Images of the Flying Cloud


The Flying Cloud was launched in April of 1851 in Boston Massachusetts, USA and ran aground in June of 1874 in New Brunswick, Canada.  A year later she was burned to recover copper and iron from her fittings. 


This is a list of the images I have found of the Flying Cloud that could have been done by an artist observing actual ship since they were created during the shipÕs lifetime.

Thomas A. Ayres (1816-1858), The Golden Gate – Entrance to the Bay of San Francisco,  c1855.  Lithograph made from a painting by Ayres showing the Flying Cloud and the steamship John L. Stephens on San Francisco Bay.

James E. Buttersworth (1817-1894), The Clipper Ship "Flying Cloud" off the Needles, Isle of Wight, ca. 1859-1860, University of Rochester Memorial Art Gallery. The "Flying Cloud" sailing left to right on choppy waters with a smaller boat sailing toward her from the right.

Currier & Ives, The Clipper Ship "Flying Cloud", 1852.  Said to be based on a painting by James E. Buttersworth.  Shows Flying Cloud under full sail on calm seas, sailing from left to right.


Hong Kong artist, Flying Cloud in Whampoa anchorage painted for Captain Cressy, about 1852.  The image shows the Flying Cloud sailing from left to right under topsails.


Edward Meyer Kern (1822-1863), The "Flying Cloud" Lying Off Whampoa, June 1854, MFA Boston.  Shows the Flying Cloud at anchor all sails furled.


John Scott (1802-1885), Flying Cloud off Whitby in North Yorkshire, England, 1871.  Shows double topsails and British colors.


John C. Wade (1827-?), Flying Cloud at her New York Dock, 1851, this image was either the source of, or copied from, the GleasonÕs drawing.


unknown artist, newspaper illustration of the Flying Cloud loading in New York for her first voyage to San Francisco, published in Gleason's Pictorial Drawing Room Companion, July 26 1851, page 64, this image is either the source of, or was copied from, the Wade watercolor.


unknown artist, Oil painting of the Flying Cloud, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, Macpherson Collection, before 1863. Shown flying the Black Ball Line flag. Sailing left to right under full sail and on calm seas. 


There are many other paintings and drawings of the Flying Cloud done after she was burned.  There is no reason to think that any information in those images is more accurate than the information in the above images.


It seems to me that it is unlikely that any artist observed the Flying Cloud under sail for long enough to produce a detailed sketch to make a painting from so I expect that paintings of the Flying Cloud under sail are mostly conjecture although maybe based on sketches made the ship at the dock or at anchor, or of another illustration of the ship. It also seems to me that the two images most likely to have been done while actually looking at the ship are the Wade/GleasonÕs image of the Flying Cloud waiting at the dock in New York and the Kern drawing of her at anchor.


In any case, other than the Scott painting from late in the Flying CloudÕs career, the images are quite similar in whatever detail they have.  The Scott painting shows double topsails, which is quite likely since switching to double topsails permitted a smaller crew, and it shows 3 additional boats on deck, also likely since at that point she was transporting hundreds of immigrants at a time.


One interesting detail: The McLean article says ŌShe has neither head nor trail boardsĶ[1] but most of the illustrations show some form of trail board.  That may because a lot of ships of the time did have trail boards and the artist just added it because it was normal or maybe McLean was incorrect (which seems unlikely).  The Boucher model in the MFA has a gilded pattern aft of her figurehead, see figure below:




A gilded pattern like this could be mistaken for a trail board at a distance, an artist just made an assumption that she had trail boards and other artists just copied.


No photographs of the Flying Cloud have ever been identified, even though photography was quite common during the latter parts of her career.


[1] Duncan McLean, The New Clipper Ship Flying Cloud of New York, (1851)