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Tug Pegasus Preservation Project

Work History of Tug Pegasus

Tug Pegasus through the years
S.O. Co. No. 16
S.T. Co. No. 16
No. 1
John E.

The tugboat Pegasus was built in 1907 as S. O. Co. No. 16, for the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, by the Skinner Shipbuilding Yard of Baltimore, Maryland.

The Skinner yard had a long history. There had been shipbuilding on that site at the foot of Federal Hill since 1783. Zachariah Skinner established his yard there in 1832 to build small schooners for the Bay and coastal trades. By the 1870s, the yard had produced some of the finest steamboats operating on Chesapeake Bay.

The yard survived into the 1980s, at the end under the ownership of the Bethlehem Steel Company. Bethlehem preserved most of the Skinner plans from the early twentieth century, including many for No. 16 and her sisters. These plans are now in the collection of the Baltimore Museum of Industry.

Click picture for a full-size drawing
Drawings courtesy of the Baltimore Museum of Industry, MD
bulkhead frame #11
Bulkhead Frame #11
bulkhead frame #25
Bulkhead Frame #25
boiler saddle frame #27
Boiler Saddle Frame #27
boiler saddle frame #31
Boiler Saddle Frame #31
bulkhead frame #37
Bulkhead Frame #37
belt frame #43
Belt Frame #43
bulkhead frame #51
Bulkhead Frame #51
bulkhead frame #57
Bulkhead Frame #57

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Tugs and Standard Oil

Tug Pegasus began life as one of a series of four sister tugs designed to serve waterside refineries and terminals of Standard Oil, docking ships, moving lighter barges of petroleum products, and serving as auxiliary fireboats when needed.

S.O.Co. No. 18, one of the four sister ships (probably her commissioning)
S.O.Co. No. 18, one of the four sister ships (probably at her commissioning).
Photo Courtesy the Mariner's Museum

Less than half a century earlier, on August 27, 1859, Edwin L. Drake had demonstrated the feasibility of drilling for petroleum at Oil Creek near Titusville, Pennsylvania. A search had been underway for an illuminant to replace whale oil and candles, and some kerosene had been extracted from coal shale. Drake opened the way to an almost unlimited resource that could be much more easily distilled into kerosene, with several other profitable by-products.

The petroleum industry grew rapidly during the 1860s in atmosphere of open, and often cutthroat, competition. Most participants chose to specialize, choosing production, transportation, refining, or distribution. John D. Rockefeller, with a group of associates, established a refinery in Cleveland, Ohio in 1863. Other refineries were built or acquired during that decade.

In 1870, the year when the firm reorganized under the name Standard Oil Company of Ohio, it purchased its first refinery in New York Harbor, the Long Island Works, across the East River from midtown Manhattan. Rather than limiting themselves to refining, Standard Oil broadened their activities into such areas as barrel making, railway tank cars, harbor lighterage, and transfer facilities, both to insure that their own needs were met and to provide additional income.

In the 1870s, over-production and a general economic depression drove down the prices of crude petroleum and kerosene. Rockefeller attempted to organize the refiners to prevent further price-cutting and to present a united front in dealing with the major transporters, the railroads. When this failed, he set out to either acquire his competitors or convince them to become associated with Standard Oil, usually through arranging the exchange of stocks. The company was reorganized in 1882 as Standard Oil of New Jersey. By 1886, when it moved its administrative headquarters to New York City, Standard Oil controlled over 80 percent of the country's market for refined petroleum.

S. O. Co. No. 16's name board
S. O. Co. No. 16's name board

When S. O. Co. No. 16 was built in 1907, the largest refining facility of Standard Oil was located on Constable Hook, Bayonne, New Jersey, where Kill van Kull meets Upper New York Bay. The first refinery at that location had been built in 1875 by an independent firm and acquired by Standard Oil around two years later.

Early photo of the No. 19 at an oil terminal, probably in Newtown Creek
Early photo of No. 19 and No. 17 at an oil terminal, probably in Newtown Creek.
Photo Courtesy of Steven Lang.

In 1881, Bayonne was the first refinery at tidewater to be directly linked with the oil fields by pipeline. Though the largest, it was not the only waterside plant in New York Harbor owned by or associated with Standard Oil. The others were the Eagle Works in Communipaw, Jersey City; the Long Island Works; the Pratt, and Sone & Fleming plants in Brooklyn; and the Queens County Works in Long Island City, which produced lubricating oil. By 1911, the Bayway Refinery in Linden, New Jersey, on the shore of the Arthur Kill, had been added. Standard Oil Company tugboats based in the Harbor would have served all of these facilities.

Early photo of the No. 17 at an oil terminal, probably in Newtown Creek
No. 17 and No. 19 at an oil terminal, probably in Newtown Creek.
Photo Courtesy of Steven Lang.

Steam tankers were developed in the 1880s to transport petroleum in bulk, but for the first decade of S. O. Co. No. 16's career, "case oil," kerosene in cans packed in wooden crates, was still being shipped to the Orient in large sailing ships out of the ports of New York and Philadelphia. With no mechanical propulsion whatsoever, the sailing ships had to depend on tugs not only for berthing, but also for getting in and out of port and any shifts within the harbor.

Tanker assisted under the Manhattan Bridge by tugs SOCONY 16 and SOCONY 17
Tanker assisted under the Manhattan Bridge by tugs SOCONY 16 and SOCONY 17.
From the Bettencourt Collection of South Street Seaport Museum.

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Aside from ship handling, the major use of the tugboats would have been lighterage. Crude petroleum was brought to the refineries by the pipeline, which was extended to the Long Island plants in 1882. Refined products, including illuminating oils, fuel oils and lubricants, were either loaded on board ships for export at refinery docks, or transported by lighter barges in tanks or drums to ships at other terminals or railway yards in New Jersey.

By the First World War, oil was replacing coal as a fuel for ships’ boilers, making the “bunkering” of ships by tank barge an additional oil company harbor activity. S. O. Co. No. 16, and her sister ships 17, 18, and 19, were nicknamed “battleship tugs” because of their size and power. They were built with riveted steel hulls 100 feet in length, 23 feet in breadth, and 12 feet in depth, and were powered by compound steam engines rated at 650 horsepower.

Anti-Trust Legislation Leads to Name Changes at Standard Oil

Standard Oil had begun operating harbor tugboats in 1889 with the ASTRAL built in Newburgh, New York. Their tugs were given the trade names of company products until shortly after the turn of the century, when the switch was made to a numbering system with ASTRAL becoming S. O. Co. No. 1.

SOCONY 17, sister of SOCONY 16, now PEGASUS, in the Kill Van Kull, photo by John Noble
SOCONY 17, sister of SOCONY 16, now PEGASUS, in the Kill Van Kull.
Photo by John Noble.
ESSO TUG No. 1, now Pegasus, at Fulton Street
ESSO TUG No. 1, now Pegasus, at Fulton Street.
Photo Courtesy of the Steamship Historical Society.

The marine department of the company was reorganized in 1915 as the Standard Transportation Company, and the names of the tugs then in the fleet, including S. O. Co. No. 16, were given a new prefix, "S. T. Co." In 1918, another change was made. The entire prefix was changed to SOCONY and the future PEGASUS acquired the name SOCONY 16.

In 1946-47, Pegasus and her running mates underwent the final name change of their oil company careers, becoming Esso TUG NO. 1, 2, 3, and 4. The name changes reflected company reorganizations mandated by the Federal Government under the Sherman Anti-trust Act of 1890, and the Hepburn Act of 1906, which expanded government jurisdiction over oil production and shipment.

ESSO Tug 1 after Standard Oil divided the New York and New Jersey companies
ESSO Tug 1 after Standard Oil divided the New York and New Jersey companies. The four sister boats were the beginning of ESSO's Maritime Division, 1946.
Photo courtesy of Steve Lang.

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Working for McAllister Brothers

S. O. Co. No. 16 served the oil industry for 45 years. In 1953, she was sold to New York-based McAllister Towing for further use as a harbor tugboat.

Bill of sale
The original bill of sale from ESSO to McAllister Brothers

McAllister is one of the oldest independent towing companies in the Harbor, and one of the largest in the country. The new owners traced their beginnings to James McAllister who emigrated from County Antrim, Ireland, in 1864 and acquired his first sailing lighter at the age of twenty-one. (Please see McAllister web site for more information.)

McAllister re-powered the tug with a modern 900 horsepower diesel engine manufactured by General Motors, and her name was changed from ESSO Tug No. 1 to John E. McAllister. McAllister also purchased the ESSO Tug No. 2 and converted her to diesel propulsion, now calling her the Roderick McAllister.

John E. McAllister and the Boston
John E. McAllister assisting in the launch of the Boston, Newport News, 1960.
Photo courtesy of McAllister Towing and Transportation.
John E. McAllister with a diesel engine
John E. McAllister after 1953, when she was converted to diesel. She had been bought by McAllister from ESSO.
Photo courtesy of Steve Lang.
John E. McAllister and the Enterprise
John E. McAllister assisting in the launch of the USS Enterprise, Newport News, VA, in 1960.
Photo courtesy of James McAllister IV.

Hepburn Marine Towing

Hepburn Marine ultimately bought the John E. McAllister in 1987, in Norfolk, where she was doing transport work for McAllister. She was brought back to New York as the tug Pegasus, where she was engaged in general harbor towing--towing of oil barges, contractors rigs and barges and railroad carfloats, and transport work. She was retired in 1997, at 90 years old, when the preservation effort began.

Pamela went to Gerry Weinstein, Jim Clements, Norman Brouwer, and Sandy Balick to found the Tug Pegasus Preservation Project. The New York State Charter was initiated on 10 November 2000.

Pegasus under the Brooklyn Bridge
Tug Pegasus clearing the Brooklyn Bridge with a carfloat alongside, 1989.
Photo courtesy of John Watson.

Her service of 90 years and survival reflects the largest technological change in this century, the shift from steam to diesel. She is one of several tugs that have survived through adapting. This vessel is common for her type: an oil-company-built, steam harbor tug.

Oil companies characteristically built strong, well-built tugs, as evidenced by their survival. Standard Oil Company was no exception. Although diesel propulsion was in use well before World War II, steam was still widely used. The economy and the demand of the war effort, typically, stimulated technological advances.

Tug Jupiter and John E. McAllister
Tugs Jupiter and John E. McAllister Norfolk, VA.
Photo Courtesy of Capt. Doug Dellaporta

Pegasus at the ConRail yards

Tug Pegasus with a carfloat at the Conrail Yards in Jersey City, Sept. 1, 1989.
Photo courtesy of Bob Hart.

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Pegasus in the Morris Canal

Tug Pegasus bound for Morris Canal with Lehigh Valley Barge #79.
Photo courtesy of Mike Gerzevitz.

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At the war’s end, we were a victorious and prosperous nation with a drive to grow, with incentives from the government to do so. This and other factors drove tug companies to reevaluate the equipment. The advancement of technology in war time and labor changes in the post-war era pointed steam vessels to obscurity. Fleets of steam tugs were shoved up on the beaches around New York Harbor or delivered to various scrapyards. As new fleets were built, welded steel hulls and diesel engines predominated.

Some steamboats, however--the sound ones--were converted to diesel propulsion. Private vendors had acres of government surplus machinery for sale, some coated with cosmolene and still in their boxes. Even the newly built tugs of the mid- and late-40’s and early 50’s had the same machinery, and the engine rooms look nearly identical.

Tug Pegasus in a tug beauty contest

Tug Pegasus going to a Tugboat Beauty Pageant, an industry event sponsored by the
New York Towboat and Harbor Carriers’ Association, 1988.

Photo by Joe Meyers.

History by Norman Brouwer, maritime historian and board member of TPPP.

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