Clipper Yorkshire

Updated 03/20/2012 09:48

Although our Sea Scout Ship 25 - SSS YORKSHIRE is named primarily for our sponsor, Yorkshire United Methodist Church, the name YORKSHIRE also has ancient and honorable nautical antecedents.  These include the celebrated clipper ship Yorkshire.  We hope the following information from the web about this clipper ship will be of interest to members and friends of our Sea Scout Ship. For our Ship 25's modification of an old sea chantey to tell the story of the packet clipper YORKSHIRE, click here.

The Clipper Ship Yorkshire


The Yorkshire [i]  

The following information is from the Palmer List of Merchant Vessels [ii]

The U.S. ship YORKSHIRE was built at New York by William H. Webb (hull #13), and launched on 25 October 1843. 996 tons; 167 ft x 36 ft 6 in x 21 ft (length x beam x depth of hold); two decks; draft loaded 18 ft 3 in. Prior to her maiden voyage in early 1844 she was presented with a set of flags, signals, and cabin cutlery by a group of Yorkshiremen living in New York.

The YORKSHIRE was the second ship Webb built for C[harles] H. Marshall & Co's Black Ball Line of sailing packets between New York and Liverpool, and the fastest sailing packet that ever served on the North Atlantic: during her 18-year packet career her westbound passages averaged 29 days, her shortest passage being an incredible 15 1/2 days (sailed from Liverpool 2 November 1846, 7 days to the banks, arrived at Sandy Hook, night of 17 November, and at New York, noon 18 November), her longest 58 days. Her early reputation for speed was probably enhanced by the reputation of her first master, David G. Bailey, of whom the New York Herald wrote on the eve of the YORKSHIRE's maiden voyage

It is a common remark among the sharks when Captain B. goes to sea, that 'it is useless to attempt to follow that ship, for Bailey is on board of her.' Such is his reputation for speed even among the inhabitants of the deep.

On 2 February 1862, the YORKSHIRE, under the command of Edward R. Fairbanks, sailed from New York for Liverpool, with three passengers and a crew of 23; she was never heard from again. It was stated at the time that "probably no ship in the Liverpool trade has realized a larger amount of net earnings".

Sources: Robert Greenhalgh Albion, Square-riggers on schedule; The New York sailing packets to England, France, and the Cotton Ports (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1938), pp. 45, 87, 89, 118, 151, 153, 163, 179, 193, 196, 198, 200, 226, 262, 276, 320-321, 332, 336, 341, 344; Carl C. Cutler, Queens of the Western Ocean; The story of America's mail and passenger sailing lines (Annapolis: United States Naval Institute, c1961), pp. 254-257, 271, 377, 564-565; Edwin L. Dunbaugh and William duBarry Thomas, William H. Webb: Shipbuilder (Glen Cove, New York: Webb Institute of Naval Architecture, 1989), p. 162. An abstract of the YORKSHIRE's log for her record passage from Liverpool to New York in November 1846 is among the papers of Lt. Matthew Fontaine Maury, U.S. National Archives, RG 27, Records of the National Weather Service (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1160), Abstract Logs, Vol. 387.

The YORKSHIRE was the pride of the Black Ball Line and a masterpiece of the shipbuilder's art, so there is considerable pictorial material concerning her. William H. Webb himself published his plans for her in his Plans of Wooden Vessels Selected as Types from One Hundred and Fifty of Various Kinds and Descriptions, from a Fishing Smack to the Largest Clipper Ships and Vessels of War, Both Sail and Steam, Built by Wm. H. Webb in the City of New York, from the Year 1840 to the year 1869 (New York, n.d. [about 1895]). Howard I. Chapelle, The Search for Speed under Sail (New York 1967) discusses the YORKSHIRE, and other vessels built by Webb, in some detail. There is among the collections of India House, Hanover Square, New York, a lithograph of the YORKSHIRE, 17 x 23.5 inches, published by Day & Haghe, from a painting by W. R. McMinn, inscribed "Dedicated to the Friends of Capt. D. G. Bailey" [A Descriptive Catalogue of the Marine Collection to be Found at India House (2nd ed.; Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, c1973), pp. 118-119, no. 379]. A reproduction of a painting of the YORKSHIRE by Richard Schlecht appears on the 28-cent international surface postcard issued at Mystic, Connecticut on 29 June 1988 (it replaced a reproduction of Donald McKay's clipper FLYING CLOUD). In addition,

Leavitt Shipyard
Bob & Grisel Leavitt
10142 S.W. 156 Court
Miami, FL 33196

offer a model of the YORKSHIRE.

Here is the the above-referenced reproduction of a painting of the Yorkshire by Richard Schlecht that appeared on the 28-cent international surface postcard issued at Mystic, Connecticut on 29 June 1988:


UX122 28c Yorkshire, multicolored, lithographed, for international use, issued June 29, 1988 in Mystic, Connecticut. The square-rigged ship Yorkshire [postal card] was designed by Richard Schlect. Inscribed "Yorkshire, Black Ball Line, Packet Ship, circa 1850" in lower left. [vii]


In the newspaper Liverpool Mercury for May 21, 1847 you would have read the following item:

Black Ball Line of Packets [iii]

To sail punctually on her regular day, the 1st June,

For New York

The celebrated packet-ship Yorkshire, Captain D.G. Bailey.

1058 tons per register. The Yorkshire is, on all hands, allowed to be the finest and fastest of the numerous packets sailing between this port and New York, and her accommodations for second cabin and steerage passengers will be much superior this voyage to what they have hitherto been, much greater space being allotted to each. Her commander, Captain Bailey, has invariably made remarkably quick passages, and his kindness and attention to passengers have secured for him a lasting reputation. For Terms of Passage apply to

J and W. Robinson, 48, Waterloo road.


If you sailed on the Yorkshire from Liverpool to New York on October 27, 1847, your fellow passengers would have been:


 "Yorkshire" [iv]

List of Passengers on Ship YORKSHIRE from Liverpool to New York,

27 October, 1847.
Mary Black, Thomas Brady, Joseph Brown, Ellen Carrol, Catherine Coile, Catherine Coleman, 
Pat Dailey, Francis Farrel, Bess Flinn, Michael Gillooly, Mary Griffin, John Griffin,
John Irving, Ann Leonard, William Longhead, Mary McCarty, Catherine McGowan, Peter McHugh
Thomas McMahan, Ann Morrison, Edmond Quin, Johannah Scanlan, Mary Spencer, and John Wall

21 August 1851, Yorkshire, Black Ball line (36 day passage) [v]

New York Herald notice, 22 August 1851

"ship Yorkshire (pkt), Briggs, Liverpool, July 17 with msde and 414 passengers to C. H. Marshall. 16th inst. lat 41-30 lon 65-30 spoke Br. brig Hope."  

This presumably translates as “The packet ship Yorkshire, under the command of Captain Briggs, having departed Liverpool on July 17, 1851 with 414 passengers and merchandise consigned in care of C. H. Briggs, Agent, in New York, on August 16, 1851 was at latitude 41 degrees 31 minutes North, 65 degrees 30 minutes West, where she exchanged communications with the British brig Hope.”  The label in the reference work suggests Yorkshire eventually completed that trans-Atlantic crossing in the time of 36 days, slower than her average crossing time of 29 days and her fastest crossing time of 15 ˝ days but far better than her slowest crossing time of 58 days, all as reported at


Here is some information on the shipyard that built the clipper ship Yorkshire


William Webb [viii]

The busiest of all the shipyards along the East River was that of William Webb. He had inherited the yard from his father, Isaac Webb, known throughout the maritime world as "the father of shipbuilders," who had died at the age of forty-six. William was just twenty-four years old at the time. William was six years younger than Donald McKay was and the two had apprenticed under his father, Isaac Webb, and both had learned their lessons well. Isaac Webb had built the Natchez that Waterman had sailed to fame over the China run.

Soon William Webb established a reputation for himself building swift packet ships for the North Atlantic trade. From 1840 to 1850 William Webb built the packets Montezuma, Yorkshire, Havre, Fidelia, Columbia, Sir Robert Peel, Splendid, Bavaria, Albert Galatin, Isaac Webb, and Vanguard. One of them, the Yorkshire, was known as "the fastest packet of her time." William Webb also built the China packets Helena, Montauk and Panama. Webb was a meticulous craftsman who possessed a good intuitive sense as to the proper dimensions of a ship and tried to live up to his father's legacy and devoted much attention drafting out his carefully constructed models of the hulls of his ships.


Finally, here is a brief note that shows travel by clipper ships in the golden age of sail wasn't always rapid or necessarily safe:


1854 - January - March

... Mar 29-31 Ship "Yorkshire" from Liverpool to New York 47 o 30'N 47 o W fell in with innumerable icebergs and field ice for 4 days; the ship continued ice-bound ... [ix]



Endnotes and Sources:

[i] Image and identification from Era of the Clipper Ships website at  Permission has been requested for this citation.

[ii] From Michael Palmer’s Palmer List of Merchant Vessels website at  The HTML of that website is Copyright © 2001 Michael P. Palmer with All rights reserved, Last revised: 16 March 2001.  Permission has been requested for this citation.

[vii] From Martin Peterson’s United States Postal Cards website at, copyright 1988.  Permission has been requested for this citation.

[viii] Quotation and image from Era of the Clipper Ships website at  Permission has been granted for this citation.

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