November 2017 - Schuylkill Navigation


The Schuylkill Navigation (Canal)

A Picture Postcard Journey Down the Historic Waterway

presented by Aaron Heckler

The Schuylkill River is well known in southeastern Pennsylvania. Perhaps less widely known is the massive amount of construction done in the 19th century to make it commercially navigable. The November meeting of the Goschenhoppen Historians will feature a thoroughly illustrated power point presentation by historian and author Aaron Heckler about the Schuylkill Navigation, often also called the Schuylkill Canal. Utilizing period picture postcards, mostly dating from 1905-1920, Mr. Heckler will discuss the numerous locks, canal sections, dams and other features constructed along the Schuylkill waterway for the primary purpose of shipping coal from Schuylkill County to Philadelphia. With firewood largely unavailable to Philadelphians by the early 19th century the canal system provided lifeblood for city residents until the railroads, not subject to seasonal constraints, began to supplant it.

Beginning in the vicinity of Port Clinton, Mr. Heckler’s presentation will visually journey downriver through Berks County, then between and through portions of Chester and Montgomery County before ending in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. When commercial usage waned in later years, the usually calm waters of the canal system provided popular spots for boating and relaxation. However, at times the power of the river caused unexpected results, and some of these events, memorialized in postcards, will be included as well. Much of the land development created for the navigation system has since been removed or greatly altered but mention will be made of some of the sites that still exist today.

As a collector and dealer of books and related paper items, Mr. Heckler has handled a large assortment of interesting local historical items over the years. From this vast accumulation he has selected a variety of fascinating images depicting this historic waterway to share with the Historians and their guests. The program will begin at 7:30 pm on Thursday, November 16th, at Red Men’s Hall, the Goschenhoppen Historians’ headquarters located at 116 Gravel Pike (Route 29), Green Lane, PA.  The public is welcome to attend and refreshments will be served during an informal get-together at the conclusion of Mr. Heckler’s presentation.  More information can be obtained at 215-234-4119 or on the Historians’ website:

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