What happened to the China clippers?
The Americans were the first to build clipper ships for the
China trade, racing from New York, round Cape Horn to San Francisco
and on to China. Most of these ships were built of softwood and the
strain of perpetual fast sailing and carrying as much sail as they
could ruined them on a short space of time. I don't think any have
The British followed from the 1850's to 1870's. Most of their
ships were build of teak and therefore stood up to the battering of
racing much better. From the 1860's, these ships were built on the
'composite' principle - iron frames with teak planking. These ships
were very strong. Toward the end of the period, some iron clippers
were built and some were both very fast and very strong, though
they suffered from fouling of their hulls. Every year from the mid
1850's to about 1872 a fleet of these vessels raced from China to
London with the first of the season's teas since the first ships
into London commanded a very high price for the tea. The only
clipper to remain completely intact (except for a recent very bad
fire) is the Cutty Sark, permanently moored in dry dock at
Greenwich near London.
A very good history of both the American and British clipper
fleets is given in Basil Lubbock's book 'The China Clippers'
published in 1914 and long out of print, however a good local
library might be able to get hold of a copy.