Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry

Bridgeport, Connecticut | C.1883

Photo Credit: Edward Garrity

During the 19th century, steamboats ruled America’s waterways. In 1883, two friends living on opposite sides of the Long Island Sound – one an established name in show business and the other a lifelong sailor – saw an opportunity to open a steamboat service between Bridgeport, CT and Port Jefferson, NY. And so, the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company was born.

The sailor was Captain Charles E. Tooker, a steadfast sea captain who first sailed when he was 9 years old. The showman was none other than P.T. Barnum, the eponymous founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, and a longtime resident of Bridgeport. The two banded together and formed the Company which grew to have 27 stockholders. Barnum, then in his 70s, was elected company president.

The Steamboat Company launched with the intention of transporting agricultural goods to industrial New England. The first ferry to ply the waters was the Nonowantuc. Designed by John Titus Mather and Owen Wood, the Nonowantuc was a 120-foot wooden hull vessel with a boiler, compound engine to turn the propeller, and two masts rigged with staysails. She could carry 350 passengers and was manned by a six-person crew.

In the decades to come, the steamboat service thrived. In 1968, the Company acquired the SS Martha’s Vineyard, a diesel-powered ship, and ended their steamship service. Since then, the service has also been known as the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry, although it formally retains its original Steamship Company name.

The Ferry currently has three ships in service, the MV Park City, the MV P.T. Barnum, and the MV Grand Republic. Trips between Bridgeport and Port Jefferson take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. In 2017, the Ferry reported carrying 1.3 million passengers and 500,000 vehicles annually.

Create an account to comment! Login/Sign Up.


Log in

Need an account? Sign up

Sign up

Already have an account? Log In

Enter your email to reset your password

Enter your new password