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Events and Exhibits

The History of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library

A view of the library which was housed in the Keyser building. Library Reading Room Facing East, n.d., Subject Vertical File, MdHS.

A view of the library which was housed in the Keyser building. Library Reading Room Facing East, n.d., Subject Vertical File, MdHS.

1844 – Alarmed by the disgraceful condition of the state’s historical documents, Brantz Mayer and twenty-two civic-minded Baltimoreans organized the Maryland Historical Society in 1844 to collect “the scattered materials of the early history of the state” and preserve its heritage through research, writing, and publications.

Brantz Mayer (1809-1879), one of the founders of MdHS. Brantz Mayer, undated, unknown artist, gift of Brantz Mayer Roszel, 1954.58.1, MdHS.

Brantz Mayer (1809-1879), one of the founders of MdHS. Brantz Mayer, undated, unknown artist, gift of Brantz Mayer Roszel, 1954.58.1, MdHS.

1845 – In a joint venture with the Library Company of Baltimore, the Society created plans for the construction of a single facility to house the books, manuscripts, and cultural artifacts of Baltimore’s preservation-minded citizens.

1847 – The Library’s collection consisted of over 800 bound volumes, hundreds of pamphlets, and dozens of other artifacts.

1848 – MdHS members dedicated a new residence, the Athenaeum, located on the 200 block of St. Paul Street. The building, designed by Robert Cary Long, also housed the Mercantile Library Association and the Library Company of Baltimore. The Gallery of Fine Arts showcased MdHS’s art collection.

1854 – A union was approved between the Library Company of Baltimore and the Society. The Library Company turned over its collection of books to the Society.  MdHS agreed to maintain a reading room and open the library to public use free of charge. In addition, women and minors gained access to the library for the first time for an annual fee of five dollars.

1861-1865 – Civil War tensions created division amongst the members. Newly elected president, Brantz Mayer, noted members “had been more engaged in making history than recording it” and issued a directive that all the surviving documents of the war should be preserved by the Library.

1883 – MdHS began publishing the Archives of Maryland series to preserve Maryland’s colonial era documents. Volunteers, such as Lucy Harwood Harrison, transcribed documents for the first fifty volumes, copying government related documents and “any other fragile scrap of paper that might add a bit more information on Maryland’s past.”

1888 – The Calvert family papers were purchased from the Harford family, descendants of the Lords Baltimore. The papers were stored in large trunks in a greenhouse on their English estate, and groundskeepers had used pages to fill divots in the estate’s lawn. Over 1,000 documents were saved, including the original map of the Pennsylvania-Maryland border surveyed by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon and journals of the colony’s early government proceedings.

The Athenaeum housed MdHS from 1848 to 1919. Baltimore Athenaeum, ca. 1850, MdHS.

The Athenaeum housed MdHS from 1848 to 1919. Baltimore Athenaeum, ca. 1850, MdHS.

1891 – Mrs. Mary W. Milner and longtime library volunteer Annie Leakin Sioussat became the first and second female members.

1919 – MdHS relocated to the Enoch Pratt house at 201 West Monument Street. Over 30,000 books, newspapers, maps and documents were moved into the new fire-proof building.

1920 – The Maryland Legislature elected MdHS to serve as the Historical Division of the state’s War Records Commission. This body served as the “official organ” of the federal government in collecting and compiling the military records of Marylanders who served in the Great War.

1935 – With the completion of the Hall of Records (today the Maryland State Archives) in Annapolis, the newly established institution took over the care and collection of the state government records.  With some reluctance, the Library turned over its colonial government papers but was able to keep other collections, such as the Calvert Papers.

1953 – The Library acquired one of Maryland’s most revered historical documents when Mrs. Thomas C. Jenkins purchased the original manuscript of Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner from the Walters Art Gallery on behalf of MdHS.

1968 – Construction on the Thomas and Hugg building was completed. The new building provided additional storage for the collections and dramatically expanded the Library’s public spaces.

Annie Leakin Sioussat (1849-1942) was a longtime library volunteer and one the first female members of MdHS. Annie Leakin Sioussat, n.d., Portrait Vertical File, MdHS.

Annie Leakin Sioussat (1849-1942) was a longtime library volunteer and one of the first female members of MdHS. Annie Leakin Sioussat, n.d., Portrait Vertical File, MdHS.

1969 – The poor condition of many of the rare books prompted the society to convert the former portrait gallery into a room designed for the collection.

1971 – An Oral History Office is established under the direction of Betty Key. Over the next decade volunteers and staff record the voices of a diverse selection of Marylanders, including governors and senators, civil rights activists and screen painters.

1971 – The Library’s manuscript collection became nationally accessible as it is added to the Library of Congress’s National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC).

1980 – Librarian Francis O’Neill begins his career at MdHS as an Assistant Reference Librarian.

1993 – The Library received a donation of over 3,700 volumes from the Johns Hopkins University’s Peabody Library.

1998 – Baltimore City officials donated the contents of the Peale Museum and the Baltimore City Life Museums to MdHS for preservation and care.  Notable materials included images by renowned Baltimore Sun photographer A. Aubrey Bodine and a vast array of eighteenth and nineteenth-century works on paper.

1999 – The film, The Blair Witch Project, opened in theaters. A corresponding website for the pseudo-documentary indicates that the story is based on The Blair Witch Cult, an 1809 book, of which “the only know existing copy of . . . is on display at the Maryland Historical Society Museum in Baltimore in 1991,” but, “has since been returned to a private collection.” The description is accompanied by a photograph of the mythical book. The film and website create havoc in the Library as staff members receive phone calls and emails from researchers, from as far away as Belarus, trying to track down the elusive tome.

A display advertising the War Records Division. War Records Division, n.d., Subject Vertical File, MdHS.

A display advertising the War Records Division. War Records Division, n.d., Subject Vertical File, MdHS.

1999 – The library entered the digital age with the creation of an online library catalog.

2003 – MdHS reopened its doors to the public after a three year renovation project. The Library, now known as the H. Furlong Baldwin Library, gained storage capacity and was equipped with wireless technology.

2011 – Barry Landau, a collector of presidential memorabilia, and his assistant, visited the Library ostensibly researching a new book. However, their motives were actually nefarious, and the vigilant Library staff caught the pair attempting to steal documents. Authorities discovered they had stolen items from cultural heritage institutions up and down the east coast. More than 10,000 documents related to American politics were recovered from Landau’s New York City apartment.

2012 – The Library staff hosted Seen & Heard: Maryland’s Civil Rights Era in Photographs and Oral Histories, a panel discussion commemorating two of the library’s largest collections related to the civil rights movement, the Paul Henderson Photograph Collection and the McKeldin-Jackson Oral History Project.

Today – The Library continues to assist patrons and researchers, providing access to the over 7,000,000 documents, almost one million photographs, and a sizable collection of books, newspapers, ephemera, oral histories, and other items. A small, dedicated staff serves approximately 3,000 patrons per year.

(Lara Westwood & Damon Talbot)

The completion of the Thomas and Hugg building gave the library much needed storage space. Thomas and Hugg Exterior, 1967, Subject Vertical File, MdHS.

The completion of the Thomas and Hugg building gave the library much needed storage space. Thomas and Hugg Exterior, 1967, Subject Vertical File, MdHS.

AnnualMeetingSlider

Join us for our 2018 Annual Meeting on July 21 at 5 p.m.

This year we are excited to “Unlock the Collection” and offer a glimpse into one of our most prized collections, a select sampling of rarely seen treasures from the deepest vaults of the Maryland Historical Society on exhibit for the first time as a group. You will see documents, photographs, and artifacts spanning the earliest years of the Maryland colony well into the twentieth century. Highlights include letters from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, Charles Dickens, and Helen Keller — even Queen Victoria is represented. The Maryland Historical Society is the custodian of over 1,400 documents penned by famous individuals. Due to their fragile nature, they are seldom on view to the public.

Admission is Free. Light refreshments will be served. Register here.

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