First, a little background. The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal was constructed in 1829 to connect the waters of the upper
Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware River.
By the late-19th century, the canal restricted
vessels to a beam of no greater than 24 feet in order to fit the system of locks. Canal barges and ram
schooners were two of the vessel types built specifically to pass through the canal locks.
Indigenous to the
Chesapeake Bay, approximately thirty ram schooners were built between the years 1889 and 1911, many of them
constructed in Bethel Delaware. While the lengths of rams varied from 113 to 136 feet, beam measurements
prior to 1890 were consistently just shy of 24 feet, which allowed them passage through the Chesapeake and
Delaware Canal. Their straight sides and cargo space made them commercially successful. The origin of the
term "ram" is unclear, but is said to have described the headlong way that the vessels sometimes made their passage through the canal.