Library & Archives
Keansburg Steamboat Company
Doris K. Handzo
Gregory J. Plunges
Monmouth County Historical Association
70 Court Street
Freehold, New Jersey 07728
The Keansburg Steamboat Company was founded in 1910 primarily by William Alvin Gelhaus as a means of providing transporation for New Yorkers who were interested in buying homes in Keansburg.
William A. Gelhaus was born 1871 May 13 in Matawan, NJ. His parents had emigrated from Germany in 1864. He was educated in the Matawan schools and at the Stewart-Hammond Business College in Trenton, NJ.
In 1893, Mr. Gelhaus purchased a bakery business in Atlantic Highlands which he operated with his brothers until 1905. At that time he entered the real estate business in Keansburg. He was president of the New Point Comfort Beach Company which he formed with Jesse Sculthorp and Howard Roberts. The company owned a large real estate development in Keansburg and in 1906 laid out the Beachway.
On 1909 June 18, the New Point Comfort Beach Company bought the steamboat ACCOMACK in Norfolk, VA and started a scheduled run from New York to Keansburg on July 1. The purpose of the trip was to bring prospective property buyers to Keansburg. Another real estate developer, Keansburg Heights Development Co., bought several thousand tickets. By July 21, ofer $1500 worth of tickets had been sold at $0.35 each.
In 1910, the Keansburg Steamboat Company was incorporated with William Gelhaus as its president. Their first steamboat was the NANTASKET which was purchased from the Long Island Railroad Co. and renamed the KEANSBURG. A new steamboat dock was built at the west end of the company's land. The steamers KEYPORT and POINT COMFORT are mentioned in the company advertising of this period. Between 1920 - 1926, the vessels POCAHONTAS, SMITHFIELD, and MOBJACK were also in service.
In 1926 the old KEANSBURG was replaced by the palatial CITY OF KEANSBURG and the CITY OF NEW YORK. By 1944, the Keansburg Steamboat Company was the only boat line left of the six companies which had been operating in this area. It received a regular franchise from the Interstate Commerce Commission.
In 1951 the company bought the Blue and White Bus Line running between New York, Keansburg and Long Branch. The company had sold off most of its land through the fifties, however, and the days of the steamboat lines were over. Only a skeleton of the steamboat dock remains -- most of it was torn away by Hurricane Donna 1960 September 12. The company moved its boats to a pier in Atlantic Highlands which was destroyed by fire 1966 May 6. By 1970, Henry Gelhaus, son of William Gelhaus, had sold the bus line and the boardwalk.
DESCRIPTION OF COLLECTION
The collection consists of financial records of the Keansburg Steamboat Company, Keansburg, NJ for the years 1910 - 1914. The bulk of the material consists of ticket sale day books for various steamsers on the run from Keansburg to New York and back. Also included are employee records, cash accounts, freight records and miscellaneous papers, including a financial statement of the New Point Comfort Hotel for the year 1910.
One oversize volume has been kept with the collection. This is a ticket sale day book for 1913 April 5 - 1913 November 20 for the steamer KEANSBURG.
PROVENANCE: Acquired 1979 May 26, a gift from Henry Gelhaus, Middletown, NJ.
SIZE OF COLLECTION: One linear foot. 36 volumes.
Financial Documents 1910 - 1914 (36 volumes)
Ticket sale day books 1911 May 5 - 1914 September 7. These include reports from the steamers KEANSBURG, POINT COMFORT, CHRYSTENAH, and ADONIS.
One ledger of employee records -- 1910. This includes names, dates of employment and wages for the steamer KEANSBURG.
Cash account book -- 1912. The accounts were kept by Howard W. Roberts
Freight book -- n.d. This is a record of freight shipped from Keyport to New York and back, including names of shippers, goods shipped, and prices charged.
Miscellaneous Papers -- 1909 - 1911. This folder includes ticket sale records, freight bills, purser's reports for 1910, cash statements and the financial report for the New Point Comfort Hotel for the year 1910.
BOX / FOLDER # / CONTENTS
1 / all / Ticket sale daybooks. 1911 May 5 - 1914 Sept. 7. 29 volumes.
1 / 2 / Tickets. 4 items
2 / all / Ticket sale daybooks, n.d., employee record ledger 1910, cash account book 1912, freight book n.d. 6 volumes
2 / 1 / Miscellaneous financial papers, 1909 - 1911
STEAMBOATS OWNED BY THE KEANSBURG STEAMBOAT CO.
Built in Nyack, NY 1866. 196.5 feet long. Bought by the Keansburg Steamboat Co. in 1912. Sank, crushed by ice, winter of 1919-1920.
CITY OF KEANSBURG
Built in 1926 and launched 1926 May 27 at Newburgh, NY. 231 feet long. In 1938 the company advertised three departures each way from New York and Keansburg and moonlight sails from the Battery. The ship was still in operation in May of 1944, but was sold by the company in 1968 for $65,000. Early in 1974 it had been purchased to be used as a restaurant in New York City, but the plans fell through and the ship was in drydock in Perth Amboy in November 1974, waiting to be auctioned off.
CITY OF NEW YORK
Built around 1926. Destroyed by a hurricane in 1953
Built in Chelsea, MA, 1878. 173.4 feet long. Originally named NANTASKET. Bought by the Keansburg Steamboat Co. from the Long Island Railroad Co. 1910 March 21, and renamed 1910 April 13. Destroyed by fire at Newburgh, NY 1928 April 16.
Built in 1871 as the MARTHA'S VINEYARD. Bought by the Keansburg Steamboat Co. in 1913. Broken up in 1917.
Bought by the Keansburg Steamboat Co. from the Patten Line in 1929. Operated until 1932.
Boughtby the Keansburg Steamboat Co. from the Patten Line in 1929. Operated until 1932.
Built in Newburgh, NY 1899. 180.2 feet long. Bought by the Keansburg Steamboat Co. 1922 April 14. Dismantled 1939 November 17.
Built in Wilmington, DE 1893. 195 feet long. Bought by the Keansburg Steamboat Co. 1922 April 18. Dismantled 1939 November 17.
Built in Camden, NJ and Wilmington, DE 1886. 190 feet long. Originally named NANTUCKET. Bought by the Keansburg Steamboat Co 1913 July 2. Name was changed 1913 July 24. Stranded in the Hudson River, 1919 September 17.
Built in Elizabeth, NJ for the Old Dominion Steamboat Co. of Norfolk, VA in 1891. 181.9 feet long. The name was changed from HAMPTON 1909 November 18. It was bought by the Keansburg Steamboat Co. 1922 April 18. The ship carried 1200 passengers and often made the New York - Keansburg run in one hour and ten minutes. It was dismantled 1947 December 29.
Freda, Jerry. The History of Keansburg. Keansburg, NJ : The Author, 1976
Holmes, Frank R. History of Monmouth County, New Jersey 1664 - 1920 Vol. 3. New York : Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1922 (Photo of William A. Gelhaus pp 184 - 185)
Moss, George H. Jr. Steamboat to the Shore Locust, NJ : Jersey Close Press, 1966
Reussille, Leon. Steam Vessels Built in Old Monmouth 1841 - 1894. Brick Township, NJ : The Author, 1975
Vertical File, Library and Archives, Monmouth County Historical Association: "Steamboats"
This page last updated 4 August 2008.