November 15, 1852

Flying-Cloud

“Flying Cloud”

Monday Nov 15  Catharine & Ann have washed

and Catharine has finished cleaning 

the front entry  I have got the 

stair carpet down and the entry

looks clean & nice  we get ahead

rather slowly in cleaning house

“[T]his was a fair cold day the coldest we have had this fall the ground froze considerable last night”.* As winter approached, the Ames family turned their focus indoors. Like Evelina, housewives and husbands across New England were looking to get their houses in order and the last outdoor chores finished before winter weather arrived.

Even as the Ameses and others turned inward, more adventurous spirits took to the sea. In fact, throughout 1852, captains and their crews had been making long-distance sailing trips from various ports in the Northeast around the Horn to California. Even as Evelina was beating her carpets, a group of clippers were racing one another over the deep blue to see who could make the best time to San Francisco from Boston or New York. Some newspapers called it The Deep Sea Derby.**

Clipper ships, such as the famous Flying Cloud in the illustration above (which, at 89 days and 8 hours from New York to San Francisco, independently set the record for the fastest trip of any clipper ship) were the vessels of choice for speedy deliver of passengers and cargo. They were thin, full-sailed and sea-worthy, tending to “clip” along rather than plough through the waves. Originally designed to accelerate the tea trade from China, clippers became the ideal ship for ferrying folks to California while the Gold Rush was on.

Donald McKay, a master shipbuilder in East Boston, designed and built many of the finest clipper ships of the day. He designed Flying Cloud, and had several vessels participating in the Deep Sea Derby as well, including Westward Ho, Sovereign of the Seas, and Flying Fish, the latter of which won the contest by making the journey in 92 days. Most ships took more than 100 days to make the journey.

Though the race was spirited, and not without danger, its future was limited. The railroad would push west within a score of years, cutting into the sailing trade, and the creation of the Panama Canal at the turn of the next century would obviate the need to sail around the Horn.

*Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection

**Extensive information about this race can be found at http://www.maritimeheritage.org. 

 

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