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Boston's Maritime Industrial History

A guide to select BPL holdings

Boston's Maritime Industrial History

A Guide to Selected Holdings at the Boston Public Library

The Lane/Mead Boston Maritime Collection documents aspects of Boston’s maritime industrial history primarily from the mid-19th century to the end of the 20th century. 

Remote searches for the maritime industrial history of the Port of Boston were conducted using the BPL’s online catalogs with results posted to the BPL’s collection of LibGuides:   https://guides.bpl.org/maritimeindustry. Google searches can cast a much broader net, but this study investigates some relevant documents held within the Boston Public Library’s collections. 

As a steamship agent, Mr. Lane’s job was to bring cargos into port, requiring an interest in port facilities, harbor maintenance, labor relations, marine safety, regulations, and other less romantic aspects of port operations. Searches were conducted documentation of these operational aspects of the port and for historical maritime businesses on the Boston waterfront. 

The Boston Public Library does not specifically collect maritime industrial history and the number of primary documents that cover the Lane/Mead Collection’s timeframe is limited, as are the number of maritime business-specific holdings. Finding the relevant documents requires a certain knowledge of the various research catalogs employed by the BPL.  In addition to the cataloged materials, a substantial number of its holdings are not included in any of the BPL’s catalogs, but the researcher will find that the knowledgeable Special Collections staff are helpful.  BPL’s research guidance can be found at: https://www.bpl.org/conducting-research/catalogs-and-databases/  

There are hundreds of illustrations of Boston’s port on Digital Commonwealth (https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/).  Coding was not necessarily done by a person familiar with the port or its terminology so it’s worth searching with several alternative terms if you don’t initially find the hoped-for images. 

In addition to maps cited in this study the Leventhal Map Center) at the BPL (https://www.leventhalmap.org/ has a large holding of digitized maps that reveal many details of a working port.  

Please note that this is a work in progress with periodic additions and corrections.