Games Learning Resources Visit the Museum
America on the Move
Collection Exhibition Themes
San Francisco waterfront

Enlarge Image
San Francisco waterfront


This object appears in the following sections:

Making the Exhibition
Container Back Story — Landscape

Chart of San Francisco Bay

San Francisco waterfront
In collection
From the Smithsonian Collection
This photograph shows part of the San Francisco waterfront. A passenger ship is docked at one of the long warehouse piers. The Golden Gate Bridge is in the distance and Coit Tower stands at the top of one of the city's famous hills. This photograph illustrates why San Francisco's geography was not well suited to the development of container operations. There is virtually no flat open space available for the storage and transfer functions that are so important in the container system. While the warehouse piers served passenger ships and conventional freight operations, they were not adequate for containerships.
Physical Description
Date Made:
about 1970
Dates Used:
about 1970 - about 1970
San Francisco waterfront
San Francisco was built on one of the world's best natural harbors. Located on the west side of San Francisco Bay, the harbor offers protection from the Pacific Ocean and provides water deep enough for large merchant and naval ships. The harbor, like the town, boomed during the Gold Rush, and, for most of the 20th century, it served as northern California's main port of entry for people and goods. In the 1960s when containerized, intermodal transportation systems were being developed and debated, San Francisco took a different tack from its neighbor across the bay, the Port of Oakland. In 1960 San Francisco's Port Authority decided to concentrate on improving its general cargo handling facilities instead of developing new facilities for the yet unproven container trade. Factored into this decision were the geographic realities of the city: its hilly landscape and crowded waterfont were not suited to container operations. By 1970, Oakland had eclipsed San Francisco as the bay area's major commerical port.

National Museum of American History About This Site | Sponsors | Buy the Book | E-mail Signup | Credits