This triumph of marine architecture was launched from Mr. M'Kay's ship yard in East Boston at precisely 12 o'clock on Tuesday. The ceremony of introducing the noble fabric to her destined home occurred in the presence of an immense crowd of spectators, and she passed to her mission on the deep with the crash of cannon and the cheers of the people. She curtsied beautifully to the compliment as she glided coyly away from the shore, and gave her arm gracefully to the steamer Forbes to be escorted into dock. We have never known so much enthusiasm attending the launch of a ship. Visitors were in town from the back country and from along the coast to witness the launch, particularly from Cape Cod, delegations from which arrived by the morning train. the wharves on both sides the stream where a view was obtainable, were thronged with people; men, women and children vied in interest to get a look, and boys and men clung like spiders to the rigging of the ship, and the sides and roofs of the stores and houses, to get a glance at the sublime spectacle. For ourselves, we mounted the Chariot of Fame, a noble ship lying at Constitution Wharf, — upon the precise spot where the Constitution Frigate was launched, — from which we had a fine view of the scene. The river was full of vessels of various kinds and all kinds — from the Mayflower to the Steam Tug, and from the beautiful yacht to the little boat whose tiny sail seemed, in the distance, not bigger than a lady's hand, — and all were crowded with eager lookers.
The day was fine and the moving life upon the land and water have great interest to the scene … As the hammer of the clock fell at twelve, the stroke of a gun at the shipyard announced that the ship had started on her ways, and she pursued her graceful course to the arms of the loving wave that opened wide to receive her. Capt. Alden Gifford christened her in pure Cochituate The Great Republic, as she left her trail and took her watery bed.
The Great Republic is one of the most beautiful crafts that ever took captive the heart of the sailor. She is 325 feet long, 53 feet wide, her depth 37 feet, and her capacity 4000 tons — the largest merchant ship, probably, that ever tasted salt water. The Great Republic thus stands in front of the nations, and we hope her prosperity may be in an equal degree with that of her name sake.
It is estimated that fifty thousand people witnessed the launch, and not an accident occurred, that we have heard of, to mar the scene. The little steamer Argo, however, came as near an accident, and missed it as was possible. She was directly in the way of the ship when she ran from the stocks, and notwithstanding all the efforts to get out of the way, the ponderous vessel passed her as she was paddling for dear life and carried away her flag staff. It was a truly narrow escape and the steamer's chance for a brief interval, was considered by spectators as a hopeless one.
Mr. M'Kay entertained a large party of visitors after the launch, and a fine social feeling prevailed, evinced in speech and sentiment wherein the best wishes were given for the success of the Great Republic.
It was more than 200 feet from deck to main truck, with yards in proportion. the spanker mast was 110 feet long and fore and aft rigged. the hull was constructed of oak and pine and when seen from the shore was not particularly different from ordinary clipper ships, except in length and the great shear forward from the fore chains to the figure head. But once on board the visitor was truck with her enormous breadth of beam.
Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius.
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Copyright © 1996 Lars Bruzelius.