Steamboats Give Way to the New Chesapeake Bridge

The maiden voyage of the Baltimore Steam Packet Company’s Chesapeake, the first steamboat to travel on the Bay, was an excursion between Baltimore and Annapolis that took place on 13 June 1813. By 1819, the steamboat Maryland stopped four times weekly in Annapolis while traveling between Easton and Baltimore. These vessels were the first of a fleet that would be the backbone of the Bay’s transportation network for the next 150 years.

The Emma Giles and other regularly scheduled steamboats, which by the 1880s numbered more than 40 vessels throughout the Bay, moved crops and freight to and from Baltimore and carried many passengers traveling the Chesapeake for business and pleasure. With two wharves, at the foot of King George and Prince George streets, Annapolis was one of the larger network ports that connected towns and railroads on opposite sides of the Bay.

A new terminal for ferry service opened at Sandy Point in 1943, removing the congestion of waiting vehicles from downtown Annapolis. But less than ten years later, with the increased availability of automobiles, better roads, and the construction and opening of the first span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in 1952, the steamboat era came to an end. With it went a very different way of life.