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Portrait of Donald McKay

Date: c 1850
Overall: 232 x 153 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Engraving
Object No: 00005551
Place Manufactured:New York

User Terms

    This black and white engraving depicts the renowned American ship builder Donald McKay. McKay was central to the development of clipper ships during the 19th century. He designed and constructed a number of vessels including GREAT REPUBLIC, SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS and FLYING CLOUD at his East Boston shipyard. Many of his vessels went on to set records for the fastest sea passages.
    SignificanceThis lithograph represents the prominent ship builder Donald McKay and highlights his fame as an innovative shipbuilder of the clipper ship age.
    HistoryThe era of the clipper ships occurred between 1845 and 1875. These sleek and graceful ships were a symbol of American modernity and fundamental to the expanding global economy. They generated a sense of romance, competition, national pride and innovative technology. Their design concentrated on speed instead of cargo capacity, incorporating a sleek hull with acres of canvas sails that allowed the vessel to reach record speeds of nearly 20 knots per hour. Competition between shipping companies and entrepreneurs hastened their development as merchants eagerly wanted to transport goods quickly and bring in greater profits.

    Donald McKay was born in Nova Scotia in 1810 and became a leading figure in the clipper ship age. He undertook a shipwright apprenticeship at the New York shipbuilding yard of Isaac Webb. In 1832 he married Albenia Boole, the eldest daughter of a prominent shipbuilder. She was able to teach Donald marine drafting and naval architecture. In 1842 McKay established his shipyard at East Boston, Massachusetts and in three years constructed eight clippers ships; the STAG HOUND, FLYING CLOUD, STAFFORDSHIRE, FLYING FISH, SOVERIEGN OF THE SEAS, STAR OF EMPIRE, CHARIOT OF FAME and GREAT REPUBLIC. McKay worked alongside his brother Lauchlan, also active in the shipbuilding industry and a successful Captain of many of his brother's ships. Donald McKay spent his career attempting to perfect the ultimate clipper ship, constantly trying to build a faster and larger vessel. He died in Hamilton, Massachusetts in 1880.

    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Portrait of Donald McKay

    Web title: Portrait of Donald McKay

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