famous. Her figure-head was a flying fish, 
on the wing, in gold and green. She spread 8,250 yards of 
canvas with water sails and all the "fancy" canvas. In the fall 
of 1851 she sailed a great race to San Francisco with the "Sword 
Fish" of New York, the "Flying Fish" sailing from Boston 
the same day that the "Sword Fish" sailed from New York. She 
led the "Sword Fish" to the equator by 4 days, and the two 
raced around Cape Horn side by side, but the "Flying Fish" was 
beaten into San Francisco by 8 days, the "Sword Fish" arriving 
in 90 days, while the "Flying Fish" took 983^. Large sums were 
wagered on the result. Her best record to San Francisco was 
92 days. 

During a race with the "John Gilpin" in 1852 the two were 
side by side off the Horn, and Captain Nickels invited Captain 


Justin Doane, of the "John Gilpin," to come aboard and dine, 
which unique invitation Doane was "reluctantly obliged to de- 
cline." Although the "John Gilpin" led into San Francisco, 
she was beaten in time by the "Flying Fish," which made the 
passage in 92 days, while the "Gilpin's" time was 93 days. The 
"Flying Fish" was wrecked in 1858, as she was bound out of 
Foo-Chow for New York with a cargo of tea, and was sold by 

Length, 198' 6' 


Tonnage, 1505 

the underwriters to a Spanish merchant of Manila, who rebuilt 
her, changed her name to "El Bueno Suceso," and sailed her 
between Manila and Cadiz, until she foundered in the China 

The "Southern Cross" was a sister-ship to the second "Radi- 
ant," a picture of which is shown, and was in every respect iden- 
tical with her. She was built in 1851 by Briggs Brothers of 
Boston for Baker & Morrill of Boston. One of her best passages 
was from San Francisco to Hong Kong in 32 days. She 


had a golden eagle for a figure-head, and was commanded by 
Captain Stevens. On a voyage from Mexico for New York she 
was burned by the Confederate privateer "Florida." 

One of the finest and certainly one of the fastest jjacket clippers 
which sailed between America and Europe prior to 1854 was 
the "Staffordshire," whose big "T" on the fore lower topsail indi- 
cated she was owned by Enoch Train & Co. of Boston, for whom 
she was built in 1851 by Donald McKay. Her first captain 
was Albert H. Brown. The sharp and graceful bow carried a 
witch's head, while her elliptical stern was ornamented on one 
side with a carved representation of a manufacturing scene in 
Staffordshire, and on the other with a representation of the 
old building on Lewis Wharf occupied as an office by Train & 
Co. She made the run in 1851 from Boston to Liverpool in 
13^ days, or from wharf to wharf in 14 days, 18 hours. Sub- 
sequently she was rigged for the California trade, and under 
Captain Josiah Richardson, who had commanded the "Stag 
Hound," sailed from Boston to San Francisco in 101 days, and 
made the return voyage in 82 days. While sailing from Liverpool 
for Boston in 1853, she was wrecked during a fog on Blonde 
Rock, near Cape Sable, and sank. Captain Richardson had 
broken his back several days before by falling on deck, and when 
his first mate, Joseph Alden, reported that the ship was sinking, 
directed the officer to save the women and children, but declined 
help himself. His last words before the vessel went down were, 
"God's will be done." Forty -four, officers and crew, were saved, 
but 170, including Captain Richardson, were drowned. 

The "Typhoon," when she sailed into Liverpool on her first 
voyage in 1852, was the attraction of the whole water front, for 
she was the largest ship that had yet been seen at the port. . She 
was built by Fernald & Pettigrew of Portsmouth for D. & A. 
Kingsland of New York, and hor ca])tain, Charles H. Salter, 
came of a generation of distinguished commanders of Portsmouth 
ships. She was launched fully rigged and with colors flying, and 



made a trial run to Liverpool from Portsmouth in 13 days, 10 
hours, and her best day's run was 346 miles. One of the great 
races of the clipper ship era was in 1851, between the "Typhoon," 
under Captain Salter, the "Raven," under Captain Henry, and 
the "Sea Witch," under Captain Frazer, all of which sailed for 
San Francisco together. The "Sea Witch" and the "Raven" 
were almost side by side for about two weeks in the thrash to 
windward around Cape Horn; while the "Typhoon" pressed 

Lciifrtli. 223' 


Tonnage, 1610 

the two leaders closely, and finally led both into the Golden 
Gate, although the "Raven" actually won, her time being 105 
days from Boston Light, while the "Typhoon" was 106 days 
from Sandy Hook, and the "Sea Witch" was 110 days. The 
"Typhoon" was sold in 1864 at Singapore for $39,000 to sail 
under English colors. 

The launching in 1851 of the "Witch of the Wave" at Ports- 
mouth, where she was built by George Raynes for Captain John 
Bertram and Alfred Peabody of Salem, was made an occasion 


of much festivity. A large party accompanied her to Salem 
Harbor, and a poem was read, one stanza of which ran: — 

"They say a man came down to-day 
To carry the Witch of the Wave away. 
And the people think he oughtn't oughter 
Just because he's been and bought her." 

She subsequently came into the possession of Glidden & Will- 
iams. At first she was captained by Matthew Hunt, and later 

Lengtli, ■220' 


Tonnage, U98 

by Captain Joseph H. Millet, of Salem. The London Times of 
April 16, 1852, printed a very laudatory article, in which it was 
said that the "Witch of the Wave" brought one of the most 
"valuable cargoes of tea that had ever entered England," and 
that "she was built at Salem near the Port of New York." In 
1853 she beat the "Raven," the "Comet," and the "Trade 
Wind" in a run to San Francisco. On her trip home she went 



from Calcutta to Boston in 81 days, which was then a record. 
She was sold in 1856 at Amsterdam. 

The "Radiant" in ISo^ came off the ways of Paul Curtis at 
East Boston, and the "John Land" was built in 1853 by Briggs 
Brothers of South Boston. Both ships were owned by Baker 
& Morrill. The "Radiant" was wrecked in 1871 on Crocodile 
Reef, while on a voyage from Singapore to Boston, and was lost. 
The "John Land" in 1864 foundered at sea, all hands being saved. 


One of the largest of the clipper ships was the "Sovereign of 
the Seas," which was owned by Funk & Meinke of New York. 
She was built in 1852 by Donald McKay, and commanded by his 
brother, Lauchlan McKay. She carried a Ctew of 125 men and 
boys. She made her first trip to San Francisco in 103 days, 
crossing the equator in 25 days. During her voyage she carried 
away several of her sails and topmasts, which (^iptain McKay 
repaired at sea. The New York Board of Underwriters presented 
him with a handsome solid silver dinner service for rerigging his 



ship at sea. She carried a cargo weighing 2,950 tons, a portion 
of which was flour that sold for $44 a barrel; while her total 
freight was valued at $84,000. Thousands of people were about 
the wharf to greet her, and, when she arrived, the sailors sang, — 

"O Susannah darling, take your ease, 
For we have beat the clipper fleet, 
The Sovereign of the Seas." 

Leiifftli, '-'")«' 

so\'i:Ki;i(iN OF 

Tonnage, 2li\ 

According to Lieutenant Maury, the best authority, she sailed, 
from March 9th to the 31st 433 statute miles a day. She went 
emj)ty to Honolulu, and loaded with sperm oil for New York, 
making some remarkable runs on the voyage. One day she ran 
424 miles, and sailed during a portion of the 24 hours at a rate 
which must have been almost twenty knots an hour. She made 
the passage in 80 days. She then sailed to Liverpool in 13 days 
and 22 hours, outsailing in 5 days the Cunard steamer "Canada" 
by 325 miles. In 1858 she was sold in London for $40,000, and 



eventually she ran on Pyramid Shoal in the Straits of Malacca 
and was lost. 

The reproduction of the "Westward Ho" shows the clouds of 
canvas which the clipper ships carried. She, too, was built by 
Donald McKay, and was one of 33 clippers launched in 1852, 
and was owned by Sampson & Tappan and commanded by 
Captain Hussey. She was finally burned at Callao. 


The "Fearless" was designed by Samuel A. Pook, the "archi- 
tect" who had drawn the lines of the "Game Cock," "Herald 
of the Morning," and other famous clippers, and was built in 
1853 by A. & G. T. Sampson of East Boston for W. F. Weld & 

The largest of all the clipper ships was the "Great Republic," 
which was built by Donald McKay, her first owner, and later 
was bought by A. A. Low & Brother of New York. She was 
325 feet long, 53 feet beam, 38 feet deep, and of 4,555 tons burden. 


Length, 325' 


'I'OIlIlMKe. i.5;).i 


She had 4 decks, 4 masts when launched, and her figure-head 
was an eagle. On her stern holding a shield in his talons was 
another eagle, whose outstretched wings were 36 feet from tip 
to tip. Her long sharp ends and concave lines forward and 
aft gave her a very racy look despite her size. She had the 
Forbes rig of double topsails and Harris system of lightning 
conductors, and was intended to carry a crew of 100 men and 
30 boys. At the time of her launching wire rope was unknown, 
so that all her standing rigging was hemp, her main rigging being 
123^ inches and her top rigging 8 inches in circumference. She 
carried 15,653 yards of sail, required 1,500,000 feet of hard pine, 
986,000 feet of white oak, 336 tons of iron bolts, and 56 tons of 
copper, besides sheathing. 

It is said that 30,000 people crowded the wharves at the North 
End of Boston, the Charlestown Navy Yard, and Chelsea Bridge, 
and an equal number crowded the immediate neighborhood of 
her yard, October 4, 1853, to witness her launching. In def- 
erence to the temperance sentiment then prevalent she was 
christened with a bottle of Cochituate water. Her foremast was 
130 feet, her main 131, her mizzen 122, and her jigger 110 feet. 
She was commanded by Captain Lauchlan McKay, and went 
to New York to take on a load of provisions, valued at $250,000, 
for Europe. A great conflagration in New York, December 
26, 1853, set fire to her, and, although she was sunk, the water 
was too shallow to save her, and she was burned to the water's 
edge. Her owner, Donald McKay, gave her up to the under- 
writers, and received about $220,000 insurance. She was dry 
docked and rebuilt under the direction of Captain N. B. Palmer. 
She was cut down to 3 decks, 36 feet taken off her mainyard, 
and her other masts and her yards materially shortened, 
and she was lighter sparred and canvased. Her tonnage was 
reduced to 3,357, which still left her the largest merchant ship of 
her day. On her first voyage to Liverpool she was commanded 
by a Captain Limeburner and manned by a crew of 50 men, less 


than half the crew she would have required under her old rig. 
The passage, a rough one, took 19 days. As she drew 25 feet of 
water and there was only 24 feet at the Liverpool pier, she had to 
anchor and her cargo was lightered. She was chartered to carry 
French troops to the Crimea. She made in 1857 the record time 
from New York to the equator of 15 days, 18 hours. Cape Horn 
in 48 days, and San Francisco in 92 days, one of the record pas- 
sages. It was on this voyage that she beat the "Westward Ho," 
and the New York men who had backed her in the race won large 
sums. As a majority of her owners were Southerners, she was 
seized as rebel property in 1861 on her return from Liverpool to 
New York, and sold by auction. In 1862 she was chartered to 
carry General Benjamin F. Butler's troops to Ship Island. 
There she collided with the "Idaho," and went ashore. Two 
weeks later General Butler wrote from New Orleans: "I am 
now at the Passes and find the 'Great Republic' ashore there, I 
am tired of waiting for her, send the 'Ocean Pearl.'" 

She was pulled off, resumed the California trade, making a 
voyage in 111 days in 1865, and was finally sold for $25,000 to 
the Merchants Trading Company of Liverpool. She went under 
the English flag, and was renamed the "Denmark." In 1868 
she sailed from St. John to Liverpool in 14 days, one of the fast- 
est voyages ever made by sail. While on a voyage from Rio 
in 1872, she sprang a leak and was abandoned at sea. 

The "Reporter" was built in 1853 by Paul Curtis at East Bos- 
ton under supervision of her future master and part owner, Cap- 
tain Octavius Howe. Her first voyage was to New Orleans, and 
when, pushed by four tugs across the bar at the South-west Pass, 
she pulled up to the levee, October 11, 1853, she was the largest 
and fastest-sailing vessel that had ever visited that port. A month 
later she sailed for Liverpool, crammed with cotton, — cotton on 
her deck and 50 bales in the captain's cabin, — and on his arrival 
Captain Howe wrote the owners, "We have given the whole 
fleet from the North, South, and West a terrible licking." It was 




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found, however, that speed did not compensate for lack of cargo 
capacity, and in 1856 she was sold to W. F. Weld & Co. for 
$76,000. This firm employed her in the business to which she 
was adapted, and the same year she sailed for California. She 
rounded the Horn in 48 days, and reached San Francisco in 107 
days, beating the "Ocean Express," the "Toipedo," and every 
other vessel sailing about the same time. In 1861 the "Andrew 
Jackson" made the best passage of the year, 102 days from 

Leiifftli. 190' 


Tonnage, 1150 

New York to San Francisco, and the "Reporter," the second 
best, 103 days, beating the fast clippers "Golden Eagle," "Ro- 
mance of the Seas," "Sierra Nevada," and "Great Republic." 
On June 3, 1862, the "Reporter," Captain William H. White, 
left New York, for San Francisco, and off Cape Horn shipped a 
tremendous sea, which smashed all the boats and started a leak. 
Rafts were constructed and the vessel abandoned, but, before 
rescue by the English bark "Enchantress" came, all on the rafts 
but four had died of cold and hunger. 



The "Starlight," owned by Baker & Morrill, was built by E. 
& H. O. Briggs at South Boston in 1854. She finally went under 
the Italian flag, and was named "Proto Longo." 

The "Titan" in 1857 carried 6,900 bales of cotton from New 
Orleans to Liverpool, said to have been the largest cargo of cotton 
ever shipped up to that time in a sailing vessel. She was built 
in 1855 by Roosevelt & Joyce at New York, and was owned by 

Lensth, 178' 


Tonnage, 1066 

D. G. & W. Bacon of Boston. She was commanded at differ- 
ent times by Captain Oliver Eldridge and J. Henry Sears, both 
of Boston. Her first voyage was a charter carrying French 
troops to the Crimea. The London Times said of her in 1857, 
"The 'Titan,' the largest and finest clipper in the world, has just 
returned from the Crimea, and will run in the Wliite Star Line to 
Australia." Subsequently she sailed to Melbourne and back. 
In 1857 a gale off Liverpool forced her to cut away the main 
and mizzen masts in order to wear, and thus she made her way 


into Liverpool as shown in the picture. The next year she was 
abandoned at sea. 

The "Nightingale," one of the most beautiful of clij)pers, had 
a most checkered career, beginning as a yacht and ending as a 
slaver. She was built in 1851 by Samuel Hanscomb at Ports- 
mouth as an exhibit at the World's Fair in London, to which she 
was to carry passengers, and was most luxuriously fitted out for 
that purpose. It was intended to name her after Jenny Lind, 
a figure-head of whom she carried, but, as another ship already 
had the name, she was christened the "Nightingale." As her 
owners failed before she was completed, she was sold at auction 
in Boston to Sampson & Tappan, who sent her, under Captain 
Fisk, to Australia. She went from Sydney, Australia, to Shanghai, 
took on a load of tea, and raced the clipper ship "Challenger" 
to Deal, beating her by three days. Subsequently Sampson & 
Tappan offered to back the "Nightingale" for £10,000 against 
any ship, British or American, in a race to China and back, but 
the challenge was never accepted. In 1855, under Captain Sam- 
uel Mather, she sailed from Shanghai to London, beating several 
clippers, including the "Star of the East." She was soon after 
transferred to the California trade, and later sold to unknown 
owners. In the fall of 1860 she arrived in England from New 
York, and soon it became known about the docks that she had 
become a slaver, although ostensibly she was loading for St. 
Thomas with a cargo of guns, powder, and cotton cloth. The 
United States war -vessel "Saratoga" in the spring of 1861 
captured her on the African coast, loaded with 961 slaves and 
commanded nominally by a Spaniard, but really by Francis 
Bowen. She was sent to New York, condemned, and finally 
sold for $13,000. During a part of the Civil War she was used 
by the government as a supply and coal ship. She was sold for 
$15,000, and went under Norwegian colors. 

The "Herald of the Morning," another famous clipper, in 
1855 went from New York to San Francisco in 99 days, and in 



1867 in 102 days. While off Cape Horn in a voyage from Callao 
to Hampton Roads, she struck a large whale and lost seven feet 
of her bow, having to throw part of her cargo overboard to 
prevent her from sinking. She, too, eventually went under the 
Norwegian flag. 

The "Golden Fleece," another of the W. F. Weld & Co. clip- 
pers, was built in East Boston by Paul Curtis in 1855, and was 

Leng:th, 260' 


Tonnagre, 90.50 

from the same model as the "Reporter." A knight in armor was 
carried as a figure-head. While entering the Golden Gate in 1857, 
she struck "Four Fathom Bar" off Point Bonita, but managed 
to reach her wharf with twelve feet of water in her hold. Finally, 
in 1878, she was caught in a storm off Montevideo while on a 
voyage from San Francisco to Boston. Badly damaged, she put 
into port, and was condemned and sold. 

The "Red Jacket" was one of the most famous of the Austra- 
lian packets of the White Star Line. She was built in 1853 by 


George Thomas at Rockland, Me., for Secomb & Taylor of Bos- 
ton, and was designed by Samuel H. Pook. She ran to Liverpool 
in January, 1854, from Sandy Hook to Rock Light in 13 days and 
1 hour; actual time to Liverpool, 14 days and 8 hours. On her 
arrival she was bought by Pilkington & Watson, agents of the 
White Star Line, for $150,000, and went into the Australian 
trade. She sailed from Liverpool to Melbourne, Australia, on 
her first voyage in 69 days, 11 hours. During her voyage of 
13,880 miles she averaged 200 miles a day. She rivalled the 
"Lightning" as the fastest ship in the English marine, and 
ended her days in the lumber trade between Canada and 

The "James Baines" was one of four clipper ships built in 1854 
by Donald McKay for James Baines & Co. of Liverpool, who ran 
the Black Ball Line of packets to Australia. Her figure-head was 
a bust of her owner, James Baines, and on her stern was a globe 
supported by the arms of England and America. Commanded 
by Captain Charles McDonnell, she made the run from Boston 
Light to Rock Island Light, in the record time of 12 days and 6 
hours. In the winter of 1854 and 1855 she ran from Liverpool 
to Melbourne in 63 days, and home in 69, thus circumnavigat- 
ing the globe in the record time of 132 days, her best day's run 
being 420 statute miles. On June 17, 1856, she made 21 knots 
with main skysail set, the highest rate of speed ever made by a 
sailing vessel. During the Sepoy mutiny the "James Baines" 
was one of the clipper ships to carry troops from England to 
India. She was finally burned at Liverpool, and her hulk was 
made a landing stage for Atlantic steamship passengers. 

The "Dreadnought" was built at Newburyport in 1853 by 
Currier & Townsend for David Ogden & Co. of New York, and, 
captained by Samuel Samuels, made many very swift voyages to 
Liverpool from New York in David Ogden' s Red Cross Line. In 
January, 1856, she made the phenomenal passage from Sandy 
Hook to Queenstown in 9 days and 17 hours. On one voyage 


the crew mutinied, and Captain Samuels's prompt courage alone 
saved the ship from seizure. In 1869 she was wrecked on the 
crags of Cape Horn, and Captain P. N. Mayhew and her crew 
were picked up after being 14 days in open boats. 

The clipper "Huguenot," under command of Sylvanus Nicker- 
son, foundered in the Indian Ocean while on her way from Iliolo 
to Boston with a load of sugar, going down in three hours. Her 

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Length, 200' 


Tonnage, 1413 

captain and crew were 8 days in open boats before they landed 
on an island in the Ormbay Straits. They were made prisoners 
by a Malay tribe, were released, made their way to another 
island, and were finally rescued by a Dutch man-of-war. 

The "Formosa" was built by John Taylor, at East Boston, 
in 1868 for Silsbee, Pickman & Allen of Salem. Under Cap- 
tain Charles H. Allen, Jr., in 1871 she sailed from New York 
to Melbourne in 89 days, and again in 1876 made the passage 
from Boston to Melbourne in 79 days. She finally went ashore 
on the Western Tweeling Island at the entrance of Atlas Straits, 


January 3, 1880. After experiencing heavy squalls, the ship be- 
came unmanageable and would not steer, and the strong current 
carried her on shore. She pounded on the rocks, and at last, 
on January 6, swung off and sank in deep water, leaving nothing 
visible but her topmasts. The captain and crew landed on 
the island, but, finding the tide rising so high that it would 
submerge the island, the spars and rigging were taken from 

Length, 215' 6" 


Tonnage, 1576 

the ship and a platform was erected in the cocoanut-trees, on 
which the crew and the stores were placed as the surf rolled 
in and covered the island. The captain and crew were finally 

The "Great Admiral," one of the last of the clipper ships, 
belonged to W. F. Weld & Co., and was built in 1869; and 
from 1869 to 1897, when she was sold to Captain E. Sterling for 
$12,500, she was a steady money-maker and made many voyages 
around the world. 


One of the most thrilling rescues of the clipper ship era was 
that of the 300 passengers and crew of the steamship " Central 
America," in 1857, by the brig "Marine," owned by the firm 
of Elisha Atkins, the head of which was the father of Edwin F. 
Atkins, who is now head of the firm of E. Atkins & Co. The 
"Central America" was burned at sea while on her way from 
Aspinwall to New York, and her passengers and crew were found 


adrift on the ocean by the brig "Marine," under Captain Burt. 
Owing to the high sea which was running, the rescue was accom- 
plished with great risks, which were fearlessly taken by the 
captain and crew of the brig. Those rescued were safely landed 
in New York. The other passengers were picked up by other 

An interesting experience in the career of Mr. Atkins was an 
experimental cold storage cargo, one of the first probably sent 
to any foreign market. It consisted of poultry, fish, and oysters 


consigned to Demarara, which was so ingeniously packed in 
blocks of ice that an alternate cavity was left for the turkeys 
between blocks of ice. In other layers thousands of pounds of 
oysters and fish were laid away, and each layer was covered with 
other blocks, so that tier upon tier of the ice was thus built up. 
The provisions were landed at their destination frozen solid. 
It was, however, but a slight task to break out the cargo. As a 
financial proposition, the experiment did not pay. 

Another interesting rescue was that of the passengers from 
the immigrant ship "Unicorn" by the ship "Daniel Webster," 
under Captain W. H. Howard, on November 9, 1851. This 
has been interestingly depicted in an oil painting owned by 
Arthur Williams, Jr., which is shown here. 

Any account of clipper ships, however meagre, would be in- 
complete without something about Donald McKay, the master 
builder, from whose yard so many of the fastest clippers came. 
He was a Nova Scotian of long Scottish descent, and when about 
sixteen went to New York, where he learned his trade with Isaac 
Webb and other well-known ship-builders. He returned to the 
East, and helped build the "Delia Walker" for Dennis Condry. 
He so impressed Condry with his skill and energy that, when 
Enoch Train, a wealthy Boston merchant engaged in the South 
American trade, decided to put on a line of packets between 
Liverpool and Boston, Condry dissuaded him from having the 
ships built in New York and advised him to see McKay. This 
Train did, and was so pleased with him that he gave McKay, 
who had gone into the business for himself, the contract to build 
the "Joshua Bates," the first ship of Train's famous Liverpool 
line. Train persuaded McKay to come to Boston and establish 
a yard in East Boston, and from this yard came many of the 
swiftest clipper ships. McKay's prosperity continued until the 
loss by fire of the "Great Republic," from which he never fully 

The State Street Trust Company takes 
pleasure in presenting to you this monograph 
entitled Some Ships of the Clipper Ship Era, 

It is the seventh in the series of historical 
brochures that the company has issued dur- 
ing the past six years, and the company hopes 
that you will find it worthy of preservation 
in your library. 

The State Street Trust Company desires 
also to call your attention to the banking 
facilities which it offers to individuals, firms, 
and corporations that either contemplate a 
change in banking relations or are seeking 
a bank for the first time. 

The offices are equipped with the most 
up-to-date Safe Deposit Vaults, which have 
every accommodation required for such a 

The State Street Trust Company extends 
to you an invitation to visit its offices if you 
have not already done so. 


jj State Street 

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{Corner Boylston Street) 


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