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 (as a result of using metal)- 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 and, importantly, substantially more economical. Long haul steam cargo vessels were wholly reliant on sailing ships delivering their fuel (coal) up to the late 1890s. Iron then gave way to steel – for various interesting reasons.