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Clipper Ships and Windjammers

Clipperships in San Francisco.

Clipper Ships and Windjammers

Details and Images of Clipper Ships
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November 2014: Pages have been split alphabetically to enable faster loading.
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: O to R

Ocean Express

The Ocean Express was the largest vessel built at Medford. She was launched July 10; 1854. While she was a hard working ship; she never fulfilled her builder's boast that she was "first in speed; first in beauty; and first in the world of water." While she was a handsome ship; her passages to San Francisco were among the slowest of the Clipper ships of her time.

August 29, 1854, The Daily Union, Sacramento, California


The Boston Times gives the subjoined description of a new and magnificent clipper.

The Ocean Express is 2000 tons burthen. Her frame is of well-seasoned white oak, with yellow pine planking. Length of keel 213 feet- length over all 230 feet; breadth of beam 42 feet; depth of hold 24 feet 6 inches. She has two decks with three sets of beams. Her between decks are airy and commodious; rendering her one of the best passenger vessels, if she should be assigned that service, there is afloat. She can easily accommodate 800 passengers. The Ocean Express has three kelsons, 16 inches square, two sister kelsons 15 inches square, one thick strake on the bilge, 15 inches; her thick works are graduated from 15 to 9 inches, to the first tier of beams.

She is heavily square fastened from stem to stern; and is copper butt and bilge bolted throughout. She has two garboard strakes, 7 inches thick, flush down to 4-1/2 inches, which is the thickness of her bottom planking. Her wales are of yellow pine, 5-1/2 inches thick. Bulwarks outside two inches, ceiled up inside with 2-1/2 inch hard pine. She has two houses on deck. The forward house is 48 feet long, and has accommodations for 40 seamen, galley, sail room, and two rooms for boys -- the practice of keeping the boys from the men having been generally adopted and found to work to advantage. The after house is fifty-two feet long, and is separated into two cabins, the after one being fitted up in luxurious style, with mahogany furniture and elegant fixtures, satin wood panels, beautiful mirrors, etc. There are in the cabin five largo state rooms for passengers, besides the captain's room, which is a lovely, little nest. The forward cabin contains two state rooms for passengers ; also, officers accommodations, steward's pantry and sleeping room, etc.

The mainmast of the Ocean Express is 90 feet long, 33 inches in diameter this, with the foremast and bowsprit are made masts, heavily hooped with iron. The bowsprit is 41 feet long, 20 feet outboard. The main yard is 90 feet long and 24 inches in diameter; the other Yards in the same proportion. She is sheathed with Muntz metal to 19 feet forward and 20 feet aft. Her spars were manufactured by Samuel Aspinwall of Boston. Her standing rigging, of best Russian hemp, was furnished by Messrs. Sunnier and Swift, of Boston, and will be fitted by Mr. Cheesman, also of this city. The iron work for spars was furnished by Nason and Cleveland, Boston. Her sails, constructed of best cotton duck, are from Branson and Cunningham's establishment. She will spread between 18,000 and 14,000 yards of canvas. The iron work tin hull was executed by Nathaniel Tay, Medford; painting and gilding by B. M. Clark & Co., Boston. -- the whole work being done under the superintendence of Mr. Chas. Curtis, foreman of the yard. The figure head of the Ocean Express is a large spread eagle on her stern are ornaments appropriate to her name. She is furnished with all the modern improvements, including Robinson's steering apparatus, Perley's ventilators, patent windlass, chain stoppers, water tanks, and patent tanks, and patent air ventilators in bulwarks. This magnificent ship belongs to the firm of Messrs. Reed & Wade, the extensive California house in this city. She was built at a cost of $150,000 and is in every respect a perfect vessel. Mr. Curtis, her builder, acknowledges having outdone himself in her construction.

Ocean Express was a major participant in the Pacific Coast trade. Between 1855 and 1871 she made at least ten west-bound trips from North Atlantic ports to San Francisco; seven of which were from New York; one from Boston and two from English ports. She often returned with grain to England or sometimes stopped at Callao in Peru for guano. In 1861-62 she served as a troop transport in the Civil War. She returned to Pacific Coast service between 1871 and 1876 under Peruvian and Costa Rican flags; operating in the lumber trade between Puget Sound and Peru and Australia. In 1876 she was sold to a German firm; renamed Friedrich; and home ported in Bremerhaven. By 1890 she had been sold to Norwegian owners. During these years of European ownership; she was active in the North Atlantic trade. Finally in 1890; after 36 years of hard service; she had to be abandoned in the North Atlantic. The Reed family of Boston; for whom she had been built; owned the largest number of clippers operating " the American flag. At one time twenty clippers sailed under their ownership.

Ocean Monarch

Ocean Spray

July 21, 1853, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California: Arrived Clipper ship Ocean Spray, McLelland, 143 days from New York. Ship Ocean Spray has hauled in to California wharf.

Ocean Telegraph

Cargo list per Ocean Telegraph, November 25, 1854. Daily Alta California.

The Ocean Telegraph was an American extreme clipper ship designed by Boston-based Naval architect Samuel Hartt Pook and built in 1854 by James O. Curtis from in Medford, Maine and launched on Mary 29, 1854.

She was destined for the run between New York and San Francisco, but was sold to the Black Ball Line in 1863 and thence sailed from Liverpool/London to the South Pacific.

November 25, 1854, Daily Alta California, San Francisco: Clipper ship Ocean Telegraph, Captain Willis, arrived San Francisco 120 days from New York. Merchandise to Shaw & Reed.

Memoranda per Ocean Telegraph: Passed Cape Horn in 64 days; experienced severe weather off the Horn; stove water cask, broke ringbolts from the deck, stove part of deck load carried away topsail-yard, bulwarks, etc.

Crossed the Equator November 1st, long 110 40, from thence has light winds and calms.

Made Monterey 7 days ago; has been becalmed for the last six days with dense fog; anchored off the South Heads last night, the sea making a clean breach over her; lost anchor and 42 fathoms chain.

Friday Evening 
November 24, 1854, Daily Trade Report
By the arrival of the clipper ship Ocean Telegraph, we are in the receipt of a large amount of assorted stock, much of which has been sold to arrive and previously reported in this paper. SOAP - 2000 boxes Hill's Soap, No. 1, ex Ocean Telegraph sold on private terms.
CANDLES - 100 boxes Judd's Patent Candles at about 58c. The mass of the Candles brought by the Ocean Telegraph have been sold previous to arrival, at prices ranging at say 40 to 50c.
BUTTER - 100 firkins new Butter, ex Ocean Telegraph sold without guarantee at 47-1/2c; 80 firkins old Butter at 25c. LIQUOR - Sales today, ex Ocean Telegraph, amount to 41 bbls old Magnolia Whiskey at $1.37-1/2; 200 bbls Pure Spirits, 350 octaves, and 25 pipes Domestic Brandy at $1.40; sales previous to arrive of 159 bbls whiskey, in two lots, at $1; 250 bbls do, in one lot, on private terms, 250 octaves Domestic Brandy on p.t.


The Oriental was launched in 1849 from the yards of Jacob Bell. She cost $75,000. In the same year Great Britain finally repealed her famous Navigation Laws, the first of which had been passed in 1651 by the Parliament of Cromwell, and then confirmed by Charles II after the Restoration. The Cromwellian Act was an adroit political maneuver calculated to disguise efforts toward war with Holland and to check the increasing power of the Dutch at that time the greatest commercial carriers on the seas. The Act had its desired effect. Holland was crushed in the ensuing wars, and the bulk of the world's carrying trade particularly that of the rich markets in the Far East was thrown into ships of British register. The monopoly thus created was far too pleasant to lose, and, from time to time, the early law was amended and added to rather than repealed a fact which became increasingly irksome to young America. Absurdities followed the War of Independence with the United States passing similar laws and both nations participating in the rather silly traffic of sending ships in ballast to the other country to bring home produce. This condition persisted until the vessels of the United States were placed upon the footing of the "most favored nation"; but up to 1849 the barrier built up by the Navigation Laws was, except in certain instances, almost impregnable. No merchandise could be imported into England save in British vessels (British registered, British navigated, and three-quarters British manned) with the exception of a few items which were permitted entry in ships belonging to the country producing the goods.

The Oriental sailed from New York on September 14, 1849, Captain Nathaniel Brown Palmer in command, and, reaching Hongkong on January 1, 1850 109 days out picked up a cargo of tea. Eighty-one days later she was in New York again, and, though the passage did not compare with Waterman's miraculous 1848 run in the Sea Witch, it was an excellent one for a cautious captain of fifty, who was thinking of giving up his command. This passage in the Oriental was, in fact, Captain Nat's good-by to sail if not to the sea, though he himself considered it so. Shortly afterward, he took the steamship United States to Bremen for disposal, but the escorting of a "tea-kettle" across the Atlantic was to him scarcely comparable with the ineffable thrill of sail. The United States was a matter of routine, of duty; his passage in the Oriental would be remembered as the beautiful climax to a brilliant career.

Nathaniel's brother, Theodore, next assumed command of the Oriental, and, taking her out of New York on May 19, 1850, ran her down to the Equator in 25 days. Twenty days later she was off the Cape of Good Hope, and sixteen days after that she was racing past Java Head, arriving in Hongkong on August 8 81 days from New York. This passage established the all-time sailing record for the outward run from New York to China, as the Sea Witch had, in the previous year, established the all-time sailing record for the homeward run.


February 21, 1855, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Shipping Intelligence
Port San Francisco, Feb. 21, 1855

On the Pampero. Sacramento Daily Union, May 4, 1855. February 20: Clipper shipPampero, Coggins, New York, 125 days from New York. Mdse to D. L. Ross & Co. Memoranda: Was off Cape Horn in fine weather. Was 94 days to the line, on the Pacific. Crossed the Equator Jan. 19th, lon 112 40. Has been 32 days north of the line. Feb. 10th, was in company with clipper shipSweepstakes, from New York for this port; 15th, experienced a heavy gale from the N W, stove hatch bulwarks, and supposed to have damaged part of the cargo.

Consignee Notices

CLIPPER Ship Pampero, Captain Coggins from New York, will commence discharging at Shaw's Wharf this day, Wednesday, the 21st inst. Consignees are requested to call on the undersigned, pay freight, and receive their orders. All merchandise, as soon as landed, will be at the risk of owners, and all goods remaining on the wharf at 5 P.M. will be stored at risk and expense of same.

D. L. Ross & Co.

HEIDSICK WINE - EX PAMPERO. 50 baskets in bond. 
For sale by Bingham & Reynolds. 201 Sansome street.


July 21, 1853, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California: Arrived. July 19 -- Clipper shipPeerless, Bascom, 212 days from Boston. Peerless has anchored off North Point.

Procymatia (Clipper Bark)

Launched 1856. Builders: T. Adamson & Sons, Willington Quay, North Tyneside, England.

Clipper Ships at San Francisco
British Registered Vessel from Newcastle
GEORGE NOEL, Master, Burthen 368 TONS
from the port of SHANGHAI to SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES, 
7th JANUARY 1863
Surname Given name Station Age Of what Nation Status Comments
Source: States Records Authority of New South Wales
Shipping Masters' Office: Passengers Arriving 1855 - 1922.

Queen of the Clippers

August 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

From the Daily Alta California's New York correspondent: " . . . As another en dit in nautical matters, I will state that the largest, finest and most graceful sailing ship afloat at the present time has been purchased by a few members of California houses. Among those whose names appear upon the register of the Queen of Clippers, are Bingham & Reynolds and C. J. Huntington of San Francisco. She is now loading for California, and will probably hail from San Francisco. She is a credit to any city or nation in the world."


This splendid vessel has been the admiration of all who have inspected her, not only for the faultless beauty of her model, but also for the strength of her construction and the excellence of her workmanship. She is 245 feet long on the keel, 10 feet longer on deck, and 258 feet over all from the knight heads to the taffrail. Her extreme breadth of beam is 44-1/2 feet, depth 24 feet and will register about 2,300 tons (of cargo carrying volume), Custom House measurement. Her ends are very long and graceful, and extremely sharp, particularly the bow, and her lines are slightly concave below, but convex above, to correspond with her outline on the rail. The steam and cutwater form the vortex of a plain angle, of which her lines represent the sides, and make her appear, bows on, a complete wedge. Her stern swells outward, and is oval in outline, with a semi-elliptical turn in the monkey rail. Her run is very easy, and yet has buoyancy enough to bear her up, however fast she may fly through the water. She is sheathed with yellow metal up to 20 feet, is painted black above the metal, and inside she is pearl color relieved with white. The bulwarks stanchions are of oak, and are the continuation of every other top timber. She has a small topgallant forecastle, a house abaft the foremast 45 feet long, 18 wide, and 6-1/2 high, fitted for the accommodation of the crew, and also contains the galley and other apartments.

She has a small poop deck, upon which she is steered, and connected with it is the after part of her cabins, which are in a house sixty feet long, leaving gangway room on each side of it. This spacious house contains two splendid cabins and an ante-room. The after cabin is wainscoted, with mahogany, rose and satin wood, set off with pilasters, cornices and flowered gilding, in the most perfect style of art. The forward cabin is also finished in superior style, and the state rooms of both are spacious, well-lighted and ventilated, and like the cabins, are well furnished. 

All the stanchions, all the hooks, and all the knees in the hold are of superior white oak, the between knees only are of hackmatack, and of these are very stout. Her ends are well secured with massive hooks and pointers, and no ships beams can be better kneed. The bolt beams are 16 inches square, the upper deck beams ten by sixteen, the frames of both decks are of hard pine, and the planking 3-1/2 inches thick.

She is seasoned with salt, has Emerson's ventilators, and all the other means of ventilation now in use. She has patent blocks, patent trusses, chain topsail sheets and ties, and all the other improvements of the day. Aloft, as well as below, she is fitted in superior style, and looks most gloriously. More than usual care has been bestowed upon her iron work, and so far as we are qualified to express an opinion, we think it not only strong, but well finished. Capt. John Zerega, long known in the Liverpool trade, commands her. She was built in East Boston by Mr. Robert E. Jackson, the builder of the John Bertram, Winged Racer, and many other fine ships. Her enterprising owners have spared no expense to make her a perfect ship, and to ensure her success. She is expected to suit twenty miles an hour with a leading wind, and to rank first among the foremost upon the world of waters.

-- Boston Atlas

October 28, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

PASSENGERS per Queen of the Clippers: Mr. J. Easterberry, Misses Easterberry, Miss Grey, Mr. Lewis, W. Rankin, Mr. Morgan, Mrs. Gibson, Mrs. Stout, Mr. Donnelly & 4 children, Miss Stoutenburg.

Consigness per Queen of the Clippers, Daily Alta California, October 28, 1853.

November 3, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Arrived. Clipper Ship Queen of Clippers. J. A. Zerega, commander, from New York, commences to discharge at Vallejo street Wharf, this morning, Saturday, Oct. 29th Consignees are requested to call upon the undersigned, pay freight, and receive orders for their goods. All merchandise, when landed upon the wharf will be at the owner's risk, and if not removed by 5 P.M., will be stored at their expenses. ~ Bingham & Reynolds, 201 Sansome Street.

Queen of the East

In San Francisco September 9, 1852. Click to read her story and view a list of passengers.

Queen of the Seas

March 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

One of five clippers that arrived from the Atlantic since the first of March. She sailed from Boston. Her maiden voyage of was part of a "Deep Sea Derby," in the fall of 1852 representing a sampling of some of the finest clippers of the day racing around the Horn at the most favorable season of the year. Much of the time they were in sight of one another, often going tack for tack slicing on through the seas, each looking for the first opportunity to haul up more sail and fly on past to take the lead again, day after day, through fair winds and foul.


November 1, 1852, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

THE CLIPPER SHIP RACER. We were kindly favored with an invitation from our friends. Messrs. Lee & Winans, the consignees, to visit this splendid vessel yesterday. A handsome collation was served, which was partaken of by a choice party. It was altogether a delightful affair. We noticed among the company some of our principal merchants and bankers and consuls of several foreign nations.

The Racer is well known from her having made the fastest passage between New York and Liverpool. Her best day's run has been 394 miles. She was built at Newburyport, at a cost of $125,000 for David Ogden and others of New York, under the superintendence of her experienced commander, Capt. R. W. Steele, formerly of the packet ship Andrew Foster, and previously of the U. S. Navy. She is 207 feet long, has 42-1/2 feet breadth of beam, 28 feet depth of hold, is 7 feet high between decks and registers 1696 tons. She is provided with large loading ports, one on each side in the upper, and two on a side in the lower between decks.

In stepping on board this fine vessel, one is surprised at the immense deck, which, spacious in itself, is so arranged as to give the best opportunity for working the ship. Her form here presents itself in great beauty. Between the fore and main masts is a large house, 47 feet by 18, in which are apartments fitted up with cooking ranges, hospital, ice-house, etc.

The chief cabin, which is entered from the poop deck, is the most splendid of any we have ever seen, the panels, framework and part of the pilasters are of the most beautiful mahogany: the pilasters and part of the cornice are rosewood, richly ornamented in imitation of inlaid gold; and the caps of the pilasters are of papier mache, resembling carved rosewood, and serve not only for ornament but ventilation of the state rooms. The cabin is also ornamented with two fine pictures and very handsome furniture. Forward of the saloon is the officers room, with their apartments; and then the second cabin, which is large and commodious, and in which every care has been taken for the health and comfort of passengers. She has brought to this port one of the most valuable cargoes ever received; her freight list is upwards of $50,000, and her manifest eighteen feet long; besides which she has 500 tons of well-selected goods on her owner's account, which have paid a profit of $50,000 more. The rapidity with which she is discharging reflects credit on her consignees, and on the stevedore, Capt. Allen.


September 28, 1854, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Shipping Intelligence Memoranda: Per Gallatea: July 29th, Cape Horn N 8 miles distant, was in company with ship Radiant, and parted company same night.


Yankee Clipper launched in January 1845. $22,500 to build. She sailed as a China Clipper under the command of Captain John Lund.

The chief innovations advocated by John Willis Griffiths, and exemplified by the Rainbow, lay in lengthening the bow in a graceful upward curve over the water, making the bow itself concave instead of round or bulging (in imitation of the fast yachts and pilot boats of New York City, as stated in Hall's Report), placing the greatest breadth of beam farther aft than usual, and lightening and sweetening the line of the stern above the water. These features, which added materially to the speed and beauty of a ship, together with towering spars, an enormous spread of sail, and a captain with an instinct for racing a ship, constituted the extreme clipper. A further fault which some of the earlier clippers possessed was due to the belief that fullness on the forward part of the deck was necessary for working ship. This in itself was a good enough theory, but the tendency was naturally to place weights in the forepart, with the result that if the ship took a heavy head-sea over the bows, she was very close to disaster. The Rainbow had this bad feature, as can be seen from her half -breadth plan, and it is very possible that it was responsible for her eventual loss.

However, the Rainbow was an exceedingly dainty ship when finally completed, but even the New York Herald, usually so generous with its praises, could only remark that she held out a promise of "great speed." She was 750 tons and measured: length 159 feet, breadth 31 feet, and depth 18 feet. She was built by Smith & Dimon, and was launched on January 22, 1845. During the year of her launching, the treaty ports were opened with China. In this respect the opening of the clipper era coincided with the advent of the clipper ship. On her maiden voyage the Rainbow sailed for the Flowery Kingdom under the famous Captain John Land who later had a clipper named after him and fetched New York again the 19th of September after an out-of-season run of 105 days, establishing a record of seven months and seventeen days for the round trip. She left New York again on October 1, and, after a record voyage to Macao and back. The second event of the year was the Irish potato-crop famine, which shot trade sky-high and underscored the importance of England's modified Corn Laws. In 1842 England, somewhat chastened by the results of the disastrous crop failure of 1836, modified her laws so as to allow provisions that had formerly been prohibited to be admitted at fairly low duties; and the potato-crop famine came at a time that was most advantageous to the many hundreds of Americans who had been driven from cities to farms by the panic of 1837. Exports exceeded one hundred million dollars in 1846.

She was supposed to have foundered off the Horn in 1848 bound from New York to Valparaiso under Captain Hayes.


January 9, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
LAUNCH.-A fine clipper ship, called the Rattler, of 580 tons burthen, designed for the California trade, was launched at Baltimore. The Rattler is likewise the name of a new clipper ship of 1,100 tons (of cargo carrying volume), launched recently at Rockland, Maine, and now at New York.

R. B. Forbes

August 16, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

From Our Own Correspondent.

Valparaiso, August 16, 1853

On September 24, 1851, the R. B. Forbes was loading in Boston, Captain Doane, for Honolulu.

R. B. Forbes
Clipper Ship R.B. Forbes in Boston
Taking on Cargo for California. 1851

Red Jacket

March 30, 1854, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California
Sacramento, California, U.S.A.

RED JACKET -- The clipper ship Red Jacket has made the quickest run ever performed by a sailing vessel between New York and Liverpool. The trip was accomplished in twelve and a half days, and in two days the clipper made 376 and 384 miles. She passed every floating thing in her track, including a channel steamer.

October 31, 1854, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

The American clipper Red Jacket arrived at Melbourne in 67 days from Liverpool, the shortest passage on record.

The Red Jacket.

Clipper ship Red Jacket.

Considerable interest has been excited in consequence of the appearance in our bay of one of the finest clipper ships the world has ever produced. The Red Jacket, under the command of Capt Reed, has performed the passage from Liverpool to Port Philip, in the astonishing short period of 67 days 10 hours passage unparalleled in the history of sailing ships. The greatest speed attained during her run from England to Australia in the 24 hours, was 402 miles, being a little over 17 knots an hour! From the light winds under which the ship has labored, her passage has been astonishingly rapid, thus preventing the possibility of adhering strictly to the principle of great circular sailing. As a proof of the admirable qualities of this ornament to our sailing ships, it is recorded by Capt. Reed's log, that in her passage from the longitude of the Cape, taking it at 21 east, she occupied the sheet time of 17 days 10 hours. Melbourne Morning Herald, July 17.


The Ringleader sailed out of San Francisco August 31, 1857 and reached New York 31 days Pacific She returned to San Francisco, arriving June 11, 1858, in 122 days from New York. Crossed the Pacific equator 97 days out and was thence 25 days to port. From San Francisco she took gold seekers to Frazer River, B.C. and returned to port of departure in six days from Victoria, Captain Holmes reporting the remarkable run of three days from Cape Flattery.

Romance of the Sea

This extreme clipper was built in 1853 by Donald McKay, East Boston. Rigged with Capt. Forbes' double topsail rig. Her dimensions were 140'x39'6"x29'6" and tonnage 1782 of cargo carrying volume.  She was launched on November 15, 1853 from McKay's Yard at East Boson for George B. Upton of Boston and employed in the California Trade.  On December 16, 1853, she sailed for San Francisco under command of Captain Dumaresq after having loaded at the Long Wharf in Boston for Messrs. Timothy Davis & Co.'s line of San Francisco Clippers.  When the George Lee and Flying Eagle sailed from Hong Kong for San Francisco in late 1862, the Romance of the Sea was in port. She left Hong Kong on December 31, 1862 and was lost at sea enroute to San Francisco.


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