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Chesapeake Ferry Company, Travel Brochure, circa 1935


Materials in the Library of Virginia’s collections contain historical terms, phrases, and images that are offensive to modern readers. These include demeaning and dehumanizing references to race, ethnicity, and nationality; enslaved or free status; physical and mental ability; and gender and sexual orientation. 


Waterways provided the people of the Eastern Shore and Hampton Roads regions with access to food, supplies, and transport long before English colonists arrived in 1607. As English settlements displaced and removed Indigenous people from the land near the waterways, the rivers became important to sustaining a growing population of settlers as the transportation of supplies was critical to survival in the early colonial period. The use of these waterways for transportation of people and goods in eastern Virginia continues into the 21st century.

Early in the 20th century, vehicles transporting goods from the Eastern Shore to southeastern Virginia had to be driven into Maryland and south through Virginia. The Chesapeake Ferry Company, which was formed in 1919 and ran until 1952, provided ferry services to businesses and communities along the Chesapeake Bay, including the Elizabeth, James, and York Rivers. The use of ferries capable of transporting passengers and vehicles opened the region to new businesses and opportunities for tourism.

Travel brochures like this one were a popular means to enticing people to visit the Hampton Roads area. The image and information provided were meant to show the ease of traveling by ferry to areas that were not easily accessed by land routes, such as Old Point Comfort (now known as Fort Monroe), which is located the Chesapeake Bay near Hampton and Norfolk. The ferry lines made visitation to previously difficult-to-reach locations possible, transforming the region into a hub for transportation and tourism.

Today, the Virginia Department of Transportation operates a ferry line that connects Surry County to James City County near the Jamestown area. The newest ferry in the fleet is the 2019 Powhatan. Hampton Roads Transit operates a ferry line that crosses the Elizabeth River from Norfolk to Portsmouth. Although not as popular as they once were, ferries are still important to the local communities that they serve. 

Citation: Chesapeake Ferry Company Travel Brochure, Manuscripts and Special Collections, Library of Virginia. 


Social Studies: VS.1, VS.9, VUS.1, VUS.8, CE.12, CE.13

Earth Science: ES.6, ES.8

Art: 4.1, 5.1


Suggested Questions

Preview Activity

Look at It: Look at the image on the travel brochure. What do you think it was meant to do? Who might be the desired customer for a ferry trip across a river?

Post Activities

STEM Stat: The Hampton Roads and Tidewater region has long been known for an abundance of waterways which lead to the Chesapeake Bay. There exists an adage that ”water is life.” Consider the importance of waterways such as the James and York Rivers; why were many indigenous towns, early English settlements, plantations, mills, and military bases located along waterways? What natural resources could be found along the Chesapeake Bay watershed in Southeastern Virgina?

Current Connection: The Hampton Roads and Tidewater region is a major area for tourism in Virginia and the Jamestown-Scotland ferry is still popular with tourists. How were the early efforts to promote tourism through the use travel brochures similar or different from tourism promotions today? 

Social Media Spin: Create an image for a social media post to encourage tourists to explore southeastern Virgnia using ferries and other forms of water transportation on the rivers leading to the Chesapeake Bay.