• Steven Heller

Cards Upon The Ocean

In days of old, between 1860 and 1880 to be precise, “Sailing Cards,” announcements of departing masted vessels, were most in use. A large amount were produced in Boston since many large passenger and cargo ships sailed from its port. The elaborate chromolithographic cards were produced by various printing firms, but Watson Press was the most prolific.

So-called “Yankee” clippers were fast vessels used to transport manufactured goods from coast to coast, and bring back exotic imports from far-away lands. Voyages around Cape Horn, prior to the Panama Canal took around three months.

The cards, drawn from a 1949 collection held by the State Street Trust Company in Boston, carry the names of the vessels, many of which named after notable captains or merchants, but some were more demonstrative, suggesting the power of man to tame the sea lanes.

Included are the “first class, Extreme clipper ships:” Akbar, Archer, Tillie Baker, Charger (wrecked in the Philippines), Fearless (designed by Samuel A. Pook), Ocean Rover (wrecked near Pernambuco, Brazil), Pekin (lost at sea in 1877), Puritan, Santa Claus (sprung a leak and was abandoned on the way to St. Thomas), Starlight (used to transport “coolies from China to the guano deposits of Peru), and Witchcraft (referring to the Salem trials).

(See yesterday’s Nightly Daily Heller for a new pose/dance sensation, The Charlton.)

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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →