Not Quite Coastal

The picture above is part of a panorama of the East River piers, listed as circa 1908. Some downtown Brooklyn high-rises are visible across the river.

Pier 9 was at Old Slip, which is to say several blocks south of Wall Street. This is the oldest part of the port of New York, although the various piers had been rebuilt again and again as landfill pushed the river back from Pearl Street to Water Street to Front Street to South Street. Even after the landfill stopped, the piers were rebuilt for larger ships.

The Munson Line was a new company then, founded in 1899 specifically to run freighters between New York and the Caribbean – starting with Havana – and eventually expanding to various South American ports. After 1919, it ran passengers ships as well. Munson’s ships would have resembled the steamship immediately to the left of pier 9, not the steel-hulled sailing ships further left. Because the East River piers were smaller than those in the Hudson, they were by 1900 largely relegated to non-ocean-going ships – coastal steamers for example. Munson was an exception, although one that still used relatively small vessels.

Mostly, I like the picture. Technological change, caught in the act again.

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