Although not quite as famous as her near namesake the legendary Red Jacket, the Boston-built clipper Blue Jacket was nevertheless a fast and exceptionally handsome ship which was much acclaimed in her early years.
Laid down in the East Boston yard of Robert E. Jackson, she was launched on 27th August 1854 having been built to the order of the prominent Boston firm of Seccomb & Taylor. Registered at 1,790 tons, she measured 235 feet in length with a 41½ foot beam and was designed to stow a large cargo. Clearing Boston on 2nd october 1854, she docked in Liverpool on the 20th where she was promptly sold to John James Frost for his Fox Line of Australian packets out of London. Leaving the Thames on 6th March 1855 under the command of Captain Underwood, she ran out to Melbourne in a remarkably fast 68 days, beating the first passage times of Red Jacket, Lightning and several of the other best-known American-built clippers, and only narrowly missing the record set by the James Baines a few months earlier. From Melbourne she went back to London via Madras, returning there on her next voyage to load 600 coolies for Mauritius at 3 GBP per head. It was stated in Mauritius that 'the Immigrant Agents prefer American clippers because they make the shortest voyages and deliver the coolies in better condition than vessels of other nations'. Moreover, 'the model, finish and build of this vessel [Blue Jacket], with her cabin arrangements, have completely astonished the people of this island'.
Blue Jacket was a fast sailer throughout her career and her fastest ever run was from Lyttleton, New Zealand, to London in 63 days in 1865. On that particular passage her sailing master noted there were times when she averaged 20 knots and even reached 23 knots on one notable occasion. Some days she averaged 384 nautical miles 'beating all records ever made by a sailing ship up to that time' and in those sea conditions, it took four men - two at each of her double wheels - to hold her on her course. On her last passage, she left Lyttleton on 13th February 1869 with 32 passengers, her crew of 39 men and a cargo of flax and other colonial produce. On March 5th, 20 days out and off the Falkland Islands, a fire broke out in the hold and soon engulfed the ship. Passengers and crew took to the boats and were eventually picked up in an exhausted state by the barque Pyrmont on 16th March. Curiously, Blue Jacket's distinctive figurehead was found washed up on Rottnest Island, Fremantle, Western Australia, over two years later, on 8th December 1871, the currents having taken it on a last crossing of half the southern oceans.