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Box Boats Container Ships
Brian J. Cudahy
New York U Press
ISBN or Item #
Date Listed:
2006-03-24 21:33:16
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Box Boats: How Container Ships Changed the World

by Brian J. Cudahy

352 pages
, Cloth with dust jacket

"Fifty years ago—on April 26, 1956—the freighter Ideal X steamed from Berth 26 in Port Newark, New Jersey. Flying the flag of the Pan-Atlantic Steamship Company, she set out for Houston with an unusual cargo: 58 trailer trucks lashed to her top deck.

"But they weren’t really trucks—rather, they were steel containers lifted off their running gear, waiting to be lifted onto empty truck beds when she reached Texas. Ideal X docked safely, and a revolution was launched—not only in shipping, but in the way the world trades. Today, the more than 200 million containers shipped every year are the lifeblood of the new global economy. They sit stacked neatly on thousands of “box boats” that grow more massive every year.

"In this fascinating book, transportation expert Brian Cudahy provides a vivid, fast-paced account of the container ship revolution—from the maiden voyage of the Ideal X to the entrepreneurial vision and technological breakthroughs that make it possible to ship more goods more cheaply than ever before.

"Cudahy tells this complex story easily. Starting with Malcom McLean, Pan-Atlantic’s owner who, tired of waiting to load and unload goods into traditional open holds, first thought about loading the trucks instead. His line grew into the container giant Sea-Land Services, and Cudahy brilliantly charts its dramatic evolution into Maersk Sealand, the largest container line in the world. Along the way, he provides a concise, colorful history of world shipping—from freighter types to the fortunes of steamship lines—and explores the spectacular growth of global trade fueled by the mammoth ships and new seaborne lifelines connecting Asia, Europe, and the Americas.Masterful maritime history, Box Boats shows how fleets of these ungainly ships make the modern world economy possible—with both positive and negative effects. And it’s also a wistful tale of its homeport, New York, where the old freighter piers lie silent, while 40-foot steel boxes of toys and televisions come ashore by the thousands, across the bay in New Jersey."

Brian J. Cudahy’s acclaimed books include Around Manhattan Island: And Other Maritime Tales of New York, Over and Back: The History of Ferryboats in New York Harbor, and, most recently, A Century of Subways: Celebrating 100 Years of New York’s Underground Railways (all, Fordham University Press and, if clickable, available here at A director of the Steamship Historical Association, he lives in Bluffton, South Carolina.