Seriously

In case you thought the sailing ship in my post a couple of days ago was some kind of fluke, here are two views of the East River docks around 1900.

The first picture shows the new skyscrapers of the financial district from a funny angle (low and from the east); the second picture shows those same two ships plus a few more, and the skyscrapers of Park Row – the Park Row Building on the left and the dome of the World Building on the right, with the Tribune and American Tract Society between – looking north and west.

In short, the coastal trade obviously was still being carried, in part, by sailing ships at the beginning of the 1900s. There were also steamers being tied up in the same area for the same routes, suggesting that the sailing ships were carrying cargo (and who knows, maybe passengers) that did not have a fixed timetable. I’m a big fan of the appropriate use of technology, and the steam-powered tugboat in the foreground of the second picture is an obvious example: tugs have to move in any direction at any time, pushing or pulling significant loads behind their own weight. They can only work with engines. There is today some interest in equipping bulk freight carriers with sails to get free and non-polluting power when time is not the most important criterion for transport.

This week’s theme seems to be “cool pictures” and it’s hard to find a more cool image of New York than full-rigged ships tied up along South Street, just a few blocks from the brand-new reality of skyscrapers.

Scroll to Top