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March Collection of the Month: Digitized Historic Photos of the C&O Canal

Special Collections is pleased to announce a new set of digitized photographs of the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal, from the Thomas Hahn C&O Canal Collection. Come explore the canal from Georgetown to Cumberland, MD, as it looked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when it was still navigated by seasoned boatmen, jaunty day-trippers, and plodding mules. The photographs (part of our Special Collections Flickr site) include shots of Georgetown, Great Falls, Shepherdstown, the Paw Paw Tunnel, Williamsport, and Cumberland, among others. 

The C&O Canal was constructed between 1830 and 1850, paralleling the Potomac River westward from Washington. Original plans for the canal called for it to continue west all the way to Pittsburgh to join the Ohio River, a navigable route to the Mississippi, but this proved financially and logistically impossible. Canal trade declined with the growth and expansion of the B&O Railroad, and with several disastrous floods, until the canal was closed to traffic in 1924.

Thomas Hahn (1926-2007) was a professional industrial archaeologist and one of the world's foremost experts on the canal. The Thomas Hahn collection at the Special Collections Research Center at Gelman Library features 31 boxes of photographic negatives, slides and prints of the C&O Canal and other canals.

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