Hornet (clipper)

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United States
Name: Hornet
Owner: Chamberlain & Phelps, New York.
Ordered: Westervelt & MacKay, New York City
Launched: June 20, 1851
Fate: Burned and sank 3 May 1866
General characteristics
Class and type: Extreme clipper
Tons burthen: 1426 tons
Length: 207 ft.
Beam: 40 ft.
Draft: 22 ft.[1]

Hornet was an 1851 extreme clipper in the San Francisco trade, famous for its race with Flying Cloud.

Race with Flying Cloud

Hornet had a two-day head start on Flying Cloud in their famous 1853 race. She left New York City for San Francisco, California on April 26, 1853, with Flying Cloud departing two days later.

After the roughly 15,000-nautical mile (27,780-km) voyage around Cape Horn, both ships arrived in San Francisco harbor 106 days later at almost the same time, with Hornet sailing in just 45 minutes ahead of Flying Cloud.


Clipper ship Hornet sailing card.jpg

In 1866, Hornet New York City bound for San Francisco under Captain Josiah A. Mitchell with a cargo of candles, case oil, and oil in barrels. During the voyage, she caught fire and sank in the Pacific Ocean on May 3, 1866. The crew left the ship in three open lifeboats. The captain′s boat reached Hawaii after 43 days at sea on June 15, 1866, with 14 survivors aboard, but the two other boats disappeared.[2] Mark Twain, on the islands as a special correspondent from the Sacramento Daily Union, interviewed several of the survivors and filed the first extensive report.[3]


  • Hornet clipper ship card


  1. ^ Crothers, William L. (1997). The American-Built Clipper Ship, 1850-1856: Characteristics, Construction, Details. Camden, ME: International Marine. pp. xvii. ISBN 978-0-07-014501-6.
  2. ^ Bruzelius, Lars (1996-01-02). "Clipper Ships: "Hornet" (1851)". Hornet. The Maritime History Virtual Archives. Retrieved June 7, 2010.
  3. ^ Scharnhorst, Gary (2015). "Notes and Documents: Mark Twain Reports the Hornet Disaster". American Literary Realism. 47 (3): 272–276. doi:10.5406/amerlitereal.47.3.0272. JSTOR 10.5406/amerlitereal.47.3.0272.

Further reading

  • "The Saga of the Clipper Ship Hornet and the Ferguson Brothers of Stamford". The Stamford Historical Society, Newsletter Excerpt. 49 (2). Retrieved 2013-02-26.
  • Brown, Alexander C. (1974). Longboat to Hawaii, An Account of the Voyage of the Clipper Ship Hornet of New York Bound for San Francisco in 1866. Cornell Maritime Press. ISBN 978-0870332012.
  • Mark Twain [as "Mark Swain"] (Dec 1866). "Forty-three Days in an Open Boat". Harper's New Monthly Magazine. 34: 104–113. Retrieved 2014-09-02.
  • Zmijewski, David (1999). "The Hornet: Mark Twain's Interpretations of a Perilous Journey" (pdf). The Hawaiian Journal of History. 33.
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