About the Flying Cloud

The Flying Cloud of 1851 was the most famous of the extreme clippers built by Donald McKay in East Boston, Massachusetts,

George Francis Train, Junior Partner with Enoch Train and Company, was responsible for the construction of the Flying Cloud. The following is from his biography: " When the gold fever was getting the counry frantic, and everyone apparently wanted to go to California, I said to McKay, "I want a big ship, one that will be larger than the Ocean Monarch." McKay replied, "Two hundred tons bigger?" "No," said I, I want a ship of 2,000 tons." McKay was one of those men who merely ask what is needed. He said he would build the sort of ship I wanted. "I shall call her the Flying Cloud," I said. Read about the building of the Flying Cloud.

* First record-setting voyage from New York to San Francisco in 1851. The Flying Cloud sailed from New York and made San Francisco round Cape Horn in 89 days, 21 hours under the command of Captain Josiah Perkins Creesy and navigator, Eleanor Creesy. This amazing feat was reported in the New York Times.


"If great length, sharpness of ends, with proportionate breadth and depth, conduce to speed, the Flying Cloud must be uncommonly swift, for in all these she is great. Her length on the keel is 208 feet, on deck 225, and over all, from the knight heads to the taffrail, 235 — extreme breadth of beam 41 feet, depth of hold 21½, including 7 feet 8 inches height of between-decks, dead-rise at half floor 20 inches, rounding of sides 6 inches, and sheer about 3 feet."
Duncan McLean in The Boston Daily Atlas, April 25, 1851.
Plans of the Flying Cloud are not available, but plans of the Lightning,an extreme clipper ship built in 1854 by Donald McKay, East Boston. Her dimensions were: 226'×44'×26' [loa 243'] and tonnage: 2084 tons.
external image Lightning.gif
Duncan McLean gave a detailed description of the ship in //The Boston Daily Atlas// Tuesday, January 31, 1854. A very similar description was printed in John W. Griffths' //U.S. Nautical Magazine and Naval Journal//, Vol. III (1855-56).

Historical context

In the early days of the California gold rush, it took more than 200 days for a ship to travel from New York to San Francisco, a voyage of more than 16,000 miles. During the era of the clipper ships, there arose a rivalry between New York and Boston shipping interests that added significantly to maritime and economic prosperity.

Important people in the history of the ship.

Josiah Perkins Creesy was the master of the clipper ship Flying Cloud on two record-setting voyages from New York to San Francisco around South America's Cape Horn.
His wife, Eleanor Creesy served as navigator, guiding the Flying Cloud on her 14,000 mile journey around Cape Horn to the Golden Gate.

[[../../Longfellow|Henry Wadsworth Longfellow]] wrote a poem about the building of the Flying Cloud.
Donald McKay built the Flying Cloud, in 18xx at East Boston, Massachusetts. Read about how he learned the shipbuilding trade.
Matthew Fontaine Maury 1806–73, American hydrographer and US naval officer, developed Wind and Current Charts which were instrumental in the successful navigation of the Flying Cloud.

Additional Resources:

Chase, Mary Ellen / Donald McKay and the Clipper Ships. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1959.

Clark, Arthur C. / The Clipper Ship Era: Riverside CT: 7 C's Press, 1910. This book is available full text through Google Books.

Cutler, Carl C. / Greyhounds of the sea; the story of the American clipper ship, New York, London; Putnam, 1930.

Crothers, William L. / The American-built clipper ship, 1850-1856 : characteristics, construction, and details Camden, Me. : International Marine, c1997.

external image SC.GIF&client=noblp Dana, Richard Henry. / Two years before the mast and other voyages New York : Library of America : Distributed to the trade in the United States by Penguin Putnam, c2005.

Howe, Octavius T. / American clipper ships, 1833-1858 New York : Dover, 1986.

Judson, Clara Ingram. / Yankee clippers; the story of Donald McKay. Chicago, Follett Pub. Co. [1965]

McKay, Richard Cornelius. / Some famous sailing ships and their builder, Donald McKay; a study of the American sailing packet and clipper eras, with biographical sketches of America's foremost designer and masterbuilder of ships, and a comprehensive history of his many famous ships,
Riverside, Conn., 7 C's Press [1969]

McKay, Richard C./ South Street: a maritime history of New York, New York, G. P. Putnam's sons [c1934]

Lubbock, Basil / The Colonial Clippers. Glasgow: Brown, Son & Ferguson, LTD, Reprinted Fourth Edition - 1955.

Lyon, Margaret & Reynolds, Flora Elizabeth / The Flying Cloud and Her First Passengers. Oakland, California. Center for the Book, Mills College, 1992.

Morrison, Samuel Eliot / The Maritime History of Massachusetts. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1979.

Robinson, John. / The sailing ships of New England. Series two, Salem, Mass., Marine Research Society, 1924.

Shaw, David W. / Cloud: the true story of America's most famous clipper ship and the woman who guided her. New York : W. Morrow, c2000.

Sperry, Armstrong./ All sail set : a romance of the Flying Cloud Boston : D.R. Godine, 1984, c1935.