Great Republic

A four-masted medium clipper barque built in 1853 by Donald McKay, East Boston, on speculation. Originally rigged with Forbes' double topsail yards.

She is 325 feet long, has 53 feet extreme breadth of beam, and 39 depth of hold, including 4 complete decks. The height between her spar and upper decks is 7 feet, and between the others 8 feet; and all her accomodations are in the upper between decks. The crew's quarters are forward; and aft she has sail rooms, store rooms, accomodations for boys and petty officers, and abaft these, two cabins and a vistibule. The after cabin is beautifully wainscotted with mahogany, has recess sofas on each side, ottomans, marble covered tables, mirrors and elliptical panels ornamented with pictures. She has also a fine library for the use of her crew, and spacious accomodations for passengers.

On the spar deck there are five houses for various purposes, but such is her vast size, that they appear to occupy but little space. She has an eagle's head forward for a head, and on the stern, which is semi-elliptical in form, is a large eagle, with the American shield in his talons. She is yellow metalled up to 25 feet draught, and above is painted black. Instead of bulwarks, the outline of her spar deck is protected by a rail on turned stanchions, which, with the houses, are painted white. Of her materials and fastenings we cannot speak too highly. She is built of oak, is diagonally cross-braced with iron, double ceiled, has 4 depths of midship keelsons, each depth 15 inches square, three depths of sister keelsons, and 4 bilge keelsons, two of the riders, and all her frames are coaged, also the keelsons and waterways, and she is square fastened throughout. She has three tiers of stanchions, which extend from the hold to the third deck, and are kneed in the most substantial style. She also has many long pointers and 10 beamed hooks forward and aft. In a word, she is the strongest ship ever built.

Duncan McLean.

Another description of the Great Republic was published by Henry Hall in Report on the Ship-Building Industry of the United States.

Griffiths gave a description of the ship in the U.S. Nautical Magazine Volume II (1855).

1853 October 4
Launched at Donald McKay's Yard, East Boston.
1853 December 26-27
Caught fire while at New York loading for Liverpool. The remains of the ship was surrendered to the underwriters for $ 235.000 from which she was sold to Captain N.B. Palmer for Messrs. A.A. Low and Brothers. She was subsequently rebuilt by Sneeden & Whitlock at Greenpoint, Long Island, NY. The Forbes' double topsail rig was replaced with Captain Howes' rig.
1855 February 24 - March 12
Sailed from New York to London in 17 days. The abstract log was published in U.S. Nautical Magazine Volume II (1855).
1856 March
Sailed from New York to Liverpool in 19 days.
1856 December 7 — March 9
Sailed from New York to San Fransico in 92 days under command of Captain Joseph Limeburner.
1857 March [?]
Sailed from New York to San Francisco in 91 days. [Is this the same passage as the preceeding one?]
1859 March
Sailed from San Francisco to New York in 99 days.
Re-rigged as three masted ship sometime during this period.
Sold to Captain Hatfield, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and others.
1869 January
Sold to the Merchants Trading Company of Liverpool and renamed Denmark and put in the East India Trade.
Sprang a leak in a hurricane off Bermuda en route from Rio de Janeiro to St. John, NB, and was abandoned with 15 feet of water in the hold.


Oil painting by J.E. Buttersworth,. [From the Essex Peabody Museum, Salem, MA, USA]
Woodcut by E. Weedon in the Illustrated London News, 1855.
At the Montague Street terminal of the Wall Street ferry at Brooklyn, New York. [San Francisco Maritime Museum]

Reproduced in: D.R. MacGregor: British and American Clippers, p 128.

An excellent picture of the Great Republic taken in San Francisco. [Peabody Essex Museum of Salem]

Reproduced in: D.R. MacGregor: British and American Clippers, p 129


Updated 2002-03-13 by Lars Bruzelius

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