In the 1800’s, a great deal of progress was being made in
trade by water, and at the forefront were the 1800’s clipper ships.
These ships were the result of a constant desire by merchants
and ship builders interested in remaining competitive to find
ways for goods to be brought between the east and west coasts of
the United States of America. It was much more practical, and
easier, to send good round by water rather than overland,
especially goods that were likely to spoil or ruin while being
transported across the continent. It only seemed natural to
travel down the coast, and then around South America in order to
more effectively deliver goods.
The 1800’s clipper ships were of a material advantage in
bringing merchandise from one coast to the other. They were very
fast, and it was possible to bring them by a more direct route
than the forelaying that was formerly done with older ships.
This was because these superior vessels had great length and a
flat bottom, as well as sharp lines of clearance and entrance.
This allowed them to not only take on more cargo than previous
ship models had down, but it also allowed them to deliver the
greater cargo at a faster rate.
Older ship models were no match for the 1800’s clipper ships.
1800’s clipper ships made the journey in, on average, about
four months. Older ships were accustomed to taking seven or eight
months to make the same voyage. The improvement was immense.
Still even more amazing, some of the clippers were so fast that
they made the trip from New York to San Francisco in under 100
days. One ship, the Flying Cloud, sailed round from New York and
entered the Golden Gate in 89 days — an amazing feat at the
time. Being able to cut the time it took deliveries to travel
between coasts truly made trade a much more lucrative venture,
as well as ensuring that quality goods from the East coast were
made more readily available on the West coast.
The first of the 1800’s clipper ships is considered to be the
Ann McKim, named after the wife of a Baltimore man who bought
the ship. This ship was launched in 1833 and made many journeys
between Valparaiso and San Francisco after she was sold to
Chile. It is possible to construct a model ship of the Ann
McKim, along with other 1800’s clipper ships, and display an
important part of American commercial history in the home.
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