@ 2011 New-York Historical Society logo

Guide to the Clipper Ship Card Collection
1858-1880, undated
(Bulk 1850s-1860s)
  PR 116

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


@ 2011 New-York Historical Society

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on November 03, 2011
Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

 
Title: Clipper Ship Card Collection
Dates [inclusive]: 1858-1880, undated (Bulk 1850s-1860s)
Abstract: Clipper ship cards were printed to inform prospective passengers and freight shippers of a vessel's impending departure.
Quantity: 0.35 Linear feet (1 box, 122 cards)
Location note: Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections
Call Phrase: PR 116

Return to Top »


Historical Note

The clipper ship was developed by American shipbuilders around 1840. "Clipper" was a generic term generally applied to very fast sailing ships; after about 1845 it became used to denote a standard rig and hull type and was used in conjunction with a word denoting the cargo carried or destination of the boat (tea clipper, California Clipper). The 1850s saw an increase in shipping and shipbuilding both within the United States and internationally. This was partly in response to new resources and new trading opportunities -- gold was discovered in California in 1849 and in Australia in 1850; 1849 saw the opening of the Asian tea trade.

The clipper ship's major attribute was speed. Before the advent of the clipper ship, sea journeys from New York or Boston to San Francisco took upwards of 300 days. Clipper ships were able to make the journey to San Francisco in 100 to 120 days. The return journey was a little quicker due to sea and wind currents. The clipper ship "Flying Cloud" set a record of 89 days to the west coast in 1851 and again in 1854. This record was tied by the "Andrew Jackson" in 1860. Speed did not always require a slim body construction: "Great Republic" was the largest and heaviest ship in the world when it was launched in 1853.

Production of clipper ship cards commenced in around 1852. They allowed shipping companies to directly advertise and circulate information about particular ships. These cards were handed out or mailed to prospective passengers or customers, and were often locally circulated by hand in the manner of handbills. Notices of ship availability and sometimes of sailing dates also appeared in windows and bulletin boards of agents and local shops.

The cards advertised the ship, shipping company, and other important information, such as the port of embarkation. Each card usually had an illustration of the vessel or its namesake. A few cards were decorated with stylized text of the ship's name, or a non-related (yet often nautical) image. Often, if not specific to the ship's name, the printed image could be used again for a different vessel.

The vast majority of clipper ship cards claim the vessel will sail "shortly." Although passengers were desirous of an exact sailing date, it was often difficult for the sailing companies to maintain a firm date. Often ships needed to be full in order to depart and thus were dependent on other sea-going vessels for shipments of cargo, as well as on an adequate number of passengers. The language on clipper ship cards shows the competitiveness of the industry. Cards make much use of superlatives; ships are touted as being the fastest, most beautiful, swiftest, or world renowned. The small size of ships was often highlighted as a desirable feature, in part because smaller ships could sail faster.

Technological advances in printing made it possible to print cheaply in color onto the enamel-coated surface of cardboard from about 1840. Clipper ship cards were letterpress printed on this coated stock, often overprinted with three to seven colors. Only a very few cards were lithographed. George F. Nesbitt, printer of the majority of these cards, is also known as the printer of the first U.S. government stamped envelopes. He worked from the corner of Wall and Water streets in the heart of New York's shipping district.

Clipper ship cards were mainly produced during the decline of the clipper ship industry, when companies needed advertising to drum up business. An economic depression in the middle 1850s, and the ensuing panic of 1857, lowered the profits of the shipping industry. The early 1860s was the time of the heaviest clipper ship card issuance. The heyday of the clipper ship can be dated roughly as lasting from the 1840s to the late 1860s, as the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 helped to make clipper ships obsolete for passenger travel. Clipper ships were abandoned as cargo ships by 1881, largely in favor of steamships.

Historical information on specific clipper ships and printers of cards is available in the Department's Clipping files.

Return to Top »


Scope and Content Note

The Clipper Ship Card Collection spans the period from 1858-1880 and contains examples of 19th century maritime advertising. The cards advertise commercial ship sailings, most are for clipper ship trips between New York and San Francisco. The collection contains 122 different cards issued for 102 ships. The largest card is 8 13/16 x 5 13/16 inches in size; the smallest is 5 5/16 x 3 inches; the average size is about 6 ½ x 4 inches. The Collection was removed from the Graphic Arts File (PR 022) in 2002. Cards are housed in alphabetical order by ship name. An index of cards organized by shipping company follows this finding aid. A searchable database with detailed description of each card is available in the Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections.

Most cards do not advertise the year in which they were sailing. Cards in the collection issued by Boston's Glidden & Williams Lines are unique in that they include a year printed as part of the sailing date.

Most of the cards advertise routes from New York to San Francisco. Four are to Australia ("Fred Warren" and "Web-Foot" from Boston, "Eureka" and "Game Cock" from New York). Eight advertise travel to Europe ("Circassian," "Ericsson," "City of Rome," "Helvetia," "Old Dominion," and three unnamed ships.) Several other routes are represented. The "Drew" sailed from New York to Albany, the "Gen'l Whitney" from New York to Boston, and the "Gen'l Grant" from New York to New Orleans. The "Arizona" sailed, appropriately enough, from New York to "Arizona, Wyoming, Nevada, Wisconsin, Alaska, Oregon."

New York printers include George Nesbitt and [W.] Endicott & Co. Boston printers include Rand Avery & Co., Watson's Press, and Fred Rogers. Well-represented New York shipping companies include Babcock, Cooley & Co., Cornelius Comstock & Co., John I. Earle & Co., Randolph M. Cooley, and Wm T. Coleman & Co. Shipping agents advertised include Sutton & Co. in New York and De Witt, Kittle & Co., and Albert Dibblee, both of San Francisco.

The four "Prima Donna" cards show portraits, in several cases identified, of European opera singers who performed in the United States. The card for "S.S. England" has a saloon plan on the verso.

Arrangement

Cards are filed alphabetically by ship name.

Return to Top »


Access Points

Subject Names

  • Nesbitt, George F. firm, New York, printer
  • Rand, Avery & Co., printer
  • Rogers, Fred, 1832-1870
  • W. Endicott & Co., printer
  • Watson's Press (Boston), printer

Document Type

  • Advertisements
  • Ephemera
  • Lithographs
  • Sailing cards
  • Wood engravings

Subject Organizations

  • Andrew Jackson (Clipper-ship)
  • Arizona (ship)
  • Asterion (ship)
  • Aureola (ship)
  • Belvedere (Ship)
  • Black Hawk (Clipper ship)
  • Blue Jacket (Ship)
  • Celestial Empire (Ship)
  • Challenger (Ship)
  • Champion (Ship)
  • Charger (Ship)
  • Circassian (Steamship)
  • City of Rome (Ship)
  • Comet (Clipper ship)
  • Conqueror (Ship)
  • Cremorne (Ship)
  • Daniel Marcy (Ship)
  • David Crockett (Clipper ship)
  • Derby (Clipper ship)
  • Don Quixote (Ship)
  • Dreadnought (Ship)
  • Drew (Steamship)
  • E. Southard (Ship)
  • England (Steamship)
  • Enterprise (Clipper ship)
  • Ericsson (Steamship)
  • Eureka (Ship)
  • Franklin (Clipper ship)
  • Fred Warren (Ship)
  • Galatea (Clipper-ship)
  • Game Cock (Ship)
  • Garibaldi (Ship)
  • General Grant (Steamship)
  • General McLellan (Ship)
  • General Whitney (Steamship)
  • Golden Fleece (Ship)
  • Governor Langdon (Ship)
  • Governor Morton (Ship)
  • Grace Darling (Ship)
  • Great Republic (Bark)
  • Harriet (Clipper ship)
  • Haze (Ship)
  • Helvetia (Clipper ship)
  • Hornet (Clipper-ship)
  • I.F. Chapman (Ship)
  • James R. Keller (Ship)
  • John Gilpin (Ship)
  • Kate Bayes (Ship)
  • Kentuckian (Ship)
  • Ladoga (Ship)
  • Lady Washington (Ship)
  • Live Oak (Ship)
  • Logan (Ship)
  • Lookout (Ship)
  • Malay (Clipper ship)
  • Manitou (Ship)
  • Marmion (Clipper ship)
  • Mary L. Sutton (Clipper ship)
  • Mary Robinson (Ship)
  • Mattapan (Ship)
  • Memnon (Ship)
  • Messenger (Clipper Ship)
  • Mindoro (Ship)
  • Moonlight (Clipper ship)
  • Morning Star (Ship)
  • Neptune's Car (Clipper Ship)
  • Ocean Express (Ship)
  • Ocean Telegraph (Ship)
  • Old Dominion (Ship)
  • Orpheus (Ship)
  • Parsee (Ship)
  • Polynesia (Ship)
  • Prima Donna (Ship)
  • Richard S. Ely (Ship)
  • Robin Hood (Clipper ship)
  • Sam G. Glover (Ship)
  • Sea King (Ship)
  • Shatemuc (Ship)
  • Shooting Star (Ship)
  • Skylark (Ship)
  • Smyrniote (Ship)
  • Snow Squall (Clipper ship)
  • Sparkling Wave (Ship)
  • Storm King (Bark)
  • Susan Fearing (Ship)
  • Susan Howland (Ship)
  • Sweepstakes (Ship)
  • Syren (Clipper ship)
  • Thatcher Magoun (Clipper ship)
  • Twilight I (Ship)
  • War Hawk (Ship)
  • Web-Foot (Ship)
  • Whistler (Ship)
  • White Swallow (Ship)
  • Windward (Ship)
  • Wizard King (Ship)
  • Zouave (Ship)

Subject Topics

  • Advertising–Shipping–United States
  • Cargo ships
  • Clipper ships--Pictorial works
  • Passenger ships
  • Singers–Portraits

Return to Top »


Administrative Information

Provenance

Cards in the collection came from various donors (1911) and purchases: Naval History Society Fund (1962, 1963), Leonard Milburg Fund (1990).

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to 30 photocopies per day per person. Suitability of the original for photocopying is at the discretion of the staff. Neither blueprints nor tracings can be copied under any circumstances. Duplication of large-format items will be done by the house photographer. See Print Room guidelines for details.

Use Restrictions

Permission to reproduce any Print Room holdings through publication must be obtained from

Rights and Reproductions
The New-York Historical Society
Two West 77th Street
New York, NY 10024

Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282
Fax: (212) 579-8794

The copyright law of the United States governs the making of photocopies and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials. Unpublished materials created before January 1, 1978 cannot be quoted in publication without permission of the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as Clipper Ship Card Collection, PR 116, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.

Related Material at The New-York Historical Society

Clipper ship cards may also be found in the Bella C. Landauer Collection of Business and Advertising Ephemera (PR 31).

 

General note

Bibliography

  1. Forbes, Allan. "The Story of Clipper Ship Sailing Cards" Proceedings of the American Antiquarian SocietyOctober 1949.
  2. Roberts, Bruce. "Clipper Ship Cards: the High-Water Mark in Early Trade Cards." The Advertising Trade Card Quarterly(date unknown.)
  3. Shadwell, Wendy. "American Clipper-ship cards." The EphemeristMarch 1981: 180-181.
  4. Shadwell, Wendy. "Commercial Printing and the Maritime Industries." American Maritime Prints.Ed., Hall, Thomas. Portsmouth, N.H.: The Old Dartmouth Historical Society, 1985.
  5. Shadwell, Wendy. "George F. Nesbitt: Maritime Specialist." Billheads and Broadsides: Job Printing in the 19th-Century Seaport.New York: South Street Seaport Museum, 1985.
  6. Shadwell, Wendy. "A Selection of A-1 Clipper Ship Cards." The LookoutOctober/November 1980.

Return to Top »


Container List


Scope and Contents note

Cards are arranged alphabetically by ship advertised. If more than one card exists per ship, each card is identified by the image on the card or other distinguishing information.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Andrew Jackson [bust]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Andrew Jackson [riding horse]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Andrew Jackson [standing next to horse]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Arizona
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Asterion
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Aureola
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Belvedere
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Black Hawk [Indian of North America holding bow]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Black Hawk [Indian of North America, bust]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Blue Jacket
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Celestial Empire
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Challenger
1859 Jan. 5
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Champion
1859 Apr. 01
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Charger
1865 Feb. 04
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Circassian
[1860] Jul. 18
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Circassian & Ericsson
[1860]
Box: 1 Folder : 1 City of Rome
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Comet
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Conqueror
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Cremorne [Mermaid holding framed drawing of clipper ship]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Cremorne [Text with Stars and Moon in background]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Daniel Marcy
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 2 David Crockett [Davy Crockett battling Indians of North America]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 2 David Crockett [Davy Crockett with dog and rifle]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 2 David Crockett [Clipper ship flying American Flag]
[1861] Apr. 17
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Derby
[1858] Dec. 25
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Don Quixote
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Dreadnought
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Drew
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 2 E. Southard
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 2 England (S.S.)
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Enterprise
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Eureka [Samuel Stevens Crest]
1863 Dec.
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Eureka [text in gold on green card]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Franklin [Benjamin Franklin bust]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Franklin [Benjamin Franklin surrounded by inventions]
[1860] Dec. 20
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Fred Warren
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Galatea [American Flags]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Galatea [Galatea plunging into water]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Game Cock
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Garibaldi [Garibaldi with sword backed by soldiers]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Garibaldi [Garibaldi and soldiers riding towards canons]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Gen'l. Grant
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Gen'l McClellan
1869
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Gen'l. Whitney
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Golden Fleece
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Governor Langdon
1863 Jul. 18
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Gov. Morton
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Grace Darling
1864 May 19
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Great Republic
1858 Aug.
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Hale
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Harriet
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Helvetia
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Helvetia (S. S.)
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Hornet [Ship firing upon another ship, misprint]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Hornet [Ship firing upon another ship]
1866 Jun.
Box: 1 Folder : 4 I. F. Chapman
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 James R. Keller
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 John Gilpin
[1862] Apr. 29
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Kate Bayes
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Kentuckian
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Ladoga
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Lady Washington
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Live Oak
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Logan [Indians of North America on rocks, in canoe, printing error]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Logan [Indians of North America on rocks, in canoe]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Lookout
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Malay
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Manitou
1858 Oct. 16
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Marmion
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Marmion & Ocean Express
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Mary L. Sutton
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Mary Robinson [Girl with grapes in hair, colored image]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Mary Robinson [Girl with grapes in hair, black and white image]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Mattapan
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Memnon
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Messenger
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Mindoro
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Moonlight
[1858] Nov. 06
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Morning Star
[1861] Apr.06
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Neptune's Car
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Ocean Telegraph
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Old Dominion
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Orpheus
[1860] Jul. 28
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Parsee
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Polynesia
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Prima Donna [Marietta Piccolomini and [?] DeWilmcast]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Prima Donna [Marietta Piccolomini]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Prima Donna [ [?] Colson, Angiolina Bosio, Marietta Alboni, [?] LaGrande]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Prima Donna [4 unnamed women]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Richard S. Ely
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Robin Hood [Robin Hood blowing horn in forest, men in background]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Robin Hood [Robin Hood leaning on tree, clipper ship in background]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Sam G. Glover [Text with green ink]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Sam G. Glover [Text without green ink]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Sea King
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Shatemuc
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Shooting Star
[1865] May 14
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Skylark
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Smyrniote
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Snow Squall
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Sparkling Wave
[1859] Mar. 12
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Storm King
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Susan Fearing
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Susan Howland
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Sweepstakes
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Syren
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Thatcher Magoun [Male bust]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Thatcher Magoun [Beehive]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Twilight
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 War Hawk
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Web-Foot
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Whistler
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 White Swallow
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Windward
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Wizard King
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Zouave
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 [Steamship surrounded by smaller boats]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 [Steamer with flags]
1880
Box: 1 Folder : 6 [California Line of clipper ships]
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 [Sloop, Brigatine, Brig, Cat Rig, Ship, Bark]
undated

Return to Top »


Return to Top »