Monday, November 7, 2016

Clipper Ships England

Below are the opening paragraphs to an article written in "The English Illustrated Magazine" ©1893

With Illustrations drawn by H. R. MILLAR.

THERE was a period, between the years 1840 and 1850, when it lookedvery much indeed as though we were going to yield our long enjoyed sovereignty of the seas to the Americans. The Baltimore clippers bade fair to outrival the ships of this country, and the Stripes and Stars were fast growing familiar colours in lands which heretofore had been accustomed to behold nothing but British bunting. Our Yankee neighbours were introducing a new form of building into their yards, and the ships which they despatched from Boston to China in 1845 were quite unlike anything that had ever gone to sea before: low hulled ; bold of beam ; lines sharp as a yacht's ; loftily sparred, and of heavy tonnage as the average burthen then went. To these vessels they gave the term of clippers. As this article deals exclusively with clipper ships, it may not be out of place to say a few words concerning the difference between this class of craft and the frigate-built ships of our own country which preceded them. Terms change their signification, and in its original meaning a frigate-built vessel was merely a ship whose decks were arranged similarly to those of a man-of-war of that rating. But latterly the definition was applied to vessels
built very full in their lines, and bluff about the bows, and run, and bilge. The old Blackwall Liners were all frigate-built ships, and although they could never come up to the clippers of their day in point of sailing qualities, they were very much more weatherly and drier in a gale of wind. The word clipper, on the other hand, to a very great extent explains itself. Young, in his dictionary of marine terms, tells us that it is " a term applied to a sharp built vessel, whereof the stern and stern-post, especially the former, have a great rake, the planking of the bow or forehoods (the timber ends) being carried forward to step in a rabbet in the cutwater. This kind of bow is termed a clipper-bow, and a vessel so built a clipper, or a clipper-built vessel. The fine lines of this vessel, in conjunction with the large quantity of canvas carried upon her, whether rigged as a ship, barque, or schooner, are united to command speed in sailing." This, then, was the type of craft which the Baltimore builders were turning out in great perfection. Their experiments—for experiments they then were—resulted in the attainment of high speed. The Mincing Lane merchants, ever eager to get the first consignments of the season's teas, were not long before they began to cast their eyes towards vessels which were delivering their freights weeks ahead of our own ships. Free trade had begun, and the result was that very soon the Thames and the Mersey were crowded with the graceful craft of the Chesapeake. Our own shipping was about this time suffering from the long
depression which followed the repeal of the Navigation Laws, and owners in this country viewed with a good deal of apprehension the steady ascendency which the Yankees were gaining over them. It was in the year 1850, however, that Mr. Richard Green, the founder of the famous Blackwall Line before alluded to, came to
triumph of the Challenge gave just the impetus which was needed to set the ship-wrights' yards ringing again to the blows
of the hammer. To the memory of Mr. Green will always belong the honour of upholding our maritime supremacy during
a very critical period. He it was who set the example, and then there were plenty ready to follow suit.

The well-known firm of Jardine, Materson and Skinner, gave an order to Messrs. Hall of Aberdeen, to construct a vessel which
should combine all the American notions of fine lines and heavy rig, with our own qualities of superior strength. As a result
the first of the famous Aberdeen clippers was launched. She was named the Stornoway, and when she sailed upon her first voyage, the patriotic determination to maintain as far as he could the prestige of our Merchant Service. At a great dinner given by one of the London Guilds, he first announced his intention in characteristic language. "We have heard," said he, "a great deal this night about the dismal prospects of British shipping ; and we have heard too from other quarters a great deal about the British Lion and the American Eagle, and the way in which the two are going to lie down together. Now I don't know anything about all that, but this I do know : that we, the British shipowners, have at last sat down to play at a fair and open game with the Americans, and by Jove ! we will trump them."

You can find the rest of the article at Google Books, here's a link.

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