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Staten Island Ferry Boat by Carol Highsmith

Staten Island Ferry Boat. In 1817 the Richmond Turnpike Company began to run the first motorized ferry between New York and Staten Island, the steam-powered Nautilus. It was commanded by Captain John De Forest, the brother-in-law of a young man named Cornelius Vanderbilt. In 1838 Vanderbilt, who had grown wealthy in the steamboat business in New York waters, bought control of the company. Except for a brief period in the 1850s, he would remain the dominant figure in the ferry until the Civil War, when he sold it to the Staten Island Railway, led by his brother Jacob Vanderbilt. (Three of the Staten Island ferries were requisitioned by the United States Army for service in the war, but none ever returned to New York harbor.)

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