Baltimore Steam Packet Company

The Baltimore Steam Packet Company, which was also known as the Old Bay Line, was an American steamship line from 1840 to 1962, providing overnight steamboat service on the Chesapeake Bay, primarily between Baltimore, Maryland, and Norfolk, Virginia. Called a "packet" for the mail packets carried on government mail contracts, the term in the 19th century came to mean a steamer line operating on a regular, fixed daily schedule between two or more cities. By the time the venerable packet line ceased operation in 1962 after 122 years of existence, it was the last surviving overnight steamship passenger service in the United States.

In addition to regularly calling on Baltimore and Norfolk, the Baltimore Steam Packet Company also provided freight, passenger and vehicle transport to Washington, D.C., Old Point Comfort, and Richmond, Virginia, at various times during its history. The Old Bay Line, as it came to be known by the 1860s, was acclaimed for its genteel service and fine dining, serving Chesapeake Bay specialties. Walter Lord, famed author of A Night to Remember (and whose grandfather had been the packet line's president from 1893 to 1899), mused that its reputation for excellent service was attributable to "... some magical blending of the best in the North and the South, made possible by the Company's unique role in 'bridging' the two sections ... the North contributed its tradition of mechanical proficiency, making the ships so reliable; while the South contributed its gracious ease".

One of the Old Bay Line's steamers, the former President Warfield, later became famous as the Exodus ship of book and movie fame, when Jewish refugees from war-torn Europe sailed aboard her in 1947 in an unsuccessful attempt to emigrate to Palestine.

Read more about Baltimore Steam Packet CompanyHistory, Routes Operated, Old Bay Line Fleet

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