The Devonshire was one of that celebrated breed of thoroughbreds known generically, at least towards the end of the age of sail, as the 'Atlantic Packets'. Designed for speed, their primary purpose was the carriage of passengers and mail rather than freight and, during the first half of the nineteenth century, they made an immense contribution to Anglo-American relations as well as trade in the sometimes bitter aftermath of the unfortunate 'War of 1812'.
Devonshire, registered at 1,149 tons gross, was built by Westervelt & Mackey at New York and launched in 1848. Ordered by the curiously-named Black X Line, for their growing fleet of New York - London packets, she measured 174 feet in length with a 38 foot beam and sported a full-ship rig on her three masts. Entering service the same year that she was launched, she sailed from the Fly Market Wharf in New York on the 1st day of the month and her regular schedule allowed for a brief call at Cowes, the famous 'yachting capital' of England, situated in the Solent, on the northern tip of the Isle of Wight. Once arrived in London, she also departed thence on the 1st of the month, almost always with a full complement of passengers in addition to the transatlantic mail. Widely regarded by the shipping fraternity as a "lucky ship", in her thirteen years of scheduled service on the North Atlantic (1848-61) her best-ever passage was 19 days whilst her average was only 30; this compared with the fastest average of 28 days held by her arch rival the Amazon. When it is realised that a North Atlantic crossing under sail, in either direction, could take as long as 89 days (the longest recorded for any packet) in really adverse winds and weather, it is not surprising that Devonshire's excellent record accorded her a place of honour as one of the five fastest American packets of all those which operated during the forty years from 1818 to 1858.
Undoubtedly the nimblest of the twenty-six packets which emanated from the yards of Westervelt & Mackey, she also remained the Black X Line's fastest ship when those larger consorts which followed her failed to outshine her. With her slowest-ever crossing logged at 41 days, it was no surprise that she was so popular and her starring role in a much publicised mid-ocean rescue when only two years into her career merely enhanced her growing reputation for swift reliability. On 29th November 1850, when off the coast of Nova Scotia, Devonshire sighted the practically new German auxiliary steamer Helena Sloman struggling to stay afloat after serious damage sustained during a prolonged gale. Despite terrifying sea conditions, Captain Hovey took off all the passengers and crew with the exception of nine lives lost when one of Devonshire's boats smashed against the side of the Helena Sloman. It was a remarkable episode in the history of lifesaving at sea and one which remained synonymous with the name of the Devonshire long after she herself was no more.
Late in 1861, Devonshire put into Bermuda after suffering severe damage in a violent Atlantic gale. Subsequently put up for sale as unfit for further service, she was "sold British" (i.e. sold to British owners) although details of her fate remain obscure.