Now with the South Street Seaport Museum, the Pioneer was built as a sloop in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania in 1885 to carry sand mined near the mouth of the Delaware Bay to an iron foundry in Chester, Pennsylvania. Ten years later she was re-rigged as a schooner.
In the days before paved roads, small coastal schooners such as Pioneer were the delivery trucks of their era, carrying various cargoes between coastal communities: lumber and stone from the islands of Maine, brick on the Hudson River, and oyster shell on the Chesapeake Bay. Almost all American cargo sloops and schooners were wood, but because she was built in what was then this country’s center of iron shipbuilding, Pioneer had wrought-iron hull. She was the first of only two cargo sloops built of iron in this country, and is the only iron-hulled American merchant sailing vessel still in existence.
By 1930, when new owners moved her from the Delaware River to Massachusetts, she had been fitted with an engine, and was no longer using sails. In 1966 she was substantially rebuilt and turned into a sailing vessel once again. Today she plies the waters of NY Harbor carrying adults and children instead of cargo in her current role as a piece of “living history.”