beautiful swimmers

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One of the great things about a maritime museum is the dockside scene is always changing. Tall ships are a special treat. These floating villages from another era seem perfectly at home among the flashy yachts and elegant sailcraft of St. Michaels harbor— a reminder that once, with full bellied sails and salty crew, they were the queens of this Chesapeake world, a century or more ago.

The Chesapeake we know, the Chesapeake we love, the Chesapeake we remember is the summertime Chesapeake. When a dip on a hot day leaves a salt line on your bathing suit as it dries, and the heated air pushes sailboats ahead of thunderstorms in a white crest. June, July and August along the Bay means fat, sweet crabs, harbors teeming with sails and engines, and bare feet in all the places they’re normally frowned upon.

Simple things change little here, and pleasures like chicken necking for crabs with a few buddies,a picnic under a shady tree, and running a little wild with a pack of friends while the sun sets late are timeless.

In our collections, we have boxes of snapshots like these, meant to preserve for ever the magical fleeting moments that flash in the past like lightning bugs in a jelly jar. Intimate and shockingly modern, they remind us that as they are, so too are we- our digital lives in fully saturated color will one day be as thrown back as this sweetly sentimental array. But they also remain as legacies of the Chesapeake that was, and echo strongly in the Chesapeake that is. 

It’s true, that saying- take a picture. It’ll last longer.

All photographs, collections of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.

On June 30, 1952, the first Chesapeake Bay Bridge opened, connecting Sandy Point on the Western Shore to Kent Island and points east. That was also the last day of operation for the Kent -Island-Sandy Point ferries, including the Gov. Herbert R. O’Conor pictured here.

The first 2-lane bridge was so successful in easing the flow of traffic that it rapidly proved inadequate. A second span, opened in 1973, was built to guarantee smooth travel across the Bay for years to come. The new, broader access roads were built right over unspoiled marshland, and the new interchanges brought “easy-on -easy-off” access for booming industry and housing. 

If you’ve traveled over the bridge recently, you have likely had plenty of time to study this view, with Sandy Point State Park to the North and the remnants of the old ferry slips to the South. 

The early, ca 1947-50 photograph shows the ferry Gov. Herbert R. O’Conor docked at the Sandy Point end of its run. If you look to the left of the bridges in the newer picture, you can still see some of the ferry terminal structure, along with Old Ferry Slip Road leading to the water alongside Route 50.

Modern photo courtesy of Hunter N. Harris, Aerial Aloft Photography.

Vintage photo c. 1947-50 by H. Robins Hollyday. Talbot County Historical Society collections.