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So far we have spoken only of supplies required in our manufactures. There is no possible means of obtaining an account of supplies required for all other branches of industry for a population of 258,239 persons.
Were it possible to obtain ever so correct an account of the wants of the people of our own city and State, we should still be far short of the information of which we are in search.
Providence harbor is the natural source of supply, and the natural outlet for all of the country lying east of the Connecticut river north to the Canada border, and west of Boston; in fact, coming from the south, Providence is nearer, by steam, by twenty-four hours than the harbor of Boston; and when we consider the dangerous navigation around Cape Cod, we are led to believe that with sufficient depth of water in our bay and harbor, the Boston lines from the south would find it for their advantage to make Providence the terminus of their voyage, and transfer by rail such parts of their cargoes as may be destined for Boston.
With a view to estimating the number of tons of merchandise that is annually going to and from and through this city, we have requested from our several railroad companies and from the New York, Philadelphia and Norfolk lines of steamers, an account of the number of tons of merchandise transported by them during the past year.
The tonnage on the railroads is given in total, as there is no means of ascertaining how much may go from point to point on the roads without touching this city; but, when we consider that in this statement there is no account taken of the amount carried by the smaller lines of steamboats, by sailing vessels and by teams, we may not form a very inaccurate idea of the business of this port, even in dull times, and when the bars in our bay prevent us from receiving a very large part of the business that the position of our city would otherwise give us.
The accounts received from the railroads and steamboats are as follows, viz:
Providence, Norfolk and Baltimore
Providence and Stonington S. S. Co. (boat direct)
The records of the Custom House show that during the past year there have been 123 foreign and 5,520 domestic arrivals; that the value of imports were $466,868; that there were brought by water, 201,699 bales of cotton, 37,745 bales of wool, 60,362 barrels of flour, 685,336 bushels of grain, and 642,480 tons of coal.
It is estimated by competent authority that the wholesale grocery business of this city amounts to $11,000,000 per annum, and that of this amount $7,300,000 is in goods of foreign growth. The trade in drugs and chemicals, which is very largely in merchandise of foreign growth or manufacture, is estimated at about $5,000,000 per annum. The domestic importations of Providence by railroad and by water for 1877, are given as follows:
234,532 bales of cotton.
324,539 barrels of flour.
1,549,096 bushels of corn.
586,905 bushels of oats.
642,480 tons of coal.
JAMES SHAW, JR.,
GEORGE W. WHITFORD,
BENJAMIN W. PERSONS.
As illustrating the delays resulting from the shallowness of the water on the bar, we insert the following copy of a letter received from the agent of one of our principal steamship lines:
PROVIDENCE, NORFOLK AND BALTIMORE STEAMSHIP LINE,
P. O. Lock Box No. 482.
E, H. ROCKWELL, Agent. PROVIDENCE, R. I., Feb. 14, 1878.
J. Herbert Shedd, Esq., Chairman of the Harbor Commissioners:
DEAR SIR:-I beg and desire to call your attention to the fact that, in the year 1873, the Merchants and Miners Transportation Co. of Baltimore, Md., inaugurated a line of steamships between Baltimore, Norfolk and Providence, and styled
it the "Providence, Norfolk and Baltimore Steamship Line." Since this line was set in motion, owing to the great draught of water of our steamers, we have met with very serious delays on account of the depth of water in our harbor. The steamers of this line, when full freighted, draw eighteen and twenty feet of water, and have touched bottom in midway of channel, and dragged the bottom for long distances; and when we have had strong northwest winds we experience very much more delay.
If our steamers arrive on an ebbing tide, of two or three hours duration, and ground, they are obliged to so remain until the full flood tide makes again, causing the loss of valuable time—from six to eight hours-which is exceedingly annoying to our patrons and ourselves.
I will here state that the Merchants and Miners Transportation Co. also run a line of steamers between Baltimore, Norfolk and Boston via Cape Cod, and I have often advocated to them of their making the terminus of the Boston steamers at Providence, and connect with Boston by railroad, but our company has always contended that it was not practicable to do so with their largest steamers, on account of the shallowness of the water in our harbor; but have intimated to me that if harbor facilities were such at Providence that no delays would occur on account of depth of water, and the steamers could arrive and depart at any time of tide, that, ultimately, the terminus of the Boston line would be established at Providence. This line is an important one for the city of Providence, running as it does direct to the South, connecting at Norfolk, Va., with the Virginia and Tennessee Air Line and Seaboard and Roanoke Railroads, for all points South; and at Baltimore (Locust Point), Md., with the Great Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, for all points West, North and Southwest. I trust that some special action will be taken by the State this present year to improve the navigable waters of our beautiful "Narragansett."
Very respectfully yours,
E. H. ROCKWELL, Agent,
Prov., N. & B. S. S. Line.
We have been kindly furnished by Gen. James Shaw, Jr., Collector of this Port, with the following statistical table:
COMMERCIAL STATISTICS OF PROVIDENCE,
1871 TO 1877.
1871. 1872. 1873. 1874. 1875. 1876.
Foreign value in gold.
182 Value of imports.....$652,281 $780,616 $818,323 $412,698 $552,768 $288,454 $466,868 Coastwise arrivals... 5,808 6,542 6,952 4,665 6,373 5,326 5,520
QUESTIONS PROPOSED BY THE BOARD OF HARBOR COMMISSIONERS TO THE UNITED STATES ADVISORY COUNCIL, AND THEIR REPLY. Commodore Daniel Ammen, Chief of Bureau of Navigation, Chairman of U. S. Advisory Council upon the Public Waters of Rhode Island, Washington, D. C.: DEAR SIR:-The Board of Harbor Commissioners for the State of Rhode Island, desire the advice of your Board upon the following subjects:
1. What would you propose as to the general improvement of the harbor? 2. What width, depth and cross-section of channel should be sought in order to best accommodate the shipping likely to come to these waters?
3. Has any change been made in the tidal flow of the Seekonk river to the injury of Providence Harbor, and what changes in the harbor would be likely to follow encroachments upon this basin?
4. May any change be made to improve the harbor by restoration of tidal flow, and could such restoration be effected by a rebuilding of the bridges?
5. Will the Council indicate what studies or surveys may be involved in obtaining specific information?
6. What general course should be pursued in considering the establishment of harbor lines, in view of the necessary encroachment upon public waters, and the probable effect upon tidal currents, and the form and depth of channels?
7. What course shall be pursued in order to most effectually bring before Congress the necessity for government aid in improving the channels and approaches to Providence Harbor?
8. Will the Council suggest from time to time, such information as may be deemed to be of service to this Board in preserving and improving the navigable waters of the State?
Very respectfully, your obedient servants,
J. HERBERT SHEDD,
PROVIDENCE, November 5, 1877.
NAVY DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, D. C.,
To the Honorable Board of Harbor Commissioners for the State of Rhode Island: GENTLEMEN :-In considering the interrogatories contained in your communication of November 5th, we have endeavored by a careful inspection of the