1959: The C&D Canal papers

In 1959, the Historical Society of Delaware received a sizable donation of materials related to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal from the estate of Walter Hall. Hall was president of the canal company when the federal government took control of the canal in 1919. After his death, his widow carried out his wishes to donate his collection of C&D Canal papers to the Society.

The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company was formed in 1802 to dig a canal across the Delmarva Peninsula to join the Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay. Benjamin Henry Latrobe engineered the surveys and work began, but the company ran out of funds and abandoned the project in late 1805. The company revived in 1822 and successfully completed a canal, which opened in 1829. The federal government purchased the canal in 1919. The canal runs from Delaware City, Delaware to Chesapeake City, Maryland.

In the news notes of 1959, the Society reported that the papers had been donated in installments beginning in 1951. The latest additions to the collection included: Latrobe’s detailed reports of proposed canal routes, 1803-1805; weekly statements of tolls collected, 1862-1864; a contract between the Company and four landowners along the route, 1823; stockholders’ minute book, 1803-1906; a stock certificate issued to Thomas Allibone & Son, 1804; and other printed material. These items were added to existing collections of minutes, reports, ledgers, maps, surveys, blueprints, and other related papers.

Together, these items help tell the long history of the canal and the company. They also provide excellent evidence of Delaware’s business and industrial history. All of them are available for your use at the Research Library on Market Street!


View of C&D Canal in Delaware City, ca. 1900. Original at Mariners Museum in Newport News, VA.
View of C&D Canal in Delaware City, ca. 1900. Original at Mariners Museum in Newport News, VA.

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