Proprietors of the Boston Pier, or Long Wharf records
- 1762-1903 (inclusive)
Conditions Governing Access
17 linear feet (19 volumes, 2 boxes)
The owners of the pier were officially named the Proprietors of the Boston Pier, or Long Wharf. The Proprietors were incorporated in 1772 when they received a charter from the colony of Massachusetts. Each proprietor owned shares in the Long Wharf and collected quarterly dividends proportional to size of the share. Many prominent Boston families were listed among the Proprietors, and family shares were passed down from generation to generation.
The corporation employed a wharfinger, who served as the Proprietors’ agent and clerk. The wharfinger managed the day-to-day operations of the Long Wharf; collected the wharfage and dockage fees; collected rent from the tenants of the wharf’s shops and warehouses; and supervised the frequent improvements made to the Long Wharf. As clerk, the wharfinger organized corporation meetings, recorded the Proprietors’ votes, provided quarterly and annual financial reports, and distributed dividends to the shareholders. The wharfinger’s duties remained consistent from the late 18th century to the early 20th century.
Like the city of Boston itself, the layout of the Long Wharf changed markedly throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The so-called T Wharf, a remnant of the 17th wharf structures that was named for its shape, protruded from the side of the Long Wharf during the 18th and early 19th centuries. Although the two piers were connected, the T Wharf was not owned by the Proprietors. As the Boston waterfront became busier, disagreements over access and unloading rights arose between the owners of the two piers. During the 1820s and 1830s, the two groups fought a lengthy court battle that was ultimately resolved by arbitration. The court case was known as “Brimmer et al vs. the Proprietors of the Boston Pier or Long Wharf.” The piers were finally separated in the mid-nineteenth century when Boston Harbor was partially filled around them. The Long Wharf was shortened and the T Wharf was connected directly to the waterfront. Although the Long Wharf lost some of its namesake length, it remained an important shipping outlet throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Accession no.: M-03-006
By: Timothy J. Mahoney
- Proprietors of the Boston Pier, or Long Wharf records, 1762-1903 (inclusive): A Finding Aid
- Baker Library
- EAD ID
Part of the Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University Repository
Baker Library Special Collections holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.
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