. Buffalo and its German Community - Pages 37 - 39

Chapter 7

The Railroads, Commerce and Industry -- Shipping -- The First Steamboat

One can say with justification that the railroads represent a gigantic step forward for civilization. Buffalo owes much of its commercial success to good communications and favorable geography. No fewer than 17 different railroad lines run through Buffalo. Buffalo has 700 miles of railroad tracks. An incredible amount of goods and freight pass through here. Eight outlying railroad lines link to the city. One steamboat line unloads its cargo here in Buffalo. The city harbor is one of the best in the country. It's protected by 5 miles of barrier called the breakwater. It is claimed that this is the longest breakwater in the world. The United States Government gave $7,500,000 towards the improvement of the 7 1/2 mile long inner harbor. The Buffalo River is currently being improved. When it is finished it will provide 10 miles of docks. In 1910 3,753 ships transported 7,369,662 tons. Of that total 3,715 ships landed 7,176,838 tons in Buffalo's harbor.

The Walk in the Water was the first steamboat to sail the lake. It was launched at Black Rock May 28, 1818. By mid-August it went into the lake.

Caption under picture reads Walk in the Water

The Walk in the Water sailed between Buffalo and Detroit. From its beginning it was a commercial success. The fare for a cabin to Detroit was $18. Lower deck fare was $7. On its second voyage the boat had 120 passengers. It ran aground at the mouth of Buffalo Creek on November 1, 1821. The following winter a new boat, called the Superior, was built in the shipyard at the foot of Main Street. This was the first major construction ever done here.

Until then Buffalo did not have any lake commerce because Buffalo wasn't a real harbor. Ships were unable to sail into the harbor because of the sandbank blocking the mouth of the river. Only canoes and flatboats could manage it. Goods headed westward were transported by wagon and loaded onto ships at Black Rock. The ships then had to be towed by ox teams to the lake because the Niagara River's counter current was so strong. Although work was begun to remove the sandbank from the mouth of the harbor by 1820, the water level wasn't deep enough to accommodate larger ships. For this reason the owners of the Superior were reconsidering building the ship here. Four distinguished citizens pledged to pay $100 for each day the boat was delayed because of the low water level. Work was zealously begun to remove the blockage to the river mouth. In 221 days a 170 foot pier was built on the lake. All citizens, without regard to social standing, took part in the effort. The high tide of the early part of the year washed away the sandbank, with a little help from human hands and gave the pier the necessary water depth so that the Superior could go out to sea on time. This was the beginning of effort to improve Buffalo's harbor. It is a work for which millions have been given.

The industrial and commercial prosperity and the development of Buffalo were hampered by the inability of ships to navigate the Niagara River. The United States Government, unanimous in its politics when it came to improving the waterways of the country whenever technically and economically possible, began to envision the creation of a canal, 200 feet wide and no less than 23 feet deep, through which the largest lake steamer could sail. It should be completed in 1912. It begins at the head of the Niagara River and goes to the northern end of the Tonawanda harbor. The substantial pricetag for this task is $5,000,000.

The Federal Government's participation was accelerated by the State of New York, which donated the huge sum of $101,000,000 for the enlarging and deepening of the Erie Canal. The Canal will be navigable for 1000-ton steamships travelling between New York City and Buffalo. Upon completion of the work Buffalo's commercial enterprises will be significantly increased.

In 1910 imports weighed 649,471 tons and represented a value of $18,542,775. From Buffalo 885,235 tons were shipped, at a value of $16,912,769.

When it comes to grain, coal and flour markets, Buffalo stands internationally in first place. In 1910 the following was loaded at the harbor: 50,450,911 bushels of wheat, 7,431,580 barrels of flour, 125,402,643 feet of construction lumber, 4,452,142 tons of iron ore, 4,716,771 bushels of linseed, 22,992,308 bushels of corn, 12,366,891 bushels of oats, and 11,207,763 bushels of cereal. 4,095,650 barrels of flour were milled here in 1910. 1,723,512 tons of pig iron were manufactured here along with $2,333,000 worth of furniture, $3,000,000 worth of doors, $2,000,000 worth of plumbing supplies and $1,000,000 worth of electrical materials.

Buffalo has 22 grain elevators with a capacity for 20 million bushels. The daily capacity is about 5 million bushels. The stockyards are the second largest in the world, taking up about 100 acres of land. The annual return in sales surpasses $100,000,000. Import of swine, sheep and cattle is comparable with the largest cattle markets in the United States. As a horse market, Buffalo cannot be surpassed.

Having access to an unlimited source of electrical power supplied by Niagara Falls, Buffalo has become a leading industrial city. Nowhere in the world can electrical power be obtained as easily as here. According to the last Census,Buffalo had 1,647 different manufacturers employing 67,673 workers at an annual salary of $24,795,927. Investment capital amounted to $188,384,288.

Our city has the largest copper and brass manufacturers in the country and before long Buffalo will become a significant factor in steel and iron manufacturing.

Lackawanna Steel Company, occupying 1,500 acres of land on the shores of Lake Erie at the southern edge of the city, is one of the largest and most complete manufacturing facilities in the world. Lackawanna Steel has a breakwater 4 miles long and a large private harbor. The sources of power to the facility - steam and electricity - provide 145,833 horsepower. The company mines about 2 million tons of iron ore and 3 million tons of coal annually. The total production of iron and steel runs somewhere around 1,254,000 tons. The number of employees at Lackawanna Steel and her subsidiaries is about 12,000. The annual total for salaries and wages is over $10,500,000.

In 1910 4,452,142 tons of iron ore were imported into the harbor. Railways brought in 9,180,839 tons of coal. Steamboats brought in 3,639,368 tons. Buffalo has the largest coal trestle in the world. It's the Lackawanna Trestle and it's close to a mile long. Exports totalled $38,630,473 in 1910. Custom House income was $1,428,783.38. Income of the postal service was $1,858,796.14.

Buffalo has 10 discount banks, 5 savings banks and 3 trust companies. The capital and profit of the discount banks total $12,603,963 with deposits of $73,637,899. The savings banks have balances of $6,538,038 with deposits of $80,841,956. The trust company balances are $2,204,536 with deposits of $18,081,374.

Caption under picture reads Buffalo 1912

Go to Index
Go to Chapter 8

Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks
June 18, 2005