The Rise of New York Port (1815-1860)

The Rise of New York Port (1815-1860)

The Rise of New York Port (1815-1860)

The Rise of New York Port (1815-1860)

Excerpt

The history of the port of New York has been long neglected--perhaps because the world's greatest seaport has been too busy with its present and its future to be bothered with its past. Many sleepy little New England ports, with rotting wharves and vanished commerce, have received fuller treatment. Those now-deserted waterfronts suggest the days of "wooden ships and iron men," but at New York one must carry on research within earshot of the humming traffic of a crowded midtown corner or of penetrating harbor whistles at the busiest of custom houses.

The port's whole history is too complex for compression into one volume without crowding out much of the illustrative detail. This present work is devoted to the significant middle period from 1815 to 1860, when New York definitely drew ahead of its rivals and established itself as the chief American seaport and metropolis. According to present expectations, studies will follow of the colorful two centuries which preceded this period, and of the years since 1860, when the port rose to world primacy. In addition to these three general volumes, several specialized studies of particular aspects of the port history are in prospect, because a comprehensive picture of the port's manifold activities makes it impossible to utilize but a small part of the illustrative material gathered. The first of these studies, dealing with the New York sailing packets, appeared a few months ago, and others are planned, devoted to captains and crews, the coasting trade, marine risks, and the like.

The story of a general seaport like New York cannot be limited to mere local history. The economic activity of the whole world passed in review along the wharves and in the countinghouses of South Street a century ago. One must, therefore, consider at least briefly the textile factories of Manchester, the hongs of Canton, the flour mills of Rochester, and the cotton-laden levees of New Orleans, as well as much else. There was scarcely a single branch of American maritime activity in which New York did not participate and lead. To place such varied elements in their proper setting; to show the workings of waterfront and business district; and to explain New York's successful com-

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