The first vessel of record constructed on the river was the shallop BROAD KILL, which was registered in Philadelphia in 1737. Like many of the early products of local shipyards, it was an open boat designed for sailing the sheltered water of rivers and bays. Expansion of the nation's maritime commerce following the American Revolution resulted in a growing demand for ships. The shipyards on the Broadkill responded, increasing production and expanding the market for their product.
In 1828, the ECLIPSE became the Broadkill's first vessel with a cargo capacity of over 100 tons. Twenty years later the JOHN G. WRIGHT became the first to exceed 100 feet in length. While noted for their size, the ships of the Broadkill were also acclaimed for their speed and sailing ability. Large sloop-rigged vessels were replaced by faster two and three-masted schooners. Many were too large to return after launching. Builders of note included Samuel Martin, William C. Prettyman, David H. Atkins, C. C. Davidson, and Joseph L. Black & Bro. The final sailing ship was built in 1904, and in 1915 the motorized fishing boat WILD CAT became the last product of local shipyards to be launched into the waters of the Broadkill River.