Residents of Bremen initiated trade contacts with North America as early as the 1780s, when the Revolutionary War was still raging, and 1783 marks the beginning of direct transatlantic trade with the new nation. Since that time, the Free Hanseatic City has maintained a close relationship with the United States. In response to George Washington’s personal request, Europe’s first American Consulate General was set up in Bremen in 1794.
The first ship that entered the newly created port in today’s Bremerhaven in 1830 was an American schooner, the Draper. By 1854, Bremerhaven had become the largest migration port in Europe. To date, over eight million emigrants have set out for the New World from Bremerhaven’s Columbuskaje dock. In 1857, two merchants from Bremen founded North German Lloyd, a shipping company that offered regular passenger service to New York and Baltimore. And in 1890, the American John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil) joined forces with three merchants from Bremen to found the German-American Petroleum Society, which later became the German company Esso, in Bremen.
At the end of World War II, Wesermünde and the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen were included in the American Zone of Occupation. From that time on, Bremerhaven was a port of embarkation for the US Army. Thus began the period in which American troop transporters called at Bremerhaven’s docks countless times. And since 1949, around 500 refrigerated ships (banana boats) have also discharged their cargo there upon arrival – around 5,000 times.
When a ship with over 1,000 American soldiers docked at Columbuskaje on October 1, 1958, an enormous crowd of reporters and onlookers came to greet it. The reason? Elvis Presley, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, was on board to begin his military service in Europe.
On May 6, 1966, the American ship Fairland unloaded the first container onto a German dock in Bremen’s international port, marking a revolution in sea freight transshipment.