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New York City, Coney Island and northern New Jersey coast (USA)
This section covers paddle steamer operations in the New York City area, primarily excursion trips. The leading operator of trips up the Hudson River valley was the Hudson River Day Line. This service is covered on the Hudson River page as the operators primary service was a  day-long transportation link to Albany, the capital of the State of New York. Numerous coastal communities and towns along the Hudson were linked by locally-based primarily "night lines" which were primarily a means for people from these communities to get to New York and for light cargoes to be transported. In the period prior to comprehensive railway networks, they were the easiest way to get to and from the city and in many cases they also formed part of longer journeys which could only be partially completed by rail. The service to the railhead at Fall River MA was the primary connection between New York and Boston and the route of the highly-prestigious Fall River Line. The overnight services are covered in the Hudson River and Long Island Sound sections. There were numerous short ferry connections in the New York City area, many still, in 1900, provided by steam paddlers. These are not covered.

New York City was, and to some extent still is, the international hub of the United States, with the import and export of merchandise and the arrival of vast numbers of immigrants, which in the paddle steamer era were almost exclusively from Europe. Ocean liners docked in the city centre and freight vessels at a range of facilities along the Hudson River in Brooklyn and on the western banks in the growing port towns of New Jersey. With much of the traffic to and from the interior of the continent increasingly handled by railways, there remained a significant amount of trade along the Hudson River both in terms of people and cargoes. The waters around New York became extremely busy with international traffic and also regional traffic with vessels coming in from other coastal ports in New England to the north and states such as Maryland and Virginia to the south.

In amongst all this were local services for commuters from New York's burgeoning suburbs on the Hudson, along the banks of Long Island Sound and in New Jersey. It was not just commuting. New Yorkers took to the water to escape the city and go to the country, the beach or the funfair. The city's Coney Island provided the latter two in copious amounts, only 15 miles  (20 km) from downtown Manhattan and in the absence of a railway, paddle steamers were the preferred way to get there. Ships providing local ferry and excursion services, many of them paddle steamers, had to weave their way through the crowded waters in large numbers ....... and accidents were not infrequent and in some cases the consequences tragic. One company tried to survive in the cut throat business by ordering a fleet of iron-hulled paddlers with far more watertight compartments than ever seen before and referred to them being fireproof and unsinkable in their marketing. Their plan was a success and their safety record excellent. 

Whilst never reaching the magnitude of the palatial steamers operating on the Day Line up the River Hudson, the local steamers were not unsubstantial. The early days were, as elsewhere, pretty much a free for all for independent steamboat owners once Robert Fulton's early monopoly on services could not be sustained. Amongst them was a young Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877), future railway tycoon, who began working on his father's ferry from his Staten Island home to Manhattan and adopting steam at the earliest opportunity. New York had no shortage of aspirational businessmen wishing to capitalise on the USA's rapid growth and transport was always one of the routes to riches, at least for those who prevailed in the fierce competition. Vanderbilt had seen off many adversaries and by the 1860s was turning his attention from the waters of New York to building the Union's greatest rail businesses. One particularly notable name from the next generation was John H Starin (1825-1909). At the turn of the century his business interests, developed in medicine manufacturing, expanded into local railways, ferries to Staten Island, shipping from Connecticut and a towage business which served the bustling port of New York. Now installed as a congressman, he turned his mind to developing the country's pioneering and premier theme park ......... to which he brought excursionists in their millions with his own fleet of steamers.

Tragedy struck on the morning of 15th June 1904 when fire aboard General Slocum, a paddler on a charter excursion on the East River, led to the loss of over a thousand lives.

Passenger Paddle Steamers Registered as at 30th June 1900
Registered at New York City   :  Note : Does not include vessels registered elsewhere which serve New York.  See Hudson River and Long Island Sound pages  

James T Brett 1853 14011
Emeline 1857 7225
Georgeanna 1859 10043
Edmund Butler 1861 95074
Bay Queen 1862 10512
Matteawan 1862 17337
Howard Carroll 1863 6255
JS Warden 1863 7711
Meta 1863 16998
Northfield 1863 18276
Republic 1863 21439
John Sylvester 1864 13185
Sea Gull 1864 2578
City of Key West 1865 5020
John H Starin 1865 75870
Chrystenah 1866 4879
Tolchester 1866 23800
Minnahanonck 1868 90369
Mohawk 1870 5976
Myndert Starin 1871 105094
Harlem 1872 95131
Old Dominion                                                 1872     19350
Shady Side 1873 115180
Idlewild 1876 100175
Accomack*** 1877 105686
Angler 1878 91079
Grand Republic 1878 85541
St Johns 1878 115633
Laura M Starin 1879 140364
Glen Island 1880 125850
Cepheus 1881 125904
Cetus 1881 125903
Cygnus 1881 125900
Fredk de Bary ** 1881 120437
Pegasus 1881 150214
Perseus 1881 150213
Sirius 1881 115774
Taurus 1881 145253
City of Jacksonville ** 1882 126081
Luray *** 1882 140524
Sam Sloan 1882 115851
Martha E Dickerman **** 1883 91540
Governor Safford 1884 85864
Golden Star 1888 86004
John H Brinckerhoff  ***** 1889 76858
General Slocum 1891 86194
Glen 1893 86299
Mobjack *** 1899 92955

Other ship :

James W Wadsworth  1880   110422   ex- Ripple.  Former Babylon to Fire Island passenger ferry which fell into the hands of the State of New York in 1896 when the island was bought for use as a a quarantine island especially for containing infectious diseases carried by immigrants prior to processing on Ellis Island. The ship operated until 1921 and was scrapped

*          Note : Operated by the Joy Steamship Company on Long Island Sound routes
**        Note : Operated on the St John's River, Florida, but registered to Clyde Lines at New York
***      Note : Accomack, Luray and Mobjack were (in 1900) owned by the NY-registered Old Dominion Steamship Co but operated local feeder services to Norfolk VA for their sea service to New York NY
****    Note : Martha E Dickermann appears to have been operating on the Albermarle Sound, NC
*****  Note : John H Brinckerhoff was a Hudson River ferry which later ran excursions from Bridgeport CT

New York registered ships sailing on the Hudson River : See Hudson River page

James W Baldwin                 186113190
M Martin186390072
Dean Richmond18656264
William F Romer188191372
Jacob H Tremper188576574
New York

Registered at Newark NJ

William Storie 1882 150266

Registered at Perth Amboy NJ

Magenta 1862 17324
Sea Bird 1865 22806
New Brunswick 1881 130187
Elberon 1888 135985
Pleasure Bay 1890 150495
Little Silver 1893 141318
Mary Patten 1893 92507

Paddle Steamers built after 1900  for registration and service at New York and Northern New Jersey
Excludes night services on Long Island Sound registered at other local ports

Thomas Patten (1901)
Majestic (1903)

Main New York City-based operators in 1900 :

 -  Starin Line (John H Starin)
 -  Knickerbocker Steamship Company
 -  Iron Steamboat Company  (inc the New Jersey Navigation Company)
 -  Myers Excursion & Transportation Company

Other Paddle Steamers on local services in 1900 : James T Brett, Edmund Butler, JS Warden

Post 1900 operators in New York City :

 -  McAllister Steamboat Company / Daniel F McAllister

New Jersey Service Operators in 1900    (see New Jersey Section below):

New York harbour ferries

Starin Line (John H Starin)

Although Starin's interest in local shipping centred on towage services and ferries to Staten Island is association with his railways, his passenger excursion ships were also the most prominent in New York waters. Starin's City River & Transportation Company was established in 1878. In 1881 a remarkable new pleasure park was opened over a number of small islands he had bought along the north coast of Long Island Sound at New Rochelle. Glen Island was the exact antidote to the beaches and funfairs of Coney Island. Vessels in the fleet with the distintive  *IN  pennant logo were Atlas, Ajax, Apollo, Adonis, Albion, Amphion, Aurora, Myndert Starin, Laura M Starin, Glen Island, Glen, Thomas Collyer, Matteawan and DR Martin.

Above : Post cards were big business and thousands, if not millions, were printed featuring Glen Island. This artistic view, probably slightly idealised, shows how paddle steamers might have converged on the complex.

Despite the immense popularity of Glen Island, its fortunes dipped severely in 1904 and Starin himself died in 1909. His estate was sold off and the attractions on the island fell into disrepair until taken over by the local authority parks agency and it remains a public park to this day with few reminders of its illustrious past. His excursion ship interests fell into the hands of James McAllister another major tow-boat owner who decided to try his hand with excursion ships. The sudden change in fortunes appeared to come about as a result of the city's greatest ever tragedy at that time - and which was to be the case for almost another hundred years.

Starin opened a service between New York and New Haven in 1873 transporting primarily cargo. The ships put on the route were John H Starin and the screw steamer Erastus Corning dating from 1857.

Ships operating into the twentieth century were :

Sea Gull (1864-1909)
Built in 1864 at Keyport NJ
Wood  150.8 x 23.6 ft   329 GT
Originally named Black Bird

John H Starin (1873-1909)
Built in 1865 at Baltimore MD as US Revenue Cutter McCulloch
Purchased by Starin to inaugurate new service to New Haven in 1873
Wood  202 x 32.1 ft  904 GT
Sank at Bridgeport on 21st February 1909

Above : John H Starin met a tragic end at Bridgeport on 21st February 1909 after being driven on to rocks in rough weather shortly before midnight whilst trying to seek shelter. Cargo floated off onto the local shoreline. Business magnate and Congressman John H Starin was to die exactly a month later.

Myndert Starin (1873-1909)
Built in 1871 at Brooklyn NY as Americus
Wood  182 x 28 m  568 GT

Laura M Starin
Built in 1879 at Noank CT

Wood  174 x 27.6 ft  407 GT

Matteawan (1880-1909)
017337    HWDR
Built in 1862 at Keyport NJ
Wood 206 x 27.8 ft  774 GT
Built for the Keyport & Middletown Point Steamboat Company
Sold in 1880

Later Aurora for McAllister Steamboat Co for whom she sailed until 1921

Glen Island (1880-1904)
125850   JTVL  
Built in 1880 at Philadelphia PA
Wood 238.9 x 35.8 ft   161 GT
ex- City of Richmond
ex- William C Egerton

Sam Sloan
Built in 1882 at Noank CT
Wood  212 x 29 ft  596 GT
Heavily rebuilt in 1882 on the hull of Thomas Collyer (1863) and thus getting a new registration
Became Atlas in the McAllister fleet
Scrapped in 1914.  Her hull found further use as a yacht club club house

Above : artwork depicting Sam Sloan by stemboat artist James Bard

Built in 1893 at Port Richmond NY
Wood  209.9 x 28.3 ft   491 GT


Knickerbocker Steamship Company

The Nickerbocker Steamship Company ran an intensive service to Rockaway Beach, often with both Grand Republic and General Slocum on the run. They also operated  to Bridgeport, to where General Slocum was advertised to sail three days before her tragic loss in 1904 and on the Hudson to West Point and Newburgh, where Grand Repblic was to sail on the same day.
The death of 1021 excursionists, mainly women and children, all part of the German Lutheran community of New York, shook the city, State and Union and led to legislation to curb what had been seen as a cavalier attitude to safety by many shipowners. As well as safety measures and independent surveys, passenger capacities were slashed and steamships suddenly seemed a less profitable prospect. Controvesially, the indicted company directors were acquitted with the ship's captain left to be committed.  General Slocum's older running mate Grand Republic, regarded as the largest ever ship on the local runs, was transferred to the Iron Steamboat Company and the Knickerbocker Company ceased trading.

Above : The ill-fated General Slocum

Built in 1877 in Wilmington DE
260.6 x 29 ft   1468 Gt  1098 NT

Sailed for R. Cornell White's Regular Line to Coney Island in 1881
In 1907 based at Camden NJ

Grand Republic (-1905)
Built in 1877 by J Englis at Brooklyn. 286.6 x 41.6 in. Wood. 1760 GT 1308 NT Beam engine 76 x 144 by Quintard of Brooklyn (ex- Morro Castle, ex- City of Buffalo)
Sailed for R. Cornell White's Regular Line
to Coney Island in 1881
Originally licenced for 3750 passengers but reduced to 1250 after the 1904 disaster involving General Slocum
In 1907 based at New York

General Slocum (1891-1904)
Built in 1891 by Divine Burtis at Brooklyn.  264 x 37.5 ft. 1284 GRT.  Beam engine 53 x 144 in by Fletcher of Hoboken.
Her initial route was to Rockaway
The ship had a chequered history with various incidents of grounding and one collision - until a major incident on 15th June 1904
On the fateful day in 1904, 1021 people died as fire raged aboard the vessel on the East River shortly after leaving her Manhattan pier. 321 people survived.
Thehull was salvaged and converted to a barge. It was lost during a storm off the New Jersey coast in 1911  .

Iron Steamboat Company  (1881-1932)

The company made their name on the Coney Island run with half-hourly departures from Manhattan during the summer, a route on which they had an effective monopoly, but only after having quickly negotiated exclusive contracts with pier owners after a poor inaugural season, It was easy to see off any competitors. It had been a major gamble to build seven new ships to enter into the business and extreme measures had been required.

In 1884 they offered a direct service to Long Branch on the New Jersey coast for a seven year period after which it became an occasional route until 1901 and the failure of brought-in tonnage in the form of the old Columbia to make a proper go of it. From 1906 a regular connections to Rockaway Beach were established and the company brought in an additional ship, the Grand Republic, now 29 years old and of wooden construction but still the largest ever built for local service.  
The company's ships were used on a variety of special sailings, which included fishing trips from 1904 and charters. The fleet were out in full force for the centenary celebrations of Robert Fulton's North River Steamboat in 1909, including a pageant in which 742 steamers were reported to have sailed.  A daily trip to the company's own hotel at Oscawana Island on the Hudson River was offered.

The financial crash of 1929 hit passenger numbers and revenue hard. 1931 was a poor season, so not all ships in the fleet were brought out for the 1932 season and the Rockaway route was abandoned. After the end of the summer season the company was placed into voluntary receivership. A number of vessels were bought from the receivers for further service. The Union Navigation Company took up the Coney Island run for the 1933 season with the vessels renamed and marketed as the "Rainbow Fleet". The venture lasted two seasons and spelt the end for the popular seven sisters   

Above : Iron Steamboat Company paddle steamers had the company name emblazoned on the paddle boxes were one would usually find the vessel name. With a fleet of seven similar ships, all ordered to inaugurate the service in 1881,  perhaps it was the corporate brand rather than the individual ship which was seen as most important.When a number of these paddlers fell into the hands of Union Navigation after the fall of the Iron Steamboat Company, they reappeared with new names ... and the names prominently displayed on their paddleboxes.

Cygnus (all 1881-1932)

Builders : 4 by Wm Cramp & Sons of Philadelphia (Cetus, Pegasus, Perseus and Taurus), 3 by John Roache & Sons of Chester PA (Cygnus, Cepheus, Sirius)
Iron  211 x 32 ft with 12 watertight compartments and iron-clad superstructure. The marketing claim was that these vessels were fire resistant and unsinkable.  850 approx GT
Beam engine. 53 x 144 in. Cramp engined their own build, Fletcher of Hoboken the others.
A number were bought from the receivers by Union Navigation to run in 1933 and 1934 - the final service of any of the original Iron steamships
Cepheus became Shamrock
Cetus became Reliance

125592  JSKG
Built in 1877 at Greenport NY
Wood  260.6 x 39 ft  1468 GT
Purchased from the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad to operate a service to Long Branch
Registered to the New Jersey Navigation Company (an associate of the iron Steamboat Company) in a failed attempt to run a service to Long Branch NJ 
Operated for two seasons then sold for further use in Delaware

Grand Republic (1906-1917)

Built in 1877 by J Englis at Brooklyn
Wood  282.6 x 41.6 ft  1760 GT
Sold to the Highlands Navigation Company (a McAllister company) and used on the River Hudson on a service to Bear Mountain
Destroyed by fire in 1924 at her Manhattan pier

North & East River Steamboat Company

The Stamford service had the paddle steamer Shady Side (1892-1921). She was built 1873 in at Bull's Ferry NJ and came to the NYC to Stamford run after long service in the New York City local trade.  

Shady Side (1892-1921)
Built in 1873 at Bulls Ferry NJ
Wood  168.1 x 27.5 ft   444 GT

Built for local services in the New York area for the Morrisania Steambaot Company
From 1881 was run by Walter H Shupe, controversially offering cut-price cruises and ferry services
After a brief spell on the Delaware River she was moved to the New York to Stamford CT run
Sold in 1921
but new owners Black Star Line collapsed and the ship was abandoned at Fort Lee NJ the following year

Myers Excursion & Transportation Company

Bay Queen  ( -1901)
Built in 1862 in Jersey City NJ
Wood  184.3 x 29.7 ft  466 GT
ex- General Sedgwick

Tolchester  (1899-1913)
023000 HRMQ
Built in 1866 at Chester PA by Reaney, Son & Archbold, Pennsylvania IronWorks
Wood  211.7 x 29 ft   671 GT

ex- Samuel M Felton
Bought by the Tolchester Steamboat Company in 1889
Renamed Tolchester in 1889
Sold to Myers in 1899

OTHER PADDLE STEAMERS   on local services

Paddle Steamer Harlem
Built in 1872 at Brooklyn NY
Wood  165 x 28 ft   456 GT
Registered at Boston MA from 1903 to 1905

Paddle Steamer William Storie
William Storie
Built in 1882 at Brooklyn NY
Wood  146 x 29 ft  439  GT
ex- Patrol (operated by the New York City Police Department)
Renamed William Storie in 1894 after sale to Charles Bayliss for sailings from Harlem to Rockaway
Later Mediator 1914-1919, sailing out of Newark
Abandoned in 1921

Paddle Steamer Georgeanna
Built in 1859 at Wilmington DE
Iron  199.1 x 30 ft   738 GT   Beam Engine  44 x 132 in
Built for the Baltimore Steam Packet Company (Old Bay Line)
Transferred to service in New York in 1888
Renamed Colonia in 1901
Scrapped in 1902

Paddle Steamer Minnahanonck
Minnahanonck (1868-1902)
Built in 1868 at new York NY
Wood  141 x 25.7 ft  378 GT

Above : Artwork by renowned steamship artist James Bard

Paddle Steamer James T Brett
James T Brett (1853-1917)
Built in 1853 at Keyport NJ
Wood  184.5 x 28.5 ft  490 GT  Engine ex- Chingarora
Built for the Keyport & Middletown Point Steamboat Keyport, running on the Keyport to New York route until 1862
After war service on the Potomac River, the ship was sold to the Potomac Steamboat Company
Renamed James T Brett in 1884
Operated excursions on the Hudson River until 1917

Paddle Steamer Edmund Butler

Edmund Butler  (1897-1907)
Built in 1861 at Greenpoint NY
Wood   222 x 31 ft  885  GT   Beam engine  50 x 132 in
Built as Cosmopolitan for Sanford's Cosmopolitan Line service to Philadelphia from New York
Became USQMD Cosmopolitan for Civil War duties as a troop transport and hospital ship
Bought in 1894 by Philadelphia businessmen Henry Hess and Patrick Dempsey and renamed Havana
A legal dispute over the costs of repair and renovation with WE Woodall shipbuilders of Philadelphia meant that the ship was re-sold
Appeared in new York in 1897 offering day excursions into Long Island Sound
On 30th May 1897 she ran aground on rocks near Bridgeport CT, lying for 5 hours with around 3000 passengers aboard until refloated on the tide
Became Edmund Butler and disappeared from the register after 1907

Paddle Steamer J S Warden

JS Warden

Built in 1863 in Jersey City NJ
Wood  156 x 28 ft 421 GT  Lengthened to 172.4 x 28 ft  485 GT
1863-1895 Eliza Hancox
J S Warden, after lengthening and rebuilding
1910-1912 Princeton
1912-1919 Adonis

Paddle Steamer Angler
Built in 1878 at Wilmington DE
Iron  166.5 x 28 ft  409 GT
ex- Mary Morgan
Angler from 1889 to 1915
Sold to the Independent Steamboat & Barge Co at Washington DC in 1912
1916 renamed  WL Davis and operated for Gilbert C Bensinger as an excursion ship on the Potomac River
Renamed E Madison Hall in 1917
Appears to have operated until the mid-1930s and was converted to a diesel screw freight ship
Appears to have been converted to a barge after World War II

Paddle Steamer John Sylvester

John Sylvester

013185   HLJB
Built in 1866 in Jersey City NJ
Wood  193 x 30 ft  495 GT   Beam engine 44 x 120 in by Murphy, McCurdy & Warden of New York NY
Built for day service between Norfolk VA and Richmond VA
Later on the Delaware River the used for excursion work in the New York area
In 1901-02 was registered at New York City but sailed for the Delaware River Navigation Company
Moved to Bridgeport CT in 1903
Became Starlight in 1915 sailing for George W Brown at Baltimore and survived until 1931

Three towboats were on the register in 1900 as passenger paddle steamers :
Hazel Kirke (1852, ex- Peter Crary)
John E Moore (1853, ex- Only Son)
George Starr (1862, ex-Virginia Seymour),

Post-1900 operators in New York City

McAllister Steamboat Company

McAllister was one of the leading tow boat companies in New York harbour and it was perhaps a surprise when they branched out into excursion ships after John H Starin's death in 1909. Steamers were registered in one of  three owners, McAllister Brothers, the McAllister Steamboat Company or the New York Railroad and Steamboat Terminal Company

Daniel F McAllister operated excursions with his Grand Republic until 1924 then Bear Mountain (ex- William G Payne, Bridgeport, Highlander)

Aurora (1910-1921)
017337    HWDB
Built in 1862 at Keyport NJ
Wood 206 x 27.8 ft  774 GT
ex- Matteawan of the Starin Line

Atlas (1910-1914)
Built in 1882 at Noank CT
Wood  212 x 29 ft  596 GT
ex- Sam Sloan of the Starin Line,
heavily rebuilt in 1882 on the hull of Thomas Collyer (1863) and thus getting a new registration
Became Atlas in the McAllister fleet
Scrapped in 1914.  Her hull found further use as a yacht club club house


Built in 1879 at Bath ME
Wood  162.4 x 27.1 in   457 GT  283 NT
Former Eastern Steamship Company (ex- Boston & Bangor Steamship Company) Mount Desert

Above : Mount Desert's former route was normally from Rockland to Mount Desert in Maine

General Lincoln (1910-)
130125   JTFK

Built in 1878 at Chelsea MA
Iron  160 x 28.2 ft  308 GT
Formerly Nahant
Bought from the Nantasket Bay Steamboat Company
Bought by McAllister Navigation Co of New York
Bought in 1921 for service on the Claiborne-Annapolis Ferry
Sold in 1923 to Patrick Gannon at Baltimore and renamed Indian Head

Iroquois (1911-1912)
014484    KGJP
Built in 1889 at Bath ME
Wood  256 x 37.6 ft  1652 GT

Originally Kennbec for the Kennebec Steamboat Company of Maine
Sold to McAllister Bros. and renamed Iroquois
In 1913 registered to the New York Railroad and Steamboat Terminal Company


150253   JWDL
Built in 1882 by Smith & Townsend at Boston
255 x 38 ft  1414 GT   1244 NT  
Operated as Penobscot on the Maine coastline for the Boston & Bangor Steamship Co  (Eastern Steamship Co from 1901)
Sold to McAllister Bros, the New York City towage company in 1912 and renamed Mohawk
In 1913 registered with the New York Railroad & Terminal Company
Converted to a schooner in 1917
Lost on 12th November 1918 sailing from Perth Amboy to Gulfport

Built in 1898 at Newburgh NY
Steel  236.7 x 35.2 ft   1213 GT

Bought from the Hudson Navigation Company (Hudson Night Lines) and became an excursion ship on the Hudson.
Destroyed by fire at Bear Mountain in 1936

Clermont (1919-
Built in 1911 at Newburgh NY
Steel  271.5 x 39.2 ft   1864 GT
Purchased from the liquidators of the Catskill New York Evening Line
Converted from a night boat into a day steamer

Grand Republic

Built in 1877 by J Englis at Brooklyn
Wood  282.6 x 41.6 ft  1760 GT
Sold to the Highlands Navigation Company (a McAllister company) and used on the River Hudson on a service to Bear Mountain
Destroyed by fire in 1924 at her Manhattan pier

Bear Mountain

Built in 1902 at Wilmington DE
Steel  243.3 x 36.9 ft   1310 GT
Operated on Long Island Sound for the New England Steamship Company as William G Payne
Renamed Bridgeport in 1906
Renamed Highlander in 1915
Sold to Daniel F McAllister in 1924 for excursions on the River Hudson and renamed Bear Mountain
Sold to the Delaware-Hudson Steamship Company (Mandalay Line) of New York in 1938 for services beterrn Coney Island, New York City and Bear Mountain
Sold in 1943
for service from Baltimore to Tolchester Beach

There was keen competition to serve communities across the bay from New York on the New Jersey shore and the quality, or lack of, service was always a keenly contested matter in local political circles. Keansburg  appeared to have the most regular and consistent service.

Paddle Steamers registered at Perth Amboy NJ   in 1900

Magenta 1862 17324
Sea Bird 1865 22806
New Brunswick 1881 130187
Elberon 1888 135985
Pleasure Bay 1890 150495
Little Silver 1893 141318
Mary Patten 1893 92507

New Jersey Service Operators in 1900  

 -  Merchants Steamboat Company
 -  Keyport New Jersey Transportation Company
 -  New York & Long Branch Steamboat Company (The Patten Line)
 -  Paddle Steamer New Brunswick

Post 1900 New Jersey operators  :

 -  Central Railroad Company of New Jersey  (Dreamline of Fast Steamers)
 -  Keansburg Steamboat Company
 -  New York & Keansburg Steamboat Company
 -  Staten Island Transportation Company / New York & New Jersey Steamboat Company
 -  George C Weidenmayer
 -  Midland & Red Bank Steamboat Company

Merchants Steamboat Company

Operated a link from Highlands NJ and communities along the Navesink River (then called the North Shrewsbury River) to New York from 1866 to 1926

Sea Bird
022808   HRFT
Built in 1866 at Hunter's Point NY
Wood  187 x 30.4 ft   489 GT

After the closure of the Merchants Company, Albertina moved to the Midland & Red Bank Steamboat Company
In 1932 she was sailing for James T Carroll

Albertina (1882-1926)
Built in 1882 at Greenpoint NY
Wood  174.2 x 33.6 ft   558 GT

After the closure of the Merchants Company, Albertina moved to the Midland & Red Bank Steamboat Company
In 1932 she was sailing for James T Carroll


Paddle Steamer New Brunswick

New Brunswick offered day trip services and also carried freight on the Raritan River from New Brunswick to Perth Amboy and onwards services to New York and Coney Island

New Brunswick (1881-1902)
Built in 1881 at Athens NY by McGhee  Engines by Scott
Wood  176.6 x 32 ft  601 GT

Destroyed by fire on the Raritan River whilst retuning from New York on 7th August 1902. Passengers evacuated on lifeboats and the vessel beached on the riverbank

Keyport New Jersey Transportation Company

Formed by Joseph Cornell in 1890, the company operated freight and passenger services between Keyport NJ and New York. Included amongst the fleet was PS Magenta

Magenta (1890-1903)
Built in 1862 at Kent Albany NY
Wood  197 x 30 ft  636  GT
Sold to Mr Charles English of New York in 1903 to settle a debt

Set up by Thomas Patten as the Seabright & Pleasure Bay Steamboat Company in 1893. At the turn of the century the company operated regular runs between Manhattan and piers along the North Jersey shore. The company filed for bankruptcy in 1919

Elberon (1893-1919)
Built in 1888 at Nyack NY
Wood  143.1 x 25 ft  360 GT
Bought from the Merchants Steamboat Company
Sold to the Midland & Red Bank Steamboat Company and renamed Midland Beach, sailing until 1938

Pleasure Bay
(1893- 1904)
Built in 1890 at Upper Nyack NY
Wood  150.8 x 23.5 ft  400 GT
Moved to Mobile AL in 1905 and operated until 1923

Mary Patten (1893-1919)
Built in 1893 at Brooklyn NY
Wood  182 x 28.1 ft  508 GT

Little Silver (1893-1919)
Built in 1893 at Tomkins Cove NY
Wood  159.9 x 25.8 ft  428 GT

New build in the twentieth century :

Thomas Patten (1901-1919)
Built in 1901 at Newburgh NY
Steel  201.5 x 332.2 ft  875 GT
Bought in 1919 by the Claiborne-Annapolis Ferry Co to inugurate their new service and renamed Governor Emerson C Harrington
Sold in 1938 for use as a floating restaurant and hotel at Pokomoke City MD, surviving until 1949

Post-1900 operators in New Jersey

Central Railroad Company of New Jersey : Dream Line of Fast Steamers (1904-1908)

The Central Railroad Company of New Jersey ran steamers from New York to points on the New Jersey shore and had their rail terminal at Jersey City, linking to their ferries across the Hudson River to Manhattan. In 1904 they made a short-lived attempt to compete with the Iron steamships on the Coney Island run which last four years

Dreamland (1904-1908)
Built in 1878 at Wilmington DE
Iron  272.9 x 37 ft  1285  GT
Originally Republic for the Delaware River Navigation Company
Renamed Cape May for the 1903 season, based on the Delaware River, sailing between Philadelphia and Cape May
Renamed Dreamland in 1904
In 1904 ran for the Central Railroad Company of New Jersey on a short-lived service between their terminal at Jersey City and Coney Island
Registration transferred to Baltimore MD in 1908 to sail for the Queenstown & Love Point Transportation and Development Company
She sailed between Baltimore and Chesapeake Beach from 1913 to 1925 and was scrapped in 1928

St Johns (1904-1908)
115633   JTDQ
Built in 1878 at Wilmington DE
Iron  250 x 88 ft   1098 GT
Later Bombay
Later Tolchester on return to Chesapeake Bay for the Tolchester Beach Improvement Co in 1933
Lost to fire at her Baltimore pier in 1941. Her hull survived as a barge

Rosedale (1904-1908)
Built in 1877 at Norfolf VA
Wood  216 x 34.2 ft   938 GT

Rosedale sailed on many different services but from 1879 to 1904 sailed between Bridgeport and New York City, a three and a half hour run in the morning, returning mid afternoon.
In 1913 she was back on the Rockaway service alongside paddler John Sylvester

Above : Rosedale of 1877 seen in 1907 in a photo by Frank M Ingalls in the collection of the New York Historical Society shown for education purposes.

Keansburg Steamboat Company    (1909-1968)

Based at Keansburg on the New Jersey shore opposite New York, the company was founded in 1909 by William A Gelhaus who was involved in property development with the intention of opening up the area for residential development and tourism. A regular service to Manhattan was regarded as the key way to aid growth. Accomack was the first ship on the run which developed to four return services per day. In 1912 they also started serving Keyport. Throughout the 1930s they operated three, Mobjack, Pocahontas and Smithfield alongside the larger screw steamer City of Keansburg of 1926. The company remained in the Gelhaus family throughout. The City of Keansburg continued in operation until 1968 and then saw a further three years of service. The Gelhaus family are still involved in the famous fun park still extant at Keansburg although control was sold in 1972.

Keansburg (1910-1928)
Built in 1878 at Chelsea MA
Iron 173.5 x 29.1 ft  488 GT
Operated as Nantasket for the Nantasket Beach Steamboat Company
Sold for use at Sag Harbour for the Montauk Steamboat Co.
Became Keansburg in 1910 when sold to the Keansburg Steamboat Company of New Jersey
Lost to fire on 16th April 1928 at Newburgh NY

Built in 1877 at Brooklyn NY
Iron  136.8 x 25.5 ft   434 GT  
Built for the Old Dominion Steamship Company's local connection services to Norfolk VA

Bought by the Keansburg Steamboat Company in 1910

Chrystenah (1912-1912)
Built in 1866 by Wm Dickey at Nyack
Wood  196.6 x 30.2 ft. 571 GT.  Original engine 46 x 120 in ex-Arrow, ex-Broadway dating from 1837. Rebuilt to 50 x 132 in
Owned by the Smith Brothers of Nyack, sailing on the River Hudson
Sold to captains Woolsey and Nelson in 1907 for excursion and charter work out of Newburgh and in 1911 made runs down to the beaches and fun fairs at Coney Island.
In 1912 she was moved down to Keansburg NJ for local services to New York City
for one season
Remained in the New York area
Sold in 1920 for a planned service to Oyster Bay, Long Island, but laid up at New Rochelle and subsequently damaged in a storm.
Sold off by the local city authorities, she was takenunder tow to Oyster Bay but rather than being used, was scrapped and the hull run aground

090288   JKNG
Built in 1871 at Brooklyn NY
Wood 171.2 x 28 ft  515 GT

ex- Martha's Vineyard of the New Bedford, Martha's Vineyard & Nantucket Steamboat Company

Built in 1893 at Wilmington DE
Steel  193 x 33 ft   814 GT  
Purchased from interests in Richmond VA in 1922
Survived in service until 1939

Mobjack (1922-1940)
092955   KPFQ / WEFT
Built in 1899 at Newburgh NY
Steel   180.2 x 28.7 ft   610 Gt  352 NT   KPFQ
Originally registered to engine builders W & A Fletcher
In 1902 she was registered with the Old Dominion Steamship Company
Renamed Smithfield for the Smithfield, Newport News & Norfolk Steamship Co
Purchased in 1922

Smithfield  (1922-1944)
Built in 1901 at Elizabeth NJ
Steel   181.7 x 29.5 ft   580 GT  

Formerly Hampton of the Old Dominion Steamship Company
Renamed Smithfield in 1910 for the Newport News & Norfolk Steamship Co
Purchased in 1922
Ran aground on 15th September 1944

New York & Keansburg Steamboat Company

City of New York  (1937-
Built in 1912 at Sparrow's Point MD
Steel  192 x 36.2 ft   609 GT  302 NT
Bought in 1937 ex- Talbot  of the Baltimore & Virginia Steamboat Company


Staten Island Transportation Company / New York & New Jersey Steamboat Company

Nanticoke was put on a service to Keyport NJ in 1903 when there were problems serving the town. It proved unsuitable. In 1904  the company name was changed and they also took over the business of the Keyport NJ Transportation Co.

Built in 1875 in Wilmington DE
Wood  150 x 28.5 ft  458 GT  
Formerly Chowan
Moved to a new base at Norfolk VA in 1904

George C Weidenmayer

Operated the paddle steamer Majestic between Keyport and New York from 1908

Majestic  (1908-1920)
Built in 1903 at Elizabeth NJ
Steel  201.8 x 30 ft  717 GT
Originally  Happy Day registered at New York
Registration transferred to Newark NJ in 1908 for George C Weidenmayer and renamed Majestic
Converted to carry cars on the Claiborne-Annapolis from 1923
Sank in Baltimore harbour in 1927

075537  JMWK
Built in 1873 at Brooklyn NY
Wood  200 x 32 ft  800 GT

Originally named Jane Moseley
Had a complicated history serving aspring African-American steambat entrpreneurs on the Potomac River
Her final owners were the Independent Steamboat & Barge Company
Sold in 1911 and renamed Minerva. Sailed for George C Weidenmayer at Newark NJ
In 1924 her registration was transferred to Baltimore MD

Midland & Red Bank Steamboat Company

Operated a service between Staten Island and the North Jersey Shore with second-hand vessels from local operators :

Midland Beach  (1919-1938)  ex-Elberon of the New York and Long Branch Steamboat Co
Sea Bird and Albertina  (1926-1932)
of the Merchants Steamboat Company

Cross-River and Harbour Ferries

In the absence of most bridges and tunnels, ferries were the only means of crossing rivers, estuaries and harbours. In keeping with its role as the nation's transportation hub, the waterways around New York City were buzzing with activity. Amongst everything else there was a dense network of local ferries, including ferries to carry railway wagons for John H Starin's Staten Island Railroad. By 1900, the ferries were generally aged, with many dating from the early 1860s and in use during the American Civil War. However, there were a very large number of steam paddle ferries in operation in 1900 and more continued to be built

Above : Fulton was a typical New York harbour ferry operating in 1900. Built on the riverbank at Brooklyn in 1871 she was 153 x 33.2 feet with a gross tonnage of  647

Staten Island Ferry

The Staten Island Ferry is an iconic feature of New York City to this day and until 1905 was the realm of paddle steamers. The island lies alongside New Jersey but became one of New York City's boroughs and was a substantial distance from Manhattan. The Vanderbilt family operated one of many services at the inauguration of steam and the link was to be widely contested over the years, particularly by John H Starin and the ferry services were often mired in legal disputes, especially the role in wich the City of New York should play with respect to competing with private operators.
It was not until the early part of the twentieth century that the City became operators. Paddle ferry Northfield was involved in a collision with a ferry going to New Jersey in 1901 and five out 995 passengers aboard lost their lives as the vessel sank. In the aftermath it was clear that some order had to be imposed over the service and the city took over control in 1905 and modernised the fleet with larger screw steamers and the four surviving paddlers disposed of
Steam Paddle ferries remained numerous in New York City and elsewhere around the USA. Robert Garrett, for example, found continued employment under new names and even moved to Chesapeake Bay in 1925 for a further 15 years of service. Her life was not over even then. She was converted to a barge and operated for a further 15 years

Northfield (1863-1901)  202 x 34 ft, beam engine
Middletwown (1864-1905)  201 x 33 ft, beam engine
Southfield II (1882-1905)  210 X 36 ft, beam engine
Robert Garrett (1888-1905)  225 x 61 ft, compound engine

Erastus Wiman (1888-1905)  225 x 61 ft, compound engine


Above : Robert Garrett (left) and Castleton, the new name of Erastus Wiman once she found further employment (right)
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