The extreme clipper Blue Jacket of 1790 tons launched in 1854, plying the Liverpool and Australia trades for the White Star Line and later the Fox Line of Australian Packets. Unusually elegant in her design and interiors, she caught the attention of U.S. Nautical Magazine who described her lush cabins, parlors and saloon as a "miniature palace."
Designed by Donald McKay and built by Seccomb & Taylor of Boston, BLUE JACKET was white oak, with planking and ceilings of white pine, diagonally braced with iron and square fastened throughout. She sat at 235' LOA, 41.5' at the beam, with a 24' draft. Her name came from the slang for both British and American sailors, and their uniforms which included dark blue jackets.
BLUE JACKET is described as having an appearance of "strength and power" typical of McKay's ships, which is surely what must have drawn Montague Dawson to depict her in his own characteristic style. With her port side digging into the churning waves, Blue Jacket is bent over and pushed hard with the wind in her sails- decks awash revealing water coming from the port scuppers. With the wind off her stern she is no doubt making good time in this following sea. Portraits like this, of hard driving ships in active seas made Dawson famous. Yet in this work he shows more than usual skill in the sky with fine work in the clouds and excellent tonality and light.
Until her untimely demise due to fire off the Falkland Islands in 1869, Blue Jacket sailed across the globe from Boston, San Francisco and Honolulu in the US, to Liverpool and London, then south to Melbourne and New Zealand and up to Madras, India. Her distinctive figurehead of a man from the waist up in a naval blue jacket with yellow buttons was later found over two years later off the coast of Western Australia. It's calculated that the figure drifted over 6000 miles after being separated from the ship.
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