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Virginia Ferry Company, Travel Brochure, circa 1955


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.   

The Virginia Ferry Company was formed in the 1930s and ran until 1964 when the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel opened. Originally designed to transport passengers, the ferry service began accommodating vehicles in the 1940s, which increased the volume of tourism in the Eastern Shore. In 1949, the north terminal was moved from Cape Charles to Kiptopeke which shortened the 85 minute crossing by 20 minutes. The southern end was located in Virginia Beach near Little Creek (now the location of Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek). The ferry service became a state agency in 1954 and ceased operation when the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel opened in 1964. Prior to its construction, the only way to travel by land to the Eastern Shore meant going to Maryand and traveling south on Highway 13 (Ocean Highway).

Travel brochures such as this one were a popular means of enticing people to visit the Eastern Shore and Hampton Roads regions. 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. The ferry lines made visitation to previously difficult-to-reach locations possible, transforming the region into a hub for transportation and tourism. 

Citation: Fastest north & south highway via Kiptopeke Beach-Norfolk (Little Creek) Ferry, Library of Virginia, Manuscripts and Special Collections, Visual Studies Collection, Library of Virginia.


History: 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 the Chesapeake Bay?

Post Activities

STEM Stat: The Eastern Shore, Hampton Roads, and Tidewater regions have long been known for an abundance of waterways which lead to the Chesapeake Bay. There exists an adage that ”water is life.” Consider why early colonists and indigenous peoples chose to live close to waterways like the Chesapeake Bay. What natural resources could be found along the Chesapeake Bay watershed?

Current Connection: The Ferry line ceased operations in 1964 when the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel was opened. How did the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel change the economy of the region? How does it continue to shape the local economy today?   

Artistic Exploration: Recreate the travel brochure and include images which might have been of interest to a tourist in the 1940s-1960s who wanted to travel to the Eastern Shore.