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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Buffalo in Erie County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

The First Grain Elevator / Early Grain Elevators

The Industrial Heritage Trail

 
 
The First Grain Elevator / Early Grain Elevators Marker image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, June 3, 2015
1. The First Grain Elevator / Early Grain Elevators Marker
Inscription. In the years following the opening of the Erie Canal, Buffalo's harbor was becoming increasingly clogged with ships awaiting their turns to unload their cargos. A full team of dock workers could unload at most 2,000 bushels a day, and even then, only during fair weather. Unloading a full ship could take days. It was clear that the laborious process of manually transferring grain from lake vessels needed improvement.

It was during this time that Buffalo entrepreneur Joseph Dart and engineer Robert Dunbar constructed the first steam-powered grain elevator and storage warehouse in the world. Built in the fall of 1842, it stood on the Buffalo River at the junction of the Evans Ship Canal. The invention consisted of a wooden structure that served as storage bins for the grain. A steam-driven belt with buckets attached to it, called a marine leg, loaded the grain into this structure.

As the elevator's marine leg was lowered into the hold of a ship, buckets scooped up the grain and hoisted it up into the structure, where it was dropped into tall bins. This is how the term "elevator" originated; the marine leg elevated the grain from the ship and stored it in bins until the grain was lowered for transshipment or for milling purposes.

Dart's first elevator had a capacity of over 1,000 bushels per hour. In 1843, the first
Southward image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, June 3, 2015
2. Southward
Marker at right.
bulk shipment of grain to arrive at the Dart Elevator was unloaded from the ship in only hours. It soon became common practice to have a ship arrive at port, unload, and leave the very same day, which was unheard of before Dart's elevator. Dart's elevator unloaded over 229,000 bushels of grain during its first year of existence.

Dart's pioneering effort was quickly imitated. Less than fifteen years after his elevator was built, ten grain elevators were in operation near the Buffalo Harbor, with a combined total storage capacity of more than a million and half bushels. By the end of the Civil War, Buffalo had become the world's largest grain port.

[image] Buffalo Inner Harbor, circa 1900. The Brown Elevator is on the left, and the Wilkeson, C.J. Wells, and Sternberg Elevators are on the right. The foot of Washington Street is on the foreground, and the Ellicott Square Building can be seen in the background.

All early elevators were made of wood, a plentiful building material that allowed for quick and inexpensive construction. These elevators resembled enormous sheds or barns. The elevators were all located in or near the water, and served only lake and canal boats.

Grain elevators made for the ideal storage of grain. In each of the elevator's bins the grain was kept dry, cool, and free from pests such as rats, birds and worms, which could wipe out
Northward, Back of Marker image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, June 3, 2015
3. Northward, Back of Marker
Marker is the closer one.
the entire load. The grain elevator made it possible to weigh the grain as it was being shipped out. It was also possible to take samples of the grain to check for purity and contaminants.

The biggest drawback of the wooden grain elevator was its flammability. The early elevators often fell prey to destruction by fire. Combustion could suddenly occur from overheated grain, or from grain dust explosions, especially when grain was being loaded or unloaded from the elevator. There were also threats from exterior causes of combustion, chiefly sparks and hot cinders from locomotives, which were located close to the elevators. Boilers, needed to generate steam for steam-powered machinery, also posed a serious fire hazzard. In the 1890s, engineers began to seriously explore the use of fireproof materials in the construction of grain elevators.
 
Erected by The Industrial Heritage Committee, Inc.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Erie Canal marker series.
 
Location. 42° 51.507′ N, 78° 52.213′ W. Marker is in Buffalo, New York, in Erie County. Marker is on Fuhrmann Boulevard mile south of The Skyway (New York State Route 5), on the right when traveling south. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Buffalo NY 14203, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Grain Industry Decline / Buffalo's Grain Legacy (a few steps from this marker); The Early Grain Trade / Influence of the Erie Canal (within shouting distance of this marker); Fireproof Grain Elevators / Concrete Grain Elevators (within shouting distance of this marker); The Grain Elevators (within shouting distance of this marker); The Engineers of the Grain Elevators (within shouting distance of this marker); The Standard Elevator (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Wheeler / GLF Elevator (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Spencer Kellogg Elevator (approx. 0.2 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Buffalo.
 
Categories. AgricultureIndustry & CommerceWaterways & Vessels
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. This page has been viewed 123 times since then and 3 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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