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She Was Indeed the Glory of the Seas

In his authoritative study of the clipper ship, The Search for Speed Under Sail,

Howard Chapellehad maintained that the clipper ship,

as a type, did not really exist- their designs and ri gs were all over the lot, and the ships called “clippers” could not be call ed a distinct species.

Chapelle, a tall man with a white mustache, piercing glance and commanding presence,

served as Curato r of Marine Transportation at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. Known as a person who did not suffer foo ls gladly,

She Was Indeed the Glory of the Seas the nevertheless took a generous interest in our work in the fledgling.

She Was Indeed the Glory of the Seas South Street Seaport Museumon New York’s East River.

It was always a great occasion when Chap would stop off for a chat in our crowded little office in Fulton Street-an occasion often fo llowed.

by his sweeping us off to dinner somewhere in the neighborhood, to cheer us up and encourage the work.

One day early in 1970, a few years after the publi cation of The Search for Speed Under Sail,

Chapelle was in my office talking about the different kinds of ship that had been call ed clippers in their time. Glory of the Seas, McKay’s last big square rigger, was called a “half clipper.”

She had a distinctive, shapely hull, but was too full in the body to be called a pure clipper.

Launched in 1869, she was built too late for the first-class carrying trade needed to sustain the li the-limbed beauties that had swept all before them on the long-haul trades they were built for.

For 1869 was the year that the transcontinental railroad across the United States was completed with the driving of the ceremonial golden spike,

thus short-circuiting the Cape Horn passage as aviable way to cany passengers from New York to San Francisco (a route already compromised,

as we’ve seen, by the completion of the Aspinwall railway across the isthmus of Panama).  

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