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FLYING CLOUD off Whitby in North Yorkshire, England

Date: 1871
Overall: 865 x 1241 mm, 6 kg
Medium: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Painting
Object No: 00008533
Related Place:North Yorkshire,

User Terms

    The sleek design of the clipper ship played a key role in world trade during the 19th century. This painting depicts the three-masted extreme clipper ship FLYING CLOUD sailing off the port of Whitby, North Yorkshire. An American flag can be seen on its mizzen-mast spanker boom and a house flag on its main mast. In 1854, the famous ship made the journey between New York and San Francisco in eighty-nine days and eight hours, creating a world record that was not broken until 1989.
    SignificanceThis is representative of ship portraits in the 19th century and depicts one of the most famous vessels of the clipper ship age.
    HistoryThe era of the clipper ships was dominated by a sense of romance, competition, national pride and innovative technology. These sleek and graceful ships were a symbol of American modernity and fundamental to the expanding global economy. Their design concentrated on speed instead of cargo capacity and was a great benefit to shipping companies eager to transport goods quickly.

    FLYING CLOUD was the most famous clipper ship to be built by renowned shipbuilder Donald McKay. Its launch in 1851 at East Boston, Massachusetts coincided with the Californian gold rush. Ships making the passage to the gold fields between New York and San Francisco took an average of two hundred days, while FLYING CLOUD took a groundbreaking eighty-nine. In its later years the vessel transported tea from China to London, making the journey in one hundred and twenty-three days. Eventually the growing prevalence of steam powered ships diminished the use of FLYING CLOUD and its companion clipper ships. In 1874 the ship became grounded and was used for scrap metal after it was condemned.
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