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Tugboats of New York: An Illustrated History
     

Tugboats of New York: An Illustrated History

by George Matteson
 

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2005 Author of the Year AwardWorking Harbor Committee of New York and New Jersey

2006 AAUP Book, Jacket, and Journal Show in the category of Trade Illustrated Book Design

Tugboats are the workhorses of the greatest harbor in the world, easing massive ocean liners and garbage scows alike cleanly into their berths. Tugboats of New

Overview

2005 Author of the Year AwardWorking Harbor Committee of New York and New Jersey

2006 AAUP Book, Jacket, and Journal Show in the category of Trade Illustrated Book Design

Tugboats are the workhorses of the greatest harbor in the world, easing massive ocean liners and garbage scows alike cleanly into their berths. Tugboats of New York captures the history and lore of these iconic craft, from their precursors in the early 1800s to their heyday in the 1950s, when more than 700 small but potent boats dotted the harbor. They are the most versatile of vessels, not only guiding large oceangoing ships safely into harbor, but also conducting rescue operations and navigating vast quantities of oil, cement, and scrap iron through traffic-clogged waters.

A twenty-year veteran of New York tugboats, George Matteson knows the tides and currents of New York from the Bronx to the Verrazano Narrows. His history of tugboating shows how this inherently risky business pits men and their boats against weather, water, and the scarcely measurable physics of ships and barges of far greater dimension.

The story of New York’s tugs parallels the broader history of New York’s industrial development, from the rise of railroads to the decline of the port in the wake of labor disputes and large container ships. It is also a story of remarkable seamen who pass their craft from pilot to apprentice over generations, along with the lore of great waterways that remain unchanged despite the lengthening shadows of skyscrapers and commerce.

Rich with first-person anecdotes of life on the New York waterways and one hundred and fifty black-and-white illustrations, including rare and sumptuous photographs from the likes of Gordon Parks and Todd Webb, Tugboats of New York will fascinate readers interested in New York history, boating, and maritime history.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This sturdy, if little lauded, workhorse of the city’s waterways has found a champion in George Matteson, himself a veteran tug operator. His marvelous, handsomely designed Tugboats of New York is both an evocative photo album of tugs at work and a detailed essay on nearly two hundred years of tugboat history.”
-BookForum

“A brave and jaunty disquisition, copiously illustrated, on the history of tugboats in the port of New York—written with boundless enthusiasm and affection for its subject, and with more than a little longing for the days when ships of all kinds dominated the rhythm of life in and around the city's endless waterways.”
-Ric Burns

“Breathtaking photographs.... Matteson’s fascinating account of the evolutionary era begins with the geographical formation of New York Harbor, but quickly moves to the era of the vessels themselves.... Anyone fond of books about the way things work will enjoy Matteson’s detailed explanations; others will relish his metaphors.”
-New York Times Book Review

New York Times Books Review
"...breathtaking photographs...Matteson's fascinating account of the evolutionary era begins with the geographical formation of New York Harbor, but quickly moves to the era of the vessels themselves...Anyone fond of books about the way things work will enjoy Matteson's detailed explanations; others will relish his metaphors."
WorkBoat
"The story of the development of the tugboat industry in one of the busiest seaports in the world is a remarkable one, and Matteson delivers it in rich and lively detail. . . . The photographs alone, with extensive captioning, make this book worth buying. These photos are gems."
The New Yorker
In this illustrated history, Matteson, a twenty-year tugboat veteran, narrates two centuries of the city’s history from the decks of its tugboats, whose fortunes “powered up with the rising tide of the nineteenth century and then powered back down with the efficiencies of the twentieth.” The first boat in New York meant exclusively for towing entered service in 1828, but business was sporadic; her captain was “more likely to be found in the local saloon than at the helm.” In 1871, a tugboat was lured up the Hudson to Sing Sing and shanghaied by escaped Tammany men, then chased by a flotilla of guards in rowboats, who finally ran it aground near Nyack. The peak of the tugboat era was 1929, when eight hundred of them plied the city’s waters. Today, there are fewer than two hundred, which are used to dock larger ships, though a handful, Matteson notes elegiacally, still “trundle back and forth across the harbor on an indifferent schedule, carrying mostly Long Island garbage and incinerator ash to the mainland.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780814757383
Publisher:
New York University Press
Publication date:
10/01/2007
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
278
Sales rank:
737,431
Product dimensions:
12.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Anyone who doubts the beauty or role of the lowly tugboat will be pleasantly surprised by this handsome new book...Drawing on a range of historical sources, the author argues convincingly that the towing industry played a crucial role in building New York’s commercial stature.”
-Armchair Sailor

,

“Few books can be all things to all people, but this one is an exception. Much more than just a narrow history aimed at tugboat buffs, it has something for everyone. George Matteson, a veteran towboater, has tackled the history of working vessels and has produced a work that is not only poetic and technical, nostalgic and clearheaded, but perceptive of the human and economic dimensions of working on the water. Since towboating in New York reflects the overall course of American industrial, economic, and maritime history, it is a venture into maritime history itself.”
-Steamboat Bill: Journal of the Steamship Society of America

,

“The seductive promise of the fog-drenched images on the dust jacket of Tugboats of New York is more than fulfilled in the comprehensive contents.”
-Sea History

,

Tugboats of New York is one of those rare constructions where everything works just about perfectly.”
-Marine News

,

“Matteson, who has worked on tugs for 20 years, defines the blue-collar boats’ place in the history of America's industrial development and provides anecdotes about life in the harbor.”
-Associated Press

Meet the Author

George Matteson has operated tugboats since 1971 and has also worked as the waterfront manager of the South Street Seaport Museum. He is the author of Draggermen as well as several articles in Boating magazine. He lives in New York City.

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