Newspaper ReportsAlleganian masthead (Source: Western Maryland Regional Library)Washington Evening Star masthead

Contemporary accounts concerning the C&O Canal

Canal Trade:

These annual compilations offer a day-by-day list of canal-related news items from newspapers across the region. Items include canal boat arrivals and departures, accidents, arrests, and conditions along the canal.

These Canal Trade compilations originally started with Cumberland newspapers, such as The Alleganian, but have since broadened their reach to include journals from Washington, D.C., Alexandria, Hagerstown, Baltimore and other locales. The compilations are available in PDF format:

  • 1830-40 newspaper reports give much attention to Maryland politics, paying for the canal, and funding the railroads. Not much is said about traffic on the still-under-construction canal. Eight newspapers contribute to the compilation.
  • 1841-44 newspaper reports from five Washington D.C. papers and the Baltimore Sun give a glimpse into these early years of operation. Because the canal hadn’t reached Cumberland, very little coal is seen among the canal boat cargoes. A December 6 article discusses the opening of the Potomac Aqueduct.
  • 1845-48 newspaper reports include reports on the progress of canal construction towards Cumberland in these years after the railroad reached that town.
  • 1849-50 newspaper reports describe the completion of construction, the start of operations in Cumberland, and the opening of the Alexandria Canal.
  • 1851 newspaper reports trace the first year of operations from Cumberland. The compilation includes entries from The Alleganian (Cumberland), The Sun (Baltimore), American Telegraph (Washington, D.C.), and Georgetown Advocate. You can also view the boat departures in tabular form.
  • 1852 newspaper reports – In this compilation, articles were transcribed from The Sun, a Baltimore newspaper, the Alexandria Gazette, and three Washington, D.C. newspapers, the Evening Star, the Daily American Telegraph, and the Georgetown Advocate. An April flood closed the canal for three months. A July article describes the administrative hassle the canal company had to endure because of the low bridges in Georgetown.
  • 1853 newspaper reports – This compilation features articles from The Alleganian, a Cumberland newspaper, The Sun, a Baltimore newspaper, and four D. C. newspapers. Stories from The Alleganian chronicle the burgeoning coal trade.
  • 1854 newspaper reports includes entries from The Alleganian (Cumberland) and The Sun (Baltimore). Some dates during the boating season were missing. You can also view the boat departures in tabular form.
  • 1857 newspaper reports from the weekly Democratic Alleganian include summaries of how much coal was shipped via railroad versus canal. 1857 was a year of floods and the necessary repairs. Also included are reports from The Baltimore Sun and the States, a Washington, D.C. paper.
  • 1858 newspaper reports include entries from newspapers in Cumberland, Baltimore, Washington, and Alexandria. Interestingly enough the articles mostly relate to an attempt to sell the Canal, the management of the Canal, and repairs to Dams Nos. 4 and 5.
  • 1859 newspaper reports discuss competition between the canal and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. The news items also discuss Maryland politics and the recurring breaks in the canal. The complitation has articles from newspapers in Cumberland, Alexandria, Baltimore, and Washington.
  • 1860 newspaper reports cover the last year of operation before the Civil War. The complitation has articles from newspapers in Cumberland, Baltimore, Alexandria, and Washington.
  • 1861 newspaper reports include articles from seven newspapers from Cumberland, Baltimore, and Washington. Articles from May and June brushes with Confederate troops at the start of Civil War
  • 1862 newspaper reports chronicle a tough year for the canal. A September item reports,“The line of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, for the distance of twelve miles, presents a scene of desolation which sufficiently attests the malignity of the rebels and their emissaries.” The compilation draws from seven newspapers.
  • 1863 newspaper reports – These wartime articles were transcribed from The Civilian & Telegraph, a weekly Cumberland newspaper, National Republican and The Evening Star, two daily Washington, D.C. newspapers and The Alexandria Gazette, a daily newspaper. The stories in late June and early July reflect the interruption in traffic caused by the Gettysburg campaign.
  • 1864 newspaper reports give a glimpse into how Civil War fighting disrupted traffic in articles from Cumberland, Alexandria, Batlimore and Washington. July articles highlight the Confederate advance towards Washington.
  • 1865 newspaper reports tell about the resumption of peacetime operations . Despite several breaches during the year, the canal carried more tons of coal than ever before. Some articles discuss the future of the Washington city canal.
  • 1866 newspaper reports discuss the impact of a miners’ strike on the coal trade and contain some references to a proposed new canal to Annapolis.
  • 1867 newspaper reports show canal operations as they return to normal in the years after the Civil War. A July 3 article reports on the delivery of 500-600 coffins to Cumberland for re-interment of area war dead at Antietam. The compilation includes articles from six papers.
  • 1868 newspaper reports express the hope that the extension of the Cumberland Valley Railroad to Williamsport will improve busines. At year end the Alleganian reported, “permits granted for the departures of 4,479 ladened boats from this port – an increase of 250 over last year; and this, notwithstanding the fact that seventy-five days were lost during the season by reason of breaks and other detentions.”
  • 1869 newspaper reports feature a change in the canal company leadership, construction of a new wharf in Cumberland, and another year of growth.
  • 1870 newspaper reports include articles from The Alleganian, a Cumberland newspaper,The Herald And Torch Light, a Hagerstown newspaper, the Shepherdstown Register of West Virginia, and the Evening Star and the National Republican, two Washington, D.C. newspapers. Prominent topics included the Georgetown waterfront and Maryland politics.
  • 1871 newspaper reports describe a good year for the canal, with coal traffic up almost 40% over 1870. Inclues items from three Cumberland newpapers, an Alexandria newspaper, and two Washiington newspapers.
  • 1872 newspaper reports – This compilation includes items from newspapers in Cumberland (2), Hagerstown (1), Washington (4), and Alexandria (2). An article from April said the C&O Canal was selling the Washington extension, because “the necessity for maintaining it as a navigable canal, from Twenty-seventh to Seventh street, seems no longer to exist.”
  • 1873 newspaper reports – Six newspapers contributed to this compilation. They were published in Cumberland, Washington, D.C., Hagerstown, and Alexandria. A break in the canal at Wade’s lime kiln
    near Antietam disrupted traffic in mid-August. During September a convention was held in Cumberland to advocate for extension of the canal to the Ohio River at Pittsburgh.
  • 1874 newspaper reports include articles from The Alleganian was published weekly, on Wednesdays, and the Daily Times was published daily, except Sunday. There is a gap in the coverage for June and July, and then another one for September. You can also view the boat departures in tabular form. Additional articles come from the National Republican, a Washington, D. C. newspaper, The Evening Star, another D.C. paper, and the Alexandria Gazette. A September 19 story describes a diving bell used to repair the outlet lock in Georgetown.
  • 1875 newspaper reports from the canal’s busiest year. This compilation contains items from eight newspapers: two from Cumberland, three from Washington, The Baltimore Sun, the Alexandria Gazette, and another from Hagerstown. You can also view the boat departures in tabular form.
  • 1876 newspaper reports include articles about the canal from The Cumberland Alleganian, Cumberland Daily Times, and four other newspapers. If you to do a search on “convoy” in the document, you will get many hits – all of which are in the context of newly constructed steam canal boats designed to tow another canal boat. You can also view the boat departures in tabular form.
  • 1877 newspaper reports provide detailed accounts of a troublesome year which included a strike and a flood. Several articles from the Alexandria Gazette report on the demise of the Alexandria Canal.
  • 1878 newspaper reports give detailed accounts of the uncertainties created by the 1877 flood and operations after they resumed in April. This revision includes articles from The Baltimore Sun, the National Republican and the Evening Star, two Washington, D. C. newspapers, and the Alexandria Gazette. You can also view the boat departures in tabular form.
  • 1879 newspaper reports include articles from The Cumberland Daily Times and Alexandria Gazette plus The National Republican and The Evening Star from Washington. Events included a brief miners strike in September.
  • 1880 newspaper reports describe canal operations which have recovered from the 1877 flood. The president of the canal was elected to the United States Senate at the beginning of the year. Included are reports from two Cumberland newspapers, two Washington D.C. papers, and the Alexandria Gazette.
  • 1881 newspaper reports draw from newspapers in Cumberland, Hagerstown, Baltimore, Washington, and Alexandria. Some articles discuss conversion of the Alexandria Canal aqueduct in Georgetown to a road bridge.
  • 1882 newspaper reports draw from newspapers in Cumberland, Hagerstown, Baltimore, Washington, and Alexandria. Many articles discuss doubling the length of canal locks to increase capacity.
  • 1885 newspaper reports – Financial issues play a a prominent role in this year’s compilation from five newspapers. The canal company sought to issue new repair bonds. One bondholder unsuccessfully sued to put the canal in receivership. Another topic was concern that canal overflow was polluting Washington’s drinking water.
  • 1887 newspaper reports provide 126 pages worth of articles from six newspapers. There are many articles expressing concern about the future of the canal. An August 15 article suggests it could be converted “into a free water highway maintained by taxation as the Erie Canal is in New York State.” A September 15 article worries that the number of canal boats could fall under 200. An April 20 article talks about extending the canal to Baltimore.
  • 1888 newspaper reports chronicle operations at the end of a decade of decline. A devastating flood in spring 1889 forced the canal into receivership. Operations didn’t resume until 1891.
  • 1890 newspaper reports feature long discussions of the future the canal, which remained closed after the 1889 flooding. The compilation draws from Hagerstown, Baltimore, and Washington newspapers.
  • 1891 newspaper reports describe the deliberations over the fate of the canal shutdown by flooding in 1889. Venues included Congress, the courts, and the Maryland legislature. Many advocated leasing the canal to a railroad. Eventually the canal was repaired and resumed operations in July, more than two years after the 1889 flood.
  • 1893 newspaper reports features articles from the Washington Evening Star and the Alexandria Gazette. It was an encouraging year for the canal as it continued to recover from the shutdown caused by the flood of 1889.
  • 1894 newspaper reports includes a few articles from the Washington Evening Star to complement those from The Evening Times in Cumberland. Readers will notice that many of the boats are numbered, rather than named. You can also view the boat departures in tabular form.
  • 1895 newspaper reports compiles articles transcribed from the Washington Evening Star and m The Evening Times in Cumberland. Author Pauline Pry paints a picture of life along the canal in a 10-page article from the November 30 Evening Star.
  • 1896 newspaper reports consists primarily of articles from The Evening Times in Cumberland. The document also includes a few articles from the Alexandria Gazette, The (Frederick) News, The (Washington) Morning Times, and The (Washington) Evening Times. You can also view the boat departures in tabular form.
  • 1900 newspaper reports features articles from Cumberland, Baltimore, and Washington newspapers. Serveral March items discuss the collapse of Licking Creek Aqueduct.
  • 1901 newspaper reports compiles articles transcribed from Frederick, Baltimore, Washington, and Alexandria newspapers. Hancock, MD is the focus of a long feature article. Legal battles over the future of the canal garner much attention.
  • 1902 newspaper reports includes articles transcribed from the The Alleganian, a Cumberland newspaper, The Washington Times and The Evening Star, two Washington newspapers, The News, a Frederick, Maryland newspaper and the Alexandria Gazette. This year saw labor trouble with the boatmen and the sale of the remnants of Georgetown’s inclined plane for scrap.
  • 1903 newspaper reports compiles articles transcribed from the Evening Times, a Cumberland newspaper, The Washington Times, a District of Columbia newspaper, Evening Star, another D.C. newspaper, The News, a Frederick newspaper and the Alexandria Gazette. Negotiations between canal boatmen and the syndicate owning the boats were a prominent topic in this year’s news.
  • 1904 newspaper reports features articles from seven newspapers: the Evening Times and Cumberland Alleganian, two Cumberland newspapers, The News, a Frederick paper, and The Washington Times, The Washington Post, Evening Star and The Washington Herald, four D. C. papers. You can read how the Maryland legislature passed a bill authorizing the Western Maryland Railroad to build tracks alongside the canal between Big Pool and Cumberland. Today’s Western Maryland Rail Trail uses much of that right of way.
  • 1905 newspaper reports includes articles from the Cumberland Evening Times, The News, (from Frederick), The Sun, (from Baltimore), and The Washington Post.
  • 1906 newspaper reports features articles from five newspapers: the Cumberland Evening Times, The News, a Frederick paper, and The Washington Times, The Washington Post, and The Evening Star, three D. C. papers.
  • 1907 newspaper reports includes articles from the Cumberland Evening Times, The News, (from Frederick), The Sun (from Baltimore), The Washington Post, and The Washington Herald.
  • 1908 newspaper reports features articles from the Cumberland Evening Times, The News, (from Frederick), The Wahington Post, The Washington Post, and The Washington Herald. An October story describes the deterioration of Aqueduct Bridge piers.
  • 1909 newspaper reports transcribes articles from the Evening Times and Cumberland Alleganian, two Cumberland newspapers, The News, a Frederick newspaper, and The Washington Times, The Washington Post, Evening Star and The Washington Herald, four Washington, D. C. newspapers of the era. The first article talks of the B&O Railroad’s efforts to build a bridge over the canal near the District line and a tunnel under Conduit Road (now MacArthur Boulevard) — two key features of today’s Capital Crescent Trail.
  • 1912 newspaper reports includes articles from two Frederick and four Washington D.C. newspapers. A July item describes the Western Maryland Railway’s purchase of land from the canal company for construction of a Cumberland station. Today that station hosts the canal’s visitor center.
  • 1917 newspaper reports – This document transcribes articles from The Daily Mail (Hagerstown) and four D.C. newspapers, The Washington Times, The Washington Post, The Evening Star, and The Washington Herald. By this time the canal didn’t feature prominently in the news of the day. You can read articles urging an expansion of canal traffic in response to America’s entry into World War I.
  • 1918 newspaper reports – This compilation includes several articles concerning a proposal to have the federal government take over control of the canal as a war measure. The document transcribes articles from The Baltimore Sun, the Hagerstown Daily Mail, and four D.C. newspapers, The Washington Times, The Washington Post, The Evening Star, and The Washington Herald.
  • 1919 newspaper reports – This year begins with worries that the canal will have to shutdown because it will lose the financial assistance it received during World War I. The document transcribes articles from two Hagerstown newspapers and four Washington D.C. newspapers.
  • 1920 newspaper reports – This document transcribes articles from three D.C. newspapers, The Washington Times, The Evening Star, and The Washington Herald, plus The News, a Frederick newspaper, and The Daily Mail, a Hagerstown newspaper . You can read about the disruption caused by the collapse of a wall of the Conococheague Aqueduct in late April.
  • 1921 newspaper reports – This compilation draws upon seven newspapers from Hagerstown, Frederick, Baltimore, and Washington. Would the Navy continue to use the canal to ship coal to Indian Head proving ground? That question was the subject of many articles in the spring. Eventually, the Navy decided to continue the shipments.
  • 1922 newspaper reports – This compilation draws from The Daily Mail ( Hagerstown), The Baltimore Sun, The Baltimore American, The Washington Times, and The Washington Herald. A March article reports that “local motorists are discussing the feasibility of filling the bed of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal for a roadway.” A months-long coal miners strike crippled canal operations.
  • 1923 newspaper reports – This compilation includes articles about the last year of canal operations from two Hagerstown newspapers, The Daily Mail and The Morning Herald, and The News, a Frederick newspaper.
  • 1924 newspaper reports – A major flood in March kept the canal from opening the season on time. A worse flood in May meant operations would never resume. Read this compilation from two Hagerstown newspapers and a Frederick newspaper.

You can use the search feature of the Adobe software to look for the name of an ancestor or trace the activity of a particular boat through the year.

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Please feel free to contact William Bauman, wdbauman@visuallink.com, with any questions about the documents.

Alexandria:Alexandria Gazette masthead

Alexandria Newspaper Reports 1848-51 – This document compiles newspaper articles about the C&O Canal from the Alexandria Gazette between January 1, 1848 and May 30, 1851. By 1848 the Alexandria Aqueduct had been built and there was some discussion about development of the Alexandria waterfront, north and south of the mouth of the Alexandria Canal. The Canal Commerce listing show the arriving boats with their cargo and point of origin.

Leesburg:Washingtonian masthead (Source: Virginia Newspaper Project)

Leesburg Newspaper Reports – This document features C&O Canal references from the pages of the The Washingtonian, a weekly newspaper published in Leesburg, VA, between 1836 and 1871. Historic downtown Leesburg is only a few miles from White’s Ferry and Edwards Ferry. The Washingtonian gives us a glimpse into the rise and fall of canal-related business, as seen through advertising. Once the railroad arrived in Leesburg in 1860, the town’s relationship with the the canal waned.

Shepherdstown:

Shepherdstown Newspaper ReportsThe Register was a weekly newspaper. A search through the microfilm at the West Virginia University library has yielded C&O Canal references between 1849 and 1899. The length of the document, 130 pages, testifies to the importance of the canal to Shepherdstown.

Sharpsburg:

Sharpsburg Newspaper Reports – A compilation of articles about the C&O Canal from the Sharpsburg Enterprise, which was published weekly from November 22, 1878 through October 20, 1882.

Washington:Natl. Republican masthead

Daily National Republican 1863 – This Washington D.C. newpaper provides most of these wartime articles. The stories in late June and early July reflect the interruption in traffic caused by the Gettysburg campaign. Other newspapers are included.

Daily National Republican 1870-72 – This document compiles canal-related articles from this Washington, D.C. newspaper between January 1, 1870 and December 31, 1872. In addtion to articles about the C&O Canal, you can find items about the Washington City Canal and the businesses along the Georgetown waterfront.

Williamsport:

Williamsport Newspaper Reports – A compilation of articles from two weekly newspapers, the Williamsport Leader and the Williamsport Transcript, between October 4, 1884 through June 6, 1894.

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