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This category contains 21 posts

John Niernsee: Architect, Engineer and Surveyor

John Rudolph Niernsee (1814-1885) was one of Baltimore’s most prolific and successful architects. Over the course of his nearly 50 year career he contributed to the designs of more than 150 homes, churches, commercial and public buildings and railroad stations including Camden Station, the Greenmount Cemetery Chapel, the Carrollton Hotel, Maryland Jockey Club Clubhouse, and Grace [...]

When Maryland Almost Got Philadelphia: The Remarkable Story of the Mason-Dixon Line

It takes a shrewd fellow indeed to persuade the King of England to grant him a charter to all the land in the New World between the colonies of Maryland and New York. When Quaker William Penn II did so, he became the founder of the colony of Pennsylvania in March 1681—thereby securing repayment of [...]

E.J. Gallagher: Builder of Lifetime Homes

In the first decades of the twentieth century Baltimore saw a boom in rowhouse building that came to be dominated by just a handful of builders. One of these developers was Edward Joseph Gallagher, the son of Irish immigrants, whose most successful and well-known creation, Ednor Gardens, became a model for developments throughout Baltimore.(1) While [...]

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte – The Woman I Have Come to Know

Elizabeth “Betsy” Patterson Bonaparte was just another name to me when I arrived at MdHS in 2012 as a volunteer curatorial assistant.  Since that time I have come to know her intimately—not as the celebrity she was, but as a real-life woman. I first got to know Elizabeth (she never referred to herself as “Betsy”) [...]

Unearthing the Calverts: The Search for the State’s Seminal Documents

The story of how the Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) acquired the papers of the state’s founding family is not well known. In fact it isn’t even a singular story. Simply preparing this piece about the collection unearthed a tale that highlights shaky provenance, the concept of authenticity in an archive, and the importance of institutional [...]

“Are We Satisfied?”: The Baltimore Plan for School Desegregation

(This is the second part of a two part series – The first part of the story was posted on May 15, 2014 and can be read here.) Baltimoreans, perhaps more than the residents of any other major American city, were poised to meet the challenge of school desegregation. The city’s public school system had already grappled [...]

Beatlemania in Baltimore

As Baltimore celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner and the successful defense of Fort McHenry from invading British forces, there’s another British invasion worth remembering. It occurred fifty years ago and was of an entirely different sort. On September 13, 1964, The Beatles invaded Baltimore for a one-day stop during their first American tour. John, Paul, George, [...]

Head Cases: The Baltimore Phrenological Society

On February 17, 1827 an assemblage of distinguished minds from Baltimore’s medical community gathered at the home of Dr. Richard Sprigg Steuart for the inaugural meeting of a new scientific and medical organization. Among those present were Dr. William Donaldson, Sprigg’s medical partner; Dr. H.H. Hayden, dentist and future founder of Baltimore College of Dental Surgery; [...]

Propaganda in the Free State: MdHS’s Collection of Poster Art

Before the advent of the internet, one of the simplest and most effective ways of getting the word out to people about a local festival, a concert, or a political message was by slapping a poster on a wall, storefront window, or telephone pole. Just recently, library staff completed an inventory of the over 1,300 [...]

Ponzi’s Plea

My house of cards had collapsed! The bubble had busted! I had lost! Lost everything! Millions of dollars. Credit. Happiness. And even my liberty! Everything, except my courage. I needed that to take my medicine like a man. To meet the future. Unquestionably, I was licked. For the time being. But no man is ever [...]

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