Rigged Model, Extreme Gold Rush Clipper Challenge

Description
The extreme clipper ship Challenge was built at New York by the famous shipbuilder William H. Webb. At its launch in May 1851, the $150,000 Challenge was the largest merchant ship ever built, measuring 227 feet in length by 42 feet in beam and 2006 tons. The high length:beam ratio of 5.4:1 was what made the three-decker an extreme clipper, and it set a few speed records over the course of its working life.
The Challenge was expected to set a record on its maiden voyage, and Capt. Robert H. Waterman was offered a $10,000 bonus if he could drive the ship to San Francisco in under 90 days. He pushed his 60-man crew hard, but poor weather and a mutiny by 50 crewmen off Rio slowed the Challenge to a 108-day trip. The mutiny and the unrelated death of seven crew on that maiden voyage gave the ship a bad reputation. Capt. Waterman was relieved of his command after reaching San Francisco, but the next master had to pay a signing bonus of $200 to lure new crewmen aboard for a China trip. Another mutiny on this second leg of the maiden voyage occurred as well—testament to how driven these men were to sail hard and fast.
Over the next decade as a China clipper, an additional mutiny, widespread crew illnesses, frequent dismastings and leaks, and other events cemented the bad reputation of the vessel. It was sold to its captain for $9,350 in 1861. The Challenge changed hands a few more times before sinking off the Brittany coast in February 1877.
Object Name
ship
ship model
clipper ship, rigged model
Date made
1965
ship launched
1851-05
ship sold
1861
ship sank
1877-02
designer
Webb, William H.
captained the ship on its maiden voyage
Waterman, Robert H.
maker
Arthur G. Henning Inc.
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
textile (part: rigging lines material)
Measurements
overall: 48 in x 72 in x 18 in; 121.92 cm x 182.88 cm x 45.72 cm
ship built and sailed from
United States: New York, New York
ship sailed to
China
United States: California, San Francisco
ID Number
TR*326530
catalog number
326530
accession number
255036
subject
Sailing Ships
Transportation
On the Water exhibit
event
Expansion and Reform
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
On the Water exhibit
Exhibition
On the Water
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Publication title
On the Water online exhibition
Publication URL
http://americanhistory.si.edu/onthewater

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.