View our latest exhibit on Pirates of the Chesapeake! Gunpowder and Brackish Water: Pirates, Privateers, and Raiders is a temporary exhibit throughout the museum that details pirate activity along the Chesapeake Bay and it’s surrounding waters from the 17th – 20th century. Learn what pirates looked like and the difference between pirates, privateers, and raiders! Click here to view an online version.
Oystering in the late 19th century, by today's standards, was a nasty business. African Americans and immigrants found they could pursue opportunities in the maritime trades that afforded some measure of autonomy and freedom from the challenges of discrimination they faced.
Packinghouses processed and moved oysters from bay to table and across the country. They were places with grime-stained concrete wall, slick wet floors, and the sting of tiny lacerations from razor-sharp oyster shell edges. Oysters were chucked, packed, and shipped in a wet, dark, and cold place, mainly by an African American workforce in Southern Maryland during the 20th century. Most workers started early in the morning and could toil up to 12 hours a day, six days a week. A packinghouse was also a place of community and opportunity where shuckers were paid based on their productivity.
Learn about the lives and experiences of these African American workers in packinghouses in Calvert and St. Mary's counties. Click here to download a digital version of the exhibit.