20th century

The Centuries-Long Saga of the ‘Oyster Wars’

An Oyster War battle in 1884

The battle lasted about half an hour, and when the smoke cleared, Captain Frank Whitehurst lay dead in a pool of his own blood on the deck of the Albert Nickel, a Baltimore oyster schooner. While Whitehurst met a fate avoided by most, the so called “Oyster Wars” had been brewing for more than 100 years prior to that fateful night on the Severn River.

For nearly two centuries, Maryland and Virginia were engaged in conflict over one of the region’s valuable resources — oysters. Full of inconsistent enforcement and rampant law-breaking, it took the president’s signature to end the Oyster Wars.

Print shows a hen with three chicks in a farmyard.

Fowl Play in Washington: the City’s History of Chicken Thievery

Washington has seen its fair share of crimes: mafia operations, drug networks, triple murder… But in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, one of the city’s most pervasive crimes was one we today might find difficult to imagine: chicken thievery. In today’s urban landscape, the phenomenon may seem difficult to imagine; but 150 years ago chicken robbery was widespread -- and serious business. The practice was dangerous and, at times, even fatal.

Back of peoples' heads in the foreground with a large boat in the background.

"More Tons, Less Huns": World War I Shipbuilding in Alexandria

World War I fueled a rapid buildup in industrial production and, in particular, merchant shipbuilding. America needed cargo vessels—fast—and, as luck would have it, Alexandria was prepared. Between 1910 and 1912, the Army Corps of Engineers had infilled a 46-acre bay and wildlife preserve – Battery Cove – near Jones Point Lighthouse. The land’s proximity to the Potomac River and its enormous size made it an ideal site for shipbuilding. Alexandrians rejoiced when the Virginia Shipbuilding Corporation came to their city but the enthusiasm would not last.