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Goods from across America, Europe, and Asia

by Simone Kennedy-Mitton

With the establishment of punctual and reliable ocean liners in the early 19th century, South Street Seaport was the recipient of much of the international imports until its decline around 1860. From Britain it obtained both cloth textiles and coal, and received a considerable amount of these goods when Britain chose South Street to dump all of its accumulated goods from the 4 years in which the War of 1812 restricted international trade.

From France, James Chesterman sent "ready-to-wear" lines. Women and men could buy the newest Paris fashions and trends and have them sent by ships to New York, to be distributed throughout the city. Wine and spirits were also imports from France. Wine was also received from Holland, Spain, and Portugal. By 1860, New York had two-thirds of the entire alcohol business. South Street even received exotic goods like figs, oranges, raisins, lemons, almonds, and olive oil from the Mediterranean. Chinaware and tea were imported from China. The China trade became a huge trading system in South Street Seaport as well as throughout the world,

As for America, many states throughout the country transported their inland goods, much of it cotton and agricultural items, to South Street, where it was subsequently transported to international ports in Europe.

All the international imports were funneled through the auctioneers and business along South Street, and the American exports were heaved onto vessels lining the piers of South Street. This small port had a lot of responsibility in its heyday.

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