New York: The Foot of South Street in 1876


This is a typical summer scene on South Street, looking north toward the Eire Railroad wharf. Imagine hearing the cries of vendors, the jolting of drays and wagons over the sandy ground, and the chatter of busy merchants and shipping men.

In the painting, several blue-water traders are moored at the fingerlike docks. Many other types of vessels also called at South Street. As early as the 1850s, commuters were carried by steamboats such as the Sylvan Glenn from East 130th Street in Harlem Village to Peck Slip along South Street. There were also shipyards located on the East River.

In 1876, at the time of this scene, the East River was a busy waterway for lighters, schooners, ferries, and tugs. A tug was usually required to tow an incoming or outgoing ship through the fierce currents of the river. In the nineteenth century South Street was one of the busiest “waterway crossroads” of the world.

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