Baltimore History, Reviews, War of 1812

Exploring Baltimore City in 1815: Finding Your Bearings

Anyone who knows me is well aware of the fact that I love to bridge the past with the present. And few things accomplish this better than the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s BEARINGS map, which depicts Baltimore City as it might have appeared during the year 1815.

BEARINGS, of course, is an acronym: Bird’s Eye Annotated Representational Image / Navigable Gigapixel Scene. A bit of a mouthful, isn’t it? I remember hearing about this project sometime in late 2013 / early 2014, when I was working for the Baltimore City Archives. My boss mentioned it to me one morning and the two of us talked about what a neat idea it was. It reminded me of my time as an undergraduate at Washington College, working on the Chestertown 3D & Pluckemin projects in the school’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) laboratory, making digital, 3-D models of historic buildings for placement into Google Earth. At WAC, our program of choice was Google Sketchup. Admittedly, I don’t know much about UMBC’s Image Research Center, but it sounds like the UMBC equivalent of WAC’s GIS lab, and I’d be willing to bet that Sketchup is a familiar program to the folks who created the BEARINGS map, if not the exact program that they used.

Initially, BEARINGS was supposed to be a visual supplement to the Maryland Historical Society’s In Full Glory Reflected: Maryland during the War of 1812 exhibition. The first iteration of the map went live at MDHS in June of 2014. I stopped by not long afterward to give it a look. I was impressed with what I saw, and even more so when I was told that this would be an on-going project—that as improvements were made, the most current, up-to-date version of the map would be uploaded into the exhibit, effectively hitting the *refresh* button and giving museum patrons the most accurate view of 1815 Baltimore that modern scholarship could provide. It was billed as being an interactive map, and to some extent, it is. But not fully. One of its drawbacks is the fact that it’s frozen in a viewpoint looking southeast. While I can understand that it might be a bit of a data or memory hog were it fully navigable, if it’s permanently fixed and the viewer can never orient the map to look in the opposite (northwest) direction—or any other direction for that matter—what’s the point of going to the trouble to make the buildings 3-D? It defeats the purpose if the viewer can’t view every structure in 360º. Aside from the directional component, however, my initial impressions of the BEARINGS map were overwhelmingly positive.

Okay, now that I’ve supplied you with my base observation, let’s perform a few experiments. Don’t worry, nothing too rigorous… We’re just going to attempt to see how well the BEARINGS project stacks up to its potential. BEARINGS is nothing short of a mammoth undertaking, so, with that in mind, how much accuracy and detail can we really expect? We’ll divide our inquiry into three separate categories: 1) buildings that were around in 1815 that still exist today, 2) buildings that were around in 1815 that no longer exist, but were photographed before they were demolished, and 3) buildings that were around in 1815, that no longer exist, and are not known to have been documented by photography—or any other method of visual documentation—before they were destroyed. This ought to provide us with a reasonable rubric for determining the success of BEARINGS thus far. We could use stars in our rating system, but I would prefer to go with something a little more Baltimore themed: like, say, the Battle Monument. An appropriate choice for the Monumental City, don’t you think? Each category will be assigned a number of Battle Monuments on a scale from one to five, and at the end, we’ll tally them for a final score.

Category No. 1: I’ll start with an institution that I know quite well: Friends School of Baltimore. As an active member of the Alumni Board, I consider myself to be the ‘keeper of the flame’ when it comes to the school’s historical identity and I think that, if prompted, any member of the current administration at Friends would affirm this notion. Since it is Baltimore’s oldest school (it was founded in 1784), common sense suggests that we should be able to find it on a map of circa-1815 Baltimore. And sure enough, it’s there! Or, at least … sort of—the only extant part of the original campus.

The Aisquith Street Meeting House, circa 1815.

The Aisquith Street Meeting House, circa 1815.

On January 29th 1784, a group of Quakers congregated in the Aisquith Street Meeting House to discuss the founding of a school. Among those present were Elisha Tyson (1749-1824)—the famous abolitionist—and George Matthews (1729-1811), the nail factory owner who had built the Aisquith Street Meeting House in 1781. To provide a bit of a context: Matthews was born the year that Baltimore Town was founded. While he lived to be a relatively old man, at the age of 82, bear in mind that Baltimore Town did not even attain its status as a ‘City’ until 1797, when Matthews was 68. So he was already pushing 70 years old when Baltimore City was brand new! I think that he would probably be pleased to know that, as of my typing this in July of 2015, his Meeting House is still standing at the corner of Aisquith and Fayette streets—a conceptual realization to him, and a relic of the 18th century to us. Though no longer in use as a house of worship, it is the city’s oldest religious structure, predating Old Otterbein Church (1785) by four years.

The Aisquith Street Meeting House as it looks today.

The Aisquith Street Meeting House as it looks today.

Now, when I say that the school is “sort of” shown on the BEARINGS map, what I really mean to say is that it’s partially there. For the first 16 years of its life as an academic institution, Friends held its classes in the meeting house—the structural centerpiece of the Quaker tract of land. But, around the year 1800, when it became clear that the Meeting House was no longer a suitable location for that purpose, a schoolhouse was built on the southeast corner of the property. For the next 30-some odd years, Friends School occupied that schoolhouse, which stood roughly near the intersection of present-day East Baltimore Street & Central Avenue. That is where the school would have been during the time that the BEARINGS map (circa 1815) is supposed to visually represent. Which means that this map shows the circa-1815 Friends School campus, but neglects to include the most important part—the actual schoolhouse! I’ll cut the BEARINGS team some slack on this, though. Since the structure was torn down long ago *, the Meeting House is the only part of that Friends School campus that still exists, and because most people are unaware that a separate schoolhouse ever stood on the southeast corner of the property, I can’t really fault the UMBC folks for neglecting to include something that they probably didn’t even know existed in the first place. Plus, the digital representation of the Meeting House is a spitting image of its current self. (Overall rating: 5 / 5 Battle Monuments)

* or maybe not? Another blog post forthcoming!

Category No. 2: This category was decidedly harder than the first. I wouldn’t even begin to know how many buildings existed in 1815 Baltimore that were photographed at some point during the 19th or 20th centuries, before they were demolished. Barring any huge disasters like the Baltimore Fires of 1873 and 1904, the fact that we even need this category is a shame! At least, that’s what we historic-preservationist types think… Granted, not every building that was standing in 1815 Baltimore was worthy of saving, but I can think of at least a dozen or so off the top of my head that deserved a longer lifespan than they got (and for each specific one that I can think of, there were probably at least five or ten more of equal cultural value). Anyway, while scouring the BEARINGS map, I came across a great example for this category—old St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, which stood on the east side of Sharp Street, roughly near the southeast corner of the present-day Baltimore Arena (or if you prefer its newest moniker, Royal Farms Arena, a.k.a. “The Chicken Box”).

St. Peter's Episcopal Church, circa 1815.

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, circa 1815.

Not only is the original building from St. Peter’s Episcopal Church gone, but the parish is too; it merged with Grace Church to form Grace & St. Peter’s Church in the mid-19th century. The origins of St. Peter’s are sort of curious, really. It was founded by a small group of Baltimoreans in 1802. The organizational charter was drawn up by a Kentish—as in, Kent County, Maryland—lawyer, John Scott IV (the patriarch of the Baltimore branch of the Scott family), who had moved to town just three years before, in 1799. Evidently, he and a handful of others decided to break away from the more well-established St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. By that time, Old St. Paul’s was already—old, having been founded 110 years earlier in 1692 as one of the original 30 Anglican parishes in the Province of Maryland. Though I have not delved into the parish records of either church to see what might have initiated this particular schism, I’d be willing to bet that there’s an untold story in there somewhere…

St. Peter's Episcopal Church.

Old St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, sometime during the 1800s. This is a great shot, but if the Henry Fite House was still standing when this was taken, I can’t help but think that the photographer should have turned around and pointed the camera in the opposite direction!

As we can see from this 19th-century photograph of St. Peter’s, the BEARINGS group did a remarkable job of creating an accurate version of the building, based on the descriptive materials (i.e. photographs) that it had at its disposal. Well done. The truly astounding part about seeing St. Peter’s visualized on a 3-D map, however, is noticing just how close it was to the Henry Fite House, a.k.a. “Congress Hall,” where Continental Congress met from December 20th 1776 through February 27th 1777, when Baltimore Town was the Capital of the fledgling United States of America and the Fite House was its capitol. An all-too-unknown fact, if you ask me—and one that puts Baltimore in some rather exclusive company.

Here it is... The plaque that no one reads.

While, yes, this is a start—is this really the best that we can do as a city?

Only two places served as the nation’s capital during that pivotal year of 1776. Everyone knows about Philadelphia … but what about Baltimore?! Almost no one knows that our city (née town) shared the same honor. We, as a city, ought to make a bigger deal out of that, because aside from a small plaque which sits at the bottom of a ramp on the 1st-level concourse of the Baltimore Arena (that barely anyone bothers to stop and read), I can’t think of another way in which that momentous fact is celebrated. We simply must figure out a way to make that common knowledge! It would boost the level of civic pride tenfold. (Overall rating: 5 / 5 Battle Monuments)

Category No. 3: This category was the toughest. Where does one even begin? It’s almost a case of “you’ll never know what, or how much, you don’t know…” Perhaps this is where we can flex our research muscles, though. Alright, first thing’s first—we need to look up an address. Or maybe two. Since this map is rooted in the War of 1812 era, I think a veteran of the Battle of Baltimore would suffice. Thus, I’ll choose my favorite: Walter Farnandis (1782-1856), who served as a private in the Baltimore Fencibles—a militia artillery company commanded by captain Joseph Hopper Nicholson (1770-1817). Walter was at Fort McHenry during the famous bombardment, and he was among the troops cheering on the ramparts as the genuine Star-Spangled Banner was raised at 9 A. M. on September 14th 1814, as the dejected and defeated British Royal Navy sailed out of Baltimore’s Harbor, having failed in its primary objective to capture the fort and Baltimore City. While the 30’ x 42’ garrison flag made its way up the flagstaff, on a truce vessel anchored several miles out, a dashing Georgetown lawyer named Francis Scott Key witnessed the spectacle through his spyglass and, well—you know the rest. So, what was Walter Farnandis’s personal address in 1815…? Heck, while we’re at it, we might as well look up the address for Walter’s older brother, Samuel Farnandis (1779-1854), who also participated in the heroic defense of Baltimore. Thanks to James Lakin’s 1814-’15 City Directory—and despite his misspelling of their surname!—we now have an address for both:

Not surprising to see their names spelled incorrectly.

I know that spelling wasn’t standardized for most of recorded history. But, seriously… Can anyone spell the ‘FARNANDIS’ name correctly?

When studying early 19th-century Baltimore, it is impossible to really understand both the town’s social and physical layout without consulting a city directory. In those days, city directories served as a de facto Yellow Pages or White Pages—sans telephone numbers, of course. Everyone had a city directory. Everyone needed a city directory. Since they were so ubiquitous, making them was a profitable venture! The compilers of these directories were known as ‘directors’, and being the City Director was a sought-after position among the enterprising bunch. While many of these 19th-century directories are available online for research purposes, they don’t make much sense unless you actually know what you’re looking at. In the 1814-’15 edition, we see that A) Samuel Farnandis is listed at 113 Baltimore Street, and B) his brother Walter is at 129 ditto.

Great! But there’s one problem: these addresses don’t mean anything without the knowledge of what the layout of the city was like in 1814-’15, and because Baltimore has gone through at least two major street-numbering overhauls since then, sorting it all out is no easy task. The most recent overhaul took place during the autumn of 1886 (e.g. the residents who lived at 222 N. Calvert Street went to bed one night and woke up the next morning to find that their house’s address had changed to 912 N. Calvert Street), and if I recall correctly an earlier switch had taken place during the 1840s. But since we’re dealing with the beginning of the 19th century, we need something that corresponds with the very first street-numbering system. Enter James Robinson’s 1804 Baltimore City Directory.


Robinson’s street descriptions are most helpful. His hard work needs to be rewarded somehow… Can we retroactively give him a Key to the City? Is there a precedent for that…? Hmm. There ought to be!

Robinson’s directory is truly the ‘Rosetta Stone’ for understanding the layout of early 19th-century Baltimore. Unlike John Mullin, Cornelius William Stafford, James M‘Henry, William Fry, Charles Keenan, James Lakin, or Edward Matchett (who all organized their directories in alphabetical order), Robinson decided to organize his in geographical order, giving a name index at the front with corresponding page and line numbers, methodically tackling the city’s grid one street at a time. If he had not gone to the trouble to go “against the grain” and present his directory in this fashion, we would be at a total and complete loss for ever knowing how to interpret the other city directories that came before or after that point. And even though it’s nothing more than a list of names and addresses, Robinson’s directory actually makes for a fascinating read, as you can literally follow along as he’s walking the street, noting the inconsistencies and irregularities of a city in transition.


As we can see from the order, Samuel Farnandis’s dry goods store would have been two doorways east of South Calvert-Street and Walter’s would have been one doorway west of Public-Alley. Boom!

In many ways, the Baltimore City of 1804 was very much still the 18th-century Baltimore Town, with the word ‘City’ crudely scribbled over top of that second word. And 1815 Baltimore wasn’t much different, either. Robinson’s 1804 directory notes the rather nebulous nature of the then-current street-numbering system. The word “system” here is used very loosely. Many addresses had a ½ on the end to denote a building that had been erected between two others with already-established street numbers. And some had no street numbers at all! The word ‘next’ denotes structures that fall into this category. It’s pretty straightforward, really. This is a perfect snapshot of a rather imperfect Baltimore City as it existed in 1804, through Joseph Robinson’s eyes. In order to translate this snapshot into the present—or, in this case, 1815—modern scholars can use his street descriptions in conjunction with the fold-out Baltimore City Map that was attached inside the front cover of his directory.

The Farnandis Bros. dry goods establishments on Market Street, circa 1815.

The Farnandis Bros. dry goods establishments on Baltimore (née Market) Street, circa 1815. A) Samuel Farnandis’s store at 113 Baltimore Street, and B) Walter Farnandis’s store at 129 ditto.

So, with our Rosetta Stone in hand, we can see that the brothers Farnandis lived on the south side of Baltimore Street in 1814-’15—Samuel two doorways east of South Calvert-Street and Walter one doorway west of Public-Alley. And, voilà! Both buildings are present on the BEARINGS map! Sensational. Now, do we really know that this what these buildings looked like in 1815? Probably not. (And if the answer to that question is yes, then I would love to see what sources were used to make that determination.) Regardless of whether or not this is actually how these buildings would have looked in 1815, the important part is being able to visualize how they might have looked, and this map certainly accomplishes that goal through and through. Fantastic work, UMBC. My only deduction here is for the simple fact that the 1804 City Directory shows that seven structures stood on the south side of Baltimore Street, between South Calvert Street and Public Alley. The BEARINGS map only shows three. Had those other four buildings been torn down by 1815? According to Lakin’s 1814-’15 City Directory, the answer is no. They were all still standing—some even with the same inhabitants, ten years later. (Overall rating: 4.5 / 5 Battle Monuments)

The Final Tally: While it’s great that this map includes various contemporary landmarks at the bottom of the page that, when clicked on, will fly the viewer to those specific points on the map (and give the viewer a short written description for each one), I think the overall product is greatly limited by the fact that the viewer can’t manipulate the map to show a different orientation. So, in terms of the interactive nature of the user interface, I think it’s probably a 3 / 5 Battle Monument rating. Which gives us the following: (Total rating: 17.5 / 20 Battle Monuments)

Multiplied out to a 100-point scale, that gives the BEARINGS project thus far a rating of 87.5 / 100—a B+ for everyone who’s keeping score at home. That seems like a fair grade. With a little bit of tweaking, it could easily move up into the A- range—or higher!

The ambition of this project is magnificent, and it is by far one of the best educational tools that I have ever seen. My hope is that it will continue to inspire other history buffs as much as it has inspired me.

Even if you’re not sure whether or not you like history, or for one reason or another are confident that you don’t, I encourage you to give it a go—play around with this map for a little while.

Who knows…

In the process of finding your bearings in 1815 Baltimore, you might just find out that this whole history thing is pretty cool after all.

Baltimore History, The Civil War

The Scott Family of Baltimore City: Zeligs of the Civil War

I can remember sitting in George Benson’s fifth-grade classroom at the Friends School of Baltimore, learning about the Civil War. No one could weave a story the way Mr. Benson could, and one of his favorite stories was that of Wilmer McLean—a rather unlucky fellow, whose life was forever altered by the events of that conflict.

“The war started in his front yard and ended in his front parlor,” Mr. Benson told us. And, in a sense it did.

It’s a famous phrase among Civil War enthusiasts—supposedly uttered first by McLean, himself. But is it true…? Did the war really start in his front yard and end in his front parlor?

To answer in short: no.

Or, at least, not exactly…

McLean is a great talking point in classroom discussion because his story proves that even the most ordinary of people can have a large impact on history. But to reinforce the veracity of McLean’s famous claim is to ignore an awful lot of other historical events; to suggest that they didn’t really matter. A foolish mistake that would be!

So, if McLean and his family didn’t really witness the beginning or the end of the war and the Confederacy, then whose did? Well, perhaps no such family—not even Wilmer McLean’s—bookended the American Civil War better than the Scotts of Baltimore City.

The Scotts were an unusually ubiquitous bunch: there was a Scott involved in the very beginning, the middle, and the end of the war. All three of these individuals—a father and his two sons—witnessed extraordinary events, and lived to tell the tale. (Sometimes, even cheating death a time or two along the way.)

This is their story…

A Spark in Harper’s Ferry

During the 1850s, as the country was suffering through the aches and pains of antebellum political discourse—or lack thereof—Thomas Parkin Scott’s eldest son, Henry Chatard (pronounced shuh-TARD) was in the process of studying to become a doctor. A member of one of Baltimore’s staunchest Catholic families, he had attended both St. Mary’s College in Baltimore City and Mount St. Mary’s University in the far-off mountains of Emmitsburg. But, opting not to enter the family law practice, he chose the other profession that seemed to come naturally to the Scotts: medicine.

His paternal great-grandfather, Dr. John Scott, had graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1747, and served as a surgeon in the Continental Army’s hospital at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, during the Revolutionary War. Family lore even has it that Dr. John inoculated 500 soldiers against small pox as the army was passing through Chestertown, and it is possible that he did. The story contends that his patriotism was so vigorous that he would “take no fee for his services” … though perhaps this is a convenient way of skirting the fact that not a single scrap of documentary evidence exists.

Whatever the case, H.C. flourished under the tutelage of Nathan Ryno Smith at the University of Maryland, and upon graduation in 1855, began a private practice in his hometown. Like his great-grandfather, he even became the surgeon in a local militia unit called the Baltimore City Guard. A rakish young man, one can only presume that Henry Chatard Scott cut quite a dashing figure in uniform.

Dr. Henry Chatard Scott (courtesy of Margaret Scott)

Dr. Henry Chatard Scott, circa 1850s (Courtesy of Margaret Scott)

Throughout the decade, political tensions across the country escalated: the Fugitive Slave Act, the Compromise of 1850, Bleeding Kansas, the caning of Charles Sumner on the Senate floor, the Dred Scott decision. Each of these events pushed the country toward an inevitable breaking point. Heading into 1860 and the upcoming presidential election, the atmosphere was so unstable that it seemed as if a single spark could ignite the nation in warfare.

In Harpers Ferry, (not-yet-West) Virginia—then spelled with an apostrophe, Harper’s Ferry—an abolitionist named John Brown, who had been a rabid anti-slavery “Jayhawker” during Bleeding Kansas, organized a small group of white allies and free blacks. His plan was to raid the federal armory in town and start a national uprising. On Sunday, October 16th 1859, after months of waiting, Brown and his band of raiders made their move. President Buchanan sent a detachment of US Marines, soldiers, and local militia companies from Maryland and Virginia in to stifle Brown and his plans. This detachment, commanded by Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee of the 2nd US Cavalry, included Dr. Henry Chatard Scott’s outfit, the Baltimore City Guard. The casualties from the raid included one killed Marine, one wounded, six killed civilians, nine wounded, 10 killed abolitionist insurgents, seven captured, and five escaped. Perhaps the most important of all, however, was John Brown himself. Badly wounded, it was Scott—the 31-year-old surgeon of the Baltimore City Guard—who was called on to dress the raider’s wounds before his execution.

After being tried and convicted, Brown was hanged on Friday, December 2nd 1859, in nearby Charles Town. Though the raid might not have gone as planned, John Brown became a martyr for the northern abolitionist movement in the ensuing months, and his death did much to hasten the onslaught of war.

First Blood

Lincoln’s victory in the 1860 presidential election turned the country on its side, and by April of ’61, all Hell had broken loose. P. G. T. Beauregard’s rebel troops bombarded Robert Anderson’s federals in Fort Sumter on the 12th, and while the fort was surrendered without any casualties, it had become clear that it would only be a matter of time before the first blood was drawn.

On the morning of the 18th, a Baltimore town meeting was called to order in Taylor’s Hall on Fayette Street to discuss secession. By that point, seven states had already left the Union, and with Virginia voting to secede the day before (pending a May 23rd referendum), that number would soon rise to eight. If Maryland were to follow, that would leave Washington City surrounded and would have effectively marked the end of the war right then and there. Keeping Maryland in the fold was a crucial step in what had already become an uphill battle to save the country.

Presiding over the meeting in Taylor’s Hall, Thomas Parkin Scott—just one day shy of his 57th birthday—tried to keep things from getting out of hand. According to an account in George William Brown’s Baltimore and the Nineteenth of April 1861—A Study of the Civil War (pages 38-39), a series of speakers, including William Byrne, stood up before the packed room and made speeches that were denunciatory toward the Administration and the North, exciting the crowd into a frenzy. Wilson C. N. Carr, who had stumbled into the meeting by chance, entered the room as T. Parkin Scott was trying to calm the crowd, urging them to “do nothing rashly” and “not to interfere with any troops that might attempt to pass through the city.”

Thomas Parkin Scott, circa 1860s. Taken at the Bendann Bros. Studio at No. 207 West Baltimore Street. (Photo courtesy of Margaret Scott.)

Thomas Parkin Scott, circa 1860s, at the Bendann Bros. Studio at No. 207 West Baltimore Street. (Courtesy of Margaret Scott)

This mentality was nothing new to Scott. Five months earlier, in December of 1860, he had anonymously authored The Crisis, a pamphlet in which he recommended that Maryland citizens “be calm and forgiving,” yet “firm” as well. “Act not rashly,” Scott said, “[i]f our Northern brethren will now do us justice, forgive and forget the past; but yield no more.” His viewpoint was not the one of the majority, however—at least not at Taylor’s Hall. Describing the scene later in life, Carr said:

I went up, but had no intention of saying anything in opposition to what Mr. Scott had advised the people to do. I was not there as an advocate of secession, but was anxious to see some way opened for reconciliation between the North and the South. I did not make an excited speech nor did I denounce the Administration. I saw that I was disappointing the crowd. Some expressed their disapprobation pretty plainly and I cut my speech short. As soon as I finished speaking the meeting adjourned. (Brown 39)

Try as Scott and Carr did to prevent the masses from attacking federal troops as they passed through the city, the next morning, their advice went unheeded. Since Baltimore was the nation’s first railroad hub, there was no line that went all the way through the city. Rather, lines started in Baltimore and branched outward, to their respective destinations. This meant that anyone who traveled north or south through the Baltimore had to either walk, or take another form of transport, from one train station to the other, in order to continue their journey: a dangerous task for federal troops navigating their way through a Confederate-sympathizing hotbed.

On the 19th of April, as the 6th Massachusetts Infantry was marching down Pratt Street, from the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad’s President Street Station to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s Camden Station, a full-on riot broke out (with Thomas Parkin Scott’s son, Henry Chatard caught in the thick of it). Broken store windows and damaged property was just the beginning. By the end of the day, four soldiers and twelve civilians had been killed. The day after the riot, on the 20th, the same mob attacked a German-language newspaper office, destroying the building, threatening the lives of its editor and publisher and compelling them both to leave town for fear of personal safety. This mob-mentality turned Baltimore into a war zone, and the city’s administration was eager to diffuse the situation. In an effort to bring peace, Mayor Brown had railroad bridges north of the city limits burned in order to keep federal troops from inundating the town and exciting the population even more; a plan which quickly backfired. It caused the federal government to take control: more troops were sent in, and the area was put under martial law.

Imprisoned Without Cause

By May 25th, President Lincoln had suspended the writ of Habeas Corpus, and less than four months later, after a group of Maryland State Delegates had convened in Frederick to discuss the escalating nature of current events, on September 13th, Thomas Parkin Scott, Mayor George William Brown, Frank Key Howard, Severn Teackle Wallis, and several others were arrested without cause and detained by Union troops in Fort McHenry.

What a strange turn of events this must have been for Scott. During the Battle of Baltimore, as a ten-year-old boy in 1814, he undoubtedly witnessed the British Royal Navy’s bombardment of Fort McHenry from the rooftop, or upstairs window, of the Scott residence on St. Paul Street. Now, exactly 47 years to-the-day later, he—with Francis Scott Key’s grandson, no less!—was being detained without cause or trial, by his own Government, inside the same fort that had previously defended his American Liberty under the real Star-Spangled Banner… The irony was not lost on anyone.

Autograph Book of Prisoners at Fort Warren, 1862. (Courtesy of Hal Scott)

Autograph Book of Prisoners at Fort Warren, 1862. “T. Parkin Scott / of Baltimore City / Late Member of the House / Delegates of Maryland / arrested 13 Sep 1861” (Courtesy of Hal Scott)

Scott was imprisoned for fourteen months in total. The morning after his arrest and detainment in Fort McHenry, on September 14th, he was transferred to Fortress Monroe by the order of General Dix. From there, he was then moved up to New York and Boston, where he served time in Forts Lafayette and Warren. These were nasty places to begin with, and even worse for those who were deemed “enemies” of the State.

After what must have seemed like a lifetime had passed, finally, on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, November 27th 1862, Scott, Brown, Howard, and Wallis, were all unconditionally released. While technically they were free—in a country that could imprison them at any moment on a whim, without rhyme or reason—how much freedom did they really have? Released to the public, weak and ill from poor treatment in four consecutive military prisons, 400 miles from home, it must have been difficult for Thomas Parkin Scott to be thankful for much of anything on Thanksgiving Day, 1862.

Sentenced to Hang

Thomas Parkin Scott’s youngest son, 25-year-old John White Scott, was reading law in the family practice at the outbreak of the war. With the Jacksonian-Democrat political leanings of his father and the energetic zeal of a youthful adventurer, on May 11th 1861, J.W. found himself in a milk wagon headed for the B & O Railway depot. Once there, he caught a Richmond-bound train and headed for rebel territory. On May 24th, in the Virginia capital, he and a number of other Marylanders formed Company B of the 21st Virginia Regiment, captained by J. Lyle Clarke of the Baltimore Greys.

Though John White was eager to fight, his time with Lyle’s Company was short. During the fall of ’61, after his father’s arrest in Baltimore, he and Carroll Jenkins both came down with a bad case of camp fever and were sent to Bath Alum Springs to convalesce under Dr. Crump. It was thought that Scott would die and Jenkins would survive, but the opposite happened. On January 3rd 1862, Scott was given an honorable, medical discharge.

Without the ability to serve in the field, John White spent much of 1862 performing desk duty as the Secretary to the Commander of the CSS Arkansas. By August, he was working in the Medical Department in Richmond (likely, in close proximity with his brother, H.C.), and after several months of hard work, he and two others—Pierre Chatard Dugan, and Simon Ignatius Kemp—secured a three-week furlough from Dr. Johns, Medical Purveyor at Richmond, with the privilege of going across enemy lines. Scott, Dugan, and Kemp made it as far as Northumberland County, and were waiting to cross the Coan River when they were apprehended and arrested as spies by a raiding party of Michigan Cavalry.

According to the May 24th 1913 edition of the Baltimore News, John White Scott said in his diary:

The most thrilling episode of my career down South was when I was sentenced to be hung . . . . [three of us] were arrested March 5th, [1863], taken . . . . before Gen’l Hooker, and tried (without counsel) before Gen’l Daniel E. Sickles, pres. of Court Martial . . . . When asked if we had anything to say, I replied — ‘When I left home I was a student of law, but had only read a few pages . . . . of Blackstone, and am therefore unable to try my own case, and counsel has been denied us, but I think that the evidence for the prosecution is good enough defense for anyone.’ The Gen’l was furious and ordered us away. We were confined for awhile in the Old Capitol Prison in Washington, then transferred to the Carroll House Prison, where we were told by a Yankee soldier that we had been sentenced to be hanged.

Sgt. John White Scott, C. S. A., circa 1861.

Sgt. John White Scott, C. S. A., circa 1861.

As luck would have it, when the case crossed Abraham Lincoln’s desk, the president realized that the men had been apprehended in Northumberland County, Virginia—which was Confederate territory—and could not rightfully be tried as spies. With this, he commuted their sentence to prison during the war, signing his initials ‘A.L.’ on the folder. Jefferson Davis, who was still under the impression that the three were waiting to hang, took three Union officers and held them as hostages, threatening to deal them the same fate. In May of ’63, crisis was averted and the prisoners were exchanged.

The Flight of Jefferson Davis

J.W. might have viewed his brush with death as the most “thrilling” event of his southern career, but the most important event, without question, was still to come. After his close call in ’63, Scott was asked to join Isaac Trimble’s staff in Maryland, and immediately made his way northward. Following a several-day delay in Winchester, he broke across enemy lines—only to find out that the Battle of Gettysburg had been fought and that the whole army was in retreat. J.W. spent a month volunteering in the 1st Virginia Cavalry, before heading back to the Hospital Department in Richmond. Later that fall, he was transferred to the Field Transportation Department in Wadesboro, North Carolina, and remained there until war’s end.

Picket Pass of John White Scott, issued by Jefferson Davis's Private Secretary, Burton Norvell Harrison.

Picket Pass of John White Scott, issued by Jefferson Davis’s Private Secretary, Burton Norvell Harrison. “Presidents Office / Charlotte, N.C. April 20th 1865 / Mr John W. Scott belongs to the Presidents / personal escort — / All Guards + picketts (sic) will pass him / without question — / By Order of the President. / Burton N. Harrison / Private Secretary”

By the spring of ’65, all hope for the Confederacy had been lost. After the Fall of Richmond and the evacuation of the Confederate government on April 2nd, just one week later, on April 9th, Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse (enter Mr. Benson and his favorite character—Wilmer McLean). Following a brief stay in Danville, Virginia, Jefferson Davis, along with the Confederate Baggage and Treasure Train, headed southward to North Carolina.

A temporary stop in Greensboro was interrupted on April 14th, as Davis, his cabinet, and his personal escort, were forced to leave town, and move to Charlotte. With them, they carried the Confederate Archive, their personal baggage, as well as $35,000 in gold from the Confederate Treasury (approximately $534,000 in today’s money). It was here that John White Scott, issued with a picket pass from Jefferson Davis’s private secretary, convened with four other Marylanders, from the Eastern Shore—Capt. Fred Emory, William Sidney Winder, William Elveno Dickinson, and Tench Francis Tilghman—and continued on with the baggage train.

As they left Charlotte on April 26th, the party consisted of five wagons and a cavalry escort. According to Tilghman’s diary, Capt. Emory, who had been placed in charge of the five wagons, was “drunk continually,” and was soon relieved of his duties and replaced by Capt. Watson Van Benthuysen. With each passing day, as the Confederate cavalcade continued southward, the gold in its coffers dwindled. Eventually, the number of people started to dwindle as well. By early May, the baggage train had diminished to one wagon and one ambulance. On the 6th, near Sandersville, Georgia, Jefferson Davis abandoned the group, with a cabinet member and two aids. Captain Micajah Henry Clark, acting Treasurer of the Confederacy, Van Benthuysen, Tilghman, Dickinson, Winder, and Scott—along with Van Benthuysen’s two brothers—were all that remained. Their plan was to continue to Florida, where they would rejoin Davis near Madison or Tallahassee. This plan was squashed when Davis’s faction was captured.

The Cavalcade’s treasure had started at $35,000 at the outset of the journey, but once $10,000 had been spent, Captain Clark made the decision to pay his associates a fair salvage from the gold. Van Benthuysen laid aside one quarter of the fund—roughly $6,790 (approximately $104,000 today)—for the benefit of Mrs. Davis and her children. Additionally, $1,940 in gold sovereigns (approximately $30,000 today), was distributed to the Van Benthuysen brothers, Clark, Dickinson, Emory, Tilghman, Winder, and Scott each, with another $55 (approximately $840 today) to cover traveling and miscellaneous expenses. With the treasure divided, and Davis captured, the group went its separate ways. Dickinson, Tilghman, Winder, and Scott surrendered to federal troops in Jacksonville, Florida on May 23rd. After initially refusing the Oath of Allegiance, they later took it at Hilton Head, South Carolina, and were then allowed to go anywhere in the country. Tilghman, who was the last caretaker of the Confederate Archive, supposedly buried it—along with part of the treasure—in an undisclosed location, deep in a forest, somewhere in Florida or Georgia. Since he died two years later, in 1867, without revealing the true whereabouts of either, both are likely lost to history—just like the Confederacy itself.


After his time as a POW, physically unable to take up arms for the southern cause, T. Parkin Scott went back to his law practice in Baltimore. Henry Chatard took his medical talents to Richmond and served much of the war in the Confederate Hospital Department at Jackson Hospital. And as for John White, well—you know the story.

These men lived in a complicated time and place. Looking back on their careers, it can be a tricky task to truly decipher their nuanced political stances. Thomas Parkin Scott stood for states’ rights; he was an advocate for the poor, frequently offering legal counsel to those who could not afford to pay him for his services. Yet, as noble as he was in his regard for the economically disadvantaged, he was clearly not an advocate for all men… As he wrote in his pamphlet, The Crisis, “perfect, social or political equality amongst all men has never existed, and never can exist.” He continued, saying “[w]e cannot recognize the social or political equality of the negro with the white man ; the Creator has made the distinction which now exists ; they are an inferior species, and their protection, as well as our own, requires that we should hold them in subjugation.” Well, then.

His views on racial equality—or, rather, inequality—look pretty damning to 21st-century readers. But a closer inspection of T. Parkin Scott suggests that he, as a person, might not be so easily defined… As Mayor Brown noted on page 39 of his previously-mentioned book, Baltimore and the Nineteenth of April, etc., Scott “was a strong sympathizer with the South, and had the courage of his convictions, but he had been also an opponent of slavery, and I have it from his own lips that years before the war, on [the] Fourth of July, he had persuaded his mother to liberate all her slaves, although she depended largely on their services for her support.”

How are we to reconcile this with his statement in The Crisis, a pamphlet in which he argues for the “subjugation” of blacks?

Perhaps Thomas Parkin Scott maintained that blacks were an “inferior” people, while simultaneously being opposed to their physical enslavement. When he argued for their subjugation, was he arguing for legal subjugation, as opposed to physical subjugation? A complex distinction, that. And, yet, it’s an important distinction to make. Even abolitionists, who were opposed to slavery—not all of them maintained that blacks and whites were equal across the board.

All of these men were flawed. This whole country was flawed.

And that’s not to say that 19th-century America was unique in this way. This inherently flawed way of thinking permeated American politics well into the 20th century, until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

In fact, perhaps the “subjugation” conversation is relevant even today, as countless modern-day Americans are being oppressed due to their sexual orientation.

All these years later, and we’re still fighting a civil war…

Baltimore History

The Sestercentennial of Baltimore’s First Printing Press

“The what-centennial?” you’re probably asking. Well, if nothing more, allow this as an opportunity to learn a great vocabulary word. The Latin expression for two-and-a-half is equivalent to ‘half-three’ in English, which comes from being halfway between the second and third integer. Half-three in Latin is ‘sestertius’, a contraction of ‘semis’ (halfway) and ‘tertius’ (third). Thus, a sestercentennial is a 250th anniversary. Marvelous!

Alright, now that we’ve dusted off that much-neglected vocab. word, let us turn next to the story of an ancient, long-forgotten citizen of Baltimore Town: Nicholas Hasselbach.

Evergreen House: built in 1858 for Stephen Broadbent, and notably the home of John Work Garrett II, who assembled an extraordinary collection of rare books some 30,000 strong.

Evergreen House: built in 1858 for Stephen Broadbent, and acquired by the Garrett Family in 1878. The library houses the JHU rare-book collection.

Nestled deep within the rare-book collection at Johns Hopkins University’s Evergreen Library, there is a section that is dedicated to Maryland-related titles. “Marylandia,” they call it, and it’s chock full of historical goodies. One of the most unassuming titles of all, however, resides on the spine of a small, red, leather-bound specimen. It reads “CONDUCT OF ANNAN AND HENDERSON,” and at first glance, it appears to lack any historical significance.


The prize of the collection.

But, much like Indiana Jones found out while searching for the holy grail in The Last Crusade—the simple, unassuming artifacts are the ones that tend to hold the deepest secrets.

A closer inspection reveals that the red leather binding is actually a case, almost like a glove. Remove the top, and out slides an even smaller, soft-cover, octavo pamphlet. The title page is missing a few pieces here and there, but the words are still decipherable: “A | DETECTION | OF THE | CONDUCT and Proceedings of | Meſſrs. Annan and Henderſon, Mem- | bers of the Aſſociate Preſbytary’s | whole Sitting at Oxford Meeting- | Houſe April the 18th. Anno Domini | 1764. Together with their Abet- | tors ; wherein is contained ſome | Remarks.” by John Redick-Le-Man.

Geez. Quite a title, huh? And a specific one at that!

What Makes This Little Book So Special?

Nicholas Hasselbach was the very first printer in Baltimore Town, and this is believed to be his first publication. A curious choice, perhaps, but no one has ever found a Hasselbach imprint that predates it. At least, not of his work in this province…

Baltimore in 1752, as remembered by John Moale, Jr.

Baltimore in 1752, as remembered by John Moale, Jr.

In the mid 18th century, Baltimore was but a small, ramshackle settlement on the red-clay banks of the Patapsco River. In 1749—the same year that Hasselbach, a German immigrant, traveled aboard the ship Elliot from Rotterdam to Philadelphia—a visitor described Baltimore Town in a letter as nothing more than “nine miserable log cabins.” The population grew, of course, and more buildings were added, but on the whole, we can presume that not too much had changed by the time that Hasselbach showed up with his printing press, sixteen years later.

Hasselbach, you see, had spent a decade-and-a-half honing his skills in Philadelphia. He started in Koch’s paper mill on the Wissahickon, and after learning the art of printing from Christoph Souer in Germantown, established his own press with Anthony Ambruster—a protégé of Ben Franklin—in Chestnut Hill, just north of Philly.

Sometime around 1764 or ’65, for reasons that are unknown, he decided to go south to Maryland. Perhaps he had heard that Baltimore Town needed a printer and saw himself fit for the job. Whatever the case, Hasselbach made the move with fonts in hand, ready to leave a lasting mark.

Though the first public mention of Hasselbach was not until July 6th 1765, when he purchased Lot No. 71—the approximate location of 414 East Baltimore Street—from Thomas Harrison (see Liber B., No. O., Folios 343 through 347), the deed hints that he had been in town for awhile: “THIS INDENTURE made . . . BETWEEN Thomas Harrison of Baltimore County in the Province of Maryland Merchant of the one part and Nicholas Haßelback (sic) of the same County and Province Printer of the other part.” If buying this property was Hasselbach’s first act in town, it probably would have, instead, noted that he was “of Philadelphia County in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” Alas, the clerk at the county courthouse thought it sufficient enough to deem Hasselbach a local—and so he was.

Aside from a few tidbits here and there, Hasselbach remains an elusive character. His exact point of origin is uncertain. He may or may not have been the ‘Johannes Nicolaus Wilhelmus Haselbach’ who was born in Raubach, Prussia, on December 15th 1728 (and christened four days later). Yet, even in places where his existence is certain, barely any trace remains of the life that he once lived. Here, in Maryland, out of the three property deeds that were executed during his lifetime, only one bears a genuine signature: the first one, as mentioned above.


Tsk, tsk, tsk, Nicholas… Terrible penmanship.

Admittedly, his handwriting leaves a lot to be desired. Yet, in fairness, he did not make his money as a scribe, or someone who had to physically write the words that he was printing. Hasselbach just needed to arrange the letters in the correct order—to mind his p’s and his q’s, if you will. And, considering that he was an 18th-century printer, during the era when the long ‘s’ reigned supreme, his ſ’s and his f’s as well! No small feat, that. No siree.

Sadly, Hasselbach’s time in Baltimore was short. Around 1770, he went to Europe to attend to some business matters, and was lost at sea, leaving a wife and three children back home. His last public record in Baltimore was a land transaction, on October 26th 1769. After that date, he vanished…

His widow and executrix, Catherine Hasselbach (née Steiz), settled his estate soon thereafter. A personal inventory was taken in January of 1772 (see Baltimore County Inventories, vol. 11, pp., 86 through 89), and his debts were paid off by July of 1775 (in the same volume, p. 294).

The inventory is probably our best insight into his life. Its total worth was appraised at a little more than £1,675 sterling, which would be close to $355,000 today. The items themselves are worth a read through in their own right: the most intriguing are his 21 violins. Was he a virtuoso? After hours, might Baltimoreans on a casual, late-evening stroll have heard the works of Bach or Vivaldi streaming out the windows of his print shop…? A tantalizing thought. And his 12 pictures—whom, or what did they depict? Perhaps there is a portrait of Nicholas Hasselbach, floating around somewhere. We can dream of such things…

George W. McCreary’s Reprint

Until recently, the closest that I had ever gotten to seeing the original was George Washington McCreary’s publication, The First Book Printed in Baltimore-Town: Nicholas Hasselbach, Printer. McCreary was the Assistant Secretary and Librarian at the Maryland Historical Society when, during the summer of 1902, he received a package in the mail of untold value. Inside it, among other 18th-century pamphlets, he found “A Detection…”, which, thenceforth, was the only extant example of Hasselbach’s work. McCreary gave the book to Robert Garrett who, evidently, gave it to his brother John—the proprietor of Evergreen House. It has been there ever since.

This is McCreary No. 220, owned by Towson University's Special Collections.

This is McCreary No. 220, owned by Towson University’s Special Collections.

As one of my all-time favorite writers, James Hall Bready, noted on page D4 of the February 9th 1975 edition of The Baltimore Sun, McCreary did two things to preserve Hasselbach’s book: the first, as previously mentioned, was giving it to the Garretts, who had an enormous rare-book collection and the means to maintain it. The second was publishing the reprint (pictured above), in 1903, complete with a sketch of Hasselbach’s life. Since it was a limited run of 300, copies are almost impossible to find. Bready, who owned a McCreary that he had initially purchased for $10 (presumably in the 1950s or ’60s), would have laughed off a $25 offer for it in 1975. For the record, that would be around $110 in today’s money—an offer that I would laugh off for my copy, too.

Examining The Artifact

I ventured up to Evergreen House to see the book for myself. For its age, its condition is a lot better than I would have expected. Granted, the title page is imperfect, and it has no cover—but that makes its survival all the more impressive. Bready notes that a town with less than 5,000 inhabitants probably had no bindery, which makes sense.

After more than two centuries of wear and tear, the book has finally been conserved. Now, it has a wonderful, marble, soft-cover binding, along with a protective case. Additionally, the holes in its pages have been infilled with Japanese paper. This will allow them to last for generations to come.

Examining The Artifact

As with most 18th-century publications, the subject matter is pretty dense. It centers around a fellow by the name of John Redick-Le-Man, or John Redick, layman, in the Pennsylvania back country. Redick describes, at length, his side of a financial disagreement with a blacksmith named Hugh Scot, which occurred during a trip to Lancaster. Scot thought that Redick had shortchanged him, and Redick pleads his case to the otherwise.

My favorite line is on page five, where Redick says “…as I deſign the greateſt brevity poſſible; I ſhall not ſpend the Readers Time in looking over all, or the tenth Part of what occur’d…” At which point he babbles on—for another 40 pages. Perhaps we can all agree that “brevity” was not exactly John Redick’s greatest strength! Then again, people had longer attention spans during the 18th century, when electronics were not constantly vying for their time. So, it is conceivable that, to them, 48 pages really was considered brief.

Regardless, Redick took Scot’s accusations as a personal attack. He felt strongly enough about defending his honor, that he went to the nearest printing press, which was evidently in Baltimore Town, and decided to have his side of the story made public so an “impartial” audience could hear him out. The preface to the book is dated February 12th 1765, and because there is no official arrival date for Hasselbach in Baltimore, this is the closest that we are likely to get. And celebrate we will!


Not surprisingly, Hasselbach has never really gotten his due. After his ship went under, he faded into obscurity. So much so, in fact, that on January 29th 1884, when the circa-1710 dwelling at 63 East Fayette Street was being demolished (which is a travesty in itself), The Baltimore Sun (on page 4) made the following mention of a book that had been found above a crossbeam in the attic: “[a] receipt-book, evidently the property of ‘Nicholas Hasselbach’, whoever he may have been, show[ing] receipts for various small sums of money paid to different persons by Hasselbach for tracts of land, &c., in 1769 and 1770.” It also mentioned some account books that had belonged to Hasselbach’s son-in-law, John Hillen.

Nobody knows what happened to any of those books. They were probably thrown away—carelessly discarded like the house they inhabited. The Baltimoreans of 1884 might have looked on with little more than a shrug of the shoulder. We 21st-century Baltimoreans, however—alarm bells are going off in our heads! If only we could inform them of the error in their ways. And the house… Was it Hasselbach’s house? Goodness. The thought is almost too much to bear. But, honestly, it’s the line they slid in right after his name that bugs me the most. The one that really sticks in my craw.

“…whoever he may have been…”

They didn’t even know who he was!

Can you believe that? Especially since The Baltimore Sun makes its money by way of the printing press—the technology that Hasselbach was responsible for bringing to town in the first place.

The irony is, had Hasselbach lived longer, he may have been able to stake a claim as Baltimore’s first journalist. Indirectly, though, he does have a claim. Or, at least, a partial one… Catherine Hasselbach sold her deceased husband’s printing equipment to William Goddard, who started Baltimore Town’s first newspaper. So, when The Maryland Journal, and the Baltimore Advertiser. opened up shop in 1773, it did so using Hasselbach’s types.

Thus, even in death, Hasselbach’s contribution was readily seen.

And, I suppose that I would be remiss were I not to mention his personal contribution, to me.

Because, without Nicholas Hasselbach, there’s no JGB.

Holding The Artifact

Baltimore History

Christened by JQA

Ask just about anyone on the streets of Baltimore what the city’s nickname is, and you would probably get a unanimous answer:

Charm City.

It sounds rather nice, yes? The letters almost glisten as they jump off of the page. A poster, a picturesque postcard—Charm City is a marketing campaign that practically writes itself.

Yet, this has not always been the case. If you were to step into a time machine and travel back to the Baltimore of days gone by, say, the early 20th century, and ask the same question—you might get a different, unanimous answer.

Long before Baltimore was Charm City, it was the Monumental City. It has a certain gravitas—a reverence that its sparkling, present-day cousin does not.

graph(1)A perusal of The Baltimore Sun’s digital archive reveals when the switch took place, once and for all: the 1970s. Which, honestly, is no surprise; when thinking of 1960s-era Baltimore, “charming” is hardly the first adjective that springs to mind… Or the second, or the third. The sixties were a time of great civil unrest, nationwide. Locally, those tensions came to a culmination with the race riots of 1968. And, as any Baltimoreans who lived through that time will recall, those were anything but charming.

So, yes, while I do like the Charm City name, and modern Baltimore certainly does have a unique sense of charm—I prefer its older, more stately cousin. The Monumental City, that is a city for the ages! It bespeaks a community that has suffered great losses, and yet has also overcome them, conquering its foes along the way. The Monumental City is resilient. It will continue to stand, tall and proud, much like its weather-worn commander-in-chief, General Washington, aloft on his column in Mount Vernon Place.

Whence came the name?

If you could, indeed, plan a visit to bygone Baltimore, Tuesday, October 16th 1827 would be an ideal place to start. That night, around thirty people gathered for a dinner which was, at least in part, to honor the memory of the recently-deceased Revolutionary War hero and Maryland Governor, John Eager Howard.

Sitting between Major General Samuel Smith (on his left) and the Collector of the Port of Baltimore, James H. McCulloch (on his right), the President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, presided over what must have been a thrilling, patriotic scene. The room was packed with war veterans: members of the Maryland Society of the Cincinnati, undoubtedly bedecked in their glittering, L’Enfant, eagle badges, intermixing with soldiers who had been wounded at the Battle of North Point, when America was in the midst of its second war for independence.

Adams—or JQA as I like to call him—had come to Baltimore on other business. His Philadelphia steamboat had docked at the basin’s wharf on October 14th, and he had immediately retired to Barnum’s Hotel, only to be informed upon his awakening the next morning that Col. Howard had passed away. The family, of course, wished for the President to attend the funeral, and Adams obliged. On October 15th, the city turned out in full “military array” for the funeral procession. The mood must have been somber and melancholy, but beneath the sadness on the faces of the Baltimoreans who lined the streets for the entire circuit, there was probably a sense of pride.

John Eager Howard was a genuine patriot, but more importantly, he was one of Baltimore’s own. Generally speaking, this was an exciting time in the city’s history, and Howard was a big part of that. Just seven-and-a-half months prior, he had met with other local, prominent citizens at his country estate, Belvidere, just north of town to discuss the city’s plans for a brand new mode of transportation. Out of those talks came the charter for the Baltimore and Ohio Railway Company of Baltimore City, Maryland’s answer to Stockton & Darlington in England. In fact, given his role in its creation, Howard may well have been the city’s choice to lay the “first stone” at the commencement of the Railroad, on the 4th of July in 1828. That is, had he not died the previous October… Instead, Baltimoreans made do with a different, aged, Revolutionary-era patriot: Charles Carroll of Carrollton.

The day after the funeral, on October 16th, President Adams rode out to North Point Battlefield with some of the Old Defenders to survey the grounds. Their 9-mile carriage ride brought them to the Aquila Randall monument, a small pyramidal structure that had been erected by the members of Randall’s company—the Baltimore Mechanical Volunteers—in honor of the fallen soldier. Which brings us back to that dinner scene…

Imagine the clinking of the silverware and glasses, the laughter of old stories among friends. And, finally, at the end of the night, the guest of honor, the president himself, rises to give a final toast: to “Baltimore, the Monumental City—may the days of her safety be as prosperous and happy as the days of her danger have been trying and triumphant!” How awe-inspiring that must have been!

Baltimore City was justly proud of its presidential seal of approval, and it still is. A quick Google search of “John Quincy Adams + Monumental City” fetches about 240,000 results. Many of those links lead directly to official government websites, and well-respected, area media outlets. They all seem to be in agreement with one another, that JQA is responsible for the “monumental” moniker. Yet, not surprisingly, none of them bother to include a source to back up that claim. The link that presents the strongest and most compelling case leads to an article that was written by a Baltimore-based author and historian, Christopher T. George. In it, George points out that Adams was alluding to the three monuments that he had seen on his visit. The first two are the usual suspects: the Washington Monument (which was still in its construction phase), and the Battle Monument (which had just recently been completed). The third, however, is the lesser-known Aquila Randall Monument, which Adams saw when he traveled out to North Point. Though he never gives a direct citation, complete with a page number, George comes the closest out of anyone to providing evidence that JQA was responsible for the Monumental City name.

Does JQA Have a Rightful Claim?

Whether stating it outright, or simply insinuating it, the popular opinion is that Adams was the first person to use it. In the absence of any explicit references proving the case one way or the other, I was determined to find out if he really was the originator that everyone seems to think that he was.

The first question, of course, was simple: did he actually make that toast? Luckily, the kind folks at the Massachusetts Historical Society have digitized all of Adams’s personal diaries. Turns out that the man was quite a writer. There are 51 volumes in total, and they span the years from 1779 to 1848. Thanks to some chronological indexing, they are relatively easy to search, especially when the specific date is known. With that, I typed in my destination: October 16th 1827. In volume 37, which covers the years 1825 to 1828, on page 311, a little more than halfway down the page, I struck gold. The quote is there, verbatim no less. John Quincy Adams really did make that toast! Pretty cool.

Now, for the second question: was there a reference that proved the nickname originated with Adams’s toast? Theoretically, if he was the first person to use it, the earliest references should have been in October of 1827, referring to both the dinner and the president. The next logical step was to search in a newspaper database.



Friends, I hate to say it, but John Quincy Adams is not responsible for the Monumental City nickname. The reference above, printed in the February 8th 1823 edition of the Washington D.C. Daily National Intelligencer, ran four years before JQA’s toast—not to mention a full two years before Adams took office in the Executive Mansion. Baltimore, clearly, is referred to here as “the monumental city,” with italics for emphasis. The article is sort of humorous from a modern-day standpoint. Baltimore-area representatives to the Maryland Legislature were apparently opposed to the Potomac Canal, simply because it would have benefited the District of Columbia, never mind how much it would have also benefited Baltimore City. Talk about political stubbornness! No wonder the rivalry between Baltimore and D.C. football teams is so bitter…

After an unrestricted search of GenealogyBank yielded the above result, I set my sights on finding the earliest reference in Maryland-based newspapers. By restricting my search to the state of Maryland, I found the following article in the August 5th 1824 edition of the Baltimore Patriot…1824.08.05.Monumental.CityAlthough less humorous than its 1823 counterpart, it mentions the failed escape of a Baltimore-based con man by the name of E. Bourne, who evidently traveled up and down the east coast in 1824 with an intent to swindle wherever he went. Note that, while printed in Baltimore, the news that it was transmitting came from New York. Thus, it was actually the New York paper which had called Baltimore “the monumental city.” This is important because it shows that the name had already entered the national lexicon. Therefore, I think we may well surmise that when JQA gave his toast in 1827, he was merely entrenching a term that he had already heard—sort of like the 19th-century version of creating a trending topic on Twitter. Adams was by no means the first to call Baltimore the Monumental City, but he is the one who took an already-existing nickname and made it famous.

So, if Adams is not the originator, then where does the credit lie?

Well, until someone finds a more conclusive answer, maybe it really is with JQA.

John Q. Anonymous.