McAllister book is all about tugboats

“McAllister Towing — 150 Years of Family Business,” is a big, beautiful coffee table book with quite a story to tell. The 235-page book is almost evenly divided between art and copy. The art includes many full-page reproductions of paintings of McAllister scenes by the likes of maritime historical painter Bill Muller as well as stunning and dramatic photography. Historical photos are restored and reproduced and the modern shots include a remarkable image of a McAllister tug steaming toward the flaming twin towers on 9/11. There are scores of boat shots for tug enthusiasts, many hitherto unpublished. Flipping through the book provides a visual history of the evolution of shipping, from the days of sail through two World Wars to modern day. It has well-documented captioning that is elucidating. The book is worth the $50 price tag on for the visuals alone.

After perusing the artwork, settle into Stephanie Hollyman’s text. It is worthwhile reading. The story of the five generations of turmoil and tenacity that led to today’s modern McAllister Towing is fascinating. 

The tale is not your run-of-the-mill rags-to-riches family business history. There is enough family drama for a reality TV program and the business seems to regularly teeter on the brink of bankruptcy. There are lawsuits, strikes and family discord as well as daring parlays into different sectors. At one point, McAllister owned a fleet of offshore supply vessels, 18 of which operated in the Persian Gulf. The story of how the venerable tugboat company, synonymous with New York City, entered and then left the oil business is some of the best narrative in the book.

This history has been a long time in the making, and many people contributed to its research and writing. It was worth the wait.

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