History of Baltimore

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View of Baltimore by William Henry Bartlett (1809-1854)
An 1864 map of Baltimore

This article describes the history of the Baltimore and its surrounding area in central Maryland since its settlement in 1661 by English settlers.

Pre-colonial era

The Baltimore area had been inhabited by Native Americans since at least the 10th millennium BC, when Paleo-Indians first settled in the region. One Paleo-Indian site and several Archaic period and Woodland period archaeological sites have been identified in Baltimore, including four from the Late Woodland period.[1] During the Late Woodland period, the archaeological culture that is called the "Potomac Creek complex" resided in the area from Baltimore to the Rappahannock River in Virginia, primarily along the Potomac River downstream from the Fall Line.[2]

In the early 1600s, the immediate Baltimore vicinity was sparsely populated, if at all, by Native Americans. The Baltimore County area northward was used as hunting grounds by the Susquehannocks living in the lower Susquehanna River valley who "controlled all of the upper tributaries of the Chesapeake" but "refrained from much contact with Powhatan in the Potomac region." [3] Pressured by the Susquehannocks, the Piscataway tribe of Algonquians stayed well south of the Baltimore area and inhabited primarily the north bank of the Potomac River in what is now Charles and southern Prince George's south of the Fall Line [4][5][6] as depicted on John Smith's 1608 map which faithfully mapped settlements, mapped none in the Baltimore vicinity, while noting a dozen Patuxent River settlements that were under some degree of Piscataway suzerainty.

In 1608, Captain John Smith traveled 210 miles from Jamestown to the uppermost Chesapeake Bay, leading the first European expedition to the Patapsco River, a word used by the Algonquin language natives who fished shellfish and hunted[7] The name "Patapsco" is derived from pota-psk-ut, which translates to "backwater" or "tide covered with froth" in Algonquian dialect.[8] A quarter century after John Smith's voyage, English colonists began to settle in Maryland. The English were initially frightened by the Piscataway in southern Maryland because of their body paint and war regalia, even though they were a peaceful tribe. The chief of the Piscataway tribe was quick to grant the English permission to settle within Piscataway territory and cordial relations were established between the English and the Piscataway.[9]

Colonial era

The County of Baltimore was "erected" around 1659 in the records of the General Assembly of Maryland among one of the earliest divisions of the Maryland Colony into counties, when a warrant was issued to be served by the "Sheriff of Baltimore County." The area constituting the modern City of Baltimore and its metropolitan area was first settled by David Jones in 1661, his claim covering in the area known today as Harbor East on the east bank of the Jones Falls river, which flows south into Baltimore's Inner Harbor.[10] The following year, shipwright Charles Gorsuch settled Whetstone Point, the present location of Fort McHenry. In 1665, the west side of the Jones Falls on the Inner Harbor was settled when 550 acres of land, thereafter named Cole's Harbor, was granted to Thomas Cole and later sold to David Jones in 1679. Old Saint Paul's Parish of Baltimore County was one of the "Original Thirty" parishes designated for the Colony. It included the county of Baltimore and future Baltimore Town and was part of the "established" or "state" Church of England, also known as the Anglican Church. It was the first church built in the metro area, erected in 1692 on the Patapsco Neck peninsula in southeastern Baltimore County, along the Colgate Creek which flowed into the Patapsco River (present site of today's Dundalk Marine Terminal of the Port of Baltimore). Jones's stepson James Todd resurveyed Cole's Harbor in 1696. The tract was renamed Todd's Range, which was then sold off in progressively smaller parcels, thereby forming the land that would become the Town of Baltimore thirty years later.

Maryland's colonial General Assembly created and authorized the Port of Baltimore in 1706 at the Head of the Northwest Branch of the Patapsco River in what was later known as "the Basin" (today's Inner Harbor) and later expanded east and southeast down-river to what later was called Fells Point to the east near the mouth of the Jones Falls and further in the 19th Century to what became known as Canton. The port was named after Lord Baltimore George Calvert (16XX-16XX), to whom in 1632 King Charles I of England granted title to the Maryland colony, which was named after Charles's wife, Queen Henrietta Marie. (An earlier attempt at colonization by Calvert, "Avalon" in Newfoundland off the eastern Canada coast, was unsuccessful.) Also around the Basin to the southeast along the southern peninsula which ended at Whetstone Point—today South Baltimore, Federal Hill, and Locust Point—wharves and slips were built by individual wealthy ship-owners and brokers and some by the public authorities through the town commissioners by means of lotteries, for the tobacco trade and shipping of other raw materials overseas to the Mother Country, for receiving manufactured goods from England, and for trade with other ports being established up and down the Chesapeake Bay and in the other burgeoning colonies along the Atlantic coast.

The Town of Baltimore was established by the Maryland General Assembly in 1729. Unlike many other towns established around that time, Baltimore was more than just existence on paper. German immigrants began to settle along the Chesapeake Bay by 1723, living in the Baltimore area. The General Assembly enlarged Baltimore Town in 1745 and incorporated David Jones's original settlement known as Jones Town. Baltimore sent representatives to the Assembly, and over the next two decades it acquired nine parcels of land and annexed neighboring villages including Fells Point to become an important and substantial community on the Head of the Patapsco River. As the Town grew, increasing numbers of German Lutheran immigrants established Zion Church in 1755, and later also a German Reformed congregation was organized as the first among the Protestants to be represented which also attracted more of these "Pennsylvania Dutch" settlers to the region. Early German settlers also later established the German Society of Maryland in 1783 in order to foster the German language and German culture in Baltimore.[11]

Throughout the 18th Century, Baltimore drained and filled in marshes (notably Thomas "Harrison's Marsh" along the Jones Falls west bank), built canals around the falls and through the center of town, built bridges across the Falls and annexed neighboring Jones's Town to the northeast and expanded southeastward towards the neighboring, bustling, shipbuilding port at Fells Point and merged with it by 17XX. It became by far the largest city in the Middle Atlantic colonies between Philadelphia and Charleston, South Carolina. A political deal by the increasingly powerful financial interests in the growing town and with the rapidly growing population, was reached and the county seat with its important center of a courthouse for all Baltimore County was moved from Old Joppa over its citizens enraged protests. Baltimoreans paid some 300 pounds sterling the next year to erect a fine brick courthouse with a bell tower and steeple on a Courthouse Square (future Calvert Street, between East Lexington and Fayettes Streets) along with the necessary "whipping post", "stocks" (for confining heads and arms), podium for making public announcements and news, and a nearby jail to confine miscaltreats, on the northern hills overlooking the harbor basin and with its back sitting over a rugged cliff and bluffs to the northeast with "Steiger's Meadow" bordering the twisting loop of the Jones Falls which bended southwestward before running north again.

During the American Revolution, the Second Continental Congress temporarily fled from Philadelphia and held sessions in Baltimore for a few weeks in December 1776 to February 1777. When the Continental Congress authorized the privateering of British vessels, eager Baltimore merchants accepted the challenge, and as the war progressed, the shipbuilding industry expanded and boomed. There was no major military action near the city though, except for the passing nearby and a feint towards the town by the British Royal Navy fleet as they headed north up the Chesapeake Bay to land an army at Head of Elk in the northeast corner to march on the American capital at Philadelphia and the subsequent battles at Brandywine and Germantown.

The American Revolution stimulated the domestic market for wheat and iron ore, and in Baltimore flour milling increased along the Jones and Gwynns Falls. Iron ore transport greatly boosted the local economy. The British naval blockade hurt Baltimore's shipping, but also freed merchants and traders from British debts, which along with the capture of British merchant vessels furthered Baltimore's economic growth. By 1800 Baltimore had become one of the major cities of the new republic.[12]

The economic foundations laid down between 1763 and 1776 were vital to the even greater expansion seen during the Revolutionary War. Though still lagging behind Philadelphia, Baltimore merchants and entrepreneurs produced an expanding commercial community with family businesses and partnerships proliferating in shipping, the flour-milling and grain business, and the indentured servant traffic. International trade focused on four areas: Britain, Southern Europe, the West Indies, and the North American coastal towns. Credit was the essence of the system and a virtual chain of indebtedness meant that bills remained long unpaid and little cash was used among overseas correspondents, merchant wholesalers, and retail customers. Bills of exchange were used extensively, often circulating as currency. Frequent crises of credit, and the wars with France kept prices and markets in constant flux, but men such as William Lux and the Christie brothers produced a maturing economy and a thriving metropolis by the 1770s.[13]

The population reached 14,000 in 1790, but the decade was a rough one for the city. The Bank of England's suspension of specie payments caused the network of Atlantic credit to unravel, leading to a mild recession. The Quasi-War with France in 1798-1800 caused major disruptions to Baltimore's trade in the Caribbean. Finally, a yellow fever epidemic diverted ships from the port, while much of the urban population fled into the countryside. The downturn widened to include every social class and area of economic activity. In response the business community diversified away from an economy based heavily on foreign trade.[14]

View of Baltimore from Chapel Hill, by Francis Guy, 1802-03 (Brooklyn Museum)

19th century

Population growth
Year 1790 1800 1810 1820 1830 1840 1850 1860 1870 1880 1890
Population 14,000 27,000 47,000 63,000 81,000 102,000 169,000 212,000 267,000 332,000 434,000
Baltimore Street Map, 1838

Baltimore grew rapidly, becoming the largest city in the American South. It dominated the American flour trade after 1800 due to the milling technology of Oliver Evans, the introduction of steam power in processing, and the merchant-millers' development of drying processes which greatly retarded spoilage. Still, by 1830 New York City's competition was felt keenly, and Baltimoreans were hard-pressed to match the merchantability standards despite more rigorous inspection controls than earlier, nor could they match the greater financial resources of their northern rivals.


Alexander Brown (1764–1834), a Protestant immigrant from Ireland, came to the city in 1800 and set up a linen business with his sons. Soon the firm Alex. Brown & Sons moved into cotton and, to a lesser extent, shipping. Brown's sons opened branches in Liverpool, Philadelphia, and New York. The firm was an enthusiastic supporter of the B&O Railroad By 1850 it was the leading foreign exchange house in the United States. Brown was a business innovator who observed social conditions carefully and was a transition figure to the era after 1819 when cash and short credits became the norms of business relations. By concentrating his capital in small-risk ventures and acquiring ships and Bank of the United States stock during the Panic of 1819, he came to monopolize Baltimore's shipping trade with Liverpool by 1822. Brown next expanded into packet ships, extended his lines to Philadelphia, and began financing Baltimore importers, specializing in merchant banking from the late 1820s to his death in 1834. The emergence of a money economy and the growth of the Anglo-American cotton trade allowed him to escape Baltimore's declining position in trans-Atlantic trade. His most important innovation was the drawing up of his own bills of exchange. By 1830 his company rivaled the Bank of the United States in the American foreign exchange markets, and the transition from the 'traditional' to the 'modern' merchant was nearly complete. It became the nation's first investment banking. It was sold in 1997, but the name lives on as Deutsche Bank Alex. Brown, a division of the Germany's Deutsche Bank.[15]

Peabody and Philanthropy

George Peabody rose from humble beginnings to become one of the nation's most powerful businessmen. Based in Baltimore, Peabody developed an extensive network of financial and mercantile institutions that laid the groundwork for J. P. Morgan's financial empire. Peabody relocated to London in 1837 and later helped install the first transatlantic telegraph cables. During the 1860s, Peabody began his celebrated philanthropic career, endowing libraries and museums and aiding the poor on both sides of the Atlantic. He founded the Peabody Institute which included a library, an academy of music, and an art gallery and which, he hoped, would aid the moral and intellectual development of the citizenry. Peabody's legacy inspired Andrew Carnegie and other captains of industry to offer some of their wealth to serve the public good.[16]


Cornerstone of the B&O, laid July 4, 1828 by Charles Carroll of Carrollton, now displayed at the B&O Railroad Museum

Baltimore faced economic stagnation unless it opened routes to the western states, as New York had done with the Erie Canal in 1820. In 1827, twenty-five merchants and bankers studied the best means of restoring "that portion of the Western trade which has recently been diverted from it by the introduction of steam navigation." Their answer was to build a railroad—one of the first commercial lines in the world. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) became the first chartered railroad in the United States; twenty thousand investors purchased $5 million in stock to import the rolling stock and build the line. It was a commercial and financial success, and invented many new managerial methods that became standard practice in railroading and modern business. The B&O became the first company to operate a locomotive built in America, with the Tom Thumb in 1829. It built the first passenger and freight station (Mount Clare in 1829) and was the first railroad that earned passenger revenues (December 1829), and published a timetable (May 23, 1830). On December 24, 1852, it became the first rail line to reach the Ohio River from the eastern seaboard.[17] The railroad was merged into CSX in 1987.

Following the B&O's start of regular operations in 1830, other railroads were built in the city.[18]:27 In the early 1830s the Baltimore and Port Deposit Rail Road began running trains in the Canton area, and later in the decade it reached Havre de Grace.[18]:32 Also in the 1830s, the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad operated trains initially to Ownings Mills, and later into Pennsylvania.[19]:168 Both lines were later controlled by the Pennsylvania Railroad. In the mid-1850s the Western Maryland Railway began constructing a line to Westminster and points west, reaching Hagerstown in 1872.[20]:38


From the late 18th century into the 1820s Baltimore was a "city of transients," a fast-growing boom town attracting thousands of ex-slaves from the surrounding countryside. Slavery in Maryland declined steadily after the 1810s as the state's economy shifted away from plantation agriculture, as evangelicalism and a liberal manumission law encouraged owners to liberate those in bondage, and as other masters practiced "term slavery," registering deeds of manumission but postponing the actual date of freedom for a decade or more. Baltimore's shrinking slave population often lived and worked alongside the city's growing free black population as "quasi-freedmen." With unskilled and semiskilled employment readily available, particularly in the shipyards and related industries, little friction with white workers occurred. Despite the overall poverty of the city's free blacks, compared with the condition of those living in Philadelphia, Charleston, and New Orleans, Baltimore was a "city of refuge," where slave and free black alike found an unusual amount of freedom. Churches, schools, and fraternal and benevolent associations provided a cushion against hardening white attitudes toward free blacks in the wake of Nat Turner's revolt in Virginia in 1831. But a flood of German and Irish immigrants swamped Baltimore's labor market after 1840, driving free blacks deeper into poverty.[21]

The Maryland Chemical Works of Baltimore used a mix of free labor, hired slaves, and slaves owned by the corporation to work in its factory.[22] Since chemicals needed constant attention, the rapid turnover of free white labor encouraged the owner to use slaves. While slave labor was about 20 percent cheaper, the company began to reduce its dependence on slave labor in 1829 when two slaves ran away and one died.[23]

It was easy for slaves in the city to run away—as Frederick Douglass did. Therefore, slaveholders in Baltimore frequently turned to gradual manumission as a means to secure dependable and productive labor from slaves. In promising freedom after a fixed period of years, slaveholders intended to reduce the costs associated with lifetime servitude while providing slaves incentive for cooperation. Blacks for their part tried to negotiate terms of manumission that were more advantageous, and the implicit threat of flight weighed significantly in slaveholders' calculations. The dramatic decrease in the slave population during 1850-60 indicates that slavery was no longer profitable in the city. Slaves were still used as expensive house servants: it was cheaper to hire a free worker by the day, with the option of dropping him or replacing him with a better worker, rather than run the expense of maintaining a slave month in and month out with little flexibility.[24]

On the eve of the Civil War, Baltimore had the largest free black community in the nation. About 15 schools for blacks were operating, including Sabbath schools operated by Methodists, Presbyterians, and Quakers, along with several private academies. ll black schools were self-sustaining, receiving no state or local government funds, and whites in Baltimore generally opposed educating the black population, continuing to tax black property holders to maintain schools from which black children were excluded by law. Baltimore's black community, nevertheless, was one of the largest and most divided in America due to this experience.[25]


Baltimore in the Third Party System had two-party competitive elections, with powerful bosses, carefully orchestrated political violence, and an emerging working-class consciousness at the polls. The fierce politics of the 1850s had galvanized the white workers, most of them German, who opposed slavery. The American Party emerged in the mid-1850s to represent Protestants and to counter the Democratic Party, which was increasingly controlled by Catholic Irish. When Baltimore erupted in violence at the time of President Abraham Lincoln's 1861 inauguration, for example, the pro-Union "Blood Tubs" that took to the streets were veterans of political rioting. The nativist American (Know-Nothing) Party captured the Baltimore government in 1854. The party promoted modernization, including professionalizing police and fire departments, expanding the courts, and upgrading the water supply.[26] The party used patronage and, especially, coercion and election-day violence; its armed gangs scared off Democratic voters, but the Irish and Germans fought back. Voters elected a congressman and governor nominated by the party during its short life. In 1860 the Democrat-controlled legislature took back the city police, the militia, patronage, and the electoral machinery, and prosecuted some Know-Nothings for electoral fraud. By 1861 the Know-Nothings had split over secession.[27]

Civil War

Baltimore was torn by the Civil War. Much of the social and political elite favored the Confederacy—and indeed owned house slaves. In the 1860 election the city's large German element voted not for Lincoln but for Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge. They were less concerned with the abolition of slavery, an issue emphasized by Republicans, and much more with nativism, temperance, and religious beliefs, associated with the Know-Nothing Party and strongly opposed by the Democrats. However the Germans hated slavery and supported the Union.[27]

When Massachusetts troops marched through the city on April 19, 1861, en route to Washington, D.C., a rebel mob attacked; 4 soldiers and 12 rioters were dead, and 36 soldiers and uncounted rioters had been injured. Governor Thomas Hicks realized action was needed. He convened a special session of the General Assembly but moved its location to a site in Frederick, a distance from the secessionist groups. In doing this and by other actions, Hicks managed to neutralize the General Assembly to avoid Maryland's secession from the Union, becoming a hero in the eyes of the Unionists in the state. Meanwhile, pro-Confederate gangs burned the bridges connecting Baltimore and Washington to the North, and cut the telegraph lines. Lincoln sent in federal troops under Gen. Ben Butler; they seized the city, imposed martial law, and arrested leading Confederate spokesmen. The prisoners were later released and the rail lines reopened, making Baltimore a major Union base during the war.[28]

Gilded Age


Maryland was not subject to Reconstruction, but the end of slavery meant heightened racial tensions as free blacks flocked to the city and many armed confrontations erupted between blacks and whites. Rural blacks who flocked to Baltimore created increased competition for skilled jobs and upset the prewar relationship between free blacks and whites. As black migrants were relegated to unskilled work or no work at all, violent strikes erupted. Denied entry into the regular state militia, armed blacks formed militias of their own. In the midst of this change, white Baltimoreans interpreted black discontent as disrespect for law and order, which justified police repression.[29]

Baltimore had more blacks than any northern city. The new Maryland state constitution of 1864 ended slavery and provided for the education of all children, including blacks. The Baltimore Association for the Moral and Educational Improvement of the Colored People established schools for blacks that were taken over by the public school system, which then restricted education for blacks beginning in 1867 when Democrats regained control of the city. Establishing an unequal system that prepared white students for citizenship while using education to reinforce black subjugation, Baltimore's postwar school system exposed the contradictions of race, education, and republicanism in an age when African Americans struggled to realize the ostensible freedoms gained by emancipation.[30] Thus blacks found themselves forced to support Jim Crow legislation and urged that the "colored schools" be staffed only with black teachers. From 1867 to 1900 black schools grew from 10 to 27 and enrollment from 901 to 9,383. The Mechanical and Industrial Association achieved success only in 1892 with the opening of the Colored Manual Training School. Black leaders were convinced by the Rev. William Alexander and his newspaper, the Afro American, that economic advancement and first-class citizenship depended on equal access to schools.[25]

Economic growth

Baltimore Street Map, 1892

By 1880 manufacturing replaced trade and made the city a nationally important industrial center. The port continued to ship increasing amounts of grain, flour, tobacco, and raw cotton to Europe. However the new industries of men's clothing, canning, tin and sheet-iron ware products, foundry and machine shop products, cars, and tobacco manufacture had the largest labor force and largest product value.[31]

The construction of new housing was a major factor in Baltimore's economy. Vill (1986) examines the activities of major builders between 1869 and 1896, especially as they gained access to building land and capital. Most, but not all, of the major builders were craftsmen who were entrepreneurs compared with others in the building trades, but were still small businessmen who built a relatively small number of houses during long careers. They worked closely with landowners, and both groups manipulated the city's leasehold system to their own advantage. Builders obtained credit from a diverse array of sources, including sellers of land, building societies, and land companies. The most important source was individual lenders, who lent money in small amounts either on their own account or through lawyers and trustees overseeing funds held in trust. In spite of their important role in shaping the city, the contractors were small businessmen who rarely achieved citywide visibility.[32] Until the 1890s, Baltimore remained a patchwork of nationalities with white natives, Germans, Irish, and blacks scattered throughout the 'social quilt' in heterogeneous neighborhoods.


Expanded economic activity brought many immigrants from the countryside and from Europe after the Civil War. Concerns for young, single Protestant women alone in cities led to the growth of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) movement. Given the practice of segregation in Baltimore, however, two YWCA's emerged, the (white) Baltimore YWCA founded in 1883 and the Colored YWCA founded in 1896. They merged in 1920.

Progressive Era

Population growth and decline
Year 1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2007
Population 509,000 558,000 734,000 805,000 859,000 950,000 939,000 906,000 787,000 736,000 651,000 637,000

Political reform began in 1895 with the defeat of the Arthur Gorman-Isaac Freeman Rasin Democratic machine. The Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 destroyed 70 blocks and 1,526 buildings in the downtown, and led to systematic urban renewal programs.[33]

Child labor at J.S. Farrand Packing Company in Baltimore, 1909. Photo by Lewis Hine.

Baltimore was a poorly managed city in 1890, despite its economic vitality. Already Boston, Chicago, and New York were moving to modernize their public works infrastructures and to support the construction of capital-intensive, technologically sophisticated sewer and water supply systems. Baltimore lagged behind the other American metropolises because of its culture of privatism and the politicization of its municipal administration. However, during the 1890-1920 period the city responded to the same concerns as Chicago, New York, and Boston. The increase in urban crises, particularly the 1904 fire and the deterioration of sanitary conditions, prompted demands for reform. Moreover, the municipal administration underwent a process of moralization and professionalization in the 20th century. Afterward, Baltimore modeled itself on the other American metropolises and chose to modernize its institutions and address the industrial and urban challenges of the era.[34]


When in 1918 the US government reversed its draft exemption for married workers and required all men to work in essential occupations or serve in the military, professional baseball players either enlisted or joined industrial baseball leagues. Company leagues included those of Bethlehem Steel, which had recreational leagues on both coasts that by 1918 represented a major-league level of competition. Sparrows Point, Maryland, a Bethlehem Steel company town, had a Steel League team, whose results Baltimore baseball fans followed closely. At the same time, fans also followed the draft status and 1918 season of Baltimore native Babe Ruth, then playing with the Boston Red Sox and considering his own options, including joining an industrial league team. In September Bethlehem Steel, fearing competition with other leagues over professional talent, disbanded the Steel League. When the war ended in November, players such as Ruth were free to re-sign with their major league teams.[35]

Depression and War: 1929-1950

Argersinger (1988) describes the loss of power by traditional Democratic leaders and organizations in Baltimore under the New Deal. The old-line Democrats operated in the spirit of traditional political bosses who dispensed the patronage. They were, at best, lukewarm Roosevelt supporters because the New Deal threatened their monopoly on patronage. Blacks, other ethnic groups, labor, and other former supporters turned from their patrons to other leadership. Baltimore Mayor Howard W. Jackson's support gradually eroded until he was defeated in a gubernatorial primary election to choose an opponent for a Republican who earlier defeated Governor Albert C. Richie, a conservative Democrat.[36]

World War II

Baltimore was a major war production center in World War II. The biggest operations were Bethlehem Steel's Fairfield Yard, on the southeastern edge of the harbor, which built Liberty ships; its work force peaked at 46,700 in late 1943. Even larger was Glenn Martin, an aircraft plant located 10 miles (16 km) northeast of downtown. By late 1943 about 150,000 to 200,000 migrant war workers had arrived. They were predominantly poor white southerners; most came from the hills of Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee. War mobilization brought federal pressure to unionize the work force, and by 1941 the leftist CIO had organized most of Baltimore's large industries, while the more conservative AFL also gained many new members. By 1945, labor unions and ethnics had taken over local politics and liberal mayors enjoyed black as well as white support. The machine was led by Italian Catholic politicians such as Nancy Pelosi's father, Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr., who was mayor in 1947-59; her brother, Thomas D'Alesandro III, was mayor from 1967 to 1971.[37]

Father John F. Cronin's early confrontations with Communists in the World War II-era labor movement turned him into a leading anti-Communist in the Catholic Church and the US government during the Cold War. Father Cronin, then a prominent Catholic parish priest, saw a united labor movement as central to his moderate, reformist vision for Baltimore's social ills, and worked closely with anti-Communist labor leaders.[38]

Urban Crisis: 1950-present

In 1950, the city's population topped out at 950,000, of whom 24 percent were black. Then the white movement to the suburbs began in earnest, and the population inside the city limits steadily declined and became proportionately more black.


Integration of Baltimore city schools at first went smoothly, as city elites suppressed working class white complaints, which only sped up white flight to suburban schools. By the 1970s new problems had surfaced. White flight transformed formerly white schools into mostly black schools, though whites still made up most of the faculty and administration. Worse, the school system had become dependent on federal funding. In 1974, these circumstances led to two dramatic incidents. A teachers' strike highlighted the city's unwillingness to raise teachers' salaries because a hike in property taxes would further alienate white residents. A second crisis revolved around a federally mandated desegregation plan that also threatened to alienate the remaining white residents. The crises were caused by racism and federal policy.[39]


Heroin usage in Baltimore reveals the explosive rise of illegal drug use in the United States in the 1960s. In the late 1940s there were only a few dozen African-American heroin addicts in the Pennsylvania Avenue area of the city. Heroin use began largely for reasons of prestige within a group that most middle-class blacks looked down on. When the Baltimore police formed the three-man narcotics squad in 1951 there was only moderate profit in drug dealing and shoplifting was the addict's crime of choice. By the late 1950s young whites were using the drug, and by 1960 there were over one thousand heroin addicts in the police files; this figure doubled in the 1960s. A generation of profiteering young, violent black dealers took over in the 1960s as violence increased and the price of heroin skyrocketed. Increasing drug usage was undoubtedly the primary reason for burglaries rising tenfold and robberies rising thirtyfold from 1950 to 1970. Soaring numbers of broken homes and Baltimore's declining economic status probably exacerbated the drug problem. Adolescents in suburban areas began using drugs in the late 1960s.[40]

Civil rights

In the 1930s and 1940s the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the black churches, and the Afro-American weekly newspaper took charge of organizing and publicizing demonstrations. There was no rioting. In the late 1950s Martin Luther King and his national civil rights movement inspired black ministers in Baltimore to mobilize their communities in opposition to local discrimination. The churches were instrumental in keeping lines of communication open between the geographically and politically divided middle-class and poor blacks, a chasm that had widened since the end of World War II. Ministers formed a network across churches and denominations and did much of the face-to-face work of motivating people to organize and protest. In many cases they also adopted King's theology of justice and freedom and altered their preaching styles.[41]

Baltimore was the site of an early civil rights sit-in—perhaps the nation's first. When a handful of black students entered Read's Drug Store for less than half an hour, it precipitated a wave of desegregation.[42]

1968 riots

Unrest in the black inner-city exploded for four nights in April 1968, after news arrived of the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King in Memphis Tennessee.[43] Arson, looting and attacks on police ended with six men dead, 700 injured, and 5,800 rioters arrested. About a thousand businesses were ransacked or burned, especially liquor stores, supermarkets, furniture stores, and taverns. Many shops never reopened, leaving the burned-out districts permanently under-served by retail stores. Governor Spiro T. Agnew sent in 5,000 National Guardsmen and imposed an 11 p.m. curfew. That was not enough, so President Lyndon Johnson, at the governor's request, sent in 6,000 U.S. Army combat troops to finally regain control of the city. The episode was a stimulus for an exodus to the suburbs and a political backlash by white voters.[44] Agnew's statement that "evil men and not evil conditions" caused the riots resonated with white ethnic urban voters, and Republican Richard Nixon selected Agnew as his vice presidential running mate that summer.[45]


In the 1950s and 1960s, racial politics intensified in Baltimore, as in other cities. White Southerners came to Baltimore for factory jobs during World War II, permanently altering the city's political landscape. The new arrivals approved of the segregated system that had been in effect since the early 20th century. Working whites mobilized to prevent school integration after the Brown v. Board of Education decision of the Supreme Court in 1954. They believed that their interests were being sacrificed to those of black Americans. As working-class whites began to feel increasingly embattled in the face of federal intervention into local practices, many turned to the 1964 presidential primary campaign of George Wallace who swept the white working class vote. Durr (2003) explains the defection of white working-class voters in Baltimore to the Republican Party as being caused by their fears that the Democratic Party's desegregation policies posed a threat to their families, workplaces, and neighborhoods.[46]

Between 1950 and 1990, Baltimore's population declined by more than 200,000. The center of gravity has since shifted away from manufacturing and trade to service and knowledge industries, such as medicine and finance. Gentrification by well-educated newcomers has transformed the Harbor area into an upscale tourist destination.

2015 riots

On April 19, 2015, Freddie Gray, a resident of West Baltimore, died after being in a coma for a week. Gray fell into the coma in police custody. A video of the arrest showed Gray screaming in pain as police dragged his limping body. Gray fell in coma on his way to jail.

Protests demanded police accountability with the slogan "No Justice—No Peace!".[47] Thousands of peaceful protesters filled the City Hall square. Riots broke out on April 27 in black neighborhoods, as mobs burned police cruisers and buildings and looted shops and a shopping center. No one died. The Governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan sent in the National Guard and imposed a curfew, stopping the violence.[48]

Religious history

Roman Catholics

Baltimore has long been a major center of the Catholic Church. Important bishops include John Carroll (1735–1815, in office 1789-1815), Francis Kenrick (1796–1863, in office 1851-65), and especially Cardinal James Gibbons (1834—1921, in office 1877-1921).

In 1806-21 Catholics constructed the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, based on a neoclassical design by architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe. A $34-million restoration was based on Latrobe's original plans and was completed in 2006.

During 1948-61, the Archdiocese of Baltimore was under the leadership of Francis Patrick Keough. The Baltimore Church identified with the anti-Communist and antipornography movements and with the expansion of Catholic institutions that addressed a myriad of social, economic, and educational issues. The Church also coordinated a multitude of action projects under the financial control of the Baltimore chancery.[49]



The Methodists were well received in Maryland in the 1760-1840 era, and Baltimore became an important center.[50] Sutton (1998) looks at Methodist artisans and craftsmen, showing they embraced an evangelical identity, Protestant ethic, and complex organizational structure. This enabled them to express their anti-elitist or populist "producerist" values of self-discipline, honesty, frugality, and industry; they denounced greed, and sought an interdependent common good. Such producerist views drew on aspects of the Wesleyan ethic, appropriated the commonweal traditions of 18th-century republicanism, and initially resisted those of classical liberal, individualistic, self-interested capitalism. They also accorded well with and helped produce the emerging amalgam of American populist, restorationist, biblicistic, revivalistic activism that Sutton terms "Arminianized Calvinism."[51]

Inside the Methodist Church the artisans were reformers who focused on three substantive and symbolic targets, each of which would democratize Methodist conferences: lay suffrage and representation; inclusion of the local preachers, who constituted two-thirds of Methodist leadership; and election of the officers who carried the administrative, personnel, and supervisory power, the presiding elders. The appeals made on behalf of these democratizations, Sutton shows, drew imaginatively on both producerist and Wesleyan rhetoric. By the 1850s, Sutton (1998) shows that the corporate ideals and individual disciplines of religious producerism were expressed in trade unionism, in evangelical missions to workers, in factory preaching, in workers' congregations, in temperance and Sabbatarianism, in the Sunday school movement, and in the politics of Protestant communal hegemony.[51]


The Appalachians and southern whites arriving in the 1940s brought along a strong religious tradition with them. Southern Baptist churches multiplied during the mid and late 1940s.[52]

Evangelical Lutherans

The Zion Evangelical Lutheran congregation was founded in 1755 in order to serve the needs of Lutheran immigrants from Germany, as well as Germans from Pennsylvania who moved to Baltimore. It has a bi-lingual congregation that provides sermons in both German and English. In 1762 the congregation built its first church on Fish Street (now East Saratoga Street). It was replaced by a bigger building, the current Zion Church on North Gay Street and East Lexington Street erected from 1807 to 1808. An addition to the west along Lexington Street to Holliday Street of an "Aldersaal" (parish house), bell tower, parsonage, and enclosed garden in North German Hanseatic architecture under Pastor Julius K. Hoffman was made in 1912-1913.


The story of the Patapsco Forest Reserve (later renamed the Patapsco Valley State Park) near Baltimore reveals notable connections between the Progressive-era movements for forest conservation and urban park planning. In 1903, the Patapsco Valley site, although outside the city boundary, was nevertheless identified by the Olmstead Brothers landscape architecture firm as an ideal site to acquire property for future park development. At the same time, the Maryland State Board of Forestry, seeking to establish scientific forestry research, received donated land for this purpose in the Patapsco Valley. Over subsequent decades, a powerful alliance of urban elites, state managers, and city officials assembled thousands of acres along the Patapsco River. The site evolved into a unique hybrid of forest preserve and public park that reflected both its location on the urban fringe and its dual heritage in the conservation and parks movements.[53]

See also


  1. Akerson, Louise A. (1988). American Indians in the Baltimore area. Baltimore, Maryland: Baltimore Center for Urban Archaeology (Md.). p. 15. OCLC 18473413. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Potter, Stephen R. (1993). Commoners, Tribute, and Chiefs: The Development of Algonquian Culture in the Potomac Valley. Charlottesville, Virginia: University of Virginia Press. p. 119. ISBN 0-8139-1422-1. Retrieved January 5, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Youssi, Adam (2006). "The Susquehannocks' Prosperity & Early European Contact". Historical Society of Baltimore County. Retrieved 2015-04-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Alex J. Flick; et al. (2012). "A Place Now Known Unto Them: The Search for Zekiah Fort" (PDF). St. Mary's College of Maryland. p. 11. Retrieved 2015-04-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Murphree, Daniel Scott (2012). Native America: A State-by-State Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 489, 494. ISBN 978-0-313-38126-3. Retrieved 2015-04-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. As depicted on a map of the Piscataway lands in Kenneth Bryson, Images of America: Accokeek (Arcadia Publishing, 2013) pp. 10-11, derived from Alice and Henry Ferguson, The Piscataway Indians of Southern Maryland (Alice Ferguson Foundation, 1960) pp. 8 (map) and p. 11: "By the beginning of Maryland (English) settlement, pressure from the Susquehannocks had reduced..the Piscataway 'empire'...to a belt bordering the Potomac south of the falls and extending up the principle tributaries. Roughly, the 'empire' covered the southern half of present Prince Georges County and all, or nearly all, of Charles County."
  7. A Point of Natural Origin and Locust Point – Celebrating 300 Years of a Historic Community, Scott Sheads, Mylocustpoint.
  8. "Ghosts of industrial heyday still haunt Baltimore's harbor, creeks". Chesapeake Bay Journal. Retrieved 2012-09-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Murphree, Daniel Scott (2012). Native America: A State-by-State Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. p. 494. ISBN 978-0-313-38126-3. Retrieved October 10, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. http://jonesfalls.org/index.php?cID=41
  11. "Significant dates in Baltimore's immigration history". Baltimore Immigration Memorial Foundation. Retrieved 2012-08-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Garrett Power, "Parceling out Land in the Vicinity of Baltimore: 1632-1796, Part 2," Maryland Historical Magazine 1993 88(2): 150-180,
  13. Paul K. Walker, "Business and Commerce in Baltimore on the Eve of Independence," Maryland Historical Magazine 1976 71(3): 296-309,
  14. Richard S. Chew, "Certain Victims of an International Contagion: The Panic of 1797 and the Hard Times of the Late 1790s in Baltimore," Journal of the Early Republic 2005 25(4): 565-613
  15. Gary L. Browne, "Business Innovation and Social Change: the Career of Alexander Brown after the War of 1812," Maryland Historical Magazine 1974 69(3): 243-255.
  16. Elizabeth Schaaf, "George Peabody: His Life and Legacy, 1795-1869," Maryland Historical Magazine 1995 90(3): 268-285,
  17. Dilts, James D. (1996). The Great Road: The Building of the Baltimore and Ohio, the Nation's First Railroad, 1828–1853. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-2629-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. 18.0 18.1 Harwood, Jr., Herbert H. (1994). Impossible Challenge II: Baltimore to Washington and Harpers Ferry from 1828 to 1994. Baltimore: Barnard, Roberts. ISBN 0-934118-22-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. White, Jr., John H. (1980). A history of the American locomotive: its development, 1830-1880. Mineola, NY: Courier Dover Publications. ISBN 978-0-486-23818-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Cook, Roger; Zimmermann, Karl (1992). The Western Maryland Railway: Fireballs and Black Diamonds (2nd ed.). Laurys Station, Pennsylvania: Garrigues House. ISBN 0-9620844-4-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Christopher Phillips Freedom's Port: The African American Community of Baltimore, 1791-1860 (1997)
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  23. T. Stephen Whitman, "Industrial Slavery at the Margin: the Maryland Chemical Works," Journal of Southern History 1993 59(1): 31-62,
  24. Stephen Whitman, "Manumission and the Transformation of Urban Slavery," Social Science History 1995 19(3): 333-370
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  26. Frank Towers, "Mobtown" (2012) p 470
  27. 27.0 27.1 Towers, Frank (2004). The Urban South and the Coming of the Civil War. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press. ISBN 0-8139-2297-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Browne, Baltimore in the Nation, 1789-1861 (1980); Sheads and Toomey, Baltimore during the Civil War (1997).
  29. Richard Paul F uke, "Blacks, Whites, and Guns: Interracial Violence in Post-emancipation Maryland," Maryland Historical Magazine 1997 92(3): 326-347
  30. Robert S. Wolff, "The Problem of Race in the Age of Freedom: Emancipation and the Transformation of Republican Schooling in Baltimore, 1860-1867," Civil War History 2006 52(3): 229-254
  31. Eleanor S. Bruchey, "The Development of Baltimore Business, 1880-1914," Maryland Historical Magazine 1969 64(1): 18-42
  32. Martha J. Vill, "Building Enterprise in Late Nineteenth-Century Baltimore," Journal of Historical Geograph 1986 12(2): 162-181,
  33. Rosen, Christine Meisner (2003). "8. The Rebuilding of Baltimore". The Limits of Power: Great Fires and the Process of City Growth in America. Cambridge University Press. pp. 249ff. ISBN 9780521545709.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. Anderson, Alan D. (1977). The Origin and Resolution of an Urban Crisis: Baltimore, 1890-1930. Johns Hopkins studies in urban affairs. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 9780801819704.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. Peter T. Dalleo, and J. Vincent Watchorn, III, "Baltimore, the 'Babe,' and the Bethlehem Steel League, 1918," Maryland Historical Magazine 1998 93(1): 88-106,
  36. Jo Ann E. Argersinger, Toward a New Deal in Baltimore: People and Government in the Great Depression (1988)
  37. Pelosi married and moved to San Francisco in the late 1960s.
  38. Joshua B. Freeman, and Steve Rosswurm, "The Education of an Anti-Communist: Father John F. Cronin and the Baltimore Labor Movement," Labor History 1992 33(2): 217-247
  39. Edward Berkowitz, "Baltimore's Public Schools in a Time of Transition," Maryland Historical Magazine 1997 92(4): 412-432,
  40. Jill Jonnes, "Everybody Must Get Stoned: The Origins Of Modern Drug Culture In Baltimore," Maryland Historical Magazine 1996 91(2): 132-155
  41. David Milobsky, "Power from the Pulpit: Baltimore's African-American Clergy, 1950-1970," Maryland Historical Magazine' '1994 89(3): 274-289,
  42. Appleton, Andrea (22 February 2012). "Helena Hicks: A participant in the Read's Drug Store sit-in talks about changing history on the spur of the moment". CityPaper. Retrieved 22 February 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  43. Peter B. Levy, "The Dream Deferred: The Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Holy Week Uprisings of 1968," Maryland Historical Magazine (2013) 108#1 pp 57-78.
  44. Timothy Wheeler, "City rioting evokes memories of 1968 unrest The Baltimore Sun 28 April, 2015
  45. Elizabeth Nix and Jessica Elfenbein, eds., Baltimore '68: Riots and Rebirth in an American City (2011), p. xiii excerpt
  46. Kenneth Durr, "When Southern Politics Came North: the Roots of White Working-class Conservatism in Baltimore, 1940-1964," Labor History (1996) 37#3 pp: 309-331; Durr, Behind the Backlash: White Working-Class Politics in Baltimore, 1940-1980 (2003)
  47. BBC News, "Freddie Gray: How Baltimore differs from Ferguson," April 26, 20150
  48. Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "Crowds Scatter as Baltimore Curfew Takes Hold," New York Times, April 28, 2015
  49. Spalding (1989)
  50. Dee E. Andrews, The Methodists and Revolutionary America, 1760-1800: The Shaping of an Evangelical Culture (2000)
  51. 51.0 51.1 Sutton, William R. (1998). Journeymen for Jesus: Evangelical Artisans Confront Capitalism in Jacksonian Baltimore. Penn State Press. ISBN 9780271044125.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  52. Rosalind Robinson Levering, Baltimore Baptists, 1773-1973: A History of the Baptist Work in Baltimore During 200 Years (1973) pp 97-168.
  53. Geoffrey L. Buckley, et al. "The Patapsco Forest Reserve: Establishing a 'City Park' for Baltimore, 1907-1941," Historical Geography 2006 34: 87-108

Further reading

See also: List of newspapers in Maryland in the 18th-century: Baltimore

  • Argersinger, Jo Ann E. Toward a New Deal in Baltimore: People and Government in the Great Depression (1988) online edition
  • Argersinger, Jo Ann E. Making the Amalgamated: Gender, Ethnicity, and Class in the Baltimore Clothing Industry, 1899-1939 (1999) 229 pp.
  • Arnold, Joseph L. "Baltimore: Southern Economy and a Northern Culture," in Richard M. Bernard, ed., Snowbelt Cities: Metropolitan Politics in the Northeast and Midwest since World War II (1990)
  • Bilhartz, Terry D. Urban Religion and the Second Great Awakening: Church and Society in Early National Baltimore (1986)
  • Browne, Gary Lawson. Baltimore in the Nation, 1789-1861 (1980). 349 pp.
  • Brugger, Robert J. Maryland, A Middle Temperament: 1634-1980 (1988)
  • Durr, Kenneth D. Behind the Backlash: White Working Class Politics in Baltimore, 1940-1980 (2003) online edition
  • Elfenbein, Jessica I.The Making of a Modern City: Philanthropy, Civic Culture, and the Baltimore YMCA (2001) 192 pp.
  • Fee, Elizabeth, et al. eds. The Baltimore Book: New Views of Local History (1991). 256 pp. guide to the history and culture of working-class neighborhoods
  • Hayward, Mary Ellen and Shivers, Frank R., Jr., eds. The Architecture of Baltimore: An Illustrated History (2004). 408 pp.
  • Olson, Sherry H. Baltimore: The Building of an American City (1980). 432 pp. a fact (and picture) filled history
  • Phillips, Christopher. Freedom's Port: The African American Community of Baltimore, 1790-1860 (1997)
  • Rockman, Seth. Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore (2009), 368 pp. social history online review
  • Scharf, John Thomas. History of Baltimore City and County, from the earliest period to the present (1881) 935 pages online edition
  • Shea, John Gilmary. Life and times of the Most Rev. John Carroll, bishop and first archbishop of Baltimore: Embracing the history of the Catholic Church in the United States. 1763-1815 (1888) 695pp online edition
  • Sheads, Scott Sumpter and Daniel Carroll Toomey. Baltimore during the Civil War. (1997). 224 pp. Popular history
  • Spalding, Thomas W. The Premier See: A History of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, 1789-1989 (1989)
  • Steffen, Charles. The Mechanics of Baltimore: Workers and Politics in the Age of Revolution, 1763-1812 (1984)
  • Towers, Frank. “Mobtown's Impact on the Study of Urban Politics in the Early Republic." Maryland Historical Magazine, 107 (Winter 2012) pp: 469-75
  • Towers, Frank. "Job Busting at Baltimore Shipyards: Racial Violence in the Civil War-Era South." Journal of Southern History (2000): 221-256. in JSTOR