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[Detail] Illustration of the shield of Virginia, from the eighteenth century

Introduction

The Capital and the Bay: Narratives of Washington and the Chesapeake Bay Region ca. 1600-1925 includes 141 books presenting varied types of sources: diaries, articles, speeches, poems, sermons, letters, photographs, promotional brochures, personal narratives, and histories. Authors of the documents include such notables as John Smith, Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglass, and William Howard Taft as well as lesser known public officials, journalists, and private citizens. Topics especially well covered in the collection are the colonization of Virginia and Maryland; the new nation, particularly the role of prominent Virginians in the politics of the early national period; slavery; the Civil War and Reconstruction; the development of Washington, D.C., as the nation's capital; and urbanization.

About the Collection describes the geographic area considered to be the Chesapeake Bay region:

In addition to the bay itself, the Chesapeake Bay region is defined for the purposes of this collection as encompassing the portions of Maryland and Virginia from the Atlantic coast to the fall line where the region's west-to-east-flowing rivers 'fall' from the rolling piedmont to the flat coastal plain…These places share similarities in geography, economic life, and history because of the presence and influence of the bay and its tributaries. They have also shared the historical influence of Washington, D.C., which as the nation's capital has had a powerful effect upon the whole of the region surrounding it.

Locating the region on a map, identifying its common geographic features, and finding communities that fall within it would be a useful introductory step before examining documents in the collection.

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