The 1848 discovery of gold in California inspired efforts to speed the trip to San Francisco from East Coast ports, a sea trip around the tip of South America that averaged about six months. American shipbuilders began to craft slim vessels built for speed—the clipper ships. In 1851, Boston-built Flying Cloud sailed from New York to San Francisco in an astonishing 89 days, 21 hours. Three years later, the same vessel set a new record—89 days, 8 hours—that stood for 135 years.
Josiah Perkins Creesy, Jr. commanded the ship, and, uncommon for the time, his wife Eleanor navigated. As a child in Massachusetts, she had learned navigation skills from her seafaring father.
Image Date: 1852
Credit: The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
Origin: The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley