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Packet Ships and Men of Iron

Before the rise of the Clipper Ship Era, America launched its maritime conquest of the seas in another way.

It began with a merchant in Philadelphia- who well knew the costliness of idle ships and errant departure schedules -which played havoc not only with the transport of perishable farm products overseas, but with the timely delivery of cotton for England's mills.

The result: His creation of a forever moving line of ships, sailing between New York and Liverpool, England.

The idea took the world by storm, and soon these "Packet Ships", as they were called, grew from just 400 tons in size, to 1,700 tons and more.

Unfortunately, however, there was a price to pay. Given the unforgiving schedules, the terrors of winter crossings, and the high death rates among the crews, a nightmarish new figure appeared - a figure known as the "Packet Rat". As one eminent historian put it "The Packet Rat was the incarnation of all the toughness and evil and malice that have clustered through the ages about the reputation of sailors."

Enter the "Men of Iron", the legendary captains who could tame such crews, and all the violence and mutinies they engendered.

Allen Knowles, eldest son of Winslow L. Knowles, was one of these "Men of Iron". As a member of this elite profession, he shared in all the glamor and privileges this exhaled position entailed. And as part owner of one of the great Clipper/Packets of the time - the Chariot of Fame (Pictured Above) - he somehow held these crews down during his fantastic voyages to virtually every corner of the globe.

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