A one-industry whaling town before the Civil War, New Bedford became a one-industry textile town afterward. Cotton bales and coal, both bound for the city's new textile mills, began to replace oil casks on New Bedford wharves.
Oil casks covered with seaweed to keep them from drying out once lined the waterfront. But as whaling profits shrank and risks grew, New Bedford investors turned to cotton. By 1900 the city was the largest producer of fine cotton cloth in the nation. By 1918, as many as 35,000 people in the city were making cotton shirts and sheets.
In 1918, to speed up cotton deliveries to New England and Fall River mills, the state built this pier in the place of three older private wharves. State Pier could dock the largest coastal vessels then afloat.
While the whaling business is still pursued with an energy worthy of all praise ... the whistle of the steam engine, heard morning, noon and night, tells where the busy hand of labor is at work.