New York: The Black Ball Packet “Orpheus” Leaving New York in 1835


In this view, the Black Ball Packet Orpheus sets out from New York for Liverpool on a breezy day in 1835 in a harbor full of shipping. The Black Ball line had achieved dominance in its twice-a-month sailings. It had established on-time departures for its ships, assuring as much regularity in delivering goods and people as could be achieved under sail. Black Ballers, remembered today in sailors’ songs and stories, were sailed hard, cutting the normal crossing time to England (with fair westerly winds) from five weeks to three, and to New York (against the westerlies) from eight weeks to five. Orpheus, a 573-ton ship built in 1832, boasted a two-week run to Liverpool in 1838. These ships set new standards for oceanic transport. Discipline was harsh, but it was a point of pride with seamen to have sailed with Black Ball.

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