New ‘Age of Steam’ exhibit

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Among the photos featured in the new exhibit at the Choptank River Lighthouse is this shot of the steamboat Emma Giles docked at Milton Wharf near Woolford on the Little Choptank River. In the foreground at left is Captain Lee Woolford, a Church Creek resident. The photo is from the collection of the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Va.

CAMBRIDGE — A new exhibit at the Choptank River Lighthouse explores in photos and stories the days when steamboats loaded with passengers and cargo were a daily presence along the rivers of Dorchester and Talbot counties.

Titled “The Age of Steam,” the exhibit gives visitors an overview of the steamboat era, which ran from 1813 to 1962. In its early days, steam power revolutionized transportation in the Chesapeake Bay region, fueling the early growth of tourism and connecting local farmers and watermen with new, distant markets.

“People tend to look back on this period with a of wistfulness and romanticism,” said Jim Duffy, who did the research for the exhibit and serves as the executive director of the nonprofit Choptank Lighthouse Foundation. “We wanted to capture the fun and glamour of the era, but do it in a way that gets at the big picture, too—these boats changed the history of our local communities.”

Now open, the exhibit is displayed across two large panels on the second floor of the Lighthouse. The first floor is filled with permanent exhibits about the history of the Choptank River Lighthouse and its connections with the maritime heritage of the area. Admission to the lighthouse is free; donations to support the work of the Cambridge Lighthouse Foundation are welcome.

The exhibit is one of four ways the Lighthouse is working to enhance the experience that residents and visitors Dorchester County will have during the window of the traveling Smithsonian exhibit, “Water/Ways,” which is on display at the Dorchester Center for the Arts through Nov. 30.

Ordinarily, the Lighthouse closes for the visitation season at the end of October. This year, however, it will be staying open for visitors from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily as long as the temperature doesn’t get so cold that the facility needs to be winterized.

In addition, the Lighthouse is presenting two public events on the Water/Ways calendar. The free “Sunset Yoga at the Lighthouse” event coming up on Oct. 25 is a partnership with EbbTide Wellness Studio of Easton.

On Nov. 2, the talk “Life at the Lighthouse” will be presented at the Center for the Arts. Information on both events is available at,, and 410-463-2653.

“We’re excited to be a part of ‘Water/Ways,’” said Cassie Burton, president of the lighthouse foundation. “With so many other organizations and businesses on board here, ‘Water/Ways’ has really turned into a community-wide effort to showcase the beauty and heritage of Dorchester County.”

The steamboat exhibit, which will remain up through the 2020 visitation season, was prepared with support from the nonprofit Cambridge Lighthouse Foundation, the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, and the Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area. It includes photos from the collections of the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Va.; the Norfolk Public Library; and the U.S. Library of Congress. The exhibit was designed by Jill Jasuta of Cambridge and fabricated by a local firm, Mid-Shore Graphics.

Stories and scenes included in this exhibit touch on nearly every part of Dorchester County, from out on Elliot and Taylors islands to the Little Choptank River steamboat landings at Madison, Woolford, and Church Creek and up the Choptank into Cambridge, Secretary, and points beyond.

For more information about the broader Water/Ways exhibit and programs, please visit or call 410-228-1000.

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