This well-made bone model circa 1890 depicts a classic of American ship design, the Baltimore Clipper.
In the 1790's Maryland was the center of American shipbuilding with Baltimore at the forefront, though clippers of this type were made throughout the Mid-Atlantic States. Using the most advanced technology and shipbuilding techniques of the time, they designed a fast and maneuverable ship with unique features which helped them better navigate local waterways- a shallow draft to traverse the relatively shallow Chesapeake Bay and local tributaries, larger sail area to pick up the light summer winds and a sharp V shaped hull which kept them from sliding sideways when in full sail.
Their design was instantly recognizable- two-masted schooners and brigantines with sharply raked stems, stern posts and masts. These ships made the reputation of the region’s shipbuilders and made Baltimore a center of commerce.
This Baltimore Clipper model is an impressive and good looking large example of the model maker’s art which features a dolphin figurehead, cannons on deck and lots of detail throughout. The deck includes a hatch with ladder leading down, and a particularly great stern deck with other doors and hatches. Some ebony accents are present in the model which is plank on frame. She was scratch built and is American made.
The Baltimore Clippers were mainly built for trade around the United States and Caribbean, but they reached their height between 1795 and 1815- the period of hostility on the high seas between the US and Great Britain which began with the Napoleonic Wars and finally led to the War of 1812.
During the Napoleonic Wars Baltimore Clippers were in high demand as privateers and many were given letters of marque. They could outrun and out maneuver the larger full rigged British Naval ships, avoiding the blockades trying to keep US cargo from reaching France or her Allies.
Though sometimes built to larger scale and heavily armored for battle, they still had to be used to their strengths with more active maneuvers than the typical broadside fighting favored by the British Navy of the time. The most famous of these larger vessels were the privateers CHASSEUR, PRINCE DE NEUFCHATEL and GENERAL ARMSTRONG. PRINCE DE NEUFCHATEL resisted an attack led by HMS Endymion and defeated the British ships which outnumbered them four to one. CHASSEUR alone captured more enemy ships than the entire US Navy during the war.
Interestingly despite these losses, the ships were never in wide use by the British who felt they were unstable gun platforms and their schooner rigs unsuitable for battle. The British did use similar designs after the war as chase vessels.
After the war Baltimore Clippers continued to be used as merchant ships and sometimes as pilot boats. Many were sent to Australia during the Australian gold rush. One famous Baltimore Clipper, the schooner VIGILANT, was known to have been in use through 1928, making the ship about 130 years old and still carrying cargo when she sank in the Caribbean. The famous yacht America, derived from the lines of a New York pilot boat, was conceptually not far removed from the Baltimore clipper.
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