Ship Channel Collection

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    A Japanese liner floats in the background in the Houston Ship channel with tiedown ropes featured in the foreground.

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    Black-and-white photograph of ships in the Houston Ship Channel.

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    A crane is loading a vehicle onto a ship.

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    Tractors & Parts; 85,994#; Destination: San Juan, Puerto Rico; Shipper: International Harvester; Freight Forwarder: Judson-Sheldon Division; Point of Origin: Chicago, Illinois; Handled at Long Reach Docks of the Houston Wharf Co.

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    A crane is loading a vehicle onto a ship.

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    Buildings by the Port of Houston with trains and train tracks running along the front of the photograph.

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    Bird's eye view of ship channel's Turning Basin. Sets of train tracks in the foreground lead to the docks.

A modern-day marvel of industry, the Port of Houston is an integral part of the region’s landscape and history. Through almost 150 photographs and documents, this digital collection traces the planning, construction, and ultimate success of the Ship Channel from its opening in 1914 through the 1960s. The collection also contains a handful of items that pre-date the Ship Channel itself.

Dating mostly from the 1950s, the photographs in the collection feature aerial views of the Port of Houston, cranes loading freight onto ships, interiors and exteriors of warehouses, groups of businessmen, and dockworkers in action. The photographs also include nearly 60 ships in port, complete with names (such as SS Java, SS Pygmalion, and SS Jean Lafitte) and descriptions about each ship’s cargo, destination, and/or point of origin.

In addition to the photographs, the collection also includes documents such as magazine articles, letters, pamphlets, and drawings. Among the highlights are maps from as early as 1925, bond certificates for the Houston Ship Channel Navigation District from 1911, and two illustrations of paddle steamers at port from 1859. A laudatory 20-page booklet from 1908 draws on photos and text to tout the city of Houston as a good place for business, and a nine-page pamphlet from 1915 furthers this claim by utilizing charts to compare freight costs with other ports.

Most of the items were donated by the daughter of James H. Branard, Jr. Mr. Branard served on the Board of Governors at the Port of Houston and was instrumental in its mid-century success. Several pieces were donated by the Harris County Archives to enrich the collection.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the James H. Branard Jr. Port of Houston Collection.

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