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Clipper Ships and Windjammers

Clipperships in San Francisco.

Clipper Ships and Windjammers

Details and Images of Clipper Ships
° A to D ° E to G ° H to N ° O to R ° S ° T to Z

Lists are incomplete; information is added as located and as time permits.

West Coast Clippers (Built in San Francisco)

Annals of San Francisco 1852: Clipper ships

The Deep Sea Derby, 1852

The Fleet of 1857

Clipper Ships at San Francisco: H to N

Clipper Ships at San Francisco
High Flyer
Jacques Coeur (French)
John C. Legrand
John Gilpin
John Lidget
King of Clippers
King Phillip
Morning Light
Neptune's Car
Northern Light

High Flyer (Highflyer)

Clipper ship Highflyer.

A British sailing ship built in 1861 as a Blackwall Frigate. In 1880 the High Flyer became the first ship to deliver Portuguese immigrants from the Azores Islands to Hawaii.


This clipper ship was built in 1851 by Westervelt & Mackay, New York. Dimensions: 207' 40' 22' and will carry 1426 tons of freight. Launched June 20, 1851.

August 4, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California

More Clippers and Steamers for California. The clipper ship Hornet, for the California and China trade, and steamship Roanoke, to trade between New York and Richmond, were launched on the 20th June, by Messrs. Westervelt & Mackey. The Hornet is owned by Messrs. Chamberlain & Phelps, and will be employed in the China trade. She is a very sharp vessel, of 1,600 tons burthen; her lines are straight, and she is built with a flush deck, which adds much to her beauty. The craft is considered, by those well competent to judge, as one of the best constructed, and most superbly modeled vessels that ever floated. She will be commanded by Captain W. W. Lawrence. Her length is 160 feet; breadth, 25 feet; depth, 23 feet.

In 1853, she left New York for San Francisco in a race against the clipper Flying Cloud. TheHornet, which had left two days before the Flying Cloud, arrived just forty-five minutes ahead of her after a passage of 106 days. On January 11, 1866, she sailed from New York for San Francisco under command of Captain Josiah A. Mitchell, with a cargo of candles and oil in cases and barrels. On May 3, 1866, the Hornet caught fire and sank. Only the Captain and a part of his crew survived when their boat was the only one of three to reach Hawaii.


581 ton clipper ship. 1844.


Cleared New York for California between January-December 1851


Cleared New York for California between January-December 1851

In the port of San Francisco July 14, 1852. 111 days from New York via Rio Janeiro 75 days. 117 passengers (Note: There are conflicting reports on the number of passengers.) Anchored off North Beach. Left at Rio barque Asa Packer from Philadelphia for this port, with 147 passengers. Was to leave April 27. Steamer Pioneer to leave 29th April.

Jacques Coeur

July 23, 1859, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Shipping Vessels: For Shanghai. The splendid A 1 French Clipper Ship Jacques Coeur, 1,000 Tons Burthen. Capt. Camille Michel, (P.A.) will sail for the above port on or before the 15th August next. This vessel has superior accommodations for Passengers, of First and Second Class. For Freight and Passage apply to
Ed. De Rutte, 115 Battery street

John C. Legrand

Referred to as a schooner, brig, and fast-sailing "Baltimore-built clipper-brig."

January 10 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
Brig J. C. Legrand, Hall, which sailed from Baltimore for California on the 7th November after proceeding so far as Cape Henry, was obliged to return, having, when off New Point, experienced a gale, in which she sprung a leak, besides sustaining some other damage. She will doubtless have to discharge her cargo. She made the run to the Cape in the very remarkable time of thirteen hours.

June 6, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
June 5, 1851: Arrived Brig J. C. LeGrand, Knowles, 180 days from Baltimore, assorted cargo to G. H. Cassard.

June 11, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
The brig J. C. Legrand, Captain Knowles, recently arrived from Baltimore, made the passage from San Francisco to Sacramento City, having started on Sunday last, in eighteen hours. She was in charge of Mr. Samuel Gamage, pilot, who was absent from this city only thirty-one hours. This is probably the quickest trip ever made with a sailing vessel.

October 7, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California

FOR SAN JUAN DEL SUD AND PANAMA - To sail on the 5th October - The A 1 very fast sailing Baltimore clipper built brig John C. Legrand, 13 months old, coppered and copper fastened, having been expressly fitted for passengers, will sail as above. She will be well supplied with good provisions, and her accommodations will be found superior. For passage, apply to: Capt. John W. Gregory, Jr. on board at Pacific wharf or to O. Livermore, Battery Street near Pacific wharf.

John Gilpin

In the port of San Francisco 1853.

John Gilpin in the port of San Francisco, 1853.

November 5, 1857, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Clipper Ship Arrived. -- The American clipper ship John Gilpin, arrived at Honolulu on the 16th, in 117 days from Boston. We are informed she will load with oil and bone for the United States. She brought a large cargo, composed principally of provisions and mechanical and agricultural tools.

May 17, 1858, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California, U.S.A.


Loss of the Clipper Ship John Gilpin. The clipper ship Sunny South, Captain Stephenson, arrived at New York on the 14th of April, having on board Mr. Wood and two children, of Honolulu, S. I.; Edwin B. Ford, of Brooklyn, N. V.; and Mr. Sherwood, of Boston passengers of the late ship John Gilpin, foundered at sea off Cape Horn. The latter vessel, while on the voyage from Honolulu for New Bedford, and when off Cape Horn, on the 29th of January last, at 2 o'clock in the morning; during a heavy gale, struck a sunken iceberg and sprung a leak. The leak gained rapidly in spite of all exertions to keep the ship free by pumping, and on the 30th she had thirteen feet of water in her hold. At this critical juncture, and just as the ship's company were completing their preparations for abandoning the vessel in the boats, the British ship Herefordshire hove in sight, and subsequently rescued the passengers and crew, forty-five in number. The Herefordshire put into Bahia, where a portion of the Gilpin's passengers were transferred to the Brig Hurricane Bird, which arrived at Baltimore on the 13th of April. The balance of the passengers, except those which went to England, and a part of the crew left Bahia in the Herefordshire, bound for Cork, and on the voyage fell in with the Sunny South, which brought them to New York.

The total number rescued from the John Gilpin was forty-five, including the following passengers: Edward Stevens, lady and three children, of Boston; Miss Mary Pitman, Mrs. Sarah W. Woods and two children, of the Sandwich Islands; Mrs. Rivett, two children and servant, of England; Walter Sherwood, Edwin B. Ford, and officers and crew.

The vessel was insured $146,000 in Boston, $54,500 in New Bedford, and $180,000 in New York a total sum of $235,800. There is also some additional insurance, not yet ascertained.

John Rivett, the husband of Mrs. Rivett, above referred to, is a resident of this city, and he has received advices by the John L. Stephens, that his wife and children are probably safe in England.

John Lidget

A fullrigged composite clipper ship built in 1862 by Alexander Stephen & Sons, Glasgow, as Yard No. 34. Launched Augusty 28, 1862. Employed in the China tea trade. Her dimensions were 178'7"×30'1"×20'4" and tonnage: 770 tons. A sail plan shows her rigged with double topsails on the fore- and main masts but a according to a painting she was rigged with single topsails equipped with Cunningham's Patent roller reefing.


News of the day refers to her as a British Barque, and another source states she is a tea clipper; which is logical given her runs from China to British ports. 795 tons.

October 3, 1872, Sailed from Shanghai. Anderson, New York. In August 1878, she was in Shanghai, Captain Gudd, Burrard Inlet.


Messrs. Westervelt & Sons have in frame at their lower yard the clipper ship Sweepstakes . . . to be launched about the middle of June . . . They have also another clipper on the stocks to be launched about the same. time for Messrs. Goodhue & Co., called the Kathay. She is 310 feet long on deck, 38 wide, and 22 deep.

eared from New York to California between January-December, 1851: Isabella Hyne, 330 tons

King of Clippers

Daily Alta California, May 31, 1853, San Francisco

We take from the Boston Atlas the subjoined description of this leviathan of the deep. The world-wide reputation which her building and owner, Donald McKay, has achieved for constructing fast ships, is an ample guarantee that this last production of his skill will possess sailing qualities commensurate with her magnificent proportions. It will be perceived that the King of Clippers will be ready to receive cargo in New York for San Francisco about the 1st of July, and orders to make shipments by her which are forwarded by tomorrow's mail will be just in time.

This magnificent ship, the largest in the world, is now completely framed, and has her midship keelsons laid. She is 325 feet long, has 52 feet breadth of beam, 30 feet depth of hold, and will register about 4300 tons (of cargo carrying volume). She is not only the largest ship building or afloat, but has the sharpest ends of any ship or ocean steamer in the world. Her model is said by competent judges to be the most perfect combination of the swift, buoyant and beautiful that has yet been produced. Notwithstanding her vast size, such is the length and buoyancy of her floor, that when loaded, ready for sea, she will not draw more than twenty four feet water, a common draught for ships of half her size. Her forebody for sixty feet in length rises gradually, so that the gripes of her forefoot (?), instead of forming the vortex of an angle, is the arc of an ellipse, and rises three or four feet from a straight line. The junction of her keel and cutwater, therefore is not unlike that of a whale boat, but is more curved in proportion. She has a semicircular stern and a very clean run, and will unquestionably steer as easily as a pilot boat. She will have three decks, with a full poop and topgallant forecastle, and will be fitted out in a style worthy of her name. Her frame is of seasoned white oak, and all the frames are conged together and bolted through the coaging with inch and a quarter iron, and inside she is diagonally cross-braced with iron, the braces four inches wide and half an inch thick, bolted through every timber and through each other at every intersection. These braces extend from the floor-heads to the top timbers, and form a network of iron over her whole frames and cants, fore and aft. She has five depths of midship keelsons, each of sixteen inches square, double sister and bilge keelsons of the same size, and none of her ceiling in the hold, above the bilge, will be less than ten inches in thickness. In a word, she will be made as strong as possible. She will have Forbes' rig, the yards on the fore and mainmasts alike, and those on the mizzenmast the same as those on the other masts above the lower yards, so that except the courses, all her sails will have duplicates on every yard fore and aft.

Among many other improvements, she will have a stationary steam engine of eight-horse power on the deck, connected with the galley, which will be used for heavy work, such as taking in and out cargo, setting up rigging &c. Her fore and main yards are 103 feet square, and the others in proportion. This truly magnificent ship, the eighth wonder of the world, has been built at the suggestion of many of the largest California houses. A letter recently received from San Francisco, says to her builder: "We are glad to hear that you are getting along with your big ship. Go ahead, and we will fill her up, if she were ten thousand tons. Don't mind what the croakers say; California is a great place, and is daily growing greater. Your clippers rank high here, and we are bound to put them through." This is only a specimen of the numerous tokens of encouragement which Mr. McKay has received, to build a ship which will rank, both in size and speed, superior to any vessel in the world.. He has boldly taken his California friends at their word, and embarked all he is worth in this magnificent undertaking. We now call their attention to the fact, and inform them that the King of Clippers will be in New York ready to receive cargo about the 1st of July. Capt. L. McKay, who now commands the Sovereign of the Seas, will command her. He has proved himself, under severe circumstances, every inch a sailor, and in every way qualified to command the best, most beautiful and swiftest ship in the world. Such will be the King of Clippers.

King Phillip

Built in 1856 in Maine, it was a grain and guano cargo ship. In1869, the crew mutinied and burned the ship in Honolulu. It was condemned and auctioned to Washington state lumber merchants, they repaired it. Only 6 years later, another crew mutinied and again set it on fire in Annapolis, Maryland. The fire was extinquished and the ship sailed on to Rio de Janerio for repairs, and remained on the West Coast.

She was wrecked after leaving San Francisco Bay in 1878. A tugboat towed the ship through the bay to the Golden Gate, the King Phillip dropped anchor, but the ship had no cargo or ballast and drifted into the breakers and ran aground. The heavy surf caused the ship to break into pieces and it was quickly destroyed.

“Left helpless, anchors gone, sails clewed up, no friendly breeze, no hope, the gallant craft strikes and strikes the craft as if in anger, but powerless, as the hard, cold beach starts her timbers, tears her rudder out, crushes her keel and mashes her stout timbers in matchwood…”

The Lahloo

The Lahloo.

Up Channel, the Lahloo
British Tea Clipper Built in 1867

From the Shanghai News, March 20, 1870

English tea clippers are now about arriving here, the Titania, Caliph, Undine and Lahloo come into port lately, having made quick passages from England.


Lightning, Montague Dawson.

The Clipper 'Lightning'

Montague Dawson
Montague Dawson was the son of a keen yachtsman and the grandson of the marine painter Henry Dawson (1811 1878). Dawson was born in Chiswick, London in 1895. Much of his childhood was spent on Southampton Water where he was able to indulge his interest in the study of ships. For a brief period around 1910 Dawson worked for a commercial art studio in Bedford Row, London, but with the outbreak of the First World War he joined the Royal Navy. Whilst serving with the Navy in Falmouth he met Charles Napier Hemy (1841 1917), who considerably influenced his work. In 1924 Dawson was the official artist for an Expedition to the South Seas by the steam yacht St. George. During the expedition he provided illustrated reports to the Graphic magazine.

April 29, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Shipping Intelligence
Port San Francisco, April 29, 1851


Messrs. Perine, Patterson & Stack, of Williamsburgh, are building the clipper ship Lightning, for Messrs Harbeck & Co, for California and China. This vessel is built after the builders' own model, the owners having given them a carte blanche to produce a good clipper ship, which from their well known reputation, will be all that her owners may require. Her length is 190 feet; width 38-1/2 feet and depth 22 feet, and she will rate about 1400 tons. She was to have been ready by the 1st of April.


Daily Alta California , June 17, 1853

The clipper ship Mandarin, Stoddard, arrived at New York May 19 from Shanghai, in 90 days. This ranks as the second best passage between these ports; the Houqua having made the same trip in 1851 in 88 days. They are both New York vessels. The Mandarin was built by Smith & Dimon, and is 800 tons burden.

December 20, 1853, Daily Alta California

Ship Mandarin from New York, commences discharging this morning (Tuesday, 13th December) at Clay street wharf., Consignees will please pay their freight promptly to the undersigned, and received orders for their goods. All goods will be at the risk of the owners of the same, when landed upon the wharf, and if not removed before 4 P.M., will be stored at their risk and expenses. 
Bolton, Barron & Co., 92 Merchant Street


August 1, 1853, Daily Alta California

Launched, at Shalsea, on the 30th June, by Mr. Taylor, a clipper ship of about 1200 tons of cargo carrying volume, called the Matchless, and intended for the California trade. She is owned by Messrs. N. & N. Goddard of Boston.


March 1853, Daily Alta California
One of five clippers that arrived from the Atlantic since the first of March. She sailed from Boston.


Daily Alta California 
The clipper ship Mischief, of 500 tons burthen, is now loading at New York for San Francisco. She is 146 feet long, 29 broad and 16-1/2 deep, with a dead rise of 24 inches. She is said to have the sharpest ends ever put on a ship and her builder, Mr. J.M. Wood, of Somerset, Mass, fully anticipates her passage to San Francisco will be under 90 days., She will sail on about the 23d April. Her future position will be in Ogden & Hayne s "Celestial Line" of San Francisco and China packets.Daily Alta California, June 17, 1853
The new clipper ship Mischief, for San Francisco, was anchored at Quarantine, New York, 20th May, waiting wind.

Neptune's Car

This extreme clipper ship was built in 1853 by Page & Allen, Portsmouth, VA. Dimensions 216' 40' 23'6" and tonnage 1,616 (of cargo carrying volume—old measurement). Launched April 16, 1853 for Foster & Nickerson, New York. Left New York for San Francisco October 15, 1853, arrived February 9, making the run in 117 days under command of Captain Forbes. In 1854, she sailed from San Francisco to Singapore, then from Calcutta to New York in 109 days.

Between 1854 and 1856, she was under command of Captain Joshua Patten and during two of his trips, his 20-year-old bride sailed with him.  During their 1855 journey from San Francisco to New York around the Horn, Captain Patten fell gravely ill just before reaching Cape Horn, his First Mate was in irons, his Second Mate was but 20. 

His wife, pregnant with their first child, had learned navigation during the long hours at sea.  She, along with the young Second Mate, steered the ship safely through the treacherous waters and storms of Cape Horn to San Francisco. It was an extraordinary achievement, detailed in Douglas Kelley's excellent first novel The Captain's Wife (Dutton, September 2001),  and covered in San Francisco and national press.

With the death of Captain Joshua Patten, Captain Caleb Sprague late of the clipper ship Gravinaassumed command of Neptune's Car, with Captain Patten's WifeShips, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports. sailing her from New York to San Francisco, between December 31 1859 and April 23 (114-115 days).

Clipper Ships.Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.Between April 25 and October 18, 1861, Captain Sprague sailed from New York to San Francisco via Callao in 186 days. Heavy weather off Cape Horn carried away the jib-boom, fore-topgallant and main-top masts and sprang the bowsprit. Captain Sprague had to put into Callao for repairs. He ran her from San Francisco to New York between January 31 and May 9, 1861 (98 days). The Equator had been crossed 13 days out and she was off Cape Horn in 41 days.

Mary Patten brought them through to San Francisco, but Captain Patten died some months later. 

Neptune's Car continued sailing the world's seas under the command of various captains, including: 

March 14, 1854, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California

Captain Bearse:  March 12, 1857, San Francisco to New York (99 days); August 29-March 4, New York to San Francisco (125 sailing days).  Captain Caleb Sprague late of the clipper shipGravina assumed command, sailing her from New York to San Francisco, between December 31 1859 and April 23 (114-115 days).  Between April 25 and October 18, 1861, Captain Sprague sailed from New York to San Francisco via Callao in 186 days. Heavy weather off Cape Horn carried away the jib-boom, fore-topgallant and main-top masts and sprang the bowsprit. Captain Sprague had to put into Callao for repairs. He ran her from San Francisco to New York between January 31 and May 9, 1861 (98 days). The Equator had been crossed 13 days out and she was off Cape Horn in 41 days. Captain Reed took command and left New York on September 21, 1862, arriving in London on October 19 -- 28 days from the Downs.

Neptune's Car was sold at auction to Barclay & Co. for $8,000 in 1863.

North Wind

April 4, 1853, New York Herald, New York, New York
Shipbuilding in New York. Below is a statement of the vessels constructing in the New York shipyards. The builders appear to be doing a very good business -- not a yard among them but has from one to four or five vessels in various stage of forwardness.

The number of new vessels on the stocks at present is forty-one, of which eighteen are steamers and twenty-three sailing craft. Mr. A.C. Bell has two clipper ships on the stocks. One is named theNorth Wind, of about 1,100 tons burthen, building for S.W. Goodridge & Co., and to be commanded by Capt. W.B. Hildreth. She is 188 feet long on deck, 170 on the keel, 36 feet wide, and 21 deep. She is very nearly ready, and will be launched about the middle of this month, with all her spars and rigging set. She is intended for the California and China trade.

Northern Light

Built in 1851 by E. & H.O. Briggs, South Boston, MA, to the design of Samuel H. Pook. Dimensions: 171'4" 36' 21'9" and cargo carrying tonnage 1021. The figurehead was an angel carrying a torch with a golden flame in an outstretched arm. Launched September 25, 1851 from the shipyard of E. & H.O. Briggs, South Boston, MA, for James Huckins. She left Boston on November 20, 1851 and arrived in San Francisco 109 days later under command of Captain Bailey Loring.

December 17: Clipper ship Northern Light, Hatch, 122 days from Boston. Mdse to H.P. Blanchard & Co. Memoranda. Per Northern Light. The N.L. was 40 days and 14 hours to the Equator in the Atlantic; was becalmed 25 days on the passage. Had light winds during the whole passage except the last 10 days; was 68 days from Boston to Staten Land, 3 days in passing Cape Horn, 100 days to the Equator in the Pacific, which we crossed in long 104; have been within 400 miles of this port for the last 6 days.

In 1852, she sailed from San Francisco to Boston in 100 days, then in 117 days between October 29 - February 23 under the command of Captain Freeman Hatch (1820-1889). She left San Francisco March 13, 1853 and reached Boston in 76 days and 8 hours, the record to that date. From the latitude of Rio de la Plata to the Boston Lights, Northern Light required 24 days which is believed to be the fastest passage on record. She made 355 miles in one day.

July 4, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

The Late Passage of the Northern Light.

MESSRS. EDITORS -- On the sailing of the clipper shipNorthern Light for Boston, the 13th March, the principal of a Boston house here offered Captain Hatch a suit of clothes if he would arrive in Boston before the Trade Wind arrived at New York. TheContest, a New York clipper, was supposed by everyone to be the fastest ship in ballast trim, and was not thought of in the offer. The following is an extract from a letter received this day from the owner, which will show the passage and what the Bostonians think of it. 

Boston, June 1, 1853
I have the pleasure to inform you of the arrival here of the Northern Light on the 29th of May, after a passage of Seventy-Six Days, which rather astonished the natives. Captain Hatch had a good chance, and he put her through. Six days out was in the latitude of the Sandwich Islands; 38 days out Cape Horn bore southwest from him; 52 days was off Rio; 60 days crossed the equator; and 16 days from there to Boston Light; in all 76 days, which beats all the passages ever made yet. The Contest arrived on the 31st. The Northern Light beat herSix Days. The Trade Wind has not yet arrived. So you see the New York clippers are nowhere.

N.B.--The Northern Light spoke the Contest, and passed her with ease.

In 1854, Northern Light was sold at auction for $60,000 to Captain Doane. In 1859, she sailed from Boston to San Francisco in 116 days. In 1861, Captain Lovell assumed command. On January 1, 1862 she collided with and sank the French brig Nouveau St. Jacques. The St. Jacques crew was taken aboard the Northern Light, but because of damages sustained by her, she was also abandoned and the crew taken on by other ships.


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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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