The Electric (c.1860)
The clipper ship Electric is shown sailing on the port tack in a brisk breeze and on choppy seas. The small vessel in the foreground is a New York pilot boat, flying a distinctive ‘P’ flag. The flag flown by the Electric is particularly interesting, being an early form of the flag of the United States of America, before the arrangement of the stars in the top left canton had been officially codified. The Electric was built in Mystic, Connecticut by Irons & Grinnell, and launched in 1853. The firm was established in 1841 by Dexter Irons and Amos Grinnell and became famous. In the seventeen years that the firm existed the firm built 38 vessels used among other things in trading with South America and transporting goods to the California Gold Rush. The Electric was a ‘medium’ clipper (as opposed to an ‘extreme’ clipper) and was built for both cargo capacity and speed. The Electric’s first owner was a G. Adams from New York and she operated in the trans-Atlantic trade, sailing between New York and Le Havre. This undated lithograph is likely to relate to this period in her life. She was subsequently sold to German owners when she became instrumental in transporting Mormon emigrants from England, Germany and Scandinavia, to New York. In 1872, bound to New York from Hamburg she was abandoned, leaky and nearly full of water.
The Society has published a number of important articles on history related to clipper ships including ‘The World’s First Clipper‘ in 1943. Scottish Maid, built in Aberdeen in 1839 by Alexander Hall & Co, was a revolutionary design of fine schooner. Using highly original, ingenious and effective studies of ship models in a glass testing tank, the design for the first clipper ship Scottish Maid, 142 tons, evolved. With fine lines, extreme fore-raked clipper bow, she proved to be a fast, safe vessel, frequently making the journey to London in 49 hours. So successful was the design that Messrs Hall had orders to construct vessels to successfully trade in every part of the globe.
The article ‘Hollow Waterlines and Early Clippers‘ from 1946 addresses the question when is a clipper not a clipper? and lists definitions and published sources.
‘Under Sail to New Zealand in 1870‘ gives a fascinating description of the voyage of the clipper Otago to New Zealand from Britain in 1870, one of many such voyages she made. The passage was made in 83 days, and quotes are given from the weather log describing the sometimes difficult sea conditions that were faced.