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CBMM’s collection has more than 70,000 objects, all related to the Chesapeake Bay.
Inquire about exploring CBMM’s collections here.

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s floating fleet, including from left, the 1934 draketail (or dovetail) Martha, the 1909 log bottom crab dredger Old Point, and the 1889 log bottom bugeye Edna E. Lockwood, will be featured in a segment of the February 5, 8 p.m. broadcast of Maryland Public Television’s Chesapeake Collectibles series. The fleet is part of the largest collection of Chesapeake Bay watercraft in the world, and can be seen along CBMM’s waterfront campus in St. Michaels, MD.Watercraft Collection

CBMM’s watercraft collection is the largest and most important collection of Chesapeake watercraft in the world, with 92 vessels built from the 1880s to the 1980s, including a floating fleet seen at CBMM, and a selection of wooden sail, power, and row boats. All of the region’s waterfowling boats are represented, along with most of the major types used in the region’s fisheries, along with a good sample of recreational watercraft.

CBMM’s working shipyard maintains the floating fleet in working condition, and stewards all objects in CBMM’s watercraft collections. All work is done in full public view, with woodworking, boatbuilding, and other maritime-related programs offered in the boatshop throughout the year,

Click here to view our Floating Fleet


The maker of this swan decoy has been disputed for years. Attributed to Havre de Grace carver Samuel T. Barnes, some experts have argued that it far more strongly resembles the work of Barnes’ contemporary James T. Holly. Regardless of its maker, the decoy’s graceful form, sinuous neck and stately proportions belie its practical origins as a hunting tool. James T. Holly (1849 – 1935) or Samuel T. Barnes (1857 – 1926), Whistling swan decoy, c. 1890. Pine with steel fastenings, 50.8 x 81.3 x 26.7 cm. Gift of Mrs. Sifford Pearre, 1969.50.1.Decoys and Waterfowling Objects

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum has a large collection of waterfowling-related objects including decoys, waterfowling vessels, guns, tools, clothing and related ephemera. CBMM’s extensive collection of decoys includes duck, goose, swan, and shorebird decoys by 70 regional makers such as Sam Barnes, Ben Dye, Daddy Holly, Ira Hudson, and the Ward brothers. Much of CBMM’s waterfowling collection, including items from the Harry S. Walsh collection, is on permanent display in our Waterfowling exhibition.


Installed in the tug El Toro, this imposing 12-foot-high compound, or two-cylinder, steam engine rated 700 horsepower, just a fraction of the power of many modern diesel tugs. El Toro was later renamed Chessie when she was acquired by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, and finally renamed W.J. Harahan after the company’s president. The tug served for years in the prosaic but vital work of ferrying railroad cars on car floats across the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.Marine Engines

Included in the collections of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum are over 50 examples of marine inboard and outboard gasoline and steam engines for propulsion as well as deck engines. Several of these are currently on permanent display in our At Play on the Bay Building.


58_PrideofBaltimore_ModelMaritime Models

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum has an extensive collection of more than 300 detailed scale ship models of Bay watercraft as well as folk art “sailor-made” models (Including Pilot #1, made by one of the boat’s crew and representing the first steam pilot vessel in America) and builders’ half-models used in lieu of plans for local construction. Many of these models are on permanent display in our Bay History building.


In this busy scene, a skipjack passes a point of land as two other oyster dredgers—a Bay schooner and sloop—sail in the opposite direction toward open Bay waters. As a young artist, Baltimore-born Louis Feuchter was inspired by the Chesapeake Bay during trips to Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Later in his career, as commercial sailing craft were disappearing, Feuchter increasingly turned to them for subject matter. He generally sketched the boats along the Baltimore waterfront and then painted them as he imagined the vessels under sail on the Bay.Paintings, Prints and Photography

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum has more than 1,500 historic and contemporary paintings, prints and other artworks, as well as approximately 60,000 photographs in its collections. Significant regional artists such as Louis Feuchter, H. Bolton Jones, Otto Muhlenfeld, Leonard Vosburgh, and photographers Robert de Gast, Constance Stuart Larrabee, and John C. Whitehead are represented in the collections. Chesapeake landscapes, trades, fisheries, vessels, and the environment are all represented in works on canvas and paper.


Oxford native Downes Curtis learned sailmaking as a youth from the town’s old English sailmaker David Pritchard. When Pritchard died, his African-American apprentice, Curtis, took over the business. After rescuing most of his tools from a 1943 fire, Curtis moved his shop to the town’s former black schoolhouse, where he continued working until his death in 1996. Curtis built sails for some of the area’s best racing yachtsmen, including a number of log canoe sailors. While much of his work was done on his sewing machine, Curtis used this bench and hand tools for specialized jobs, like working a cringle into the corner of a sail.Objects of Maritime Trade

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s collections include many tools of maritime trades and fisheries. Figureheads, decorative carvings, anchors, ceramics, paper ephemera, navigational instruments, textiles, and rigging gear are all represented in the collections. In particular, CBMM has an extensive collection of more than 600 Maryland and Virginia oyster tins.


Higgins, Dodson, and Eagle Houses : historic 19th century homes in St. Michaels, Maryland which are now used as the administration buildings of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.Historic Structures

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s collections include five historic building original to CBMM’s site including:

  • 1885 Eagle House, once the home of a steamboat captain
  • three other historic houses (all contributing structures to a National Register District)
  • a 1933 cannery warehouse built on pilings along the waterfront, which was constructed from pieces of an earlier steamboat/railroad terminal.

Other historic structures were moved to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, including:


See behind the scenes photos and more of our Collections & Library here:

Around Campus: Behind the Scenes in Collections