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Ports of Call - Boston - Historical Brochures and Documents Archives

Boston Harbor and Waterfront

Boston offers to steamship lines serving the United States exceptional inducements to bring their through immigrant passengers via Boston. Photographs, Maps, Articles and Information on the History of the Port of Boston and Immigration and usage by Steamships.

Flag and Seal of Boston Massachusetts

Boston was so named in honor of the birthplace of the Rev. John Cotton, their second minister, who was from Boston, England.

Boston's hold on immigrant traffic

Boston offers to steamship lines serving the United States exceptional inducements to bring their through immigrant passengers via Boston. These inducements are: a shorter ocean voyage to Boston; an inland rate to the West $1.00 under New York, free piers in Boston with spacious quarters for handling immigrants; finally, examination of immigrants on the piers where they are landed, without the necessity of transporting these passengers, at steamship expense, to a union immigrant station for examination. Immigrants entering the United States through the Port of Bostong were processed in an immigration center on Commonwealth Pier.

Featured ArticlesArticles

  • 1912 New Steamship Lines at Boston
    Much of the public interest in port development, which culminated in the passage of the $9,000,000 appropriation in 1911, was due to the agitation to make Boston a great passenger port, particularly in the transatlantic trade. It appears that very little consideration was given to the ocean freight business, which was expected to follow as a matter of course.
  • 1913 Quarantine Department at the Port of Boston - Gallops Island
    The Quarantine Department is under the control of the Health Department of the city of Boston. The Board of Health makes regulations governing quarantine which are enforced by the Port Physician. The Port Physician, Assistant Port Physician, and all other employees on Gallops Island and on the boats necessary to carry into effect the rules, orders and regulations of the Board of Health, are appointed by this department.
  • 1914 Steamship Berths Assignment for Foreign Passenger Steamship Lines
    If your ancestors immigrated to America via Boston, here are the wharf that the ships would have docked at circa 1914.
  • 1914 New Steamship Lines at Boston
    Much of the public interest in port development which culminated in the passage of the $9,000,000 appropriation in 1911 was due to the agitation to make Boston a great passenger port, particularly in the transatlantic trade. It appears that very little consideration was given to the ocean freight business which was expected to follow as a matter of course.
  • 1916 Commonwealth Pier as a Joint Passenger Terminal at the Port of Boston
    For $30,000 a site was acquired at East Boston. Local interests were not satisfied with this location, so the Government was persuaded to exchange it for another site, paying about $35,000 additional therefore. Plans were approved by the Treasury Department for the construction of an immigration station on the site chosen, on a total appropriation of $250,000 secured from Congress. It was then discovered that the appropriation was insufficient to carry out the plans. Massachusetts's congressmen have asked an, additional appropriation, bringing the total up to $375,000.

Boston Immigrant Landing Station circa 1910

Boston Immigrant Landing Station
Recently arrived immigrants entering the United States through the Port of Boston.

At New York, after the steamers have docked and cabin passengers are landed, steeragers must be barged to Ellis Island. At Boston western immigrants may be sent inland from the steamship pier. The smaller number of immigrants landing at this port permits the immigration officials to give more time and courtesy to the examination of the new arrivals than is possible in the crowded station at Ellis Island. Because of these conveniences in Boston, the port enjoys a growing popularity among immigrants. The best publicity among prospective immigrants in Europe consists of letters from their pleased countrymen who have entered at Boston. (1916 The Port of Boston P 139)

The Immigrant Landing Station at Boston circa 1904

The Immigrant Landing Station at Boston circa 1904

Boston's Attractions for immigrants

From the Commonwealth Pier the New England immigrants would be carted over the viaduct to Summer Street and so to South or North Station. The westbound immigrants would descend the stairs to the train waiting on the first floor of the middle shed. Though there might not every day be enough immigrants to form a western train, one could be made up very frequently, especially in the summer months, when the tide of immigration is running heavy.

The New Haven, Boston & Albany and Boston & Maine could alternate in running trains to the West. This is what they have already been doing in the case of immigrants of the Hamburg America Line landing at Commonwealth Pier; each road has assigned to it every third boat, and, for that boat, runs a through train to the West. (1916 The Port of Boston P 304)

The Port of Boston: A Study and A Solution of the Traffic and Operating Problems of Boston, And Its Place in the Competition of the North Atlantic Seaports, Edwin J. Clapp, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1916.

Map of the City of Boston and Environs - 1904

City of Boston and Environs circa 1904

Map of Boston Harbor (1899)

Map of Boston Harbor (1899) From the GG Archives Historical Map Collection

Historical Documents on Boston in the Archives In the Queue For Uploading

  • 1882 King's Handbook of Boston Harbor by M. F. Sweetser. Illustrated by Charles Copeland and others. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Moses King, Publisher, Harvard Square. Over two-hundred original illustration and index are included in this almost 300 page comprehensive guide to the Boston Harbor.
  • 1890s American Journal of Progress: Special Extra Number Descriptive and Illustrating Boston - The Metropolis of New England. The Financial, Commercial and Manufacturing Center of the East whose Features of Good Order, Thrift, Education and Refinement, render her one of the most Noted and Progressive Cities of the Civilized World. 32 Pages, Tabloid Size. Photographs include: State House; Post Office; Ericsson Statue; City Hall; New Court House; Farragut Statue; New York and New England Mutual Insurance Co's Buildings; Birds' Eye View From State House to Harbor; Custom House; State Street Looking Towards Old State House; T Wharf; Atlantic Avenue - North From Commerce Street; State Street from Tower of Old State House; YMCA Building; Public Library; Algonquin Club; Boston Art Club; Art Museum; New Old South Church; South Market Street Looking West; Technology Building; Odd Fellows Hall; Copley Square; South Market Street Looking East; Natural History Rooms; Harvard Medical School; Washington Statue; Equitable Building; New England Telephone Building; Tremond Building; Chamber of Commerce Building; Mason Building; Jewelers Building; Winthrop Building; Exchange Building; Brazer Building; Ames Building; Worthington Building; Fiske Building; North End Terminal Station; Hotel Vendome; Touraine Hotel; Parker House; Rialto Building; Yourth's Companion Building; Masonic Temple; HOtel Brunswick; King's Chapel; Old South Church; Washington Statue; Army and Navy Monument; Old State House; Faneuil Hall; Esther Monument; Brewer Fountain; Bunker Hill Monument; South End Terminal Station; Public Garden, Panorama from Arlington Street x2; Washington Statue Public Gardens; Commonwealth Avenue; Headquarters Master Painters and Decorators Association; First Meeting Place - Old Master Painters' Union; Assembly-Room - M.P. and D. A.; Ernest Schuprach; Thomas Sproules; Schupbach & Zeller, Painters & Decorators Building; Bernhard Zeller; T. M. Henderson; John C. Sperry; J. U. Sperry Painters & Decorators Building; R. L. Tingley; Albert Schneider; F. W. Schneider; Robert R. Rose; M. F. Shay; W. E. Shay; Philip Sundell; Geo. W. Brooks; William E. Delorey; C. G. Campbell; Charles H. Schneider; C. G. Campbell, Painters and Decorators Building; Geo. C. Stevens; John E. Patten; John E. Stevens; Frank Wallburg; Wallburg & Woehrn Fresco Painters Building; Henry J. Woehrn; Henry C Hathaway Building - Staff members posed in front; Henry C. Hathaway; A. P. Button; G. H. Tobey; P. J. Mitchell; Amos Snow; Randin Johnson; E. P. Longley; Z. Hancock. Contain many articles regarding the history of the buildings and biographies of many prominent businessmen at that period in time.
  • 1899 Map of Boston Harbor with Piers of the Steamship Lines and Major landmarks identified.
  • 1904 Booklet: In And About Historic Boston
  • 1912 Booklet: Boston, Published by L. H. Nelson Company, Portland, ME. Photograph record of Boston included Photographs of: State House; Public Library, Copley Square; City Hall; New Boston Custom House; South Station; North Station; Brimstone Corner; Tremont Street, Showing Common and Subway Entrances and Exits; Washington Street; Quincy Market View; Government Building, Post Office Square; The Boston Opera House; State Street; Boston Chamber of Commerce; Faneuil Hall (The Cradle of Liberty); Old State House, Washington and State Streets; King's Chapel, Tremont Street; Keith's Theatre; Old Granary Burying Ground, Tremont Street; Christ Church (Old North), Salem Street; Bunker Hill Monument, Charlestown; Boston Massacre Monument, Boston Common; Shaw Memorial, Boston Common; Boylston Street, from Berkeley; Soldiers' Monument, Boston Common; Tremont Temple, Tremont Street; Trinity Church; Old South Meeting House; The New Old South, Corner Boylston and Dartmouth Streets; Hollis Street Church; Edward Everett Hale, Late Pastor Emeritus; The First Church of Christ Scientist; 4 Views of The Public Garden; The Museum of Fine Arts; The Copley-Plaza Hotel; Cambridge Bridge; Scollary Square, Subway Station; Symphony Hall, Huntington Avenue; Hotel Somerset; Hotel Brunswick, Clarendon and Boylston Street; Simmons College; City Hall, Cambridge; Collage of Charles W. Eliot, President Emeritus of Harvard College, McKean Gate, Samuel Dexter Memorial Gate; Class of 1875 Gate; Class of 1877 Gate; Collage of Five Views of the Harvard Medical School; Harvard Yard showing Matthews Hall, Harvard Hall, Hollis Hall and Holworthy Hall; Harvard Yard showing University Hall and Weld Hall; Harvard Library; Harvard Hall; Harvard Union; Collage of Some of Harvard's Dormitories and the Statue of its Founder; Radcliffe College; Robinson Hall, Harvard University; Sever Hall, Harvard University; Class-Day Tree, Harvard University; Echo Bridge.
  • 1913 Boston Guide Book: Up-To-Date Guide Book of Boston and Surroundings, Published by the New England News Company. 128 Pages. Photographs included: Entrance to Public Library; Phillips Brooks Memorial; Trinity Church, Copley Square; Hotel Nothingham, Public Library and New Old South Church at Copley Square; Scene in Public Garden; Birds' Eye View of Public Garden; Tremont Street Mall; Band Stand, Boston Common; Boston Common; Granary Burying Ground; Collage of Col. William Prescott, Christopher Columbus, Bulfinch Monument of the Revolution, Gen. N. P. Banks and Maj. Gen. "Joe" Hooker; State House; Collage of Daniel Webster, William Lloyd Garrison, Ether Monument, Horrace Mann, Charles Sumner; King's Chapel; City Hall; Old South Church; Washington Street, North of Summer Street; Post Office; Old State House; Paul Revere's House; Bunker Hill Monument; New England Conservatory of Music; Christian Science Church; Boston Opera House; New Boston Art Museum; Mrs. John L. Gardner's Palace; Harvard Bridge; Esplande Charles River Basin; Collage of Law School, Lawrence Scientific School, Campus, Memorial Hall and Statue of John Harvard, Harvard College; Stadium, Harvard College; Washington Elm; Harvard Medical School; Longfellow Bridge; City Hall, Cambridge; Chestnut Hill Reservoir; Collage of John Glover, Admiral Farragut, Evacuation Monument Dorchester Heights, Alexander Hamilton, Samuel Adams; Scene in Franklin Park; Marine Par, City Point Head House; Entrance, North Station; South Terminal Station; Map of Boston Terminals of the Bay State Street Railway Co. which operates 940 miles of trolley lines around Boston. Includes Index, List of Illustrations, List of Advertisers, Large Fold-Out Map of Boston Giving All Points of Interest with Every Railway and Steamboat Terminus, Prominent Hotels, Theatres and Public Buildings.
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