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Canal boat children ( more details)

Canal boat children Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information


This picture was most likely taken at Cumberland in one of the many basins that the canallers would tie their boats. The evidence is the railroad bridge that is in the back ground that has been captured in a multitude of canal photographs.

It almost looks cruel to modern eyes to have small children chained to the deck of a boat but for boating families this was for safety. Accidents involving children, especially falling into the canal, were common and this simple precaution probably saved many children from drowning. In 1920, 41 families were part of a study of the work of children on the C&O Canal. Of the numerous children within the 41 families studied, 45 children had fallen into the canal at least once.

The mother is performing one of the many chores delegated to women on the canal. She would have used canal water for washing and spring water found along the banks of the canal for cooking for the family.


E. B. Thompson

Public domain

Thompson 65

See: Monthly Labor Review, Washington, 1923.

The PDF, Canal-boat Children, is used with permission of the Maternal and Child Health Group, Georgetown University.

See also Mary Schroeder


Collection Location:
C&O National Historic Park

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (Md.); Washington County (Md.), History

Maryland, 1824-1938

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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