The 1850s (pronounced "eighteen-fifties") was a decade of the Gregorian calendar that began on January 1, 1850, and ended on December 31, 1859. It was a very turbulent decade, as wars such as the Crimean War , shifted and shook European politics, as well as the expansion of colonization towards the Far East , which also sparked conflicts like the Second Opium War .
Most clipper cards were printed in the 1850s and 1860s, and represented the first pronounced use of color in American advertising art. Relatively few (perhaps 3,500) cards survive today. With their rarity and importance as artifacts of nautical, Western, and printing history, clipper cards are highly prized by both private collectors and institutions.