From Academic Kids

For other uses, see Clipper (disambiguation).
Missing image
Model of clipper ship type, named Belle toile

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 mostly products of British and American shipyards, though France, the Netherlands (the Dutch-built "Telanak", built in 1859 for the tea and passenger trade to Java) and other nations also produced a number of them. 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 term clip, meaning speed, as in "going at a good clip". 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. Sometimes these ships could reach 20 knots.

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). The ships 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.

Decline in the use of clippers started with the economic slump of 1855 and continued with the gradual introduction 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, Cutty Sark is arguably the only survivor. Falls of Clyde is a well-preserved example of a more conservatively designed, slower contemporary of the clippers, which was built for general freight in 1878. Other surviving examples of clipper ships of the era, though not as well preserved are City of Adelaide or S.V. Carrick[1] (


Notable Clippers

Template:Clipper ships

See also

Template:Sailing Vessels and Rigs

External links


pl:Kliper ru:Клипер (парусное судно)


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