A discernible peak of excellence appeared in the 1870’s. Sailing ships began to be built entirely of iron, and had a more even spread of sails on masts which, for the first time, were similar in height. The vessels developed highly curvaceous bows and sterns – and nestled deeply in the water, heavily laden and “businesslike”.
Many observers were genuinely taken a’back by the sight of a ship either on the horizon or at close quarters. There was something enormously exhilarating and awe-inspiring about the four, and later five-masted sailing ships which dominated international trade from 1875 through the 1890s and into the early 20th Century.
Sail ‘power’ was eventually overtaken by ‘steam power’ when steam-driven ships became more reliable. Larger steam cargo vessels also became economic by the late 1890s. Iron then gave way to steel – for various interesting reasons.