Classic sailing ship of the 19th century, renowned for its beauty, grace, and speed. Apparently originating with the small, swift coastal packet known as the Baltimore clipper, the true clipper evolved first in the U.S. (c. 1833) and later in Britain. It was a long, slim, graceful vessel with a projecting bow, a streamlined hull, and an exceptionally large spread of sail on three tall masts. Clippers carried tea from China and goldminers to California. Famous clippers included the American Flying Cloud and the British Cutty Sark. Though much faster than the early steamships (already in use when the clipper appeared), they were eventually outrun by improved steamship models and largely disappeared from commercial use in the 1870s.
The clipper Flying Cloud—Courtesy of the Peabody Museum, Salem, Mass.
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