From the Darkside

Summer Vacation: Greetings from Ocean City!

Fun at the Beach. Beach Scene, Ocean City, Md, Robert Kniesche, not dated, PP79.754, MdHS

These people were having more fun than you are right now.
(click to enlarge)
Beach Scene, Ocean City, Md, Robert Kniesche, not dated, PP79.754, MdHS

How does the small underbelly editorial team cope with colleagues traveling to the beach, mountains, and parts unknown while we’re stuck here running the blog and tending to our many other duties? We travel vicariously through photographs and post cards! While real beach-goers are dealing with staggering crowds, the oppressive sun, crawling traffic, and marching through a sea of sticky popsicle wrappers on the way to the boardwalk, we’ll stay here in the air-conditioned library and take a little trip back in time…we really need a vacation.

For this week’s post we’ve decided to write the definitive history of Maryland’s favorite vacation spot, Ocean City. Not really…but please enjoy the slideshow of postcards below and a brief tale of the storm that altered the course of the city that, during the summer months, becomes Maryland’s second most populated town. (For those interested in Ocean City’s rich history,  please visit here or here. For further research, readers can check out Ocean City (volumes 1 and 2) by Nan Devincent-Hayes and John E. Jacob or City on the Sand by Mary Corddry.)



One of the defining events in the history of the self-proclaimed “White Marlin Capital of the World” is the great storm of 1933, captured by A. Aubrey Bodine in the images below. On August 22 after four days of saturating rain, heavy winds picked up, battering the boardwalk, pummeling the city with large waves, and destroying the town’s railroad bridge and fishing camps. The storm’s greatest and most lasting impact was a 50-foot wide, 8-foot deep  inlet, that was carved through the barrier island by a  continuous four day ebb tide, flowing from the bay out to the ocean. Three entire streets were submerged at the south end of the town.

Ironically, the resulting scar connecting the ocean to the sheltered bay was exactly what turned Ocean City into the ideal port for fisherman and caused it to flourish as a vacation spot. In fact, for several years prior to the storm, Senator Millard E. Tydings had been fighting to get funding for a man-made canal five miles south of Ocean City. His hope was that the bay side would provide a calm harbor for up to 1,000 fishing boats which could easily access the Atlantic, and from there the markets of Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Though the storm caused approximately $850,000 of damage, the main discussion in the immediate aftermath revolved around appropriations for constructing seawalls to make the canal permanent. Within two years $781,000 was spent on concrete to stabilize the inlet. Not only did these seawalls keep sand from the channel, but they diverted it towards the beaches, greatly expanding their size and making the boardwalk even with ground level.

This inlet made Ocean City the state’s only Atlantic port. The resulting commercial and sport fishing boom greatly shaped the character of the Ocean City we know today, as vacationers content with more modest accommodations flocked in large numbers to crab and fish, and dozens of hotels and restaurants sprang up to meet their needs. (Eben Dennis and Damon Talbot)

Ocean City, MD. View of the damage after the hurricane of 1933, A. Aubrey Bodine, 1933, MC8230-A, MdHS.

Ocean City, MD. View of the damage after the hurricane of 1933, A Aubrey Bodine, 1933, MC8230-E, MdHS.

Ocean City, Md. View

Ocean City, Md. View of the damage after the hurricane of 1933, A. Aubrey Bodine, 1933, MC8230-C, MdHS.


Ocean City, Md. View of the damage after the hurricane of 1933, A. Aubrey Bodine, 1933, MC8230-D, MdHS.

Sources and further reading:

Corddry, Mary, City on the Sand: Ocean City Maryland and the People Who Built It (Centerville, MD: Tidewater, 1991)

DeVincent-Hayes, Nan & Jacob, John E., Ocean City- Volumes 1 and 2  (Charleston: Arcadia, 1999)

Ocean City Life-Saving Museum


9 Responses to “Summer Vacation: Greetings from Ocean City!”

  1. Great post! It’s also interesting to note that the storm also ended a growing real estate development on Assateauge Island just south of Ocean City. The storm surge scoured the north end of the island nearly clean and only traces of the asphalt paved streets remain today. In effect, the storm and the Ocean City inlet are responsible for preserving what is now a State park and National Seashore at Assateauge!

    Posted by David McDonald | 27. Jun, 2013, 12:24 pm
    • Thanks for the additional info David! In a couple weeks we are going to post some original footage of the inlet tearing across the island. Stay tuned

      Posted by mdhslibrarydept | 27. Jun, 2013, 12:41 pm
    • Thanks for this article. Perhaps you might mention that copies of these Bodine photographs are available for sale from his daughter on her web site.
      Would Assateaque have been saved from development? Not if: Sen. Millard E. Tydings had his way with “a man-made canal five miles south of Ocean City.”
      Ocean City has grown into a dump. I don’t know if I will even ride or sail in for Thrasher’s or the new Grotto’s.

      Posted by Robert Cecil-Calvert | 24. Aug, 2013, 2:22 pm
  2. I loved your article about Ocean City. While I am sure that you have many subjects that you want to do I would suggest a popular and fascinating subject is the building of the Baltimore Beltway. I once did some research for a patron of MdHS and found that the library has lots of information on that subject. Many people in Baltimore remember the pre-beltway days and the improvements made by this popular event in the history of our city.

    Posted by Edward P. Arthur | 29. Jun, 2013, 11:28 am
  3. Two of your post cards are much earlier than you suggest. “Boardwalk Showing Atlantic Hotel and Pier” is circa 1915. “Ocean City Pier and Boardwalk” is circa 1920. You have both listed as circa 1940, which they cannot be. The clothing in the photos is much earlier than the 1940s, and the Pier building shown burned down in 1925.

    Posted by Gerald Uhlan | 12. Jul, 2013, 5:30 am


  1. [...] Ocean City MD boardwalk Headlines [...]

  2. [...] weeks ago, literally minutes before we published our Ocean City post, we made a serendipitous find. While working on an unrelated patron request we stumbled across a [...]

  3. [...] the Maryland Historic Society:  “Ocean City, MD. View of the damage after the hurricane of 1933, A. Aubrey Bodine, 1933, [...]

  4. [...] were nearly nine and a half feet above average low tide. (In comparison, the highest tides of the powerful hurricane that hit Ocean City in 1933 were just over seven [...]

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