Staten Island Ferry: The First 100 Years of Municipal Service

Staten Island Ferry: The First 100 Years of Municipal Service


Explore the history, art, people and sites of Staten Island's floating icon.

Coinciding with the Ferry's Centennial Anniversary in 2005, the Staten Island Museum opened a new permanent exhibition celebrating one of NYCs best-loved icons, the Staten Island Ferry. The Ferry is the second most visited site in NYC (after the Statue of Liberty) with over 65,000 people riding the ferry daily.

Exhibition on view 2005 - June 30, 2017

Our Ferry Collection was initiated by our Co-Founder William T. Davis, whose grandfather, John C. Thompson, was superintendent of the then privately-operated Staten Island Ferry from the 1850s to 1870s. Having operated a small museum at the St. George Ferry Terminal for nearly two decades (prior to the current reconstruction of the terminal), the Museum knows that the topic of the Staten Island Ferry is of great interest to children and adults alike.

In 1905, a nickel bought a ride aboard one of the new coal burning city steam ferries, each named for a borough of New York. Today "the Boat", as locals so affectionately call it, carries over 19 million passengers annually on the peaceful and better yet, FREE trip across the harbor. On a typical day 104 trips move upward of 65,000 people cross the harbor, making the Staten Island Ferry the most reliable form of mass transit in the city, if not the country, running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. NYC is truly the city that never sleeps.

Captured many times over in art, literature, film, and music, the Staten Island Ferry has become a New York icon and unofficial symbol of the borough of Staten Island.

This exhibition is supported by a major grant from the Achelis Foundation with additional support from the Staten Island Advance.


Diver Man

The Diver Man

In 2009 the Staten Island Museum welcomed back its historic, newly restored, and much anticipated “Diver Man”. The over 50-year old statuesque U.S. Navy Mark V Diving Suit spent the previous 15 years in the depths of the Staten Island Museum’s History Archives before it was shipped off to an art conservation studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yards to be restored. Donated to the Staten Island Ferry Museum by retired ferry captain Theodore Costa, the Staten Island Museum acquired the impressive piece when the Staten Island Ferry Museum closed in 1993. The Diver Man stands close to 7-feet-tall, complete with familiar copper headpiece, canvas suit, 185-pound lead belt and 17-pound each weighted shoes. The suit once allowed Navy divers and ferry repairmen to work underwater for up to 8 hours.


Launch of the Staten Island Ferry Rider's Guide

Starting on the anniversary of the Staten Island Ferry as Municipal Service (October 25, 2005), the Staten Island Museum will be distributing the brochure: Staten Island Ferry Rider's Guide. It will be available (while supplies last) for tourists and commuters alike at the Ferry Terminals and the Staten Island Museum. This self-guided tour will highlight landmarks seen from the "boat" and will encourage riders to disembark and explore St. George attractions including the Staten Island Museum.

Download the Ferry Riders Guide (PDF 2 MB)


What You Always Wanted to Know About the Ferry —
But Didn't Know Who to Ask!

How does the boat stop? Why isn't the route a straight line? Send us your questions about the Staten Island Ferry and perhaps we will add them to our exhibition.
We welcome your questions – Email our Education Department.