On the Water

Half Hull Model of Clipper Ship Young America

This is the original builder’s half hull model of the famous ship Young America, constructed by the renowned shipbuilder William Webb in 1852/53 at his New York shipyard. Measuring 243 feet long on deck and 1,961 tons, the Young America was an extreme clipper, characterized by a sharp bow and long, narrow hull. Constructed lightly for speed and commonly sailing the harsh waters of Cape Horn off the southern tip of South America with crews of up to 100 men, clippers often lasted only about ten years before being sold to foreign owners.

Costing $140,000 to build, the Young America set a number of speed records. It sailed from New York to San Francisco 20 times, averaging 118 days per trip. Its reputation for strength and speed earned high freight rates—its maiden voyage from New York to San Francisco earned $86,400. The clipper traded mainly between Liverpool, New York and San Francisco, but also sailed to China, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, the Philippines, Mauritius and other countries. After a very long and profitable 30-year career, the Young America was sold to Austrian owners in 1883 and renamed the Miroslav. In February 1886, the ship cleared Delaware for a trading voyage and was never seen again.

Half hull models were the first step in the construction of a ship. They were carved out of horizontal strips of wood known as lifts, and only one side was needed since ships are symmetrical. After a model was approved, its lines were taken (measured) and it was disassembled. Then the lines were lofted, or drawn at full scale on the floor. The actual ship’s frames were cut to fit the lines on the floor and then set in place along the keel during the construction process. Sometimes the models were discarded or even burned as firewood after use, but many original examples are preserved today.

ID Number:
TR*160135
Maker:
Webb, William H.
Date:
1853
Dimensions:
25 in x 101 in x 10 in; cm x 256.54 cm x 25.4 cm
Source:
Gift of William P. Pattee