Life on the Potomac River


This is the first complete history of the Tidewater Potomac (Washington DC to the Chesapeake Bay). It covers the full period from the settlement of Maryland and Virginia in the early 1600s to the late 1960s. The author, editor of the Chronicles of St. Mary’s (the monthly magazine of the St. Mary’s County Historical Society), tells of the generations of men who worked, fought and sailed the waters of the lower Potomac for over three centuries. For more than 50 years he observed the happenings on the river and deplored the pollution and waste of resources of this beautiful arm of the Chesapeake. During this period, he accumulated a considerable store of river lore. Included in the story is data concerning the effect of several wars and the losses and suffering of the river front people in these wars. The establishment of the Federal City, the “Oyster Wars,” steam-boating, great freezes and hurricanes are part of the river story. Boat building on the river is traced from the original Indian dugout canoe through the pinnace, shallop and sloop, and in later years, the pungy, schooner, bugeye and the Potomac River “dory.” A chapter on boyhood reminiscences is a nostalgic recall of youth, and the author closes with an appeal to help make the Potomac safe and beautiful for the generations to come.

Edwin Beitzell’s “Life on the Potomac River” remains the primary reference on the Potomac. His meticulous documentation of the region’s watermen and their boats is particularly valuable to anyone who is interested in the history of the Potomac River. We welcome the reappearance of this long out-of-print classic. — Richard Dodds, Curator, Maritime History, Calvert Marine Museum.

A wealth of charming illustrations and vintage photographs, as well as a full name plus subject index augment this work.

Edwin W. Beitzell

(1968, 1973, 2004), 2011, 8½x11, paper, index, 364 pp.

ISBN: 9780788419355