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Freight loading in San Francisco

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Freight loading in San Francisco
Smithsonian Institution

Dockside; time is money

Freight loading in San Francisco
In collection
From the Smithsonian Collection
This photograph from the mid-1950s reveals the challenges and risks in conventional longshoring. Slingloads of cargo packed in burlap sacks and bushel baskets are being lifted to the deck of a freighter, where longshoremen will pack them into the ship's hold. Dozens of men are required to accomplish this work and the risk of injury from faulty equipment or a mishandled load is ever present.
Physical Description
Date Made:
about 1955
Dates Used:
about 1955 - about 1955
San Francisco waterfront
Conventional (non-containerized) longshore work involved gangs of men working together to load or discharge various types of cargo. It would often take a week or more for the men to handle all of the boxes, bags, bales, drums, and other loose cargo in just one ship. From the employers' perspective, a week in port was too much time: every day a ship sat idle at the dock was a day the ship wasn't making money. Containerization radically changed this dynamic, slashing the turnaround time in port to just a few hours or a day.

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