Tuesday, August 2, 2011

New Breakfast China for Maury Place at Monument

On a recent trip to visit family in Charlotte, I went shopping in a local antique mall and saw some nice plates featuring a picture of a sailing ship.  To my suprise, I found that the plates were a Wedgwood "Flying Cloud" series, and the picture was of the famous 1800's sailing vessel of that name. The story of the Flying Cloud is not only one of the most interesting in sailing history, it is directly tied to Matthew Fontaine Maury, after whom our bed and breakfast is named! Naturally, I purchased the dishes immediately, and we are serving breakfast with them this morning.

The Flying Cloud is famous for setting the world speed record in 1854 between New York and San Francisco, an important route during the time of the California Gold Rush. A speed record is always a dramatic event, but this was much more.  The Flying Cloud cut the previous time by more than one half, setting a record that stood for over 100 years, and -- extraodinarily for that time-- was navigated by a woman.  And yes, as I mentioned, Matthew Fontaine Maury figures into this story also.

Before Maury's invention of oceonagraphy, sea travel was slow, unpredictable, and dangerous.  Maury developed the navigational techniques by which sea captains could chart their course with more certainty, cutting travel time and increasing safety.  Eleanor Creesy, navigator of  The Flying Cloud and wife of the captain, was one of the first to use Maury's new science.

In the early days of the California Gold Rush, it took more than 200 days for a ship to travel from New York to San Francisco, a voyage of more than 16,000 miles. In 1854, Eleanor guided her ship from New York, around South America, and to San Francisco in 89 days and 8 hours, a record that stood until 1989, 135 years later. Her accomplishment was a dramatic demonstration of the significance of Matthew Maury's new science and techniques.

At our bed and breakfast, we pride ourselves on serving breakfast each morning on our finest china, and we are delighted to add the Wedgwood Flying Cloud china to our collection.   We also display a model of The Flying Cloud sailing ship, shown in the picture to the above, and we sell the book Flying Cloud: The True Story of America's Most Famous Clipper Ship and the Woman Who Guided Her by David Shaw in our gift shop.

Mac Pence and Jeff Wells
your Richmond Virginia Bed and Breakfast Innkeepers at Maury Place at Monument