The shad boat was originally designed in the 1870s by George Washington Creef, who can be seen standing next to the shad boats in the postcard above. According to Lawrence E. Babits’ entry on shad boats in the Encyclopedia of North Carolina, Creef “combined traditional split-log techniques with conventional plank-on-frame construction” to produce a safe, shallow boat in the period after the Civil War when timber was scarce.
Local and durable timber was typically used in the construction of shad boats, including cypress, cedar, and juniper. Shad boats were produced along the Outer Banks from Elizabeth City to Ocracoke Island because Creef taught others in the area how to construct the boats, which were named for the fish they were used to catch (shad!). The long boats were ideal for the sound waters because they were stable and easy to maneuver in waters that were shallow and susceptible to sudden changes in weather. Production of shad boats slowed considerably in the 1920s and 1930s because they were expensive to make. In 1987, the shad boat became the North Carolina State Historic Boat.
The NCC has other materials related to shad fishing, including this Map of Tar River, N.C.: showing approximate location of seines fished for shad in 1906, which shows bridges, seines, landings, fisheries, creeks, and mills along river. The photograph below (P1-28-M29-F53) of fisherman at Manteo was taken by W.H. Zoeller in ca. 1900, and provides a better view of a shad boat.