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Copper bottomed Baltimore Clipper?

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HI Folks

Does anyone out there know whether the Baltimore Clippers would have been copper bottomed. I can't find any reference to copper at all in 'Chapelle'. My assumption is that since copper clad hulls were available in 1807 - 1812 and that the ships were built for speed, a copper clad hull would make sense - but then, they were also supposed to be cheap.

Any thoughts most welcome


Wishing you all fair winds and a following sea.


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Hi Don,

I would be very surprised to hear they were coppered. Am also not sure where (which country , navy) is referenced when mentioned 1807-1812 as a period for coppered hulls

Baltimore clippers were often built hastily and probably they were not supposed to last long, Copper is extremely expensive. I think that even the best (= not built in rush during the war) of Baltimore clippers built before the 1812 war outbreak would be treated with white or black stuff, rather then copper.


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I know of at least one BC, the Siro , that was described as "coppered to the bends". She was designed and built  by Thomas Kemp of Baltimore in early 1812 (pre-war) as a French coast blockade runner. She was captured in 1813, but sold out of RN service. Renamed the British letter of marque Atalanta, she was retaken by the USS Wasp in October, 1814, and was noted as being remarkably well built. I would assume that the other Kemp built BC's, like the Grecian and the Lynx, the only two 1812 BC's of which named plans survive, would have been coppered also. Siro was described in one paper as the most expensively built, lavishly equipped private vessel built in Baltimore to date.


There is also a surviving contemporary built rigged model of the Schooner privateer Comet, also Thomas Kemp built, which appears to be coppered (green paint). Comet was briefly leased to the US Navy in 1813 because of the high quality of her construction. Kemp was thought to have owned the model.



Note. They were never actually called 'baltimore clippers' during the war of 1812. This term first popped up later about the 1830's. They were known as 'Chesapeake Bay Pilot Schooners', or some variation of that, by those who knew them. See Geoffrey Footner's "Tidewater Triumph: The Development and Worldwide Success of the Chesapeake Bay Pilot Schooner", Tidewater Press, Centerville Maryland, 1998. Highly recommend ... :)


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Thanks to USS Frolick

as said, am surprised and have learnt something new.

Indeed, I cannot find any note on coppering in my books (sadly only old Chapelle's "Baltimore clipper") and although Kemp's Lynx was a very fine vessel I did not expect so high level of construction. Even for a Mosquidobit under british flag, no note on coppering, at least as I have found so far....

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Coppering of a ship's hull was coming into common use for naval vessels during the late 18th century (I believe around 1780 for the Royal Navy).  the US coppered, at great expense, our first Frigates (1794-98). 


As to the use of copper on merchant vessels, due to the expense it was much less common.  At the period in question, the process for rolling sheet copper was still relatively new in the US (see discussion in Smith's The frigate Essex papers) and, while more metal smiths were able to make it, the physical plant required was substantial. 


I think our colleague Frolick hit on the answer above - if they had the money. Then copper bottomed it was, otherwise white stuff.



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