“Daniel Webster” of Boston off Sandy Hook
One of the finest packet ships of the 1850’s was the Daniel Webster, shown in this view approaching the entrance to the Lower Bay of new York Harbor. Built at Boston in 1851 by Donald McKay, the Daniel Webster belonged to Enoch Train’s line of packets plying the North Atlantic between Boston and Liverpool. The Train Line operated a fleet of some twenty-four packets and advertised two sailings a month from Boston and four from Liverpool.
The Daniel Webster could accommodate 600 passengers in the steerage. Her first-class saloon sported rich mahogany paneling. She had two sick bays, an icehouse to keep the cabin passenger’s food fresh, and a laboratory for the ship’s surgeon. The Daniel Webster was exceedingly strongly built to withstand the heavy weather of the frigid North Atlantic in winter, and like virtually all of McKay’s ships she earned a reputation as a fast sailer, completing the passage from Boston to Liverpool in thirteen days, ten hours on her maiden voyage.
Until the advent of steam, the sailing packets provided the chief means of travel and communication between the Old World and the New. They carried the mails and the choicer items of international trade. Their passengers included both the rich and famous and those countless thousands of emigrants from England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, and other countries who supplied the labor, energy and talent necessary to build the developing American nation.