2011 44¢ Clipper Ship
Issue Date: July 28, 2011
City: Great Neck, NY
Printed By: Avery Dennison
Printing Method: Photogravure
In the 19th century, world trade had become increasingly important to many countries. Ships brought cargo and passengers to port more quickly than traveling by land. When gold was discovered in California, fortune seekers wanted to sail around South America as quickly as possible to claim their treasure. They were also in a rush for supplies. Clipper ships proved to be the fastest method to get people and goods to the gold mines.
By the end of the century, clipper ships ruled the seas. Designed to “clip” over the waves with their raised bows and long, narrow form, they could out-sail older ships. The multiple masts held up to 35 sails, which caught the slightest breeze and moved the ships along at higher speeds. The rigging that controlled the sails was complicated, and when a sailor mastered it, he had “learned the ropes.”
Competition between clippers became fierce. In 1854, the Sovereign of the Seas set the record for the fastest speed for a sailing ship at 22 knots, just over 25 m.p.h. This ship was the first to travel more than 400 miles in 24 hours. It took a crew of 105 mariners to keep her sailing smoothly.
The merchants who sailed these beautiful clipper ships braved many dangers to transport cargo and passengers to distant ports.