MD History Q&A

Click here! to view a (very brief) History of Maryland, for kids!

When was the Maryland colony founded and by whom?

The English first settled the colony of Maryland in 1634. King Charles I granted the land south of the 40th parallel to the Potomac River to George Calvert, Lord Baltimore. The 1st Lord Baltimore died before settling the colony, so his son Cecilius Calvert, the 2nd Lord Baltimore, organized the expedition of colonists. His brother Leonard Calvert served as the first Governor of Maryland.  

Who was Maryland named after?

Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I

When did the colonists set sail and what ships carried them to the colony?

Two small ships, the Ark and the Dove, set sail on November 22, 1633.  The Ark measured about 100 x 30 ft., and Dove about 76 x 17 ft. They carried about 140 people and all of their supplies on a 4-month voyage across the Atlantic.  The majority of the colonists, approximately 130-140 people, sailed on the Ark, the larger ship.  This ship was due to return to England after delivering the settlers to the colony.  The Dove, however, would remain in Maryland for the colonists to use for transportation and trade.  The colonists planned to trade with the Virginia colonists for cows, pigs and horses, so they brought other items to trade, such as cloth, sugar, spices, and other items that you could only get from England.

Who were the colonists?

In 1633, approximately 140 settlers left England in search of wealth, different opportunities and a better life.  Seventeen colonists were Roman Catholic gentleman; the rest were Protestant indentured servants.

Was it a Catholic Colony?

Even though the Calverts established Maryland in order to make a profit, they also established the colony so that they could make a living without discrimination because of their Catholic faith.  All people who believe in Jesus Christ are Christians, but there are many Christian churches that hold different beliefs.  In England, the King’s religion is called the Church of England, and Catholics like Lord Baltimore were denied rights for failing to be loyal to the King’s religion.  For example, Lord Baltimore could not hold public office in England because he was a Catholic. Lord Baltimore wanted the settlers in the new colony of Maryland to be able to make a living with as much freedom as possible.  Catholics were in the minority in Maryland, and Lord Baltimore wanted to make sure that their rights were protected.  He established Maryland as a colony where people of all Christian religions could practice their faith, grow wealthy, vote, and hold public office.  Lord Baltimore enacted the law, A Law of Maryland Concerning Religion, which gave Christians who were not members of the King’s church more liberties than they would have in England or some of the other American colonies.   Charles Carroll the Settler was an Irish Catholic.  He was a well-educated student of law.  He came to Maryland from Ireland in 1688 to serve Lord Baltimore as Attorney General.

What is an Indentured Servant?

An indentured servant was typically a poor, young man who signed a contract, and worked for a master for a set period of time (usually 4 to 6 years) in exchange for transportation to the colony, food, clothing, shelter, and often to learn a trade.  At the end of their period of indenture, they might receive land, money or tools and supplies to start their own farms. Many people came to Maryland as indentured servants. Maryland offered poor people the opportunity to come to the New World and eventually gain land and wealth. 

By the late 1600’s, economic conditions in England improved, and fewer people came to Maryland as indentured servants.  By the 1690s, planters found that they could earn more money if they did not have to pay laborers.  So, planters turned to slave labor. As tobacco production increased, so too did slavery.

Was anyone living in the area we now call Maryland before the colonists arrived?

The Native Americans in Maryland were a peaceful people who welcomed the English. At the time of the founding of the Maryland colony, approximately forty tribes consisting of 8,000 – 10,000 people lived in the area.  They were fearful of the colonists’ guns, but welcomed trade for metal tools.  The Native Americans who were living in the location where the colonists first settled were called the Yaocomico Indians. The colonists gave the Yaocomico Indians cloth, hatchets, and hoes in exchange for the right to settle on the land.  The Yaocomico Indians allowed the English settlers to live in their houses, a type of longhouse called a witchott. The Indians also taught the colonists how to plant corn, beans, and squash, as well as where to find food such as clams and oysters. 


Maryland is divided into three landform regions: the Appalachian region, the Piedmont Plateau and the Atlantic Coastal Plain. The Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the world, divides the state. Maryland is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the east; Pennsylvania to the north; West Virginia to the west; and Virginia to the south.

Mason-Dixon Line

The boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania was surveyed by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in 1767 to settle a land dispute between the Calvert Family of Maryland and the Penn Family of Pennsylvania. It is still called the Mason-Dixon Line and is often used to define northern and southern states.

Industry and Commerce

Maryland’s first industry was agriculture, and the most important cash crop was tobacco. It was very labor intensive to produce a lot of tobacco. By the 1690s, as fewer indentured servants arrived in the colony, slaves replaced the indentured servants. Wheat and corn were also very important cash crops in Maryland’s economy.

Maryland’s central location was a boon to importing and exporting goods to other colonies, as well as to Europe and Central America. A strong shipbuilding industry flourished in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 

Who signed the Declaration of Independence from Maryland?

Charles Carroll of Carrollton, William Paca, Samuel Chase, and Thomas Stone

Civil War - The Occupation of Baltimore

On the evening of May 13, 1861, General Benjamin Butler and 1,000 Union soldiers arrived at Baltimore's Camden Street Station by train. Under the cover of a thunderstorm, they proceeded to Federal Hill and established a fortification overlooking the city. Butler was determined to secure Baltimore and ensure it remained under Union control, after the Pratt Street Riot less than a month earlier. Among the invading force were members of the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment, whose passage through Baltimore on April 19 had enraged the city’s southern sympathizers and sparked the riot.

After settling on Federal Hill, Butler sent a letter to the commander of Fort McHenry: “I have taken possession of Baltimore. My troops are on Federal Hill, which I can hold with the aid of my artillery. If I am attacked to-night, please open upon Monument Square with your mortars.”

The next morning, Baltimoreans awoke to Butler’s cannons aimed menacingly at the city. This began a military occupation of Baltimore that lasted the duration of the war. By fall of 1861, the Union occupiers had constructed the formidable Fort Federal Hill, whose cannons served as a constant reminder of the cost of disloyalty to the citizens of Baltimore.

Famous People from Maryland

Clara Barton

Benjamin Banneker

Eubie Blake

Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Patterson Bonaparte

John Wilkes Booth

Margaret Brent

Leonard Calvert

Charles Carroll of Carrollton

John Carroll

Ben Carson

Frederick Douglass

Barbara Fritchie

Francis Scott Key

Kitty Knight

Barry Levinson

Thurgood Marshall

George Peabody

Charles Willson Peale

Mary Pickersgill

Edgar Allan Poe

Enoch Pratt

Cal Ripken Jr.

Babe Ruth

Elizabeth Ann Seton

Roger Brooke Taney

Tench Tilghman

Harriet Tubman

John Waters


State Facts and Symbols

State Capital: Annapolis

Nickname: The Old Line State

State Sport: Jousting

State Song: “Maryland, My Maryland”

State Bird: Baltimore Oriole

State Flower: Black-eyed Susan

State Fish: Rockfish

State Boat: The Skipjack

State Insect: Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly

State Dog: Chesapeake Bay Retriever

State Dessert: Smith Island Cake

State Reptile: Diamondback Terrapin

State Tree: White oak

Baltimore Sports

Baseball – Baltimore Orioles, Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Football – Baltimore Ravens, M & T Stadium

Horseracing – Preakness Stakes, part of the Triple Crown