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Nina Heald Webber Cape Cod Canal collection

MS028 (RS173353)


This collection documents the history of the Cape Cod Canal from its construction in the early 1910s to the early 2010s. The materials in the collection date from 1827 to 2012, with the bulk of the material dating from the 1910s to the 1960s. The collection consists of photographic prints, photograph albums, postcards, lantern slides, memorabilia, brochures, toll schedules, decals, maps, matchbooks, menus, placemats, stock certificates, government publications, periodicals, and more. See series descriptions for details.


Collection Name
Nina Heald Webber Cape Cod Canal collection
Collection Code
1827-2012, undated, predominant 1910-1969
This collection includes photographs, ephemera, publications, maps, and memorabilia documenting the history of the Cape Cod Canal.
Acquisition Type
Physical Description
7.5 linear ft. (3 cartons; 1 oversized box; 1 clamshell box; 1 small object box; 2 lantern slide boxes; 1 oversized folder)
Collection Type
Description Level
Custodial History
The collection was created by Mrs. Webber through multiple acquisitions of individual items or small groups of items over the course of years. Mrs. Webber has had a lifelong interest in the Cape Cod Canal and in collecting, and she enjoys making historical materials available to the public through museums, archives, academic institutions, and historical societies.
Credit Line
Gift of Nina Heald Webber, multiple donations between 2006 and 2014.
Reference Code

Historical/Biographical Note

The Cape Cod Canal was first proposed in 1623 by Miles Standish as a means to avoid the treacherous sailing conditions around Cape Cod. In 1776, George Washington ordered the first survey of the area, but little progress was made. Additional unsuccessful attempts to initiate the construction of a canal were made, including by the Cape Cod Ship Canal Company, but it was not until 1909, under the direction of August Belmont and with the engineering leadership of William Barclay Parsons, that the Boston, Cape Cod, and New York Canal Company began to make progress in earnest. Over the course of five years, the Company changed the landscape, roadways, and railroads; faced numerous hardships due to equipment failures, flooding, and unanticipated obstacles; and ultimately opened the Cape Cod Canal in 1914.

In 1918, the strategic importance of the Canal became apparent to President Woodrow Wilson, and the United States government took control of it for the duration of World War I. After the war, negotiations with Belmont continued until 1928 when Congress authorized the purchase of the Canal. The Army Corps of Engineers executed a number of improvements to the Canal, including building three new bridges which opened in 1935 and deepening the Canal by 1940. The Cape Cod Canal continues to be a vital resource for industry and leisure today.

Orwig, T. T. (2013). Images of America: Cape Cod Canal. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing.

Material in other collections

Bourne Historical Society, Bourne, Massachusetts.

Cape Cod Canal Collection (MS. 101). Sturgis Library Archives, Barnstable, Massachusetts.

File Numbers 13-7, 13-7.5, 13-7.7, 13-7.8, 13-3.9. Massachusetts State Archives, Boston, Massachusetts.

Records of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Record Group 77). National Archives, San Francisco, California.

William Brewster Nickerson Cape Cod History Archives. Cape Cod Community College, West Barnstable, Massachusetts.


There was no original order to this collection. It has been arranged into five series as follows: Series I. Ephemera, 1914-2012; Series II. Manuscripts and drawings, 1897-1985; Series III. Memorabilia, 1914-1964; Series IV. Photographic material, 1884-1975; Series V. Publications, 1827-2011.

Record details

Webber, Nina Heald (Collector)
Other People
Belmont, August, 1853-1924
Parsons, William Barclay, 1859-1932
Small, Fred C.
Webber, Nina Heald
Other Organizations
United States. Army. Corps of Engineers
Descriptive Terms
bridges (built works)
dredgers (watercraft)
excavation (process)
Material Type
manuscripts (document genre)
Barnstable (Barnstable county, Massachusetts)
Bourne (Barnstable county, Massachusetts)
Buzzards Bay (Bourne, Barnstable county, Massachusetts) [neighborhood]
Cape Cod Canal (Massachusetts) [canal]
Sagamore (Bourne, Barnstable county, Massachusetts) [neighborhood]
Sandwich (Barnstable county, Massachusetts)
This collection is available for research.
Related Items
General photographic collection, 1860s-2000s — This collection includes images of the Cape Cod Canal and surrounding area.
Cassier\u0092s magazine. (1911). Cassier\u0092s magazine, vol. 39, November, 1910-April, 1911. New York, NY: Cassier Magazine Co. — Separated from collection. Available in Library & Archives.
Conway, J. N. (2008). The Cape Cod Canal: Breaking through the bared and bended arm. Charleston, SC: History Press. — Separated from collection. Available in Library & Archives.
DiGregorio, M., & Wallner, J. (1985). Wildflowers of the Cape Cod Canal: An annotated checklist. Bourne, MA: Bourne Historical Commission. — Separated from collection. Available in Library & Archives.
Farson, R. H. (1977). The Cape Cod Canal. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. — Separated from collection. Available in Library & Archives.
Ferguson, L. W. (1982). Cape Cod collection: Unit #1, Cape Cod Canal. Salt Lake City, UT: L. W. Ferguson. — Separated from collection. Available in Library & Archives.
Howland, L. (1987). Sou\u0092west and by west of Cape Cod: The classic evocation of New England shore, sea, and islands. Dublin, NH: Yankee Books. — Separated from collection. Available in Library & Archives.
Ivers, H. B. (Ed.). (1935). The official old home week and Canal Bridge dedication book: Cape Cod. Boston, MA: George D. Hall. — Separated from collection. Available in Library & Archives.
Keene, B. D. (1975). History of Bourne from 1622 to 1937. Bourne, MA: Bourne Historical Society. — Separated from collection. Available in Library & Archives.
Langdon, W. C. (1916). The pageant of Cape Cod. Boston, MA: Blanchard Print. Co. — Separated from collection. Available in Library & Archives.
Massachusetts, General Court, Joint Committee on Ship Canal to Connect Barnstable Bay and Buzzard\u0092s Bay. (1864). Report of the Joint Committee of 1860 upon the proposed canal to unite Barnstable and Buzzard\u0092s bays. Boston, MA: Wright & Potter. — Two copies separated from collection. Available in Library & Archives.
Parkman, A. (1978). Army engineers in New England: The military and civil work of the Corps of Engineers in New England, 1775-1975. Waltham, MA: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England Division. — Separated from collection. Available in Library & Archives.
Quinn, W. P. (1973). Shipwrecks around Cape Cod: A collection of photographs and data covering the period from the late 1800s to 1973 on Cape Cod. Farmington, ME: Knowlton & McLeary. — Separated from collection. Available in Library & Archives.
Reid, W. J. (1961). The building of the Cape Cod Canal, 1627-1914. New York, NY: [?]. — Separated from collection. Available in Library & Archives.
Torrington Company, Bantam Bearings Division. (1950). Anti-friction bearing design for movable span bridges. South Bend, IN: Torrington Company. — Separated from collection. Available in Library & Archives.
Accruals Note
Accruals are expected.
Appraisal, Destruction and Scheduling Note
The books that were donated as part of this collection have been removed from the collection and transferred to the Historic New England Library & Archives book collection.
Publications Referencing This Collection
(2013.). Cape Cod Canal /Timothy T. Orwig for Historic New England.. Arcadia Publishing,.
Language Note
Materials are entirely in English.
Preferred Citation
[Item identification.] Box #, folder #. Nina Heald Webber Cape Cod Canal collection (MS028). Historic New England, Library & Archives.
Processing Information
This collection was originally processed by Historic New England intern Dominique Ledoux, 2013; it was updated by Historic New England librarian/archivist Abigail Cramer, January, 2014 and February, 2015.
Rules and Conventions
This finding aid is DACS-compliant.

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