Two magnificent clippers race on the open ocean, envisioned by Henry Scott. Leading the way ahead of DASHING WAVE, Donald McKay’s EMPRESS OF THE SEAS is in full glory, running cargo secured by agents for her owners, William Williams & Sons of Baltimore. McKay spared no expense in the construction of the extreme clipper, built primarily of seasoned white oak and hard pine, as he planned initially on keeping her for himself, but sold the clipper while still on the stocks to the Williams. Boston’s DASHING WAVE would go on for years and earn many records, but this day’s story belongs to the EMPRESS.
Measuring an epic 240' overall and 2200 registered tonnage, EMPRESS OF THE SEAS saw immediate service in 1853 on both the California and China Trade routes, her first run to San Francisco from New York under Captain M.E. Putnam. She’d continue on to Callao, New York, Quebec, London, Bombay, and back to London and New York. In 1856 she’d set out for San Francisco again, making the sail in a respectable 115 days, and make a couple more runs under the American flag before selling to James Baines Australian Black Ball Line in 1861, from Liverpool to Melbourne in 66 ½ days, her final run.
In a moment of prominence, EMPRESS OF THE SEAS leads DASHING WAVE to London, carrying Chinese tea to market. First home would win a premium price and many side wagers. Scott shows the clippers maximizing their sails and wind, on a striking blue ocean, one of his very best ever painted. With the bright sky and superior composition, this is a champion narrative portrait of two champion clippers in their heyday.
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