Baltimore’s Inner Harbor has a wealth of history, including at the National Aquarium’s own Pier 4, a designated National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Historic Site.
In 1856, Harriet Tubman helped a young woman named Tilly flee enslavement from Baltimore via a steamboat docked on Pier 4, which at the time was known as Dugan’s Wharf.
A View of Baltimore's Inner Harbor in 1850.
Photo via Maryland Historical Society.
Maryland native Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railroad conductor, abolitionist and suffragist, is a lauded figure of American history. From 1850 to 1860, she led hundreds to freedom, ultimately earning her the nickname "Moses."
On October 21, 1856, Tubman helped a woman named Tilly flee enslavement from Baltimore. Unable to safely bring Tilly to Philadelphia via a northeasterly route, Tubman devised a clever plan to take Tilly on a southern steamboat route that would eventually end in Delaware.
The steamer Tubman intended to use was named the Kent, and it was docked at Dugan's Wharf—present-day Pier 4, where the Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Pavilion is housed. In the 1850s, the Kent made weekly round-trip excursions to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, carrying mail, freight and passengers up and down the Chesapeake and several of its tributaries, including the Choptank and Nanticoke Rivers.
Tubman and Tilly were able to make it safely onto the Kent and travel to Seaford, Delaware. Once the women arrived in Seaford, they took the newly established Delaware Railroad to Camden, eventually finding their way to Wilmington. There, Underground Railroad agent Thomas Garrett documented their arrival and helped them reach freedom in Philadelphia.
The National Aquarium is proud to be a part of such a historically-rich community. Special thanks to Dr. Kate Larson and the Maryland Office of Tourism for gathering and sharing these facts with us.
Back to the Top