The Maritime Heritage Project

World Harbors from The Maritime Heritage Project in San Francisco.

Seaports of the World




United States: New York, New York

The Seaport district at the lower end of Manhattan Island dates back to the 1600s and, over a period of 300 years, grew into one of the City's most vital commercial centers, serving as the international gateway to New York.

Quality reprints available by clicking on the image.
Henry Hudson's Ship Half Moon
Meets native American in the Hudson River Highlands
c. 1609

In 1624, the Dutch colony of New Netherland was founded, with the town of New Amsterdam on the lower tip of Manhattan established as its key settlement. Peter Minuit was subsequently sent by the Dutch West India Company to take charge of its holdings in America, and in 1626, he formally purchased Manhattan (for $24) from the local tribe from which it derives it name.

The Manhattans, Indians of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock, did not understand European customs of property and it was not long before they came into armed conflict with the rapidly expanding Dutch settlement at New Amsterdam. Beginning in 1640, a protracted war was fought between the colonists and the Manhattans, ending five years later with the tribe practically exterminated.

In 1664, without resistance, Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant surrendered New Amsterdam to a British naval force under Colonel Richard Nicolls, ending the Netherlands' colonial role in the New World. With the departure of the Dutch, the name of the promising settlement was changed to New York, in honor of the duke of York.

Quality reprints available by clicking on images.

Map of New York, c. 1839, David H. Burr.

David H. Burr is of one of the first and most important truly American cartographers and map publishers. Burr was born in Bridgeport Connecticut in August of 1803. In 1822 Burr moved to Kingsboro, New York to study law. A year and a half later he was admitted to the New York Bar association. Shortly after being admitted to the Bar, he joined the New York State Militia.

Though largely untrained in the art of Surveying, Burr was assigned to work under Surveyor General of New York, Simeon De Witt, to survey several New York Roadways. Burr was able to negotiate with the governor of New York at the time, De Witt Clinton, to obtain copies of other New York survey work in order to compile a map and Atlas of the state of New York. Recognizing the need for quality survey work of its territory, the government of New York heartily endorsed and financed Burr's efforts. The resulting 1829 Atlas of the State of New York was the second atlas of an individual U.S. State and one of the most important state atlases ever produced. Burr went on to issue other maps both of New York and of the United States in general.

Several were done of various regions of New York State in 1829, 1839 and 1840; many are available are clicking on the image above.

New York became a great city because of its access to the sea and through the 17th and 18th centuries, the city and the port grew steadily. By the start of the 19th century, the port -- located along South Street -- had begun a period of intense growth and activity. Brooklyn was incorporated as a village in 1816 and construction began on the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Wallabout Bay. After the Erie Canal opened in 1825, waterfront warehouses and factories began to appear along the East River.

New York Harbor.
First-Class Passengers' baggage inspection.
New York Harbor. 1880s

Enterprising merchants created new waterfront land here for hastily built warehouses and counting-houses to handle the wealth of goods coming in and out of the city by ship. The district received further boosts from the inauguration of Fulton's Brooklyn ferry service in 1814 and the establishment of the Fulton Market in 1822. In 1825, with the opening of the 425-mile Erie connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean via the Hudson River, produce and goods from the country's midwest poured into the harbor. Settlers poured into western New York, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin. Goods were transported at one-tenth the previous fees in less than half the previous time. Barge loads of farm produce and raw materials traveled east and manufactured goods and supplies flowed west. The port was booming, and South Street became known to the world as the "Street of Ships." China clippers, trans-Atlantic packets, coastal and Caribbean schooners, grain barges, fishing smacks, and Long Island Sound steamboats crowded the teeming wharves.

During the months immediately following the discovery of gold in California, New York became the center of ship building in America.

Japanese silks from Japan.

Milwaukee Daily News, Milwaukee Wisconsin May 4, 1855

A SERIOUS CHARGE--Stephen E. Glover, a well-known merchant of New York, has been arrested on a charge of fitting out the barque Milendon for the slave trade and required to give bail in $20,000.

New York Daily Times Saturday, September 10, 1858

SIXTEEN DAYS LATER FROM CALIFORNIA
Arrival of the Star of the West.
Over $1,000,000 in Gold Dust


The steamship Star of the West, Captain E. L. Tinklepaugh, arrived at 10 o'clock yesterday, in eight days from San Juan del Norte, with 560 passengers and $971,523 in gold dust on freight, and $475,000 in the hands of passengers—to Charles Morgon. She brings dates from San Francisco per Sierra Nevada, to 4 o'clock P.M. of August 16. The Pacific U.S. Mail steamship Winfield Scott left same date at 9 o'clock A.M. Tues U.S. frigate Columbia left San Juan August 31 at 4 P.M. bound to Pensacola—officers and crew all well. The brig Globe, to leave 3d inst. for New York. Hon. Solon Borland, Minister for Central America, was to proceed to Granada on the 3d inst.

Quality reprints available by clicking on images.
Merchant Ships Unloading Along South Street
New York. 1870s

 

Currier and Ives.
Steamship: Saloon, c.1878
Currier & Ives

We clip from the San Francisco Herald the following summary of the fortnight's news:

The news of the past fortnight possesses a good deal of interest. The Nicaragua steamship Sierra Nevada arrived on Sunday afternoon, July 31, a little before 6, in eleven and a half days from San Juan bringing dates from New York tot he 5th ult. and from New Orleans to the 7th. The P.M.S.S. Co's steamer, Oregon with New York files of the same date, did not arrived until Friday afternoon, August 5, in fifteen days from Panama. She, however, brought telegraphic dispatches from New York by way of New Orleans, to the 9th ult., and New Orleans papers to the 13th. Both steams brought a large number of passengers.

Mormon immigrants arriving in New York.
Mormon Immigrants Arrive at Castle Garden
New York

After the 1860s South Street declined, as New York outgrew its East River port. The maritime industry shifted from sail to steam, and deep-water piers drew ships across town to the Hudson River. By the mid-twentieth century, the port's activity had moved to the city's west side, to Brooklyn and New Jersey. Only the Fulton Fish Market and a few lingering cargo lines continued to use South Street's deteriorating piers.

Castle Garden in New York in 1887.
Castle Garden, New York
Bartholdi's Status of Liberty, 1887

During the late 1800s, New York was the largest port of entry for immigrants arriving to the United States. In 1855, the state of New York opened Castle Garden, at the tip of Manhattan, where officials helped immigrants change money, buy railroad tickets, and find a place to stay. Critics claimed that the depot brought down property values and that the immigrants "smelled bad."

Buy at Art.com
Food Will Win the War
We need immigrants to conserve food

Monday, January 10, 1870
New York Herald

FLOATING CHURCH OF OUR SAVIOUR
The First Services in the New Building for Seamen, Foot of Pike Street
Sermons by Bishop Porter and the Rev. Samuel Cooke, D.D.
The Spiritual Comfort "Poor Jack" Has Received in this Port.

"The zest displayed by the "Protestant Episcopal Church Missionary Society for Seamen in the City and Port of New York," in the erection of the new and elegantly appointed floating chapel at the foot of Pike Street, East River, designed for the use and spiritual welfare of that class of men exposed to great temptations, both at sea and on shore, not ordinarily reached by the influences of the ministry and the Church, deserved the warmest commendation. God's blessing on such a work is already manifest. Not in the history of the society, when the first chapel was moored, in the year 1814, at the same location as the present, has the usefulness of the mission been so apparent as now. Yesterday, both in the morning and in the afternoon, services of consecration were held in the chapel, and appropriate thanksgiving in song and prayer indulged in, that such a place of rest, security and comfort, such a pleasant religious haven was finished. Throngs of ladies and gentlemen, friends and promoters of the Christian enterprise, guided by a heavenly impulse, participated in the exercises, and many were the ejaculations of surprise heard as they collectively referred to as the appearance of the chapel, in contract with the dens of sin that are open and usually receive "Poor Jack" when first he reaches port. "An estimate of the good work which this society has accomplished may be inferred from facts developed during yesterday's services. A "Home" in Franklin square, under the same management and founded by reason of the condition of that destitute and friendless class as observed in the original chapel, has received in fourteen years 12,701 men, of whom 1,000 destitute from shipwreck were gratuitously provided with board and clothing. The large sum of $146,812 has been received from inmates for deposit in savings banks or sent to their friends, and 750 men, mostly drunkards, were reformed, many of them afterward becoming members of city churches. For the twenty-five years the mission has been in operation, the result of the work accomplished is embodied in the following:—Seamen and boatmen, exclusive of others to whom they have proclaimed the Gospel through the services of the church and sermons delivered 150,000. Visits have been made to 10,000 sick sailors in the hospitals; distributed 7,129 Bibles, 16,697 Testaments, 8,708 Prayer Books; 75,558 miscellaneous books of a religious tendency, and over 2,760,000 pages of tracts; baptisms, 1,544; confirmations, 324; marriages, 539; burials, 551; communicants added, 516."

Mennonite Immigrants from Russia arrive in New York 1873.
Mennonite Immigrants from Russia arriving in New York for Journey to Dakota Territory. 1873.

On January 1, 1892, after immigration services were taken over by the federal government, a new and larger immigration station was opened on Ellis Island in New York harbor. Here, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, immigrants underwent medical examinations and answered questions about their work, money situations, and destinations. Later a literacy test was also administered. At its peak, more than 5000 people a day were processed at Ellis Island and during its tenure, more than 12 million people went through Ellis Island.

Quality reprints available by clicking on images.
Ellis Island Immigration Depot, New York City

Hamilton Daily Democrat, Hamilton, Ohio
Thursday, July 19, 1888

The Immigration of Foreigners

There is no line of statistical figures more amazing, and yet unquestionable in their bearing, than those which give us the immigration of foreigners into our states.

In 1820 there were a little over 8,000. In 1825 a little more than 10,000. In 1830, 23,000. And in 1885, 45,000; 1840 does not quite reach 100,000, but 1845 goes over that figure up to 114,000. From that date, the tide has risen higher, and constantly higher, with only occasional ebbing. In 1865 them were over 200,000. In 1870 over 300,000. In 1872 over 400,000. In 1892, 788,502. This was the maximum figure touched. The total immigration during those years, from 1820 to 1887, amounts of 13,802,771. The effect of pouring such a vast bulk of foreign people, with foreign ideas, into our land, has been nearly as great on ourselves as on them. Our Institutions have been largely modified, and are in danger of still greater modification.

Globe-Democrat

Wall Street in New York City.
Colorized Wall Street Scene, New York City

American Settler, London, England
June 21, 1890

THE RISE AND FUTURE OF NEW YORK CITY

New York City is destined to be the largest in the world. It already contains counting all the suburban portion, about 3,500,000 inhabitants, and as it grows at the rate of a third every ten years it will not take long before it is abreast of London. Such are the advantages of position that although its government always bad, and at times infamous, may have checked its growth slightly, nothing can stop the advance of the great commercial metropolis of America to the first place in point of population.

In the main town on Manhattan Island the inhabitants are reckoned at 1,600, 000 : Brooklyn 850,000; Jersey City 150,000; Long Island City, Hoboken, Staten Island, Yonkers, and other towns and villages around, making up the rest. Another disadvantage under which the commercial city labours is that its population comes under two States, being divided also into four cities and six counties. The port is lined by these cities, all really homogenous and governed by the same interest, one in sentiment and political aspiration, yet, as the New York Times has remarked, under conflicting municipal machines, which stand in the way of its healthful and orderly progress.

The tendency, however, is to consolidation, though there may be grave difficulties. By tunnels, by bridges, by railroads, and steamers, all the disjointed sections are being united ; and although two sovereign States may claim part of the New York harbour, the communication is so close, the interests so intimate, that a means will be devised by which this vast mass of population, increasing more rapidly than is any Western settlement may be united in one government. If New York city reaches as it quickly will to a population of 5,000,000 it might claim a government, apart from the States by which its two cities are misruled.

Hudson River by Currier and Ives.
Hudson River Steamships
Currier & Ives

The commercial metropolis is a sort of milch cow to the politicians at Albany, and interests really adverse; to those of the great American city prevail in the State capital where lobbyists can deal with Bills which have money in them. The city owes the high place it occupies to its port, its river, and the fact that the natural cleft through the Alleghenies to the Valley of the Mississippi and the Great Lakes leads to that port. It forms a waterway and a highway for railroads, and presents the advantage of a navigable river, and a level line leading through a chain of mountains into the section which forms the producing prairies.

Sailing ship in a dockyard.
Close-up of a Sailing Ship in a dockyard.

It is not only the most capacious but the deepest port along the whole seaboard of the North Atlantic ; and although cities possessing many facilities such as Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, &c, grow apace, they are all outstripped, falling farther and farther behind, each decade, till what were once rivals are compelled to admit that they have passed altogether out of the same category as New York. Yet the policy of the U. S. has been detrimental to the growth of New York city and other seaports. To make a port really great, it should be free, and whatever acts as a restriction, handicaps its growth. The American policy has been to exclude foreign products, to encourage home industries, and to reduce the competition of the cheaper labour of Europe to the smallest dimensions.

Cunard passing the Statue of Liberty historical print.
Cunard Line Ship Passing Statue of Liberty
New York

New York is the gateway, and if the American people incline to close those gates, that policy reduces the value of the port. Full and free imports stimulate to large exports, and if all the roads concentrated on New York for the exports and distributed the imports from New York, business would increase and the city would flourish to a still greater degree. Nothing can stop the growth, though something might impede, and New York city grows, and will continue to grow though ruled by a Tammany Hall, with Ward politicians to parcel out its municipal offices; though broken up into contending sections under different governments, and though the policy at Washington should continue to be to check to the utmost the import trade.

The National City Bank of New York

City Bank of New York was chartered by New York State on June 16, 1812, with $2 million of capital. Serving a group of New York merchants, the bank opened for business on September 14 of that year, and Samuel Osgood was elected as the first President of the company. The company's name was changed to The National City Bank of New York in 1865 after it joined the new U.S. national banking system, and it became the largest American bank by 1895. It became the first contributor to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 1913, and the following year it inaugurated the first overseas branch of a U.S. bank in Buenos Aires (although the bank had, since the mid-19th century, been active in plantation economies, such as the Cuban sugar industry). The 1918 purchase of U.S. overseas bank International Banking Corporation helped it become the first American bank to surpass $1 billion in assets, and it became the largest commercial bank in the world in 1929.

December 31, 1897, Los Angeles Herald
Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

JEWISH PATRIOTISM
Proved During the Fight for American Independence

NEW YORK, Dec. 30.—The chief paper read at the second day's session of the American Jewish Historical society's meeting was by Leon Huhner, on "New York Jews in the Struggle for American Independence." Mr. Huhner said that a larger proportion of the Jews were loyal to the American cause than any other residents of the state; that the Jews of '76 have for all time answered the question: "Can Jews be patriotic?" At the conclusion of Mr. Huhner's address there was some discussion on the paper of President Oscar Strauss, read yesterday, in reference to the ten lost tribes. As to the authority for the belief that the American Indians were the lost tribes, Dr. Cyrus Aller said that Monteclnos was the first Jew to originate the idea that the Indians were descended from the lost tribes. Dr. Kohler said that," Whoever was the first, he must have derived his view from Christian sources. , Dr. Leo Welner of Harvard related some interesting folk stories from the German in relation to the lost tribes, which he gathered during the last year.

New York World, July 4, 1899

CUSTOM-HOUSE SITE SOLD.
National City Bank Gets It on Highest Bid of $3,285,000
Only Two Other Bidders

WASHINGTON, July 3.-The Secretary of the Treasury to-day opened bids on the New York Custom-House property. He awarded the property to the National City Bank of New York on the bid of $3,265,000, this being the highest received. There were two other bids, the New York Realty, Bond, Exchange and Trust Company at $3,075,000, and the Farmers' Loan and Trust Company at $3,050,000.

The bid of the City Bank was made in the name of Its President, James S. Stlllman. He enclosed a check for $150,030 as part payment, and stated in his letter of transmlttal that he preferred paying a large part of the purchase price in cash.

City Bank of New York.
City Bank, Farmers Trust. New York City

July 11, 1890, Daily Alta California

CRUISERS ON OUR COASTS.
The New York Tribune Advises England to Take Her Warships Away

New York, July 10th. -- The Tribune, in an editorial on the Behring Sea matter to-morrow, will say that Congress has acted wisely in calling for correspondence on the controversy. "It is evident," says the editorial, that Lord Salisbury is advancing some most absurd contentions. There is some reason to believe that a certain quality of menace is imparted to his latter tones. Some curious military and naval operations have been going on lately about our coast. Great Britain has been strengthening her splendid defenses at Halifax, increasing the military and naval forces there, has been adding to her fleet at the Bermudas and Bahamas, and sending a considerable squadron to the Behring sea. If she desires this display to be interpreted by the United States as a menace, she is engaged in a foolish and regrettable business. It is not agreeable to a spirited people to feel that an effort is being made to awe them into submission by a display ot engines of force.

"We can imagine no proceeding on England's part more likely to convince the American people that the Behring sea is mare clausum than the presence of British gunboats in the neighborhood of our Pribylov islands. We can fancy no demonstration more admirably calculated to unite this country in resolute determination on its extreme demand than the sight of British cruisers hovering around our Atlantic coast. It is desirable that Great Britain should appreciate this point. Americans cannot suppose that this unusual congress of war ships is an expression of genuine British friendship. But whatever it means, it serves no good purpose, and the British Government will do itself a favor by ordering its cruisers away."

Steamboat Landing in New York.
Steamboat Landing, Albany, New York

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Merchant Adventurer.
Merchant Adventurer:
The Story of W. R. Grace
(Latin American Silhouettes)
W. R. Grace, Merchant Adventurer.
Marquis James
This biography was written by two-time Pulitzer winner Marquis James in 1948, but was never published. W.R. Grace's son commissioned James to write it when the author was at the height of his career. However, as Viking Press was about to print the book, the Grace company decided not to release it. It then lay in the firm's archives until it was uncovered by Lawrence Clayton of the University of Alabama. "Merchant Adventurer" tells the story of one of America's most successful immigrants. First arriving in America in 1846, Irish-born William R. Grace worked his way up from ordinary seaman to become master of a vast commercial empire, reformer of the Democratic party and New York City's first Catholic mayor. Grace's fortune quickly rose once he began supplying ships in the Peruvian guano trade. By the late 1860s, Grace was a rich man; his firm, headquartered in New York, operated vessels all over the world, helped build railroads in Latin America, and ran guns to Peru for its disastrous war against Chile. Yet Grace's energies did not stop with his business dealings. In the 1880s he served twice as mayor of New York, successfully fighting the corruption of Tammany Hall. As the century waned, he battled to control the rubber market and nearly won a contract to build what is now the Panama Canal.

Steamships.New York.
Transatlantic: Samuel Cunard, Isambard Brunel, and the Great Atlantic SteamshipsNew York.
Stephen Fox

Note: Illustrations on this site are here to bring the stories to life; if you wish to order a copy, reproductions are often available by clicking the image.

New York.
Patrick: The Irish ImmigrantNew York.
Brenna Cagiano
By the age of seventeen, Patrick J. O’Shea had saved enough money to buy passage to the United States. Upon his arrival in New York City, Patrick used his ambition and determination, mixed with a dash of Irish malarkey, to set himself up with a job and a new life. This recipe served him well throughout his adventures that led him from New York City to the Territory of Hawaii and throughout the world. The author recorded her father’s life story and transformed it into this book in his memory.

New York.Passengers.
A Maritime History of New York
Barbara La Rocco
Writers Project (WPA) This is a republication of a seminal work about New York City’s waterfront which begins with the formation of New York Harbor in the Ice Age and covers the history of the great seaport through when the book was first published in 1941. The Going Coastal edition includes a new prologue that offers an anthology of the book, a new foreword providing a tour of the Port of New York today, and a new epilogue summarizing port developments from 1941 to modern times. 

New York.
The New York Times
The Complete Front Pages:
1851-2008
New York.

New York.
Black Powder, White Lace:
The Du Pont Irish and Cultural Identity in Nineteenth-Century America

(Becoming Modern: New Nineteenth-Century Studies)
New York.
Margaret M. Mulrooney

United States HistoryNew York.

Battle At Sea.
Battle at Sea and
3,000 Years of Naval History
New York.

Merchants and Whalers.Immigrants 1800s.
Hudson's Merchants and Whalers: The Rise and Fall of a River Port, 1783-1850Passage to New York.

The Old Helmet by Susan Bogert Warner 1819 to 1885New York.
The Old Helmet (Dodo Press)Immigrants.
Susan Bogert Warner (1819-1885), was an American evangelical writer of religious fiction, childrens fiction, and theological works. She wrote, under the name of Elizabeth Wetherell, thirty novels, many of which went into multiple editions. However, her first novel, The Wide, Wide World (1850), was the most popular. It was translated into several other languages, including: French, German, and Dutch.

New York.
When General Grant
Expelled the Jews
New York.
Jonathan D. Sarna
“Sarna’s remarkably illuminating little gem of a book also reminds us that being Jewish in America has always been a complex psychological negotiation. His new book examines this phenomenon while closely studying a little-known slice of early American Jewish history that will both amaze and distress readers.” —Jerusalem Post Magazine

Sloops of the Hudson. New York 1800s. 
The Sloops of the Hudson River:
A Historical and Design Survey
(Maritime)
Passage to New York. 
Historical sketch of the Packet and Market Sloops of the last century with a record of their names and names of some of the notable North River sailing masters.

Ship Passenger Lists.
Ship Passenger Lists:
Immigrants to America
Immigrants 1800s. 

Other Immigrants.New York.

Other Immigrants: The Global Origins of the American PeopleNew York.
David Reimers
Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians represent three of every four immigrants who arrived in the United States after 1970. Yet despite their large numbers and long history of movement to America, non-Europeans are conspicuously absent from many books about immigration.

Sextant by David Barrie.
Sextant:
A Young Man's Daring Sea Voyage and the Men Who Mapped the World's Oceans
Mapping the World's Oceans.
David Barrie.

Rare and Collectible Books at AbeBooks.com

Rare Books.
First Migrants
Ancient Migration in Global Perspective
Ancient Migrations.
Peter Bellwood

The Maritime Heritage Project provides free information on world migration and exploration during the 1800s. Please consider supporting The Project by purchasing from our sponsors and advertisers or

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