Thursday, January 5, 2012


"Locust Point Ferry" oil on board (12" x 24")
The waters of Baltimore's inner harbor at one time were teeming with steamboats for work and pleasure. I have spent some recent winter nights reading about this nearly forgotten era of our city. The shipping industry has been around forever it seems but the steamboat era has captured my imagination most of all. Our city's waterfront was jammed with shipbuilders and steamship companies such as Old Bay Line located on Light Street.  Founded as Baltimore Steam Packet Company, the Old Bay line ran dependable steam packets to and from Norfolk, VA. The nearly 100-year-old Merchants and Miners Company had a sturdy building on pier 3 until 1952 when times changed and they were faced with financial woes. The Wilson Line operated cruises from the Pier in Fell's Point. Many remember taking day trips to Tolchester or Betterton on the eastern shore via the Bay Belle owned by this line. I love thinking about this once ultra-efficient way to transport people and products. No cars or trucks on the road meant we had to get ourselves and our work moving by rail or boat. The Locust Point Ferry here in my painting was the property of the Locust Point Ferry Company. They opened for business around 1851 and steamed back and forth between Kerr's Wharf near Fell's Point and Locust Point in south Baltimore. We now have the comparatively dinky water taxis to shuttle us around the harbor but back in the times of steamboats you might ride with a herd of cattle or bales of cotton or hogsheads tobacco. Honestly I like progress but what a thrill it would have been to chug along the malodorous waters of the Patapsco tidal basin powered by a robust steam engine with a mighty walking beam pumping above your head.