Hound's Clearance Certificate

A Clipper Ship out of San Francisco

Original content by: Ryan Chalifour

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About This Document

The year was 1858 and the clipper ship Hound, commanded by Captain Lorenzo Dow Baker, was bound for Hong Kong. Her cargo and her crew were logged and accounted for, the ship's officers had washed and pressed their best uniforms, everything was ready for the long sail across the Pacific Ocean except the ship's paperwork. The stately U.S. Custom House, built in 1855 after years of earthquakes had left the earlier building in near ruin, handled all the paperwork for ships which were importing and exporting goods through San Francisco. On Oct 5, 1858 the Hound was cleared for departure (with this Clearance certificate to prove it) after her cargo and crew had been officially documented. 

Read by John Boudreau.

Historical Context

The United States was still a developing nation 1858 and San Francisco was a growing city. It had been almost ten years since the start of the California Gold Rush and the age of Clipper Ships was coming to a close. Primarily a port city, its development grew outwards from the waterfront. The deep water and steady winds of San Francisco Bay allowed for ships of all sizes to come and go easily, making it a prime maritime hub in the new state of California. Regular shipping routes from New England cities (such as Boston and New York) to San Francisco were flourishing. The growth of San Francisco and its port also created a natural gateway to the Pacific trade routes, as seen with the Hound leaving from San Francisco for China - half way around the globe from where it was built in Mystic, Ct in 1853. 


Questions for Further Thought

  1. The Hound's cargo is not specifically stated in this certificate. What kinds of goods might the ship have been carrying to Hong Kong?
  2. What changes in technology and transportation were making ships like the Hound obsolete?
  3. How did the tradition of shipbuilding in North America during the mid 1800s influence where clipper ships were built?