Red Jacket (clipper)

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United States
Name: Red Jacket
Owner: Seccomb & Taylor, Boston
Builder: George Thomas, Rockland, ME
Launched: 2 Nov 1853[1]
United Kingdom
Owner: Pilkington & Wilson
Operator: White Star Line
Acquired: 1854
Notes: In the immigrant trade; became an Australian and Indian coastal freighter, 1861.
Owner: Wilson & Chambers, Liverpool, 1868
Flag Portugal sea (1830).svgPortugal
Owner: Blandy Brothers, Madeira Islands
Acquired: 1883
Fate: Driven ashore in a gale, 1885.
Notes: Hulked, became a coal barge in the Cape Verde Islands.
General characteristics
Class and type: Extreme clipper, designed by Samuel Hartt Pook
Tons burthen: 2305 tons
Length: 251 ft. 2 in., or 260 ft. 109m
Beam: 44 ft.
Draft: 31 ft.,[1] or 26 ft.

Red Jacket was a clipper ship, one of the largest and fastest ever built. She was also the first ship of the White Star Line company. She was named after Sagoyewatha, a famous Seneca Indian chief, called "Red Jacket" by settlers. She was designed by Samuel Hartt Pook, built by George Thomas in Rockland, Maine, and launched in 1853, the last ship to be launched from this yard.[2]

Like many other fast clippers it is claimed that she is an extreme clipper, but this is technically incorrect. Extreme clippers were some of the clippers built in the period 1850 to 1852 only, and had at least a 40" dead rise at half floor. Being known as an extreme clipper was to be known as fast, and it became popular to call all fast clippers "extreme".


On her first voyage, Red Jacket set the speed record for sailing ships crossing the Atlantic by traveling from New York to Liverpool in 13 days, 1 hour, 25 minutes, dock to dock.

She left Rockland under tow, and was rigged in New York. Her captain was a veteran packet ship commander, Asa Eldridge of Yarmouth, Massachusetts,[3] and she had a crew of 65. On the passage to Liverpool, she averaged 14.5 knots (26.9 km/h), with sustained bursts of 17 knots (31.5 km/h).

A Collins Line steamer arriving in Liverpool (which had left New York two days before Red Jacket) reported that Red Jacket was just astern. As she entered the harbor, tugs tried to get lines aboard the clipper but she was traveling too fast. Thousands, alerted by the Collins Liner, watched as Eldridge shortened sail and backed the vessel into its berth.

A few days after the Red Jacket’s arrival in Liverpool, the accuracy of the ship’s log—and thus the integrity of her captain—was questioned in a letter to The Times of London, arguably the world’s most important newspaper at the time. The letter came from a highly authoritative source, Lloyd’s of London, but was signed only with the author’s initials. It prompted a fierce rebuttal the following day from a second correspondent who also did not disclose his name, but was clearly American. Three days later, the final word in this correspondence went to Asa Eldridge himself; The Times printed a letter from him (sent in his own name) in which he patiently explained why the original correspondent was wrong in his interpretation of the ship’s log.[4]

At Liverpool, the Red Jacket had her bottom coppered and cabins fitted out for the Australian immigrant trade. She was purchased by Pilkington & Wilcox and other Liverpool investors with registry changing on April 24, 1854. (Most secondary sources say that the vessel was bought by the British a year later, copying a mistake made by earlier historians.) She was then chartered by the White Star Line for a run to Melbourne, Australia. Under Captain Samuel Reid (who owned 1/16 of her), she reached in Melbourne in 69 days. Only one clipper, James Baines, ever made the run faster.

Red Jacket served in the immigrant trade until 1867, when she became an Australian and Indian coastal freighter.

Fate of the ship[edit]

In 1872 Red Jacket became a lumber carrier from Quebec to London, joining the clippers Marco Polo and Donald McKay, which "ended their days" in the transatlantic Quebec timber trade,[5] She collided with the Eliza Walker in 1878, which sank; Eliza Walker′s crew was rescued.[1] In 1883, Red Jacket was sold to Blandy Brothers, a Portuguese shipping company in the Madeira Islands as a coaling hulk. She was driven ashore in a gale in 1885.


  1. ^ a b c Bruzelius, Lars (2001-02-23). "Sailing Ships: Red Jacket (1853)". Red Jacket. The Maritime History Virtual Archives. Retrieved April 19, 2010.
  2. ^ "Ship Red Jacket". Penobscot Bay History Online. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  3. ^ "Captain Bangs Hallet House Museum". The Historical Society of Old Yarmouth, PO Box 11, Yarmouth Port, MA 02675. 2001–2003. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012. Retrieved February 24, 2013. The Red Jacket’s first commander was a Yarmouth captain, Asa Eldredge.
  4. ^ Miles, Vincent (2015). The Lost Hero of Cape Cod: Captain Asa Eldridge and the Maritime Trade That Shaped America. The Historical Society of Old Yarmouth, Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts.
  5. ^ Clark, A H (1912), "Fate of the Clipper Ships", The clipper ship era; An epitome of famous American and British clipper ships, their owners, builders, commanders and crews, 1843–1869, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, p. 346
  • Fuller, Benjamin A. G. (Autumn 2003), "Red Jacket, Champion of the Seas", Maine Boats Homes and Harbors (76)

Further reading[edit]

Cornell, Edward (1856). Journal of a voyage from Liverpool to Melbourne for H.M. Royal Mail Clipper Red Jacket, Captain O'Halloran. Manuscript.

External links[edit]

Images and models[edit]