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Date: 1858
Overall: 165 x 91 mm
Medium: Paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Clipper card
Object No: 00008623

User Terms

    This card is an advertisement for the clipper ship MASTIFF, which was active on the trade route between San Francisco, Sydney and Adelaide. In 1858 the ship was under the command of Captain Johnson for the John I Earle & Co shipping line. This card features a coloured wood-cut illustration on white enamel card, depicting a dog carrying a small girl in its mouth as it is chased by three Indians.
    SignificanceClipper ship cards of the 19th century rarely survive as they were often discarded when the ship sailed. This card illustrates maritime trade and commerce in Australia during the mid-19th century.
    HistoryClipper ship cards were one of the advertising methods used by ship owners to promote their vessels and transport schedules. In colourful print and bold designs they publicised the supposedly superior qualities of each vessel, often using images of maritime scenes, mythology, patriotism and women to promote their cause. The cards were largely manufactured during the late-19th century and were designed to be handed out at the docks. They were brighter and more appealing than the newspaper advertisements of the time but often used similar wording. They could be printed in up to seven different colours including blue, red, green white, black, brown, and yellow. Some printers also used gold, bronze and purple.

    The majority of clipper cards were produced when the popularity of the clipper ship was dwindling and merchants were opting for faster steam powered vessels. Clipper ships were largely active between 1845 and 1875. Their design concentrated on speed instead of cargo capacity, which was a great benefit for shipping companies eager to transport goods quickly. The sleek and graceful ships generated a sense of romance, competition, national pride and innovative technology. They were a symbol of American modernity and fundamental to the expanding global economy.

    Most clipper cards advertise voyages that sail to San Fransisco from ports on the USA's east coast. This is a result of the San Fransisco gold rush which developed alongside the production of clipper cards. The gold rush created a demand for fast sailing vessels and in response 160 clipper ships were built in a period of four years after the discovery of gold in California.

    The rapid growth of San Francisco as a city and the population which flocked into it or through it to the goldfields brought staggering inflation in the costs of goods and services. Because of this, it was not uncommon for a vessel to pay for itself and provide a profit to the owner in one round trip voyage. That is if a round trip could be completed. Gold fever caused many crew members to abandon their ship, as they went to seek riches in the goldfields. Photographs of San Francisco Bay show it clogged with hundreds of abandoned vessels. Many of which were auctioned off to provide timber for building construction on shore. In July 1850 there were over 500 vessels deserted in the harbour.

    The MASTIFF was an A1 class clipper ship of small capacity that was active on the Australian trade route bewteen America and Australia.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: MASTIFF

    Assigned title: MASTIFF

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