John Hayward, Gazetteer of the United States of America... (Philadelphia: James L. Gihon, 1854), 287-300.
As a commercial port, and also as a place of internal trade, especially since the completion of her great lines of railroad communication, Boston possesses preeminent advantages. Previous to the revolution, and for a long time afterwards, this was the most extensive mart of foreign commerce in the country; and, even to this day, Boston has more than one half of the East India trade carried on from the United States, and of the Russia trade three quarters. She has also an extensive trade with the Mediterranean the West Indies, South America, and every part of the commercial world. In 1851, the arrivals from foreign ports were 2877, of which 75 were from the Cape of Good Hope and beyond. Besides these, a large number of the foreign vessels, belonging to Boston, arrive and discharge their merchandise at New York, for the advantages of a more central and extensive market.
The foreign commerce of this country may be said to be controlled by the cities of Boston and New York. The aggregate value of their imports amounts to about $185,000,000, of which about $35,000.000 comes direct to Boston. The immense wealth of these two cities, amounting in the aggregate to $500,000,000, enables them almost entirely to command those great branches of commerce which require a heavy capital for their operations. The East India and Pacific trade, without including the vessels bound to California, employs, at the present time, 338 ships and barks, which, with the exception of a few vessels owned in Salem, is controlled entirely by Boston and New York; New York having a majority of the China trade, and Boston controlling nearly all the trade with Calcutta, Manilla, Batavia, Sumatra, the Cape of Good Hope, Chili, and Peru.
"Those," says an early historian of Boston, " who were formerly forced to fetch most of the bread they ate, and beer they drank a thousand leagues by sea, are, through the blessing of the Lord, so increased, that they have not only fed their elder sisters, Virginia, Barbadoes, and many of the Summer Islands, that were preferred before them for fruitfulness, but also the grand mother of us all, even the fertile isle of Great Britain. Beside, Portugal hath had many a mouthful of bread and fish from us in exchange for their Madeira liquor, and also Spain; nor could it be imagined that this wilderness should turn a mart for merchants in so short a space. Many a fair ship had her framing and finishing here, besides lesser vessels, barks, and ketches. Many a master, besides common seamen, had their first learning in this colony. Boston, Charlestown, Salem, and Ipswich, our maritime towns, begin to increase roundly, especially Boston, the which, of a poor country village, in twice seven years, is become like unto a small city, and is in election to become a mayor town suddenly, chiefly increased by trade by sea." This quaint and lively sketch of the infant commerce of Boston, so interesting on other accounts, reveals the early development of many of those great sources of wealth which have made it one of the richest cities of this country. It has been the mother of the maritime interest in America, has continued the training of " many a master, besides common seamen," not only for her own, but for the other great ports of the country, and is now a chief mart for the exportation of "bread and fish," in exchange for the commodities of Europe.
But as other considerations besides the facilities of trade had an influence, and even a controlling influence, in the original settlement of Boston, its situation was not selected upon the principle which has generally governed the location of our large cities, viz., the confluence of some large navigable river with the sea, thus uniting the greatest natural advantages for foreign and internal traffic. Consequently, for a time after the vast resources of the country west of the Alleghany Mountains began to be largely developed, and to seek a channel to the foreign market, the trade of Boston suffered, relatively, from the want of better communication with the more remote interior, and her ships had to seek freight in the southern ports. But, happily, in her large accumulations of capital, and in the indomitable enterprise of her citizens, she found the means of completely obviating this natural disadvantage, through the construction of the several great lines of railroad by which she has become connected with the most distant sections of the country lying east, west, north, and south. This great achievement of science, industry, and art has effected a most surprising advancement in the commercial prosperity and prospects of Boston. Her internal trade, which was formerly limited to the coast, and to the space circumscribed by the nearest ranges of elevated mountains, is now opened to the farthest boundaries of the valleys of the Mississippi and the St. Lawrence; and her merchants now think as lightly of extending their traffic beyond the Rocky Mountains to Oregon and California, as they once did of reaching the opposite slopes of the Green Mountain and Alleghany ranges.
There are now seven great lines of railroad diverging in different directions from Boston, most of which are annually increasing in extent. It will give some idea of the magnitude to which this interest has grown, when it is stated that the aggregate distance travelled to and from Boston daily, upon the railroads now in operation, disregarding many of the shorter trips of the numerous accommodation trains around the city, is over 12,000 miles, and that the number of persons arriving and departing daily is upwards of 10,000. Another route is now nearly completed, to meet the great Erie Railroad, by the way of Hartford, Ct., and Fishkill on the Hudson River. But the greatest further improvement now in progress is the extension of the Fitchburg Railroad beyond its present terminus at Greenfield, by tunneling the Hoosic Mountain, and passing to the city of Troy on the Hudson River opposite the Erie Canal. As the highest grade on this road between the Connecticut and Hudson Rivers is only 31 feet to the mile, and the distance between the two cities only about 175 miles, this improvement, when completed, cannot fail to give to Boston a large increase of the almost boundless commerce of the west.
By our tables of latitude and longitude, it will be seen that Albany, Buffalo, Detroit, and Chicago lie within a fraction of the same degree of latitude with Boston; and as these four places- are the chief depositories of the immense produce of the west, and as the great marts for this produce in Europe — Liverpool, Havre, St. Petersburg, and other ports — lie some degrees N. of Boston, it must be evident that every variation to the S. of this line of communication will by so much increase the distance on this great channel of commercial intercourse. And the capitalists of Boston, aware of this fact, are expending large sums of money in the extension of these improvements. To say nothing of several enterprises more remote, or in their more incipient stages, we learn from authentic sources, that probably one third of the entire line from Albany to Buffalo; one half of the Vermont Central, the Rutland, and the Canada roads; two-thirds of the Ogdensburg, connecting the Vermont Central with Lake Ontario; and two thirds of the Michigan Central, extending from Detroit to Chicago, are owned in Boston.
As a mart for our domestic manufactures, Boston, from these various facilities, possesses great advantages; and especially as the metropolis of New England, which is already, and seems destined to be more and more, the great manufacturing district for the country.
There is probably no place in the world better provided than Boston with the necessary accommodations for her extensive commerce. The whole margin of the city on the E. and N. is lined with about 200 docks and wharves, affording altogether an extent of wharfage of over 5 miles. Some of these wharves are among the most stupendous structures of this description in the country. Long Wharf, at the foot of State Street, extends into the harbor 1800 feet, having upon it a line of 76 spacious warehouses. Central Wharf. S. of this, is 1379 feet long, with a uniform range of warehouses running the whole length, 50 feet wide and four stories high. Between these two wharves, on Commercial Street, stands the Custom House. South of Central Wharf is India Wharf, 930 feet long, with a range of 39 warehouses in the centre. Among the most extensive wharves towards the northern part of the city are Granite or Commercial Wharf, Lewis's Wharf, and the Eastern Railroad Wharf. On each of these is a range of massive granite warehouses, unequalled by any thing of the kind in the United States. On the Eastern Railroad Wharf there are two such ranges, and the avenue to the railroad station passes between them. That on the south side is occupied by an extensive flouring mill, in which 2500 bushels of wheat daily are manufactured into the finest flour. South of these are other important wharves; among these is Russia Wharf, formerly Griffin's Wharf, where that memorable demonstration of the spirit of resistance to British oppression was given, in the presence of several of her ships of war lying before the city — the emptying of about 340 chests and half chests of tea into the ocean. One of the greatest accommodations recently provided is that at the termination of the Grand Junction Railroad at East Boston, by which all the railroads coming to the city are immediately connected with a system of warehouses and wharves, where vessels are laden and unladen. This important was opened on the 17th of September, 1851, the day of the grand festival held by the city for celebrating the completion of the last of the great lines of railroad centring here, by which the River St. Lawrence, at its two most important points, the port of Ogdensburg and the city of Montreal, one the outlet of the commerce of the great lakes, and the other the head of ship navigation entering the British provinces by that mighty river, became connected with the port of Boston. This was a proud day for the New England metropolis, which, after years of incredible enterprise and expenditure, saw the completion of that magnificent scheme of internal communication by which the most distant sections of our country, and the neighboring provinces of Great Britain, became commercially annexed to her domain. As was natural, the highest public functionaries, and many of the wealthy merchants and others from Canada, were present, by invitation, to unite in the festivities of the occasion.
No maritime port in this country enjoys finer advantages than Boston in respect to the capaciousness and security of its harbor, and "the unobstructed ingress and egress of shipping to its wharves at all seasons of the year.