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Boston's Maritime Industrial History

A guide to select BPL holdings

Lane/Mead Boston Martime Collection

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

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 for documentation of these operational aspects of the port and for historical maritime businesses on the Boston waterfront.

More information on the contents of this collection can be found at, and the collection itself can be requested to use in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Further Boston Industrial Maritime Research at the Boston Public Library

This research guide on Boston Industrial Maritime History brings together some relevant documents beyond the Lane/Mead Maritime collection held at the Boston Public Library.

While maritime industrial industry is not one of our collecting areas and documents pertaining to the same period and business-specific focus of the Lane/Mead collection are limited, additional sources can be found within our collections. Thanks to a generous bequest by Arthur Lane, we will be acquiring more material on Boston maritime industrial history in the future.

This guide brings together items from the multiple catalogs used at BPL. In addition to the cataloged materials, we hold more additional materials that have not yet been described. Contact the Special Collections staff with details on your project for more information.

Digitized Material on Maritime History

There are hundreds of illustrations of Boston’s port on Digital Commonwealth. Description 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 has a large holding of digitized maps that reveal many details of a working port.