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Clipper Ship Sailing Cards in The Bancroft Library
August 1, 2013 – TBA
The Bancroft Library Corridor Cases
Open Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm
The clipper ship sailing cards first appeared during the 1850s, advertising the departure of a ship on an imminent but indeterminate date. The cards were produced to attract last-minute customers to a not-yet-full vessel that would sail shortly, generally from New York to San Francisco. Clipper ships brought thousands of hopeful individuals to California during the Gold Rush, when sailing around Cape Horn was the fastest way to the Pacific coast from the eastern United States. Numerous artists, engravers, and printers turned to this new advertising medium at a time when color printing processes were also improving. The cards, designed to stand out in an agent’s window display, were letterpress printed onto cardstock, and accented by colorful wood-engraved images or dramatic lettering. Today, less than 3,500 clipper cards are estimated to remain, and about 140 are housed in The Bancroft Library.