Manufacturers, Commerce, Industry, Transportation And Its Harbor

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The value of the manufactured products of New York is considerably more than 50 per cent. greater than that of any other American city. Manhattan and Bronx alone rank first, Brooklyn alone ranks fourth. Of fifteen industries selected by the census of 1900 for comparison between the great manufacturing centers, New York City held first rank in eight. The total capital invested in manufactures in that year was $921,876,000. and the value of products aggregated $1,371,358,000. The industrial prominence of the city is not due to large iron and steel, textile or meat-packing interests--the industries which have been responsible for the growth of many American cities--but rather to a large group of manufactures peculiar to city life and mainly of local interest. The city's most important industry is the manufacture of clothing. 

In the census year 1900 the value of women's clothing (factory product) was $102,711,604, and of men's clothing, $103,220,201, besides a great amount of custom work and repairing, and dressmaking. The aggregate output of all industries in but two other cities exceeded the value of the clothing product of New York. The abundance of cheap, unskilled labor, in consequence of the large immigrant population, partially explains the growth of this industry. Much of the work is done in tenement houses and small workshops, and comparatively little in large factories. Sugar and molasses refining ranks second in value of the product, which in 1900 was $88,598,113. 

In the printing and publishing business, the value of which in 1900 was $78,736,069, New York ranks far above other American cities. Among other industries are the manufactures of foundry and machine-shop products, malt liquors, tobacco, cigars and cigarettes; the roasting and grinding of coffee and spices; the manufacture of millinery and lace goods, men's furnishing goods, fur goods, shirts, furniture, musical instruments, paints and electrical apparatus and supplies. New York has hardly a rival in the variety of its highly finished manufactured articles. The sugar and molasses refining industry is confined mainly to Brooklyn. There are also in Brooklyn extensive foundries and machine shops, and establishments for the roasting and grinding of coffee and spices.

Commerce and Industry

New York did not rise to commercial preeminence until the beginning of the nineteenth century. Its rise is due to its central location on the Atlantic seaboard, and especially to its excellent harbor, which lies at the entrance to the fine natural waterway, the Hudson
River and the Mohawk Valley, leading to the highly productive North-Central portion of the United States. The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 was the most important event in the business history of the city. New York was already far in advance of its rivals before the building of railroads began, a fact which tended to make it a great focal point in their construction. it is difficult to overemphasize the importance of New York as an entrepot of trade. It is without a rival as the centre of the wholesale dry goods and wholesale grocery business. Not only does it market its own manufactures and the greater part of its imports, but the trade in many varieties of domestic goods, produced outside of the city, centers here.

The port of New York includes all the municipalities on New York Harbor and the Hudson River. In 1901 64 per cent. of the total imports and 35.60 per cent. of the total exports, or 45.73 per cent, of the total foreign trade of the United States, passed through New York, its commerce being five times that of the next largest American port. The imports for that year were valued at $527,259,906 and the exports at $529,592,978. While the trade is rapidly increasing, there has been in recent years a relative decrease, the port in 1882 having had nearly 57 per cent. of the total trade of the country. New York has practically a monopoly in the trade between the European countries and the Great Lake and Northwest region. On the other hand, its location places it at a disadvantage with the more southern Atlantic Coast ports in the trade with the Lower Mississippi and the Ohio Valley Regions. 

Some of the leading imports of the country, such as rubber and elastic goods, silk goods and furs, are received almost wholly through New York. It also imports the bulk of manufactured goods generally, including manufactures of cotton, linen, and jute goods, jewelry and precious stones, chemicals, coffee, cocoa, and tobacco. It leads in imports of sugar. The relative rank of the city is much lower in respect to the principal exports of the country. It exports less flour, etc., the shipments of the latter class having decreased in recent years, and only about one-tenth of the cotton. It exports a large part of the copper and most of the machinery. In 1901, 878 sail and 2945 steam vessels engaged in the foreign trade cleared the port of New York. Their aggregate tonnage was 8,118,427. The volume of the coastwise trade greatly transcends that of the foreign trade. The transfer of freight at the port of New York is done almost wholly through the use of barges, lighters, etc., as there are no railroad tracks along the docks.

New York City has profited immensely from the advantages of internal transportation afforded by the Hudson River and the Erie Canal. In recent years the canal traffic has decreased. The canal is still of great importance, however, owing to its competition with the railway lines. All the railroads which approach New York from west of the Hudson River have their terminals in New Jersey. These lines are the Pennsylvania, the West Shore, the Erie, the New York, Ontario and Western, the Lackawana, the Philadelphia and Reading, the Lehigh Valley, the Central Railroad of New Jersey, and the Baltimore and Ohio. The Pennsylvania Company has projected a tunnel from the New Jersey shore under North and East Rivers to Long Island, with a great station in Manhattan. The lines which approach from the north, the New York Central and Hudson River, and the New York, New Haven and Hartford, have a union passenger station, the Grand Central Station, under the control of the New York Central. The Long Island Railroad maintains terminals in Long Island City and Brooklyn. The daily traffic on all these lines to the suburbs is enormous.

The harbor proper consists of the lower and upper bays, the former covering about 88 square miles of anchorage, and the latter 14 square miles. Between the two is Staten Island. The principal passage from one to the other is by way of the east channel called the Narrows, which at one point is only a mile in width. Small vessels may pass also on the west side of the island. The harbor is approached from the ocean from two directions, the principal one being from the southeast. The Sandy Hook Bar stretches across this entrance, about 20 miles from the lower end of Manhattan, the deepest channel having been originally 16 feet at mean low water. In 1884 the National Government provided for dredging this channel to a width of 1000 feet and a depth of 30 feet.

In 1899 a provision was made for the dredging of another entrance channel farther to the east, 2000 feet wide and 40 feet deep, requiring an excavation about 7 miles in length. Work upon this channel is still in progress. The other entrance into the harbor is from Long Island Sound. From the Sound, the passage leads through Hell Gate, at Ward's Island, into the East River, which is about half a mile in width. The tide flows very swiftly through the river, especially the ebb-tide. Extensive improvements were begun on this course about traffic. In 1901, the battleship Massachusetts, drawing 27 feet of water, successfully passed through it. The great strength of the ebb-tide current serves to keep the port open in winter, and in a measure, to prevent the deposit of sediment. The North River (Hudson), which is about one mile in width, does not carry as much sediment as most rivers. Some dredging, however, has been necessary.

The Sandy Hook entrance to the southeast is guarded by elaborate fortifications on Sandy Hook. (see Fort Hancock.) The passage through the Narrows is protected by Fort Hamilton on the east (Long Island) shore and by Forts Tompkins and Wadsworth on the west (Staten Island) shore. Besides the works at the east entrance of Long Island Sound, the approach from that direction is defended by fortifications on the closely approaching points. Throggs Neck and Willets Point, within the limits of the city, and on Davis Island, a few miles to the north. Governor's Island, just south of Manhattan, is also fortified. Almost the entire water front of Manhattan, about 22 miles, is deep enough to admit of heavy shipping, and the total frontage within the limits of the greater city is several times this.

The docks already constructed occupy but a small part of the available space. Docks and piers naturally were built first on the lower end of Manhattan, the line gradually being extended northward on both sides of the Island. The line is almost unbroken on the west side for a distance of about four miles, and many piers are still farther north. On the east docks are less numerous. In Brooklyn the docks extend along that portion of the shore opposite the lower end of Manhattan and farther south in Gowanus Bay. A part of the water front of Manhattan was acquired by the city from the Crown of England and subsequently State laws added to the portion belonging to the city. The greater part of the entire frontage, including in 1901 170 whole and 12 half piers out of a total of 224, is controlled by the city. The Brooklyn water front is owned mainly by private persons.


Website: The History
Article Name: Manufacturers, Commerce, Industry, Transportation and its Harbors
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: The New International Encyclopedia; Dodd, Mead and Company-New York (1902-1905) 21 volumes.
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