Steamboats Sail by Chesapeake Bay

How Steamboats and US History Are Intertwined

Steamboats Sail by Chesapeake Bay

Taken from an Algonquian word meaning “big river,” Chesapeake Bay is where steamboats sailed for almost 150 years.

It was in 1807 that North River Steamboat first demonstrated the feasibility of using steam to propel boats for commercial use. However, it wasn’t until 1813, six years after, that steamboat Chesapeake would first sail from Baltimore to Annapolis while carrying passengers.

This was only the first of many more steamboats to come and thus ushered the steamboat era in.

However, steamboat Chesapeake was not only for passengers use. In the Battle of Baltimore, Chesapeake, commanded by Captain Edward Trippe, blocked the entrance to Baltimore Harbor in September 1814, from British war forces.

Years after the war, steamboats still continued to flourish. More routes opened like in Washington, Norfolk, and many towns along the river.

At the peak of the steamboat era, there were more than twenty steamship lines and five hundred steamboats in operation. The 1900s was considered to be the golden age. One reason these vessels that run on steam were preferred back then over vessels that rely on wind was that steam was easier to control than wind’s unpredictability.

Steamboats also saw improvement. From wood, which was the main material used because it was cheaper and lighter, their hulls were now constructed from iron and steel. They were also now designed for luxury and comfort because passengers could stay inside stained-glass domes and some had fancy private staterooms.

One steamship line called Baltimore Steam Packet Company, also known as the Old Bay Line, delivered packages, or packets as they were called, and was the first one to offer an overnight travel.

However, with the eventual boom of technology, air travel as well as land travel were becoming more common. Thus, there was the inevitable decline in the use of steamboats. Compared to its competitors, steamboat was now a slower means of travel.

Most steamboats were used to their maximum economical life span, and after the 1960s, there were no more steamboats built made for travel.

If you could go back in time, would you also want to travel on a steamboat? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below. Or you can tweet me @BillHartBooks.



Sheads, Scott. n.d. “Steamboat Chesapeake, Union Line.” n.d. Accessed May 19, 2017.

Middleton, Leslie. 2017. “Steamboats Engineered Change Along the Chesapeake.” May 11. Accessed May 19, 2017.

Dixon, Mike. 2010. “Fine Meals on Baltimore Steam Packet Ships While Sailing Down the Chesapeake Bay.” July 24. Accessed May 19, 2017.


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