CENTER FOR LOWELL HISTORY UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS LOWELL LIBRARIES

Home     Digital Photographs     Genealogy Resources     Special Collections     Search
 
EARLY CANAL TRANSPORTATION: 
THE BOATS OF THE MIDDLESEX CANAL
 
Luggage boat sailing
Luggage boat sailing down the Merrimack River
 
terminal every morning.  Later, only one Packet was maintained.  Journeys on the canal were a popular summer pastime.  Passengers often sat on the top of the packet boats in order that they might sight see and the tow path was a favorite place for Sunday afternoon strolls.

     Corporate records show that between April 1, 1805, and January 1, 1806, the Middlesex Canal transported 9,405 tons of goods at a cost of $13,371.  It was estimated that land transportation would have taken 9,405 teams at a cost of $53,484.  The granite used in building Quincy Market and many other Boston buildings was carried down the canal, as was the lumber used to repair "Old Ironsides" during the War of 1812.

     There is not much known about the boats of the Middlesex Canal or about how many boats traveled on it at any one time.  The boats were both the property of the Middlesex Canal Corporation and private parties.  A person wishing to transport freight, but having no boat, could rent one from the company's fleet of seven luggage boats.

CANAL OPERATIONS
On April 4,1830, John Langdon Sullivan, agent of the Middlesex Canal Corporation, published a pamphlet entitled "Regulations Relative to the Navigation of the Middlesex Canal."  This document contained a great list of rules concerning travel in the canal, including speed limits.  Packet boats were to travel no faster than four miles per hour, while scows could travel at two and a half MPH and rafts at one and a half MPH.  The speed limits, along with many other of the regulations, were put into effect to prevent damage to the canal's banks.

     The regulations spelled out the procedures by which boats could pass one another in the canal.  Packet boats could pass scows, which, in turn, could pass rafts.  Repair boats had priority over all others.  Boats traveling from either terminus to the summit at the Concord River had the right of way over boats moving away from the summit.  Boats of the same type traveling in the same direction were not allowed to pass each other in order to discourage racing.  The regulations made it clear that this was to apply to boats operated by the Proprietors as well as others.

Top Of Page    Previous Page or Next Page