On April 26, 1956 an oil tanker customized to carry standardized metal crates left Port Newark, NJ for Houston, TX, marking the first commercially successful containerized shipment. Over the next 30 years, containerized cargo would come to dominate the shipping industry and create a new global economy. Marc Levinson, author of The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger, joins us to share the story of the shipping container and how it changed the world.
On National Submarine Day, dive into the undersea history of the Brooklyn Navy Yard! Although no submarines were ever built at the Yard, from the Civil War to the Cold War, it was a critical facility for the development, testing, and outfitting of the US Navy’s submarine fleet, from primitive hand-cranked submersibles to nuclear-powered ballistic missile subs. This program will explore the evolution of submarine technology and critical breakthroughs that were made at the Yard, including the development of diesel engines from captured German U-boats, experimental torpedoes and underwater munitions, and the world’s first satellite-based navigation system.
Join us for another virtual boat tour aboard a beautiful motor yacht with our friends at Classic Harbor Line. This time we will be heading north, exploring the very northern tip of Manhattan. We will get beautiful views of the Palisades and George Washington Bridge, then tuck inside the narrow confines of the Harlem River and under more than a dozen road, rail, and foot bridges that connect Manhattan to the Bronx. Along the way we will discuss visible landmarks like Yankee Stadium, the Cloisters, and the Harlem River Houses, as well as the extensive rail and barge infrastructure in the area, and the fascinating story of how the famed Spuyten Duyvil was blasted from a meandering backwater into a navigable ship canal.
Explore the neighborhoods surrounding the Brooklyn Navy Yard, including Vinegar Hill, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Williamsburg, on this walk around the Yard’s long perimeter. We will explore connections between the Yard and the surrounding communities, including a peek at the landmark Commandant’s House, the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument in Fort Greene Park, and other buildings that provided housing for Yard workers and produced components for the shipyard. We will also explore some of the public areas of the Yard, including Building 77, the Admirals Row site, and the Naval Cemetery Landscape. Follow along with our map guide created for Open House New York Weekend 2020.
As both an historic site and an active industrial park, with buildings and infrastructure spanning nearly 200 years, the Brooklyn Navy Yard is literally made up of layers of history. The Brooklyn Navy Yard Archives serves the dual function of documenting and preserving the Yard’s history, while also providing historical engineering and architectural documentation that is critical for restoration and development projects. In this virtual visit to the Archives, we will be joined by archivist Elizabeth McGorty, who will tell us about the role of the Archives, show us some of the highlights of the collection and what they tell us about the Yard’s history, and take us behind the scenes to their storage facility where they keep some of the more unique artifacts of the collection.
New York City’s working waterfront has been widely associated with crime and corruption at least since On The Waterfront hit movie screens in 1954, but the story goes back further. Nathan Ward, author of Dark Harbor: The War for the New York Waterfront and CUNY scholar Joseph Sciorra join us to reveal the story of Pete Panto, a longshoreman who took a stand against the mob bosses. Though Panto paid the ultimate price, his death initiated a long struggle toward waterfront reform.
On March 17, 1863, the gunboat Shamrock was launched from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, an event attended by more than 5,000 onlookers and tremendous fanfare. The christening of this ship was meant to recognize the contributions of Irish troops to the Union cause, but it also represented a watershed moment during the ascendancy of the Irish in the city’s waterfront trades. This program will examine the growth of Irish communities along the waterfront before and after the Civil War, look at the centers of civic life, including churches, pubs, and political clubs, some of which persist to this day, and learn about groundbreaking Irish admirals, engineers, and entrepreneurs that helped shape the city’s waterfront.
The Canal Society of New Jersey returns to our virtual program as Joe Macasek will share the history of the Delaware & Raritan Canal. While George Macculloch was working to complete his Morris Canal across the highlands of New Jersey, farther south men like Robert Stockton and Robert Stevens competed for control of a route across the narrow waist of the state. This route would give the winner access to potential profits from the coal trade and control of the already lucrative trade route between the country’s two greatest cities, New York and Philadelphia. Stockton wanted a canal and Stevens a railroad. In the end, the state legislature settled their differences by giving them both charters. Rather than compete, they formed a joint company that, for 30 years, monopolized transportation, introduced technical innovation, and wielded enormous political power.
The celebrate Black History Month and the 220th birthday at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, we are looking at the obstacles and opportunities that Black people encountered at the Brooklyn Navy Yard from the end of the Civil War through the Yard’s closure a century later. The program will examine the long history of African-Americans in the maritime trades, their systematic exclusion from the uniformed ranks of the US Navy in the Jim Crow era, and the new opportunities that emerged during World War II. We will look at profiles of trailblazers, innovators, and activists who worked and served there, and how the Yard became an important to Black economic and cultural life in Brooklyn. This virtual program follows up where we left off with last year’s “An Unfree Fleet,” which looked at the Yard’s connections to the institution of slavery.
Join us for another virtual boat tour, this time aboard a beautiful motor yacht with our friends at Classic Harbor Line. Starting at Chelsea Piers, we will head down the Hudson, past Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and around the northern Upper Bay. Along the way, we will discuss the evolution of the skylines on both sides of the river, highlight the maritime history still visible in the landscape, and share insights on the working of the harbor today.