Friday, May 24, 2013

A 1948 snapshot of the Gulf Coast shoreline

Visiting a used-book store in Freeport, Maine, I purchased an intriguing mid-20th-century source for a dollar -- a detailed mile-by-mile survey of the Gulf Coast for navigators: United States Coast Pilot: Gulf Coast, Key West to Rio Grande (Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1949), third edition. So far I have not seen it on line. According to the 2 April 1949 preface, the book "includes the results of a special field examination made in 1948." Among these results:

"Salerno [Florida], a small town at the head of Manatee Pocket, has a vegetable-packing plant, an asphalt plant, a shark factory, and is headquarters for a fishing fleet. . . . Gasoline, Diesel oil, fresh water, ice, and facilities for overnight dockage or seasonal storage are available at the yard. Groceries are obtainable at nearby stores." {214}
"For a distance of 40 miles eastward of the entrance [to Mobile Bay], the shore, although low, is wooded and unbroken. . . . . Approaching Mobile, two tall buildings near the water front are first seen. The easterly building has a pointed finial. The westerly building was under construction in May 1948 and will be the higher of the two." {272}

"The wreck of the S. S. Leo Huff is in 39 feet of water 6.0 miles 161 [degrees] from the whistle buoy marking the entrance to Calcasieu Pass Channel [Louisiana]. The mast shows above the water. A lighted buoy marks the wreck." {362}

"Gulf [Texas] is a small town 35 miles northeastward of Pass Cavallo. The sulphur mines north of the town were not in operation in 1948. The twin stacks and buildings at the mines are prominent from offshore." {405}
For landlubbers like me, it's as if someone had carefully noted every few miles of any given highway for hundreds of miles, as of 65 years ago. I'll add this to my informal list of people who are deeply interested in very specific and very small places, along with genealogists, cartographers, and weather forecasters in tornado season.

The book is not completely indexed (the wrecks are not included, for instance). But since its value is mostly in the description of local town and bay features I'll probably add this to my free lookups in due time.

Harold Henderson, "A 1948 snapshot of the Gulf Coast shoreline," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 24 May 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.] 

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