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Winter, 2002 Newsletter - Homepage
  Introduction: "The Golden Age of the Tea Trade"

   When the Oriental sailed into the London harbor on December 3, 1850, the British were so stunned by her size and design that they immediately requested permission to tow the ship to the dry dock for further examination. In an ironic moment of history, the American ship sat perched over the British port as a model of excellence for the former nautical superpower. Reflecting on this new challenge from the Americans, The Times of London exhorted, "We must run a race with our gigantic and unshackled rival. We must set our long-practised skill, our steady industry, and our dogged determination, against his youth, ingenuity, and ardor... A fell necessity constrains us and we must not be beat. Let our ship-builders and employers take warning in time."*

   It was clear that a new race was underway, a race that would be chronicled in the headlines of newspapers in every major city. In the next few years shippers would launch the finest and fastest merchant sailing ships ever produced in a constant battle to own the fastest tea clipper on the seas. No event captures this spirit of competition more than the Great Tea Race of 1866, which has been discussed in previous issues of our Quarterly.

   England would not let her long tradition as a first-class maritime power remain in question. Part 3 of our series traces the development and expansion of the tea clipper industry in Great Britain and concludes with the eventual decline of these magnificent ships.

Read more in The Golden Age of the Tea Trade: Part 3: Great Britain Responds to the American Challenge.

*Whipple, A. B. C. The Clipper Ships. Alexandria, VA: Time Life Books, 1980. pp. 70-71.

 Related Information:
   Part 1: "Merchant Ships of the 1830s"
   Part 2: "America Launches the First Extreme Clippers"
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