Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Association records
Collection Scope and Content
This collection contains correspondence, obituaries, reports, photographs, slides, newsletters, booklets, membership data, programs, brochures, minutes, and by-laws. The material dates from the early 1800s to 2023 with the bulk of the material falling between 1954-2023. This material relates to the history of both the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Association.
- Creation: circa 1833-2023
- Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Association (Organization)
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research.
Restrictions on Use
To the extent that he/she owns copyright, the donor has retained copyright in his/her works donated to The George Washington University. Copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For a list of materials with For activities that the researcher determines fall under fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. Researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights, determining if the intended re-use falls under fair use, and obtaining approval from the copyright holder if the intended use does not fall under fair use. Researchers do not need anything further from The George Washington University Special Collections Research Center.
According to its corporate charter and bylaws the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Association continues its mission of protecting, preserving and promoting the assets of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Historic Park. The Canal National Historical Park is administered by the National Park Service. Surrounded by more than 20,000 acres of parkland, the canal is 185 miles long and follows the Potomac River. It begins in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. and ends in Cumberland, Maryland. Located in Georgetown, the Foundry Mall center is one of five visitors' centers and offers visitors' mule-drawn boat rides along the canal route. Historic sites along the canal include the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, the Antietam Battlefield, Fort Frederick State Park, and Fort Tonoloway. The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park is open for hiking, biking, camping, canoeing, boating, picnicking, ice skating and rock climbing.
In 1950 as the canal ceased to be commercially useful, plans were made to bulldoze it and pave a super-highway into Maryland's mountains. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas was one of the few people who realized the historical, cultural, geological and botanical significance of the Chesapeake & Ohio. He challenged two Washington Post editors to walk the length of the 184-mile Chesapeake & Ohio with him and then decide if it the canal and its structures should be destroyed.
The reporters, along with 32 others, took the eight-day hike in March of 1954 and then joined Douglas in the effort to save the canal. That effort resulted in the formation of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Association and, 17 years later, the passage of legislation that created the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, now one of the major areas of tourism in the National Park System. As one of his last official acts in office in 1961, President Eisenhower proclaimed the canal a national monument. In the mid 1970s the canal and towpath were dedicated to Justice Douplas in honor of his singular contribution to the nation's park system.
The Canal Association was first organized as an advocacy group to preserve the canal. Today, the Association focuses more on recreational and social activities, providing a range of programs and activities encouraging use of the park. The hike that Justice Douglas started in 1954 is now an annual event known as the Heritage hikes, and programs such as the Levels Walkers offer continual detailed reports of the physical status of the park.
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal In 1784, George Washington founded the Potomac Canal Company to begin building a canal along the Potomac River in Virginia. This company was incorporated as the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company in 1824. On July 4, 1828, at Little Falls, Maryland, President John Quincy Adams shoveled out the first piece of land that signaled the $11 million dollar construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. This project would join the canals that existed separately in Virginia and Maryland.
On October 10, 1850, the canal opened, creating a continuous artificial waterway along the Potomac River. However, increased railroad routes quickly diminished the effectiveness of the canal as a major commercial route and by 1925, the Chesapeake & Ohio canal was no longer used commercially. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Co. (B&O) then bought the land once owned by the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Company. In 1938, the B&O Railroad Co. sold the entire canal to the U.S. government for $2 million. The canal was placed under the supervision of the Nationals Park Service in 1950.
58.5 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
Collection contains correspondence, obituaries, reports, photographs, slides, newsletters, booklets, membership data, programs, brochures, minutes, and by-laws. The material dates from the early 1800s to 2023 with the bulk of the material falling between 1954-2023. This material relates to the history of both the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Association.
Organized into seven series: Images, Administration files, Audio-visual materials, Personal papers, Records of past presidents Ken Rollins, Rachael Stewart and Carl Linden, Newsletter: Along the Towpath and Georgetown University non-motorized boathouse files.
In 1991 the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Canal Association donated its papers to Gelman Library. There have been subsequent donations from that time.
- Guide to the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Association records, circa 1833-2023
- Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English