Showing posts with label Clipper Ships. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Clipper Ships. Show all posts

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Capt Samuel Samuels and the Clipper Ship The Dreadnought

Captain Samuel Samuels seaman, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 14 March, 1825. He came to Newburyport to oversee the building of his new command "The Dreadnought " built by Currier and Townsend, became the most famous Liverpool packet-ship, and was the only clipper to have a chanty composed in her special honor. Samuels was "unexcelled as a driver of men and vessels, commanded this "saucy, wild packet" for almost seventy passages across the Atlantic, in which she made several eastward runs under fourteen days." The Maritime History of Massachusetts, 1783-1860 By Samuel Eliot Morison
From The Flavor of Old Sea Days Sunday, May 24, 1908 Springfield Republican (Springfield, MA)
CLIPPER SHIP. "DREADNOUGHT From Springfield Museums

During the era of the clipper ships many of the most noted were, built in Newburyport, including the "Racer," "Highflyer" and "Dreadnought." The most famous of all these was the "Dreadnought," nicknamed "The Wild Boat of the Atlantic." She was built in 1853 by Currier and Townsend and was of fourteen hundred and thirteen tons register and two hundred and ten feet in length, being owned by David Ogden and others of New York. (After a short career the "Dreadnought" was wrecked off Cape Horn in 1869) She was commanded by Captain Samuel Samuels who is authority for the statement that she was never passed in anything over a four-knot breeze.

A rare photograph of the Currier and Townsend shipyard at the foot of Ashland Street. Maritime History of the Merrimac - Shipbuilding by Robert K. Cheney. From Clipper Heritage Trail

This ship was employed largely as a packet between New York and Liverpool, making some sixty to seventy passages across the Atlantic. Her best run was to the eastward. February 27 - March 12, 1859, in thirteen days, eight hours, being within seven hours of the fastest record of a sailing ship, made by the "Red Jacket" in 1854.* The "Dreadnought" has been credited with a much shorter passage but it is difficult to substantiate this claim and in his history of the ship contained in "From the Forecastle to the Cabin," Captain Samuels does not mention such a voyage but particularly refers to the above mentioned run of thirteen days, eight hours.

                                                             Setting Sail from PEM 

Article: From The Dreadnought of Newburyport, Massachusetts: and some account of the old transatlantic packet-ships by Francis Boardman Crowninshield Bradlee

The maritime history of Newburyport, Massachusetts, has never yet been adequately written. Many famous vessels were owned and sailed from this old Essex County city, but not a few ships were also built in Newburyport for Boston and New York merchants, and among the best known of these was the "Dreadnought," built by Currier and Townsend in 1853, and afterwards celebrated for making the shortest passage across the Atlantic ever accomplished by a sailing vessel, nine days and seventeen hours, from Sandy Hook to the pilot-boat off Queenstown, Ireland.
At this period the transatlantic carrying trade, both passenger and freight, was, and had been for many years, controlled by American packet-ships, as the regular sailing liners were called, and three out of the five lines of steamers then existing were also under the American flag. The "Dreadnought" was built for the Red Cross line of New York and Liverpool packets owned by Governor E. D. Morgan, Francis B. Cutting, David Ogden and others of New York; she measured 1400 tons register, 200 feet long, 39 feet beam, and 26 feet depth of hold, and was commanded by Capt. Samuel Samuels, who became quite as famous as his ship. She was launched in the presence of a large concourse of people October 6, 1853, from the yard at the foot of Ashland street, and on the third day of November following left for New York in tow of the steam-tug "Leviathan."
Gov Edward Denison Morgan (February 8, 1811 – February 14, 1883)
Hon Francis Brockholst Cutting (August 6, 1804 – June 26, 1870)

By the sailors the "Dreadnought" was named "the Wild Boat of the Atlantic" she was what might be termed a semi-clipper, and possessed the merit of being able to bear driving as long as her sails and spars would stand. It is understood that her builders also designed her, and so deserved the greatest credit, as well for her model and fine lines as for the strength and solidity of her hull, which was constructed principally of white oak and yellow pine. Twice the "Dreadnought" carried the latest news to Europe, slipping in between the steamers; she was naturally a favorite among the traveling public, and her cabin accommodations were usually engaged a season in advance. On her westward voyages she carried large numbers of emigrants. At one time goods shipped by the "Dreadnought" were guaranteed delivery within a certain time, or freight charges would be forfeited.
In February, 1854, her first voyage westward she crossed the bar in the river Mersey the day after the Cunard steamer "Canada" sailed for Boston, and when the news of her arrival reached New York the "Dreadnought" was reported off the Highlands of New Jersey. Her best passages were as follows:
  • New York to Liverpool, December, 1853, 24 days.
  • Liverpool to New York, February, 1854, 19 days.
  • New York to Liverpool, April, 1854, 18 days.
  • Liverpool to New York, June, 1854, 26 days.
  • New York to Liverpool, August, 1854, 80 days.
  • Liverpool to New York, October, 1854, 29 days.
  • New York to Liverpool, December, 1854, 13 days, 11 hours.
  • New York to Liverpool, February, 1856, 15,days.
  • New York to Liverpool, May, 1856, 16 days.
  • Liverpool to New York, February, 1857, 21 days.
  • New York to Liverpool, March, 1859, 13 days, 9 hours.
When one takes into consideration the fickleness of the elements and the prevalence of westerly gales in the north Atlantic ocean, the rapidity and especially the regularity of the "Dreadnought's" trips are wonderful. Capt. Samuels, in his interesting autobiography, "From the Forecastle to the Cabin," attributed his success to good discipline and to forcing the ship at night as well as during the day. "Night," he says, "is the best time to try the nerve and make quick passages. The best ship masters that I had sailed with were those who were most on deck after dark, and relied upon nobody but themselves to carry canvas. The expert sailor knows exactly how long his sails and spars will stand the strain, the lubber does not, and therefore is apt to lose both." It may be noted in passing that the "Dreadnought" carried the old-fashioned single topsails that in themselves "held a whole gale of wind," requiring to reef each one a whole watch, as a division of the crew is called.

 Alex Bellinger at the Custom House Maritime Museum in Newburyport
Until after the death of Captain Samuels in 1908, no doubt had ever been expressed as to the rapidity of the "Dreadnought's" record trip of nine days and seventeen hours from land to land. Unfortunately in the last few years a small coterie in New York, jealous of Captain Samuels' success, have endeavored, with no real foundation of fact, to deny that the fast passage of 1859 ever took place. The author has investigated the case with the greatest care, and the result as here stated speaks for itself and proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the fastest voyage across the Atlantic ocean ever made by a sailing ship was by the "Dreadnought," in nine days and seventeen hours, from Sandy Hook to the pilot-boat off Queenstown harbor, in March, 1859. Some excuse is due the reader for the minuteness and repetition with which the case is stated, but those on the other side have worked with such energy to prove the record a myth, that the author thinks it is due the memory of Captain Samuels and the American merchant marine generally to clear up beyond doubt the facts of the "Dreadnought's" most celebrated voyage. In his "History of the New York Ship Yards," page 141, John H. Morrison says: The log book of the "Dreadnought" containing the record of this famous voyage of March, 1859, is not in existence, so far as known to the descendants of David Ogden (the agent of the Red Cross line). Captain Samuels informed the writer that on this voyage he ran the vessel to Daunt's Rock, communicated with the pilot-boat on the station at the mouth of Cork harbor (Queenstown), and proceeded on his way to Liverpool after a very short stop. The vessel left New York harbor with a high northeast wind, but about twelve hours later this was succeeded by a high northwesterly wind on the North Atlantic coast. An examination of the reports of vessels arriving at New York from Great Britain after the "Dreadnought" sailed from New York on February 27, 1859, till the day of her call oft Cork harbor, show us that there was a succession of heavy westerly gales during the whole period . . . this favorable condition for a fast eastern passage continued to the time of the stop off Queenstown, but leaving there the "Dreadnought" encountered light head winds, and arrived at Liverpool on March 13, according to the London Times. In response to an inquiry by Mr. Morrison while he was compiling his above mentioned book, Capt. Samuels dictated to his daughter the following letter: 194 Clinton street (Brooklyn), April 2, 1908. Dear Mr. Morrison: You ask me for the record voyage of the "Dreadnought." We discharged the pilot at 3 P. M., Feb. 27, 1859, off Sandy Hook. We were off Queenstown at the end of nine days, seventeen hours, when we sent our mails ashore by a Cork pilot boat.2 The wind then became variable and died down. In thirteen days, eight hours, we were abreast the Northwest Lightship at Liverpool, and one hour later anchored in the Mersey, March 12, noon. The following will give an idea of the character of the ship and the time she made, including the above. In 1854 she made the same passage in thirteen days, eleven hours, and six times in succession under sixteen days, including one run of fourteen days and one of fifteen days.
Yours, S. S.

US Naval Institute Review
Newburyport Clipper Ship Museum
The World Renowned A No.1 Clipper Ship "Dreadnought" Wm. T. Coleman & Co.

The Creesy's of Marblehead, Donald Mckay & The Flying Cloud

Ship Flying Cloud Original painted in Hong Kong for Capt. Cressy, owned by S. H. Brown, Marblehead From Old Marblehead Sea Captains and More information at Marblehead Museum & Historical Society

Capt Josiah Perkins Creesy with the Flying Cloud, won the reputation of being the best skipper, with the fleetest sailing ship, in the world. See The Maritime Heritage Project Born March 23 1814 Marblehead, MA Died: June 1871 Salem, MA

Eleanor Horton Prentiss Creesy (September 21, 1814–August 25, 1900), daughter of Captain Joshua Prentiss III, who died when she was three, and stepdaughter/niece of Lt. John Elbridge Prentiss of the US Navy, who married her mother when Eleanor was just eight. Ellen and Perk, as they were known, both grew up in Marblehead, Massachusetts, where they fell in love with the sea and each other.
Note: Creesy spelled Cressey, Cressy
Creesy was the master of the clipper ship Flying Cloud - built by Donald McKay in Boston - on two record-setting voyages from New York to San Francisco around South America's Cape Horn. See David Burkhart Article
What’s in a Name?
Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout - See more at:
What’s in a Name?
Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout - See more at:

In 1851, aided by his wife Eleanor (Prentiss), a master navigator who plotted the clipper's course using dead reckoning around the Horn, due to a constant overcast that prevented her from fixing their position via the sun, the couple guided the clipper safely to San Francisco in 89 days and 21 hours. In 1854 they bested that record, completing the voyage in 89 days and 8 hours. The Cressys' and the Flying Cloud's record stood until 1989 when it was surpassed by the high-performance racing sloop Thursday's Child. Captain Creesy served in the Union navy during the Civil War as captain of the Ino. He also later served in the Massachusetts legislature and as an alderman of Salem. Both Captain and Eleanor Creesy were renowned among mariners the world over. They are buried together in Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts.
See The Woman Who Guided the Flying Cloud

From The Clipper Ship Flying Cloud Monday, October 6, 1851 Daily Atlas (Boston, MA)

Harper's New Monthly Magazine Volume 68 1884 Article The Old Packet and Clipper Service
Captain Josiah P. Creesy, of the Flying Cloud, owned by Grinnell, Minturn, and Co., was presented by the Board of Underwriters with a service of plate on the 3d of February, 1855. Mr. Walter R. Jones, president of the board, said: “Sir, on your late passage from China, when in command of the celebrated ship Flying Cloud, with a rich and costly cargo of delicate goods, the total value of which probably amounted to a sum between a million and a million and a quarter of dollars, you encountered adverse currents and stormy and foggy weather, which carried your ship upon a coral reef on the. 7th of August last, in the China seas striking with such severity that her bow was raised out of water three or four feet. her shoe taken ofl’ her keel, and her keel itself out through to the bottom planking, causing her to leak badly and to make a great quantity of water. With a skill that none but a first-rate ship-master possesses, you soon extricated her from her perilous situation, without cutting away her masts or making any other great sacrifice, which is often done, nominally for the benefit of whom it may concern, proving very frequently, however, to the great detriment of all concerned. In a very short time you had her afloat, ready to proceed, when the important question arose in your mind where you should go, on the settling of which much depended. Again your good judgment manifested itself. The expensive and costly ports in the straits were near at hand. You determined to avoid them. and no one can say how much you saved to those interested in your valuable ship and cargo, but it is reasonable to suppose that those concerned have been saved at least thirty thousand dollars, and probably much more. In fact, no one can probably tell the extent of saving with much accuracy; all know it to have been very large. Walter R Jones Portrait from Old Historic Long Island

 “At that time your qualifications as a skillful commander again became manifest, and you seem also to have combined in yourself the talents of the merchant as well as the ship-master. After relieving your ship, your attention was directed to the next best movement, and in that you rendered us an important service; instead of running your ship into an expensive port. before referred to, where the positive and known charges would have amounted to a very large sum, you examined the condition of the vessel and the means at' your command, and although your crew was weak and insufficient, you made up your mind to proceed homeward, and, with a very leaky ship, you left the China seas. and in a very short time thereafter. to the great relief of the underwriters, you reached this port in safety, and with scarcely a damaged package on which a claim could be made on the underwriters.”

Captain Creesy was then presented with “a choice and weighty service of plate." He replied that though he had merely done his duty as a ship-master, he was “very far from being ungrateful for the beautiful and valuable testimonial. The sailor,” he added, “amid the difficulties, dangers, and responsibilities of his profession, often feels the need of appreciation and sympathy. These are his best reward and highest encouragement.” After noting the remarkable fact that Captain Creesy. between the years 1845 and 1850, had made five voyages from New York to Anjer which did not vary twenty-four hours in length, and no one of which was more than ninety days, the New York Evening Post said: “The captain seems to have a propensity for ninety day voyages. He is one of the most skillful sailors in the American merchant service.”

Father Josiah Perkins Creesy (1785-1844) Mckay Family: See Nathaniel Mckay

Donald Mckay Born September 4 1810 Died September 20, 1880 See Newburyport Clipper Ship Museum     More on Donald McKay

Photo from A master designer in Boston built America’s fastest sailing ships via
McKay's Shipyard, East Boston. about 1855. Southworth and Hawes, American, 19th century. Photograph, daguerreotype. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Author: Southworth & Hawes

 New York Times Obit April 4 1895

From Sunday, March 6, 1927
Paper: San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, CA)

See The history and genealogy of the Prentice, or Prentiss family, in New England from 1631 to 1883. By C. J. F. Binney

More Sources:
  • Stephen D. Perkins FLYING CLOUD and The First Female Navigator, my ancestor Eleanor Creesy" 1854
  • India House Foundation 10 October 2007
  • Flying Cloud Cruising Adventures
  • Opium Traders and Their Worlds-Volume One: A Revisionist Exposé of the World By M. Kienholz
  • A World of Her Own: 24 Amazing Women Explorers and Adventurers By Michael Elsohn Ross
  • South Street By Richard Cornelius McKay
  • More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Massachusetts women By Lura Rogers Seavey 
  • The American Clipper Ship, 1845-1920: A Comprehensive History, with a Listing of Builders and Their Ships By Glen Knoblock
  • Dare the Wind: The Record-breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying ... By Tracey Fern