Lookout was launched in 1853, just as the construction of clippers reached its peak. The day that Lookout loaded for her first trip to sea, Nov. 10, 1853, there were ten other new clippers loading at the piers in New York for their maiden voyages: Chief of Clippers, Edwin Forrest, Electric, David Brown, David Crockett, Dreadnought, Golden Fleece, Lightfoot, Pride of America, and Quickstep.
Lookout made 16 passages to San Francisco between 1854 and 1871. Her fastest was 108 days. On three voyages she met with unfavorable weather, her slowest trip being 157 days; however, her remaining 13 passages averaged 121 days, a very respectable showing.
She also called at the ports of Boston, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Liverpool, Callao, Chamala, Mexico, Honolulu, New Bedford, and Port Stanley, as well as making a voyage to Australia, before she was sold into the Pacific Coast lumber and coal trade in 1871.
In 1855, on a voyage from San Francisco to Hong Kong, Lookout was two days shy of Hong Kong when she encountered a British clipper, the Invincible, in distress and about to be abandoned. Invincible had collided with the ship A. Chesebrough and sunk it, but managed to save members of the Chesebrough's crew. Lookout received $25,000 in salvage money for its efforts in assisting the Invincible to reach Hong Kong.Lookout boy aloft, by Harrison Weir
In September 1867, the three clipper ships Lookout, Franklin, and Haze delivered a total of four locomotives between them to San Francisco for the California Pacific Railroad Company. Lookout left New York on April 26, 1867, and arrived in San Francisco on Sept. 11, 1867.
In 1878, Lookout was wrecked in the Japan Sea. She was en route to Puget Sound from Shanghai, and was partially dismasted in a typhoon on Sept. 12. She went up on a reef near the island of Kutsonoshima. Three crewmen drowned attempting to land the ship’s boats; the rest managed to land with the help of local fishermen.