Overlooking Calibogue Sound (ICW) From Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Waterway at sunset
Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

For some time, there has been much debate over where the northern terminus of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) might be located. When I appeared as the “waterway expert” on the Modern Marvels documentary “Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway” shown on the History Channel, the writer/producer contended as many still do, that the AIW begins in Miami and ends in Boston. But as many point out, and I agree,the barrier islands along the Atlantic coast end in Virginia. And for the most part, there is open water north of Virginia,with some exceptions like the Cape Cod Canal.

In the early 1900’s, a new renaissance arose over federal support of inland waterways with the election of progressives like Theodore Roosevelt to the presidency and Napoleon Bonaparte Broward to the Florida gubernatorial post. More than thirty citizen’s groups lobbied Congress for inland waterway support. Among the most influential was the Atlantic Deeper Waterways Association (ADWA) led by Congressman Joseph Hampton Moore of Philadelphia. The ADWA had over 500 members, representing the coastal states from Maine to Florida when it first met in Philadelphia in 1907. The ADWA would spend the next three decades lobbying Congress for a continuous Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, which would officially open in 1935 from Miami, Florida to Trenton, New Jersey.  Courtesy, the author.

George L. Bradley, president of the Florida canal company


Born in Providence, R.I., in 1846, George Lothrop Bradley had made three fortunes by the time he had become the largest investor in the Florida waterway. Bradley made his first fortune investing in the Newport Mining Company, a square-mile iron mine property along the Michigan upper peninsula-Wisconsin border, in the late 1870s. The mine would produce ore for another seventy years. His second fortune came when he invested in the Mergenthaler Linotype Company, an enterprise based on the invention of a new method of publishing. Molten lead would be poured into an entire line of type instead of composing a line of type single letter-by-single letter. Bradley made his third fortune investing in Alexander Graham Bell’s new invention–the telephone.  Civil War financier Jay Cooke introduced Bradley to his fourth opportunity to become even more wealthy by investing in the Florida canal company beginning in the mid-1880s. Courtesy, Emma Pendleton Bradley Hospital, East Providence, R.I.