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For other things of this name, see clipper (disambiguation).

A clipper was a very fast multiple-masted sailing ship of the 19th century. Generally narrow for their length, limited in their bulk freight carrying capacities, and small by later 19th century standards, the clippers had a large relative sail area. "Clipper ships" were almost enturely products of British and American shipyards; an exception is the small (754 tons) Dutch-built "Telanak", built in 1859 for the tea and passenger trade to Java. Clippers sailed all over the world, primarily on the trade routes between Britain and its colonies in the east, in the trans-Atlantic trade, and in the New York-to-San Francisco route round The Horn during the Gold Rush.

The often quoted derivation of the word, that the vessels "clipped" time off a voyage, is probably incorrect. The term clipper was originally applied to a fast horse and most likely derives from the British slang term clip, meaning speed, as in "going at a good clip".

The small, fast ships were ideally suited to low-volume, high-profit goods, such as spices, and most commonly, tea. The values could be spectacular. The "Challenger" returned from Shanghai with "the most valuable cargo of tea and silk ($2,000,000) ever to be laden in one bottom." The competition among the clippers was public and fierce, with their times recorded in the newspapers. Brightly colored lithographic "ship cards" were printed for individual sailings in the New York-to-San Francisco route, as pocket advertisements; about 3000 survive and are eagerly collected today (see link). They had low expected lifetimes and rarely outlasted two decades of use before they were broken up for salvage. Given their speed and maneuverability, clippers frequntly mounted cannon or caronade and were often employed as pirate vessels, privateers, smuggling vessels, and in interdiction service.

The term seems to have begun as a slang term denoting any fast ship; Cutler reports that the first newspaper appearance was in 1835, but that by then the term was apparently familiar. Clippers came to be recognized as ships built for speed rather than cargo space; while traditional merchant ships were accustomed to average speeds of under 5 knots, clippers aimed at 9 knots or better.

Decline in the use of clippers was a result of the steamship. Although clippers could be much faster than the early steamships, clippers were ultimately dependent on the vagaries of the wind, while steamers could reliably keep to a schedule. The final blow came in the form of the Suez Canal, opened in 1869, which provided a huge shortcut for steamships between Europe and Asia, but which was difficult for sailing ships to use.

Although many clipper ships were built during the middle of the 1800s, the Cutty Sark is arguably the only survivor. Other ships of the era of similar type are not as well preserved, such as the City of Adelaide or S.V. Carrick[1].

Table of contents
1 The age of flight
2 Notable clippers
3 See also
4 External links
5 Reference

The age of flight

In the twentieth century, the term Clipper was revived for the flying boats that opened new global air routes, including vast stretches of the Pacific, to passenger service. Aircraft such as the Consolidated Aircraft Commodore and Boeing Model 314 became iconic symbols of the era of flight, and the name Pan Am Clipper came to stand for the romantic allure of air travel to exotic destinations.

Notable clippers

See also

External links