Sailing from Port Jefferson, the sloop Emperor reigned in local waters from 1829-1898.
Contracted by Captain Caleb Kinner of Port Jefferson, the 60-foot Emperor was built in Derby, Connecticut, by Zephaniah and Israel Hallock.
Launched in 1829, the Emperor ran as a packet, carrying freight and passengers on regular trips between Port Jefferson and New York City.
At the Emperor’s inception, Port Jefferson was without rail service, the packet providing a vital link between the village and the metropolis.
The Emperor typically left Port Jefferson on Tuesdays and returned on Fridays, distinguishing itself during New York City’s cholera outbreak in summer 1832 by transporting panic-stricken people fleeing the epidemic and escaping to the country.
While steamboats eventually replaced the Emperor on the profitable Port Jefferson-New York route, the sloop remained a moneymaker in the coastal trade, sailing from Long Island to ports as varied as New Haven, Connecticut, and Haverstraw, New York.
Although tossed on the beach during a September 1892 storm, and reportedly “wrecked beyond repair,” the battered Emperor was on the Sound the next month bound for New York with a load of cordwood.
Described as a “decrepit, played-out sloop” in “Old Drown’ Meadow Packet,” an 1895 poem by William M. Davis, Port Jefferson’s foremost painter, the Emperor was still considered a good buy in spring 1895 when she was purchased by Captain Caleb Norton of Mount Sinai, New York.
The tired, sea-soaked Emperor somehow held together until 1898, the last year she was listed in Merchant Vessels of the United States, ending her days as purportedly the oldest sloop then afloat in Brookhaven Town.
The wreck of the Emperor, long a subject of amateur and professional photographers, sat for years on the east shore of Port Jefferson Harbor, but is no longer visible.
Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.