Saturday, April 4, 2009
On page 132, I note that Boston was one of the first American cities to get a telegraph line, which was installed in 1844 and connected Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. Because Boston was the ocean port closest to Liverpool and London, it was often the best place on the East Coast to get fresh information about grain prices in Europe. On page 133, I note that, "later when trans-Atlantic travel became more frequent and highly specialized, ships from England would dock at Boston, while ships from continental Europe would dock at New York. This meant that grain traders in Buffalo needed to receive information from both cities, not just the latter."
Unlike New York, which thrived in the 19th century due to its all-water-routes back to Albany and Buffalo, Boston thrived due to its railroads. The map on the bottom (railroads leading into and out of Boston) dates from 1846, just two years after the first telegraph lines were laid down. The map at the top (the Grand Trunk Railroad's grain routes) dates from 1891. Here Boston numbers among a handful of ocean ports the handle Canadian grain: the others are Montreal, Portland (Maine), and New York. In 1913, Boston was the location of (at least) three grain elevators, all apparently owned by either the Boston & Main Railroad or the Boston & Albany. The former had two elevators totally 1.5 million bushels in Charleston, while the other had a single, 1 million-bushel elevator in East Boston. (Report of the Directors of the Port of Boston, Year Ending November 30, 1912, Wright & Potters, Boston 1913, p. 68). As late as 1922, Boston ranked among the top 23 most important grain ports in America.