The End of the Line for a Longtime Steamship Service on the Chesapeake Bay

April 14, 1962

The Baltimore Steam Packet Company, which was popularly known as the Old Bay Line, discontinued its longtime steamship operations in the Chesapeake Bay area after a vessel named City of Norfolk had completed her final voyage for the company. The Old Bay Line was established in 1840 and – by the time its operations came to an end – had become one of the last remaining overnight steamship passenger services in the United States. 

During its many years of existence, the Old Bay Line handled maritime transport for mail, freight, passengers, and even automobiles. The line provided overnight service on a daily basis primarily between Norfolk Virginia, and Baltimore, Maryland, but – via a few of the Chesapeake Bay’s tributaries – also made regularly scheduled runs at various times to such other cities as Washington, D.C.; Newport News, Virginia; and Richmond, Virginia. 

The steamships of the Old Bay Line achieved widespread acclaim for their amenities, including comfortable passenger cabin accommodations and luxurious staterooms. In addition, the meals on board those steamships frequently featured a number of regional specialties;

Over time, however, increased competition from improved highways and other local means of mobility forced the Old Bay Line to scale back and ultimately shut down its services. Passenger travel on the steamships was put on hold in the fall of 1961, and the decision was made by that spring to likewise phase out the company’s transport of freight. 

On her final run for the company, City of Norfolk departed her namesake Virginia city on the evening of April 13, 1962. The vessel, under the command of Captain Patrick L. Parker (senior master of the line), eventually made her way underneath the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor by sunrise on the following morning. About six weeks later, the Old Bay Line’s stockholders formally agreed to liquidate the company. 

For more information on the Baltimore Steam Packet Company (Old Bay Line), please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimore_Steam_Packet_Company

3 thoughts on “The End of the Line for a Longtime Steamship Service on the Chesapeake Bay

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  1. I was looking for a passenger manifest for the Steamer Pocahontas on the 27th of September, 1849. It was reported in the Baltimore Sun and the American newspapers to have arrived in Baltimore from Richmond on Friday 28th of September, 1849. The vessel’s captain was Captain Parrish. I believe this vessel was owned by the Baltimore Steam Packet Company. I would appreciate any information you can offer.

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