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The Baltimore Chronicle: Baltimore’s Community Newspaper

The first issue of the City Dweller (later the Baltimore Chronicle), April 1973.

The first issue of the City Dweller (later the Baltimore Chronicle), April 1973.

In the late 1960s—late 1970s, a number of alternative and underground newspapers sprang up in Baltimore. These papers intended to fill a news void with coverage of subject matter—the counterculture, radical politics, local artists and musicians, avant-garde theatre, community news—largely ignored by mainstream publications, notably the Baltimore Sun and the Baltimore News-American. The publications ranged from cultural and literary magazines like Performance and the Chesapeake Weekly Review to the psychedelic Harry, founded by Michael Carliner and Tom D’Antoni. Journalist P.J. O’Rourke was an editor and contributor to Harry when he was a student at Johns Hopkins. D’Antoni described the underground newspaper as “like being with the original cast of the ‘Marat/Sade’ inside the revolving drum of a cement mixer careening wildly out of control the wrong way down Charles Street in a rush hour.”(1) With a very specific focus, a narrow audience, and little funding, most of these publications were short lived, folding within a few years or even months.

Two publications that emerged from this era have managed to survive until the present. The City Squeeze, begun by Johns Hopkins undergraduates Russ Smith and Alan Hirsch in 1977, focused on music, arts, and youth culture. After graduating from Hopkins, the pair re-branded the publication as the City Paper in 1978, featuring coverage of a wider array of subject matter and more importantly, financial backing.(2)

In 1973, Laurence “Larry” Krause (1945-2010), a frustrated social studies teacher in Baltimore County, decided to start his own newspaper in Baltimore devoted to local and community news. According to his wife and future business partner Alice Cherbonnier, Krause ”chafed at the bureaucracy of the public education system and, when the opportunity arose to buy an old-time printing business on West Madison Street, he changed his career course… After he leased one of the first phototypesetting machines, he offered to stake a group of aspiring writers—primarily socially concerned teachers and social workers—to typesetting services for several months to help get a community newspaper started.”(3)

After some early tumult–two separate staffs walked out over editorial differences–the first issue of the City Dweller was published in April of 1973. Articles included: “Story of an Abortion;” a review of a Traffic concert at the Civic Center; a scathing critique of Center Stage; a gallery of local artists’ works;  instructions on how to inspect and buy a used car; and articles on the women’s liberation movement and the draft. In 1977 the paper changed its name to the Baltimore Chronicle, continuing as a forum for alternative views on local and community activities, the arts scene, national politics and foreign policy.

Krause published a number of other small alternative papers including Aura of the Arts featuring stories on art and local artists; Downtown Monumental Times, a small newspaper covering events in downtown Baltimore; and Festival News, an annual newspaper that ran with the tagline “Baltimore Artists celebrating Peace.” He was also a contributing writer to the Rambler, a bi-monthly literary publication.

In 2003 the Chronicle ceased print publication and transitioned to a entirely online format. The last printed edition in Winter 2002, featured articles on the war in Iraq, the state of unemployment in Baltimore, an interview with the director of the Center for Legal Assistance for Indigenous Peoples, and a piece criticizing the Baltimore Sun for suppressing news stories. The online edition continues to provide an alternative voice on local and national news as “an independent newspaper providing context and clarity on suppressed and distorted news and social trends.”

Special Collections staff, along with volunteer Lorelei Bidwell, recently finishing processing the collection of Baltimore Chronicle newspapers and photographs donated to the Maryland Historical Society by Larry Krause in 2003. The collection contains the entire print run of the Baltimore Chronicle—minus a few issues—from 1973 to 2002. It also includes over 7600 photographs from the archives of the newspaper, ranging from local politics, protests and demonstrations, neighborhood parades and festivals, local merchants, sports, local artists, theatrical and musical performances, and architecture. Below is a small sampling of some of the photographs from the collection. (Damon Talbot)

Sri Chinmoy was one of many self-styled gurus and spiritual leaders that gained fame in the 1960s and 1970s. He opened up his own spiritual centers around the world, including a Maryland Centre in Charles Village. One of the Chimnoy’s core tenets was the belief in mind over matter, what he called “self transcendence,” which appealed to many athletes, including world champion sprinter Carl Lewis. Chimnoy was famed for seemingly superhuman athletic feats of his own: “On June 26, 1985, peace advocate Sri Chimnoy took up weightlifting to demonstrate the ‘power of inner peace gained through prayer and meditation and to inspire others to transcend their limitations. This January 30, less than 2 years after he began, the 55-year-old 160-pounder who leads twice –weekly Peace Meditation Programs for delegates and staff at the United Nations astonished the weightlifting world by lifting and supporting a gigantic 7063 ¾ pound dumbbell with one arm, reportedly the largest and heaviest in history.” The recognized world record for a one armed dumbbell press is a mere 308 pounds achieved by Dimitar Savitinov in 2016.  Peace advocate Sri Chinmoy lifting 7063 3/4 dumbbell to inspire peace, 1987, Baltimore Chronicle Photograph Collection, PP291.6747, MdHS.

Sri Chinmnoy was one of many self-styled gurus and spiritual leaders that gained notoriety in the 1960s and 1970s. He opened up spiritual centers around the world, including one in Charles Village. One of the Chinmoy’s core tenets was the belief in mind over matter, what he called “self transcendence,” which appealed to many athletes, including world champion sprinter Carl Lewis. Chinmoy was famed for seemingly superhuman athletic feats of his own:
“On June 26, 1985, peace advocate Sri Chinmoy took up weightlifting to demonstrate the ‘power of inner peace gained through prayer and meditation and to inspire others to transcend their limitations. This January 30, less than 2 years after he began, the 55-year-old 160-pounder who leads twice –weekly Peace Meditation Programs for delegates and staff at the United Nations astonished the weightlifting world by lifting and supporting a gigantic 7063 ¾ pound dumbbell with one arm, reportedly the largest and heaviest in history.”
The recognized world record for a one armed dumbbell press is a mere 308 pounds achieved by Dimitar Savitinov in 2016.
Peace advocate Sri Chinmoy lifting 7063 3/4 dumbbell to inspire peace, 1987, Baltimore Chronicle Photograph Collection, PP291.6747, MdHS.

Gilman School members of the Baltimore Chapter “Young Astronauts" at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC, Bill Schilling, 1986, Baltimore Chronicle Photograph Collection, PP291.3062

Gilman School members of the Baltimore Chapter “Young Astronauts” at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC, Bill Schilling, 1986, Baltimore Chronicle Photograph Collection, PP291.3062

Great Baltimore Bike Ride, Aaron Levin, 1983, Baltimore Chronicle Photograph Collection, PP291.4035

Great Baltimore Bike Ride, Aaron Levin, 1983, Baltimore Chronicle Photograph Collection, PP291.4035

The 50th Annual Preakness Frog Hop was held in May 2016 at Patterson Park. Preakness Frog Hop, Unknown photographer, ca 1973–1990s, Baltimore Chronicle Photograph Collection, PP291.4789

The 50th Annual Preakness Frog Hop was held in May 2016 at Patterson Park.
Preakness Frog Hop, Unknown photographer, ca 1973–1990s, Baltimore Chronicle Photograph Collection, PP291.4789

Anti-Nuke Rally at Mount Royal Station, Unknown photographer, c.1980, Baltimore Chronicle Photograph Collection, PP291.6665

Anti-Nuke Rally at Mount Royal Station, Unknown photographer, c.1980, Baltimore Chronicle Photograph Collection, PP291.6665

A. Robert Kaufman Protesting the Lies of the Reagan Administration, 25th Street and Maryland Avenue, Unknown photographer, ca 1981-1988, Baltimore Chronicle Photograph Collection, PP291.6669

A. Robert Kaufman’s career as a lifelong social activist and political gadfly began in the late 1940s when he took part in demonstrations against Ford’s Theatre’s segregation policies. He could later be found protesting everything from “U.S. involvement in the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars, legalization of drugs in Baltimore, lowering auto-insurance rates for city residents, [and] peace in the Middle East.” Kaufman also ran, unsuccessfully, for Baltimore City Council, Mayor, U.S. Senator, and President of the United States.
A. Robert Kaufman Protesting the Lies of the Reagan Administration, 25th Street and Maryland Avenue, Unknown photographer, ca 1981-1988, Baltimore Chronicle Photograph Collection, PP291.6669

Eiko and Kama in “Trilogy”, Unknown photographer, 1981, Baltimore Chronicle Photograph Collection, P291.1876

Internationally renowned Japanese duo Eiko and Koma brought their silent, glacier-like dance performance to Baltimore’s Theatre Project in 1981. The Theatre Project was founded in 1971 to bring “world-class alternative theatre, free of charge, to Baltimore audiences.” The Theatre continues to operate out of the same space at 45 W. Preston Street.
Eiko and Kama in “Trilogy”, Unknown photographer, 1981, Baltimore Chronicle Photograph Collection, P291.1876

“Not For Real."  Performed by Leonard Pitt. Unknown photographer, 1988. Baltimore Chronicle Photograph Collection, PP291.1872

Stage actor Leonard Pitt appeared at the Theatre Project in 1988 with his one man show “Not for Real.”
“Not For Real.” Performed by Leonard Pitt. Unknown photographer, 1988. Baltimore Chronicle Photograph Collection, PP291.1872

 When the Six Flaggs Power Plant opened in the summer of 1985, it was expected to bring huge business to downtown Baltimore. The 25 million dollar “innovative urban entertainment facility” featured four major theme areas including the “Circus of the Mysterious” that displayed fantastic inventions from the mind of the fictitious Professor Phineas T. Flagg. Unfortunately, the park contained no amusement park rides, Six Flaggs’ bread and butter. The Plant closed in 1990 after five years of poor attendance. Phineas T. Flagg with Inventions at Power Plant, Baltimore, Unknown photographer, 1985, Baltimore Chronicle Photograph Collection, PP291.5931

When the Six Flags Power Plant opened in the summer of 1985, it was expected to bring huge business to downtown Baltimore. The 25 million dollar “innovative urban entertainment facility” featured four major theme areas including the “Circus of the Mysterious” that displayed fantastic inventions from the mind of the fictitious Professor Phineas T. Flagg. Unfortunately, the park contained no amusement park rides, Six Flags’ bread and butter. The Plant closed in 1990 after five years of poor attendance.
Phineas T. Flagg with Inventions at Power Plant, Baltimore, Unknown photographer, 1985, Baltimore Chronicle Photograph Collection, PP291.5931

Sources and further reading:

(1) Leonora Heilig Nast, Laurence Krause and R.C. Monk, eds., Baltimore: A Living Renaissance (Baltimore: Historic Baltimore Society, Inc., 1982), 131; Journalist P.J. O’Rourke was an editor and contributor to the Harry when he was a student at Hopkins.

(2) Russ Smith currently runs website Splice Today.

(3) Jacques Kelly, “Laurence Neil Krause, publisher, dies,” Baltimore Sun, June 4, 2010.

Kelly, Jacques, “Laurence Neil Krause, publisher, dies.” Baltimore Sun, June 4, 2010.

Kriegsman, Alan M. “Eiko &” Washington Post. October 24, 1981.

Nast, Leonora Heilig, Laurence Krause and R.C. Monk, eds. Baltimore: A Living Renaissance. Baltimore: Historic Baltimore Society, Inc., 1982..

StartingStrongman.com. “Dimitri Savatinov sets new circus dumbbell world record.” Accessed March 1, 2017. http://startingstrongman.com/2016/07/18/dimitar-savatinov-sets-new-circus-dumbbell-world-record/

ThemeParkUniversity. “Six Flags Power Plant3: Why it closed.” Accessed March 1, 2017. http://themeparkuniversity.com/extinct-attractions/six-flags-power-plant-3-closed/

University of Baltimore Libraries. “A. Robert Kaufman Papers.” Accessed March 1, 2017. https://archivesspace.ubalt.edu/repositories/2/resources/128

Wikipedia. “Sri Chinmoy.” Accessed March 1, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Chinmoy

Wikipedia. “Baltimore Theatre Project.” Accessed March 1, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimore_Theatre_Project

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