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Houston Ship Channel, 1987 HCEL
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The Houston Ship Channel- 50-miles of waterway stretching from the Gulf of Mexico inland to Houston, Texas - has been an important economic engine and a fixture of the southwestern United States for more than a century. The project was primarily facilitated by investment banker and lobbyist, Jesse H. Jones, whose leverage in Washington garnered federal support for half of the cost of the project. It was also made possible by Harris County which, in 1909, issued bonds to fund the other half of the cost of dredging the channel. The channel was dredged to a depth of 25 feet for its initial opening to deep-water navigation in November of 1914.

The opening ceremony involved an additional bit of engineering in celebration of the achievement, through which President Woodrow Wilson was able to press a button in Washington that launched cannon fire at the Houston Ship Channel. At its opening in 1914, the Houston Ship Channel banks were home to few industries; today, they support the second largest petrochemical complex in the world. Later improvements deepened the channel to 40 feet and widened it to 400 feet for the majority of its length. The Port of Houston is currently ranked the nation’s second largest port in tonnage and largest in foreign trade.
Photo: Blair Pittman; NARA
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