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Baltimore Clippers

The Baltimore Clipper appeared shortly after the Revolutionary War. The designers and architects of the Baltimore Clippers looked to countries whose maritime histories were full of conquest of speed, with and against the wind. They considered the Phoenicians broad-beamed hulls; the Viking hulls that navigated through Scandinavia's icy fjords; and Mediterranean war galleys which moved with low water resistance and speed under sails. In the mid-17th century new designs came from Holland of the first "fore-and-afters" gaff-rigged sails which allowed for quick maneuvering, culminating in the type of vessel commonly called a schooner.

Also of European ancestry was the sloop which was most common in Sweden, France, and Spain. The sloop was a single masted craft with a gaff sail and a fixed bowsprit which allowed for several triangular headsails. Finally, from the turbulent waters of the English Channel, came tall-rigged fishing boats from France and Britain called luggers. These boats were able to combine the sturdiness they needed to survive in rough water with the speed they needed to be competitive.

Baltimore. 1800s.

These ships, and the design principles used to create them, were the backbone of the Maryland shipbuilding industry for many years. Because of the importance of watercraft on Maryland's economy in the eighteenth century, the Chesapeake Bay was an area of shipbuilding innovations. One such predecessor would be the Chesapeake schooners that were mainstays of the bay industries in the late 1700's. These boats were "sharp built", with a merchant type or fast sailing hull for use in letter of marque service (to engage enemy vessels and take prizes) or for privateering.

Clippers are said to have originated with the small, swift coastal packet known as the Baltimore clipper, the true clipper evolved first in the U.S. (c. 1833) and later in Britain. The basic concept of the Baltimore Clippers was first seen in the ship Ann McKim, one of the largest and fastest clippers ever to sail. Though no two Balitmore Clippers were ever built to the same dimensions or specifications, they share common bonds:

A long, slim, graceful vessel with a projecting bow, a streamlined hull, and an exceptionally large spread of sail on three tall masts. Clippers carried tea from China and goldminers to California. Famous clippers included the American Flying Cloud and the British Cutty Sark. Though much faster than the early steamships (already in use when the clipper appeared), they were eventually outrun by improved steamship models and largely disappeared from commercial use in the 1870s.

All Clippers were approximately 100 feet in length from stern to bow. Baltimore Clippers had heart shaped midsections with short keels and raking sterns. The undecorated hulls of these ships were black, low-sided, and sharped bowed, leaving the Clippers with minimum freeboard. Quite unlike other ships of the period, the clippers bore no figureheads, headboards or trailboards.

A Clipper's mast was further aft on the ship just as the foremast was proportionately taller, therefore allowing a more efficient use of sails.

The Pride of Baltimore
Clipper Ship

Baltimore Clippers were often the ship of choice for slavers, smugglers, and West Indian pirate craft. They also carried light cargoes, but Baltimore Clippers received their true recognition for their role in the War of 1812 when Captain Thomas Boyle commanded the Chasseur which was able to capture 45 British merchant ships in a five month period. Because of its impressive performance, it returned home with its new nickname Pride of Baltimore. Chasseur's history is illustrative of the fate of Baltimore Clippers. Just three months after her triumphal return to Baltimore from her exploits against the British Isles, she set sail for Canton, China. According to the super cargo's log of the six month voyage around Africa, through the Indian Ocean, and up the coast of Southeast Asia, she encountered gale force winds, but sailed well. In Canton, she loaded on a cargo of tea, silk, satin, porcelain and other high demand items for the return voyage. Despite deteriorating conditions of the ship, she set a speed record from Canton to the Virginia Capes in 95 days. This Orient-to-America record held for 16 years until it was broken by the clipper Atlantic in 1832. Her cargo of exotic goods sold for a handsome profit for her owners.

Because Clippers could outsail their opponents, Baltimore Clippers were responsible for more than 500 sinkings or seizures of British ships. But after the treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812, the uses for the Baltimore Clippers declined in number. They were still known worldwide for their usefulness in trade, both legal and illegal, allowing merchants the speed they needed to be competitive. They went to the West Indies with cargoes of flour and cotton, returning with coffee and sugar.

The Baltimore Clippers faded away to be replaced by larger ships capable of carrying greater cargoes with the same speed as that of the Clippers. In the 1840s a new generation of fast large ships evolved that came to be known as Yankee Clippers or simply Clipper Ships. These were three masted, full-rigged ships, that is, they had square sails on all three masts.

When America First Met China: An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of SailPort of San Francisco
Eric Jay Dolin
VesselsAncient China collides with America in this epic tale of opium smugglers, sea pirates, and dueling clipper ships. Brilliantly illuminating one of the least-understood areas of American history, best-selling author Eric Jay Dolin now traces our fraught relationship with China back to its roots: the unforgiving nineteenth-century seas that separated a brash, rising naval power from a ancient empire. It is a prescient fable for our time, one that surprisingly continues to shed light on our modern relationship with China. Indeed, the furious trade in furs, opium, and b che-de-mer--a rare sea cucumber delicacy--might have catalyzed America's emerging economy, but it also sparked an ecological and human rights catastrophe. Peopled with fascinating characters--from the "Financier of the Revolution" Robert Morris to the Chinese emperor Qianlong, who considered foreigners inferior beings--this saga of pirates and politicians, coolies and concubines becomes a must-read for any fan of Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower or Mark Kurlansky's Cod. Two maps, and 16 pages of color and 83 black-and-white illustrations.

Victorinox Chrono Watch and Swiss Army Knife.

Victorinox Swiss Army Officers Chronograph with Knife

Victorinox Swiss Army Officers Chronograph with Knife.

Victorinox History: Karl Elsener opened a knife cutler's workshop in Ibach-Schwyz and established the Association of Swiss Master Cutlers. He delivered the first major supply of soldier's knives to the Swiss Army. In 1921. The invention of stainless steel was a significant development for the cutlery industry. “Inox” is the international term for stainless steel. The combination of the two words “Victoria” and “Inox” gives the name of the company and brand today – Victorinox. By 1945, U.S. soldiers stationed in Europe bought the Swiss Army Knife in large quantities in part as a souvenir to take home.

Bago Dry Bags for Water Sports.

Sailing & Watersports Gear: Dry Bags, Duffels, Gloves, Divers' Knives & Shears, Flotation Devices, Inflatable Kayaks, Water Shoes, Surfing...

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Ship Passengers, Sea Captains, Maritime Nations, Merchants, Merchandise into San Francisco during the 1800s.


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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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