Cover image for Over and back : the history of ferryboats in New York harbor
Over and back : the history of ferryboats in New York harbor
Cudahy, Brian J.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Fordham University Press, [1990]

Physical Description:
472 pages ; illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Reading Level:
1480 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HE5784.N5 C8 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Ask the average American anywhere in the country to answer the association question "Staten Island" and you get "Ferry" in immediate response. what is regularly billed as "America's favorite boatride"- not least because a round trip still costs an astonishing twenty-five cents- is the last public survivor of New York Harbor's once immense fleet of those doughty double-ended ferryboats.

Dozens of ferryboats in a myriad of liveries crossed the harbor's waterways as recently as one generation ago Most have vanished as though they never were, leaving in their ghostly wakes only fading memories and a few gorgeously restored ferry terminals. The handsomest of these terminals, on the New Jersey side of the Hudson, is probably the one dubbed by Christopher Morley the Piazza San Lackawanna.

Over and Back captures definatively nearly two centuries of ferryboating in New York Harbor, by a master narrator of the history of transportation in America. In stories, charts, maps, photographs, diagrams, route lists, fleet rosters, and in the histories of some four hundred ferryboats, Brian J. Cudahy captures the whole tale as concisely as one could hope.

The transportation expert, the ferry buff, the model builder, the urban historian: each will find grist for his or her mill. The photographs capture a highly significant footnote in America's past and present; the colored illustrations preserve some of the stylish rigs in which the owners garbed their boats, despite coal soot, oil smudge, and urban grime.

Fully a third of the book comprises the most complete statistical compilation that the nation's public and private archives permit. The data show, among other things, that some of the former workhorses of New York Harbor are filling utilitarian or social roles elsewhere in the United States and overseas, and that the newest boats in the harbor began life along the Gulf of Mexico and in New England.

Author Notes

Brian Cudahy has served as the director of the office of transit management with the Department of Transportation. He writes on Urban Architecture, focusing on the historical aspects of transit systems. In Under the Sidewalks of New York: The Story of the World's Greatest Subway System, he chronicled the development of the subway and provided a chronological overview of rapid transit. He has also written histories of the Boston subway, Hudson tubes, Pennsylvania railroad tunnels, and the Chicago rapid transit system.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

The first steam-propelled ferry crossed the Hudson River in 1812; by 1900, five major railroads operated ferryboat services to Manhattan. Before the Civil War, ferries were the only system of mechanized transport for local short-haul trips in, around and across New York Harbor; they were operated by private companies, railroads and, after 1905, the city. Cudahy's ( Under the Sidewalks of New York ) well-documented, exhaustive history covers nearly two centuries, tracing technological improvements in engine and vessel design and changes in service caused by bridges and tunnels. Enthusiasm for his subject leads to a great deal of minutiae, such as identifying the ferryboats Lincoln used on his inaugural journey to Washington. The Staten Island ferries (capacity, 6000) are described with a look at special-purpose ferries (from the city morgue to Potters Field on Hart Island). For transportation historians and ferryboat buffs, here is a treasure trove. Illustrated. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Cudahy, a transportation historian, has written a splendid history of ferryboats, those double-ended, mechanically powered vessels that haul passengers and vehicles across rivers and bays and have worked New York City waters since the early 19th century. More importantly, this book is one of those gems that successfully appeals to both the general reader with only a passing interest in this subject and the specialist wanting detailed data and a solid bibliography to support serious study. While the future of ferryboats in general is uncertain, this history will long serve to evoke the blast of the horn and the ring of the bell for all of those fortunate enough to have experienced this mode of transortation. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-- Harold N. Boyer, Marple P.L., Broomall, Pa. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Power-driven, double-ended ferryboats have crossed New York harbor to Manhattan since 1812. Here is a comprehensive synopsis of ferry service on more than 60 ferry routes that operated between 1812 and the mid-1980s. The narrative is divided into eight distinct time periods, in which the development of private companies, the railroad ferries, the coming of municipal ownership, the decline of ferry services, and the more recent rebirth of ferry consciousness are treated. A variety of photographs provide an impression of the ferries themselves, but this is not a collection of boat portraits. Maps are excellent, defining each route and the physical changes of the harbor lines. Technological changes and engineering details are explained for the nonprofessional reader. Following the text, 126 pages of tables and appendixes offer a wealth of information, including graphs, an annotated bibliography, a listing of all the routes with their operators, and a comprehensive list of every double-ended ferry that operated in New York harbor. Without a doubt, this is an essential resource for the ferries, New York harbor, and the railroads that carried people to Manhattan, as well as for transportation, politics, and life within the city itself. -M. J. Butler, Southeastern Massachusetts University

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
Prologue: "All Right, Bunt, You May Go Ahead."p. 7
1 How It All Got Started: 1812-1824p. 20
2 Years of Growth 1824-1860p. 42
3 Years of Growth 1824-1860p. 65
4 the Civil War 1861-1865p. 90
5 Patterns After Appomattox 1865-1900p. 110
6 the Road to Municipal Operation 1900-1910p. 147
7 a Statistical Interlude: General Trends: 1866-1975 Safety Performance: 1899-1910p. 184
8 Here Comes Red Mike: 1910-1925p. 204
Summaryp. 246
9 the Dream Fades . .: 1925-1955p. 248
10 . . but Doesn't 1955 and Onward Diep. 292
Epiloguep. 317
Appendix a Annotated Bibliographyp. 355
Appendix B the Routesp. 359
Notesp. 359
Appendix C the Vesselsp. 366
Indexp. 465