Baltimore Clippers were developed in Chesapeake Bay during the late 18th century. Influenced by the Bermuda sloop, these vessels were in fact a type of schooner, rather than true clippers which were developed later.
The Baltimore Clipper is the best known vessel in sailing existence today because of her rakish silhouette that is distinctive from a distance. She has been involved in piracy, smuggling, privateering, slave trading, and right now there are a few more modern Clippers sailing both coasts of America. She was originally known as a Virginia built ship. She was a fast and lean craft and was built at Fells Point and emphasized speed, weather abilities, and most importantly handling. She can be defined by her very tall masts, low freeboard, very little rigging, great rake at both the stern and stem, and the keel features a great amount of drag from front to back. She features a lot of deadrise and slack bilges. For her length she had a decent amount of beam and she was flush decked so the guns and sails could be handled easier.
Her design was influence by French luggers and their construction methods that were refined. Also the deep and powerful Bermuda sloops and their amazing windward abilities. The Baltimore Clippers were used by the American navy with great success during the Revolution. She was advanced for her time and no other ship could compare. Whenever the Royal Navy captured a Clipper, the Royal Surveyors would take their lines off for sturdy and use them in building their experimental brigs.
The Baltimore Clipper got her reputation from the War of 1812. Over time, her hull became more evolved with a finer entry and a more powerful midsection. Her rig also evolved. She had a basic two-mast topsail schooner that could spread a massive amount of sail. Her rigging supported primarily by her massive bowsprit and bobstay. The later Clippers would capsize at anchor. The wind would press the sails from behind and the Baltimore Clipper’s bow would go down father and father. Her lines were sharp and forward and the bow wouldn’t provide enough buoyancy to fight the force of the sails and so the ship would be taken under the sea.
The slave trade was the new calling for the Baltimore Clipper after the War of 1812. The new design was incapable of carrying large cargo and so was useless as a freight ship. The nation was facing pressure to stop the slave trade and so large ships could no longer transport slaves. The Baltimore Clipper was much smaller and not suspected to be carrying slaves. The Clipper tried to emphasize as much speed as possible. The interior of the hull was now different and specialized for slaving and the outside of the hull was altered to run faster. However, with the forbidding of slave trading and being not suitable to be a commercial vessel, the Baltimore Clipper was becoming useless. She was too sharp to carry cargo and too extreme to be used as a yacht. Some were used in the opium trade and the design influenced designs of pilot boat schooners and other fast vessels.
Her design underwent a change in the 1970’s when a replica was built to the lines of Chasseur, which was the largest and most successful Baltimore Clipper. The Chasseur held all of England under blockade during the War of 1812. The Baltimore met her end in 1986 during a white squall. A modern rendition was built that used current wood boat-building techniques. The Clipper is still sailing today but she did suffer a partial dismasting when her bobstay snapped. The result was her bowsprit breaking and that caused a foremast to go by the board. Other topsail schooners that were built with the Baltimore Clipper were the Amistad and Lynx, and California on the western coast. Howard Chapelle stated that if the Baltimore Clipper was built to modern standards, using ballast and sail cutting, the Baltimore Clipper could make a modern yacht of great speed and seaworthiness.