Potomac Navigation Company records
Scope and Contents
This collection is comprised of three different types of documents: various accounts from individuals who have worked for the Potomac Navigation Company; lists of all the men employed by the company which details the amount of work that was done; and receipts and invoices.
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research during scheduled appointments. Researchers must complete the Washington Library’s Special Collections and Archives Registration Form before access is provided. The library reserves the right to restrict access to certain items for preservation purposes.
Biographical / Historical
The Potomac Navigation Company was a cooperative project between Maryland and Virginia to expand the Potomac River and establish navigable waterways that would further develop commercial trade. Established in 1785, George Washington was the first major investor as well as the first president of the company. And along with Thomas Johnson, Thomas Sim Lee, George Gilpin, and John Fitzgerald, he was appointed director of the company. The Potomac Navigation Company employed James Rumsey, inventor of the steamboat, to manage the mechanics of building the canals, Richardson Stewart as his assistant, and William Hartshorn as the treasurer. They supervised hundreds of laborers, indentured servants, and slaves to build five canals surrounding major waterfalls in the area: House’s, Shenandoah, Seneca, Little Falls and Great Falls.
Although supported by both the Virginia and Maryland Assemblies, the company was constantly plagued with difficulties and struggled to sell shares to interested buyers. Water levels prevented boats from reaching their destinations, the company had difficulty securing loans, and the locks were in a constant state of repair; despite these hardships, by 1802 they had created 220 miles of navigable waterways between the Savage River and Washington, D.C. By the 1820s, a proposal was passed to build a canal that would travel from Washington, D.C. and to the Ohio River; thus transforming the Potomac Navigation Company to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company.
.5 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
This collection is organized into three series: Accounts, Lists of Workmen, and Receipts. Within each of these series, the collection is in date order. The Lists of Workmen is further defined by region: Seneca Falls, Shanandoah Falls, and Great Falls, all of which are in date order.
- Potomac Navigation Company records
- Kaitlyn Tanis, Library Intern
- July 2015
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description