MHS Library - Maryland's Firsts - Homepage


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Maryland Historical Society
Library of Maryland History
201 W. Monument Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: 410-685-3750
Fax: 410-385-2105
E-mail: library

Maryland is a state of many contrasts. From the ocean in the East to the mountains in the West, the panorama of Maryland's geography stretches across much varied terrain. Matching this geographical variety is Maryland's history - in particular, its record of "firsts".

In the Maryland Historical Society Library's pamphlet collection is an interesting booklet, Firsts in Baltimore. It was published in 1979 by the Finance Company of Baltimore, based upon "information compiled by Don Spatz of WBAL and [the] Maryland Historical Society".

The book is actually a potpourri of "firsts" from all across the state, although it does contain a preponderance of Baltimore events. While not an extensively documented history, the book offers interesting and fun facts about events that occurred first in Maryland - some of national or international significance, some of purely local interest.

We set out to see how many of these "firsts" can be illustrated by material found in the MdHS Library. In answering this question, we ranged throughout the collections - books, pamphlets, vertical files, photographs, prints, etc. We also cast a wide net in some cases, finding illustrations that may not directly illustrate the "first", but are closely related to it.

This is a project undertaken in the spirit of fun. We hope you have as much fun perusing it as we did compiling it!

1700s | 1800s | 1900s

1706 First food manufacturer in United States
Crosse and Blackwell, the world's first food manufacturer, establishes first food manufacturing plant in United States. --MC6292 Crosse and Blackwell for Byrd's expedition, 1928.

1774 First Post Office system in United States
William Godard establishes first Post Office system in United States. --MC3025 Baltimore's first Post Office. 

1776 First paper mill in United States
Hoffman's Mill is established as first paper mill in United States, and supplies most of the paper for the currency authorized by the Continental Congress. --PP79, Box 7, Hoffman Mills.

1778 First independent corps in the Revolutionary War
Count Pulaski of Poland establishes the first independent corps in the Revolutionary War. --VF - Baltimore - Monuments and Memorials - Pulaski Monument.

1789 First church conference of United Brethren in United States
First church conference of United Brethren in United States is held in Otterbein Church. --PP106.14 Otterbein Church.

1789 First Bishop of Roman Catholic Church in United States
Father John Carroll is elected first Bishop of Roman Catholic Church in United States. --Z24.1286 - Medium Prints - John Carroll - mezzotint.

1792 First memorial to Columbus in New World
French Consule Chevalier d'Anmour dedicates the first memorial in New World erected to Columbus. --VF - Baltimore - Monuments and Memorials - Columbus Monument (original site).

1800 First Investment Bank in United States
Alex Brown establishes first investment bank in United States
--135 East Baltimore St. (Baltimore, Md.).

1803 First refrigerator invented
Thomas Moore of Brookville, invents the refrigerator and also coins the term. --MP3M826E Thomas Moore Refrigerator.

1804 First stationer in United States
First stationers in United States is established by Lucas Brothers. --VF- Baltimore - Stores and Business - Lucas Brothers (pre-1904).

1808 First American-born saint, first parochial school system in United States
First American-born saint and first parochial school system in United States - Mother Elizabeth Seton. --Z24.1945 - Mother Seton (1771-1821) - Small Prints Collection - W. E. Tucker, Philadelphia, 1840 - Stipple Engraving.

1814 First building in the Western Hemisphere as a public museum
The Peale Museum becomes the first building in the Western Hemisphere used as a public museum. --Baltimore City directory, 1824.

1815 First war memorial in the United States
Work begins on the Battle Monument, the first war memorial in the United States. --H173 Battle Monument.

1815 First silversmiths in United States
Samuel Kirk Co. is founded as the first silverware makers in United States. --PE B-6, Ka-Ki kirk receipt.

1815 First architectural monument erected to George Washington
Work begins on the first architectural monument erected to George Washington. --Lottery, Washington Monument.

1816 First manufacturer of gas in United States
Rembrandt Peale becomes first manufacturer of gas in United States. --Baltimore City directory, 1824, detail.

1819 First Odd Fellows lodge
Thomas Wildey founds the first Odd Fellows Lodge in the United  States in Fells Point. --Baltimore City directory, 1824, detail.

1821 First Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States
First Roman Catholic Cathedral is established in the United States, named for Rev. John Carroll. --H174 Cathedral.

1827 First public carrier railway in United States
The Baltimore and Ohio Rail Road creates first public carrier railway in United States. --VF Railroads, B&O RR Grasshopper engine.

1830 First passenger train in United States
The Peter Cooper becomes the first passenger train in United States, operating from Baltimore to Ellicot Mills. --MB1207 Tom Thumb.

1839 First dental college
Baltimore College of  Dental Surgery becomes the world's first dental college. --PP106.25, Dental College.

1843 First dining cars on a railroad
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad institutes the first dining cars on a railroad. --PE L-1 A-B B&O Menu, 1927b.

1844 First publicly supported high school for girls
Eastern High School and Western High School are established as the first publicly supported high schools for girls. --Z24.80, PP106.36 - Eastern Female High School - Aisquith near Orleans - 1864.

1844 First telegraph line in United States
Samuel Morse creates first telegraph line in United States, extending from Baltimore to Washington. --PE B-7 M-MAQ Telegram, 1859.

1851 First commercial ice cream factory in United States
Jacob Fussell creates first commercial ice cream factory in United States. --Library Vertical File - Ice Cream - Jacob Fussell.

1859 First YMCA established in United States
First YMCA erected in United States, on Pierce and Schroeder Streets in Baltimore. --CB857 - YMCA Union Festival at Maryland Institute, 1859.

1866 First free public non-circulating library
George Peabody establishes first free public non-circulating library. --Z24.897 - Peabody Library - Peabody Institute, ca.1908 - PP71.20.

1873 First Roman Catholic college for women in United States
The College of Notre Dame of Maryland is established as first Roman Catholic college for women in United States. --MLD 108.B5C2 1942 Notre Dame Damozel.

1875 First monument to Edgar Allan Poe in United States
First monument in United States to Edgar Allan Poe is dedicated in Westminster Presbyterian Church, at 515 Fayette Street. --Z24.2069 - MD1988 - Baltimore, MD - Unveiling and Dedication of the Monument to Edgar Allan Poe, Wednesday, November 17, (1875), Westminster Churchyard.

1885 First commercial electric car line in Western Hemisphere
--First commercially operated electric car in America, 1885.

1891 First medical school of genuine university type
Johns Hopkins establishes first medical school of genuine university type. --Z24.95 - Baltimore, Md. - Hospitals - Johns Hopkins Hospital - [ca. 1890].

1892 First baseball player to hit 7 for 7 in a nine inning major league game
Wilbert Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles becomes the first player to to hit seven-for-seven in a nine inning major league game. --Z24.914 - Baltimore Baseball Club - "Champions of 1895".

1894 First rubber gloves used in surgery
Dr. William S. Halstead of Johns Hopkins becomes first person to use rubber gloves while operating. --Z24.414 - Johns Hopkins Hospital - 1904 - Operating Room.

1901 First woman professor at a United States medical school
Dr. Florence Rena Sabin of Johns Hopkins becomes first woman professor at a U.S. medical school. --R154.S115B55 Florence Sabin.

1921 First show to bring jazz dancing to Broadway
Eubie Blake's Shuffle Along is the first show to bring jazz dancing to Broadway. --Z24.1353 - Scene from Eubie Blake's "Shuffle Along".

1941 First Liberty ship built
The Patrick Henry built by the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard becomes the first Liberty ship.--MC2179 Launching SS Patrick Henry.

1945 First performance of  "blue baby" operation
Drs. Helen Taussig and Alfred Blalock perform the first neonatal surgical treatment for malformations of the heart ("blue baby operation"), at Johns Hopkins. --B771A Dr. Helen Taussig, 1946.

1948 First weekly educational series affiliated with a university
 Johns Hopkins airs first weekly educational series affiliated with a university. --MC2179 Launching SS Patrick Henry.

1955 First purely scientific non-academic aerospace research institute
Glenn L. Martin establishes first non-academic aerospace  institute for pure scientific research. --G.L. Martin.


"Firsts" in Baltimore; [s.l.] : [s.n.], 1979. PAM 400. "Prepared with pride by The Finance Company of America after independent research provided by Don Spatz of WBAL and by [the] Maryland Historical Society."

Website Credits
Mary Markey, Assistant Curator of Photographs - Commentary, image selection 
Joseph Augustyniak, Digital Imaging Assistant - Web production, commentary and graphic design 
Katherine Cowan, Mellon Photograph Cataloger - Project Coordinator

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