Academy of Lifelong Learning


Jack Shaum


Wednesdays, March 22 – April 26 (six weeks)

4:15 – 5:15 pm



The steamboat era on the Chesapeake Bay was a colorful and important one that lasted from 1813 to 1962, with steamers crisscrossing the Bay on a daily basis, providing a vital link between rural communities and Baltimore. The Eastern Shore benefited considerably from this transportation system that carried both passengers and freight in the days before railroads, good roads, or the Bay Bridge. The steamers were also used by many Shore residents to go to Baltimore for such things as medical appointments, shopping for goods not generally available east of the Bay, visiting relatives, or taking in the theatre or other entertainment. Some steamboats also operated for many years to a number of popular resorts along the Chesapeake, including Tolchester and Betterton in Kent County. Session one looks at the origin of the steamboat and its early years on the Bay. Session two focuses on the many small steamers that traveled Bay tributaries to reach remote communities. Session three explores the history of steamboats on the Chester River, one of the earliest Bay steamer routes. Session four covers the big overnight steamers of the Old Bay Line and Chesapeake Line that linked Baltimore and Norfolk for 122 years. Session five is the remarkable story of Bay steamers never meant for the high seas that were taken for duty overseas in World War II. In session six, we will focus on the decline of the steamboat in the mid-20th century to be followed by a new era of small cruise ships that now operate on the Bay and other coastal waters.


JACK SHAUM began his 50-year journalism career as a reporter with The News American and then became press aide to Maryland Congressman William O. Mills. That was followed by a nearly 30-year career as a news anchor and reporter for WBAL in Baltimore. He left there in 2002 and wrote for The Bay Times and Record Observer newspapers in Queen Anne’s County for 14 years until retiring in August 2016. Jack rode his first steamboat at the age of eight, which started a lifelong love of steam-powered vessels. He was a columnist and later the editor-in-chief of the quarterly journal of the Steamship Historical Society of America. For 20 years, Jack and his wife Martha traveled as lecturers on several East Coast cruise ships.