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The Elevators, rise and decline

1825: The opening of the Erie Canal extending from Buffalo to Albany transformed the Queen City into a national port. It also shortened the trip from here to New York City from six weeks to 10 days.

1842: The invention of the grain elevator by Joseph Dart revolutionized the industry by using steam-powered lifting of grain from ship to various parts of an elevator, where it was weighed and distributed. Dart was not a grain merchant, but a Buffalo hat maker. Before his invention, it would take two or three weeks to unload one ship.

1860: A grain elevator building boom results in 30 elevators lining City Ship Canal, Buffalo River and into Black Rock. Since there were no markets out west for grain; it would all have to come to Buffalo.

1899: Elevator numbers skyrocket to 52, making Buffalo the elevator capital of the world and the third-largest port in the world.

1899: Grain scoopers strike (see sidebar).

1959: Opening of St. Lawrence Seaway has ships bypassing Buffalo to use the Welland Ship Canal. It ended Buffalo's reign as grain mill mecca.

2003: End of scooping era in Buffalo. (See video at