CLIPPER SHIPS, long, narrow wooden vessels with lofty canvas sails, reigned as the world's fastest oceangoing ships from about 1843 to 1868. The word "clipper" might have originated from "clip," meaning to run swiftly. Tea from China quickly lost its flavor in the hold of a ship, and about 1843 the clippers began quicker delivery of that commodity. The discovery of gold in California provided another incentive for speed. After carrying their cargoes of gold prospectors and merchandise around Cape Horn to California, the ships would either return to Atlantic ports for another such cargo or would cross the Pacific Ocean to China and be loaded with tea, silk, and spices.
Clippers were more dependable than earlier ships. They strained less in a heavy sea and crossed belts of calm better than low-rigged vessels. The swift schooners built at Baltimore during the War of 1812 were known as Baltimore clippers, but the first real clipper was the Ann McKim, built there in 1832. Beginning about 1850 the California clippers increased rapidly in size, ranging from 1,500 to 2,000 tons register. The Stag-Hound, built in 1850, was the pioneer clipper of this type. The Flying Cloud, built in Boston in 1851, sailed to San Francisco in eighty-nine days; the Andrew Jackson and the Flying Fish achieved similar feats. It was more than a quarter of a century before the steamship was able to break the speed records of the fastest clippers. After the Civil War, American shipbuilding for overseas carrying trade declined. Although a few more clipper ships were built, the steam-ships gradually replaced them.
Cutler, Carl C. Greyhounds of the Sea: The Story of the American Clipper Ship. 3d ed. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1984. The original edition was published New York: Halcyon House, 1930.
Howe, Octavius T., and Frederick C. Matthews. American Clip-per Ships, 1833–1858. New York: Dover, 1986.
Charles GarrettVannest/a. r.
"Clipper Ships." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/clipper-ships
"Clipper Ships." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/clipper-ships
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.
To accommodate increasing overseas trade, North American shipbuilders developed fast sailing vessels called clipper ships in the mid-1800s. With their slender hulls and numerous sails (as many as 35), these swift ships were said to "clip off the miles." The first true clipper ship, The Rainbow, debuted in 1845. The vessel was designed by American naval architect John W. Griffiths (1809–82) who, the next year, launched another famous clipper, the Sea Witch. Another clipper, the Flying Cloud, was launched in 1851 by Canadian-American shipbuilder Donald McKay (1810–80). This ship sailed from New York's East River, around the tip of South America to San Francisco in just under 90 days—a record. Clipper ships transported settlers to the west (including those who made the trip as part of the California Gold Rush). They were fast, but carried relatively little freight. As a result, they were used only for high value cargo, such as silk, spices, and tea. Clipper ships carried goods and people from as far away as China and Australia, and were used by slave traders to outrun British ships that were on patrol for them in the Atlantic.
The construction of canals around the globe shortened most sea trade routes and virtually eliminated the need for the swift clippers. They were replaced by square riggers, which were slower but could carry larger loads. Eventually steam-powered ships proved to be more dependable and quicker than any wind-powered craft.
See also: Steamboats
"Clipper Ships." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/clipper-ships
"Clipper Ships." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/clipper-ships