Fine Meals on Baltimore Steam Packet Ships While Sailing Down Chesaepake Bay

Until 1962 people traveling between Baltimore and Norfolk, VA could take an overnight steamer to the mouth of the Chesapeake.   Designed for luxury and leisure, the Baltimore Steam Packet Company’s ships provided elegant service, including fine staterooms and sumptuous meals.  But demand for the 12-hour trips had been declining for decades and the company continually reduced service.  It had abandoned its Washington, D.C. to Norfolk run in 1957.  In Oct. 1961, the company announced that it was temporarily suspending all passenger service and in May 1962 the board voted to liquidate the 122-year-old company.  Improved highways and increasing travel by air made this a particularly slow way to travel.  It has started providing transportation in 1840, long before anyone thought about the automobile.

Still the company maintained fine dining service.  The ship’s menu  below was probably used sometime between 1957 and the time the company stopped operations since the route map only shows service to Baltimore and Norfolk.

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17 Responses to Fine Meals on Baltimore Steam Packet Ships While Sailing Down Chesaepake Bay

  1. Jack Shaum says:

    This is a menu from 1959-1960 that was in use until the end of service. The Bay Line made few changes in its cuisine after 1959. The food did, indeed, remain good until the end, but such touches as linen on the dining tables disappeared.

  2. Mike says:

    Jack: Thanks for sharing that information

  3. Tiffany says:

    My Great Grandfather , Patrick Louis Parker, was the Captain of the Old Bayliner and from what I understand people stopped traveling by steamboat and it became increasingly difficult to “stay afloat” due to financial difficulties and competition with new technology of boat engines.

  4. jack shaum says:

    Is there a way to get in touch with Tiffany? her great-grandfather Captain Parker was a friend of mine.
    jack Shaum, Chestertown, Md

  5. Raymond J Mattes, Jr says:

    The fried spot were the best!
    I taught the granddaughter of one of the last three captains; I think it was Capt. Eaton but it has been so long ago, my memory is cloudy. However, I do recall many a trip up and down the bay both to Baltimore and Washington in my youth. I recall one particular trip during WWII . I was traveling with my dear mother and she could not get a stateroom; the boat was filled with troops. She passed the word around that if someone had an empty bunk, would they mind if her son used it. A kind soldier came up to us and said he did not have a spare bed but he did offer me a cupcake. It is charitable incidents like this that remains apart of our storehouse of memories. A generous gentleman did offered me his upper bunk, My mother slept on a table in the dining room. Such was life during the war!
    I gave the Mariner’s Museum a brass stateroom key from the Warfield. It is featured on pg.159 of George Hilton’s wonderful book, “The Night Boat.” It has a slash through the name Warfield and I was told that a stateroom lock on one of the remaining packets had probably been re-tooled to accommodate the key. One of my aunts gave it to me. I believe she forgot to turn it in after use.
    I had a rather large lithograph given to me by my brother-in-law who was the Personnel Director of the State of Virginia for many years. It hung in the lobby of the state capitol, I think near the coffee/snack stand, and when brother-in-law John Garber retired, it was given to him. John, realizing my keen interest in the steam packets, gave it to me. I donated it to the City of Norfolk Library in 2003. I hope it remains on display. It is the Old Bay Liner Virginia. Its sister ship, the Florida, hangs in the Mariners Museum and on pg. 82,” Steam Packets On The Chesapeake,” by Alexander Crosby Brown. I also have his original published 1940″ The Old Bay Line.” I have prints and floor plans of many of those fine packets – stateroom layouts, and many public spaces on these floating hotels. My memorabilia also includes official office letter heads with names of officials, etc. I acquired before the office in Norfolk closed.

  6. JWilliams says:

    My father worked on one of these boats he referred to as the Wilson Line, do you know if it was similar to this?

  7. Jim Deans says:

    Summer 1953, as a young Navy Reservist in North Carolina, several of us were scheduled for two weeks of boot camp at Bainbridge, Md. Our station Chief made our travel arrangements, which were bus from home to Norfolk, Old Bay Line overnight steamboat to Baltimore, and rail to Bainbridge. The steamboat ride up the Chesapeake Bay (and back) was unforgettable.

  8. Mike Dixon says:

    Great memory Deans. Thanks for sharing it.

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