Port of Stockton's History By Decade – 1930’s

March 25, 2015



For the first of a series of posts focused on Port of Stockton’s history, we are going to take a look at the 1930’s, when our port first began to be what it is today. The 1930’s were filled with the early planning and execution of our Port facilities and the early dredging of the deep-water channel we use today.


Early 1930’s: Dredging, Railroads, and The Big Opening

Before the port officially opened in 1933, there was a lot of work to be done. Albert Lindley, a local leader who lived on Rough and Ready Island was influential in the campaign to deepen the channel. Lindley built his house and sold the property to the Navy, who allowed him to live on the property until he died. He pushed for the creation of a deep-water port and was instrumental in the Port of Stockton’s development.


In 1930 dredging began when the U.S. core army of engineers got the first dredging contract. This enabled us to work on the deep-water shipping channels. The Stockton Deep Water Channel was formed with a clamshell dredge. The clamshell, chain bucket ladder, dragline, and hydraulic dredges were all used to create the Channel that we use today. The dredger cut through many islands including, Tinsley, Fen, Headreach, and Tule Island, and created the shape of a dollar sign.


As construction began on the first dock and transit shed at our Port, the community of Stockton called an election to get the Port District Initiative passed. The unified rail service was the next big project before the port opened in 1933. The Belt Line Railroad was installed in 1932 and Mayer Con Franke hammered in the last spike that connected three transcontinental railroads himself. It took an operating and financial agreement between the city of Stockton and three transcontinental carriers to install this railroad. California Governor, Frank Merriam, also participated in the official ground breaking of the new port. The end of 1932 came with the appointment of the first five-member Board of Port Commissioners.


The port officially opened in 1933 with the arrival of the S/S Daisy Gray. The ship was carrying 75,000 tons of lumber from the Pacific Northwest. The arrival of the ship was one of celebration, with large crowds, church bells, and factory whistles. The end of 1933 brought with it a brand new port and a deep-water channel depth of 26 feet. This impressive new depth was a large improvement over the original 15 feet and enabled larger ships to pass through our Port.


Mid – Late 30’s: Port Development and Success
The mid 1930’s were dedicated to developing the port after its recent opening. The first train traveled on our docks in 1934 and we became known as one of the first ports on the west coast to have on-dock rail access. Along with our recent rail access, the first petroleum container was constructed in 1934. By 1935 an application had already been submitted and approved to increase the depth of the channel to 35 feet.


By 1936, our Port was operating “in the black”. Running and making money at rapid rates, we began to even grow local grapes. These grapes were fermented into wine, stored in barrels, and exported from out Port. Towards the end of the 1930’s the port facilities continued to develop at fast rates. Two of the largest developments included a grain terminal expansion as well as a cotton compress. In addition four more wharves and transit sheds were added, along with 9 additional brick warehouses.


Stay tuned for more posts on the Port of Stockton’s history by decade. To take an e-tour of our Port’s history, visit our website here.



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