Cape Ann Museum CAM Connects
How does one get around Cape Ann? In today's issue of CAM Connects, we take a look at the history of transportation on Cape Ann

August 18, 2022

Harry Gage (1887-1982), View of the A. Piatt Andrew Bridge Under Construction, c.1950s, watercolor on paper. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA. Gift of the Sheila W. and Samuel M. Robbins Collection, 2021 [Acc. #2021.043].

Dear Friends,

Here’s hoping your summer has been rejuvenating and restful – and that you have been able to experience the many wonderful programs on offer at the Museum this season!  This weekend for instance, please join us at the Janet & William Ellery James Center for our new exhibition of Americans Flags  and also experience the temporary installation Without Just Grounds on view tomorrow through Sunday within the White-Ellery House at the Cape Ann Museum Green.   

With many exciting special exhibitions, innovative programs, a full range of CAM walks, and rotations of the permanent collection now and planned during the year ahead, please visit our events page or pick up a Program Guide at the Museum for a full list of the Museum’s offerings.

One of the ways to enjoy New England is by local travel – whether by car, train, boat, or bicycle. Transportation is the theme of this issue of CAM Connects, for recreation, for work, and for industry. As you travel through the area this summer and fall, this issue of CAM Connects serves as a reminder of some of the earlier ways people utilized in traveling to and from Cape Ann.

No matter your mode of transport, be it on foot, via commuter rail, by car or by bicycle, please avail yourselves of the Cape Ann Museum as your resource and visit us often with your family and friends!

With all best wishes,

Oliver Barker, Director


How does one get around Cape Ann? You might cruise around the harbor in a schooner, drive with the windows down along the scenic marshes, or ride your bike around the quaint neighborhood streets. 

In this issue of CAM Connects, we take a look at the history of transportation on Cape Ann—from its major industrial revolutions to lesser known modes of movement. Despite the changes from sail to steam, rail to road, and isolation to accessibility, many of these methods of travel are still used here in daily life; and if not, they are likely recorded within the collections and archives of the Cape Ann Museum. Read on to see if you are an expert in transit or if you find something new en route. 

To learn more about different types of seafaring vessels from the past and present, visit the special exhibition The Legacy of the Family-Owned Fishing Vessel or explore the resources of Fitz Henry Lane Online.

Steaming ‘round the Harbor

John Gardner Weld (1879-1969), Model of the Steam Ferry “Little Giant,” wood, metal. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA. Gift of Mrs. William M. Reed, 1947 [Acc. #1200].

Steam-powered ferries were an important means of transportation throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th, linking Cape Ann to seaports up and down the Eastern seaboard and to the rest of the world. Here in Gloucester, ferry service was also available around the Inner Harbor, helping get residents to work and visitors to scenic sites around the city.

The Little Giant provided passenger ferry service around Gloucester’s Inner Harbor for nearly 40 years. Built in 1878 at the John Bishop Shipyard in Gloucester, the jaunty vessel was 46 feet long and 16 feet in breadth. Her cabins were finished in black walnut and oak, and she had long wooden benches on her upper deck sheltered by a striped awning.

Little Giant’s route took her from Duncan’s Point to a long finger pier stretching out into the Harbor from East Main Street, to the end of Rocky Neck where another pier protruded out into the water. The ferry made a round trip every 20 minutes, slowing down but not always stopping, to allow passengers on and off. It was an alternative to the streetcar which ran along East Main; for many years Little Giant’s fare was just four cents.  

This model of the Little Giant in the Museum’s collection was made by John G. Weld (1879-1969), a native of Boston. Weld worked in a shipyard as a young man and later as a custodian at the Old State House in Boston.

Today, folks wishing to explore the neighborhoods that surround Gloucester’s Inner Harbor are invited to do so on a water shuttle that runs daily throughout the summer months, much as Little Giant did a century ago. Check out today's water shuttle here. 

Constructing the Colossus – The A. Piatt Andrew Bridge

Construction of the A. Piatt Andrew Bridge on Route 128 over the Annisquam River, 1950. Photographs by Lloyd O. Runkle. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA. Gift of Virginia Runkle Scott, 2010 [Acc. #2010.53.3].

Prior to 1950 the only street access to Gloucester was the Blynman Bridge, also known as the Cut Bridge, on Stacy Boulevard. The construction of the A. Piatt Andrew Bridge, spanning the width of the Annisquam River, connected Cape Ann to mainland Massachusetts like never before. The new two-way bridge and the extension of Route 128 allowed drivers to come and go from the area with ease, though not before the White-Ellery House, previously located in the middle of the soon to be constructed roundabout, was moved by the Museum to its new location at the CAM Green. New businesses sprang up, commuting increased, and the summer economy got a significant boost. However, the change was not always well-received by locals who, up to that point, were relatively insulated. More visitors meant more traffic and overcrowding as well as losing some elements of the small-town life that had once existed.  

Lloyd O. Runkle, originally from Ohio, spent much of his life in Gloucester. Runkle was not only an accomplished civil engineer but also a talented photographer. With prior experience as a City Engineer in Ohio, once in Gloucester he worked for the Massachusetts Department of Public Works and was one of the original surveyors and engineers assigned to the Route 128 project that included the new bridge. Acting as spokesman for the project, he often gave lectures on how the work was progressing. His lectures and photography captured a mix of modern engineering and the human element, which garnered increasing interest from attendees. Runkle’s collection of photographs was donated to the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives in 2010 where they continue to serve as documentation of this significant moment in local history. To see examples of just a few of the recently digitized images, visit our Google Arts & Culture page, here.  

Rolling off the Block – Folly Cove Designers’ Transportation Prints

Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios (1909-1968), Commuting, undated, ink on cotton from two block design. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA.

Virginia Lee Burton’s dynamic drawings of machinery have captured the imaginations of many generations, perhaps most famously in her 1939 children’s book, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Through her illustrations and block printing, Burton continually explored the interaction between machinery and environment, combining strong lines of steel with soft strokes of greenery. Her ability to make images spring off the page is well-demonstrated in her undated design, Commuting, the blocks for which are currently on display in the Museum's Folly Cove Designers Gallery. In this composition, notice how the diagonal direction of the train suggests the sound of wheels screeching on rail lines.

Transportation was a common theme for other Folly Cove Designers as well, all of whom focused on the world around them with Burton’s guidance, including the detailed prints in Polyphemus and Gloucester by Eino Natti as well as Schooners by Aino Clarke and Squam Stage by Gertrude Griffin.

Stone in Motion

Gabrielle de Veaux Clements (1858-1948), The Derrick (Rockport Quarry), 1884, etching on paper. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA. Gift of Harold and Betty Bell, 1999 [Acc. #1999.37].

Granite quarrying on Cape Ann began as early as the 1830s, and by the late 19th century had grown to be one of the region’s largest industries. It was a business that relied not only on the skilled removal of stone from the deep granite ledge, but also on the efficient transportation of a dense cargo that could weigh tens of thousands of pounds.

After being separated from the earth through drilling and blasting, large granite blocks were fitted with chained “dog hooks” and attached to pulleys attached to a series of long beams called derricks. Blocks could then be lifted onto carts pulled by oxen, as shown in the 1884 etching by Gabrielle de Veaux Clements above. Oxen were typically only used to tow raw or finished stone around the stone yard, such as between the pit and cutting sheds. In 1870, the Cape Ann Granite Company used a team of 15 oxen to tow an 18’ x 7’ slab of granite six miles to downtown Gloucester to serve as the front step of the Baptist Church at the corner of Pleasant and Warren Streets.

Some larger quarries were fitted with railways that connected stone yards directly to nearby wharves, using large steam locomotives to haul stone cars down the track. At the wharf, cargo would be loaded onto waiting stone sloops, which would carry it further afield to places like New York, Philadelphia and even Havana, Cuba. These sloops were referred to by granite historian Barbara Erkkila as “floating ledges,” and were specially designed to handle the dense payload. The sloops were thickly built, staunchly rigged, and equipped with a derrick-like cargo boom to aid in the loading and unloading of stone.