Historians differ on when the first true clipper ships were built, but there is general agreement that they became well established in the 1840s. The typical clipper had three masts, was square-rigged, and had a hull designed to slice through the water.
Clippers became important for the tea trade, as tea from China could be transported to England or America in record time. Clippers were also used to transport easterners to California during the Gold Rush, and to transport Australian wool to England.
Clipper ships were eventually made obsolete by steam ships, and also by the opening of the Suez Canal, which cut sailing time from Europe to Asia and made speedy sailing ships less necessary.