Canton Improvement Association Collection - PP118

Collection finding aids of Photograph Collections in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Maryland Historical Society Library

Not dated and 1973-1985


Prints and Photographs Division, Maryland Historical Society
201 W. Monument St.
Baltimore, MD 21201

Finding aid created by Katherine Cowan with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, January 2000



The Canton region of Baltimore city is along the harbor in the southeastern part of the city. The land between Fells Point and Lazaretto Point, originally the plantation of merchant seaman John O’Donnell, began to see industrial use in the mid 1800s, facilitated by the presence of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. At the same time, Canton developed as a residential area, with row homes for workers settled by European immigrants in the early 1900's, especially Welsh, Irish, German and later Pole.

Canton underwent increasing industrial and commercial development, becoming a deepwater marine terminal handling shipping of various cargo. Over the years, industry in the area included mills, distilleries, ship building, smelting, refineries, and manufacturing. Tradition says the area was named for Canton, China, the origin of cargo coming through the docks located there.

The Canton Improvement Association was incorporated in 1970, initially formed in opposition to the extension of I-70 through the community. In the 1970s and 1980s the group promoted quality of life for Canton residents, providing leadership for activism on many issues: curtailing vandalism and other crime, maintaining and improving the neighborhood, seeking zoning to regulate the impact on residents of industrial activity, developing properties for park and recreational use, and improving schools. The association also represented the Canton neighborhood at local and city-wide events like the Fells Point Fun Festival and the City Fair. The organization was successful in having Canton placed on the National Register as a historic district, enlisting volunteers to survey and classify area properties, and prevented the closing of the Canton branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Collection Origin

Gift of Thomas Canoles, 1987 (001820).

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of 1 box with 7 folders containing 100 photoprints and 12 negatives, which are undated or dated 1973-1985. The photoprints include color and polaroid snapshots and larger format b/w photoprints mounted on boards. Subjects are mostly unidentified, but include residential and industrial views in the Canton area.

There are images of neighborhood events (some apparently sponsored by the Canton Improvement Association), including a 1978 Canton Day Parade attended by Barbara Mikulski, a 1979 event attended by Mayor William Donald Schaefer, a demonstration in support of the Lemko Towers senior citizen residence, and the development of a park space at the corner of O’Donnell St. and S. Decker Ave. Specific structures include Canton Methodist Church, St. Brigid’s 2nd Church, Canton Evangelical, and the Enoch Pratt Free Library branch at Ellwood and O’Donnell Sts. Other images include Canton homes and businesses, recreation facilities, industrial apparatus, and decrepit sites and structures. Canton residents are sometimes identified, usually by first name only; those identified include Tom Canole, Ken Moore, and Tom Hopes. There are a few images of streets in Georgetown (Washington, D.C.).

Note: Collection also includes 2 folders of printed ephemera, including maps, invitations, programs, and brochures pertaining to organizations and community events in Baltimore in the 1970s and 1980s.

Note: Related materials are found in the Manuscripts Department of the Maryland Historical Society: MS. 2722, the Canton Improvement Association Papers.


The photographs have not been numbered or arranged by subject; inventory not available.

Container List

1 Box

Box 1: 6 Folders and 11 mounted photoprints

Box 1, Folder 1
Color photoprints and negative, n.d. and 1974-1978. 7 items.

Box 1, Folder 2
Polaroid photoprints, n.d. and 1973-1984. 19 items.

Box 1, Folder 3
B/W photoprints, n.d. and 1979. 15 items.

Box 1, Folder 4
Color photoprints, n.d. and 1983-1985. 56 items.

Box 1, Folder 5
Color negatives, n.d. 11 items.

Box 1, Folder 6
Georgetown, Washington, D.C. (?): M and P Streets, n.d. 4 items. Polaroid photoprints.

Box 1, Folder 7
Mounted b/w photoprints, 28 x 35 cm., n.d. 11 items. © 2001 Maryland Historical Society - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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