For a brief time in the mid 19th Century a small group of ships changed how ocean trade was done. These ships were the clipper ships, large sailing vessels that were faster than most sailing vessels of the time, delivering cargoes around the world. Before the clippers a cargo of tea from China would take seven to eight months to reach Britain. After the clippers that time was reduced to four to six months.
For ship owners, clippers were amazingly profitable, paying for themselves in sometimes a single voyage. The great tea races were immensely profitable because tea was a perishable and delicate cargo.
The Cover pic and the one below are from Greyhounds Of The Sea, a great book on the history and voyages of these great vessels.
Here are some pics from The American Built Clipper Ship
Working on these vessels was hard and treacherous work as this illustration from Greyhounds shows.
The time of the clipper was amazingly brief for the their legend. It started in 1850 and the Civil War, Confederate commerce raiders and British competition ended the clippers’ dominance before the end of the 1860’s. Still the legend lasted far longer than the clippers themselves did with the name Yankee Clipper Being attached to A New Haven crack passenger train.
And famous clipper ship names being attached to all sorts of things, including beer to this day.
Some more information about the clipper Flying Cloud and it’s record voyage around the Horn
And the remarkable man who built her.
Finally I’ve posted this amazing footage from a sailing voyage around the Horn and the kind of work it takes to sail a large sailing vessel.
The time of the clippers was a remarkable time with incredible ships and iron men that lasted only a brief time in the fabric of history yet left an a romantic image that continues even today. Lift a stout for those incredible ships and the men and women who sailed them.