History of Baltimore. Recent Developments

Early days. The Susquehannock Indians lived in what is now the Baltimore area before white settlers came in 1661 . But Baltimore was not founded until 1729. That year, the Maryland General Assembly bought a 60-acre (24-hectare) tract at the head of the Patapsco River and named it Baltimore Town.

The Assembly intended the town to be a trading center for the tobacco plantations of southern Maryland. But the town soon began to handle other products, including wheat from Pennsylvania and coffee from South America. By the late 1700's, flour milling and the export of wheat and flour provided Baltimore's main income.

Baltimore served as the national capital for more than two months during the Revolutionary War in America. The Continental Congress fled there in 1776 when British troops threatened Philadelphia. Baltimore was incorporated as a city in 1796.

The 1800's. By 1800, Baltimore had a population of 35,514. During the War of 1812, armed merchant ships called privateers sailed from Baltimore Harbor and attacked British shipping in the Atlantic. As a result, the city became a target for British revenge. On Sept. 12, 1814, British troops attacked Baltimore by land. The next day, the British fleet began to bombard Fort McHenry. The city drove back both attacks. The sight of the flag waving over Fort McHenry after the bombardment inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The National Road, begun in 1811, opened Midwestern markets to Baltimore by connecting Maryland with the Ohio Valley. The city became the leading port for Midwestern trade because it lay closer to the Midwest than other Atlantic ports.

During the 1820's, construction of the Erie Canal threatened Baltimore's position as a leader in trade. The canal provided rapid transportation from the Great Lakes to New-York City. But railroads built in the 1830's helped the city maintain its trading importance. For a time in 1830, the Tom Thumb, the first American-built steam locomotive, operated from Baltimore. That year, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad became the first U.S. railroad to carry passengers.

Clipper ships built in Baltimore carried flour, tobacco, and wheat from the city to Europe and South America and returned with coffee, copper, hides, and sugar. Baltimore became the nation's largest coffee market and a major processor for many agricultural products. It also became a banking center, with heavy investments in the South. Many German and Irish immigrants settled in the city during the 1840's and 1850's. By 1860, Baltimore ranked as the third largest city in the country, with 212,418 people.

Maryland remained in the Union during the Civil War (1861-1865), but many Baltimoreans sympathized with the Confederacy. On April 19, 1 861 , a mob of Southern supporters attacked Union soldiers passing through the city. Four of the soldiers and 12 citizens were killed. Union troops occupied Baltimore from May 1861 until May 1865. During this period, some city officials were kept in jail as Southern supporters.

After the war, Baltimore continued its commercial and cultural expansion. In 1873, a Baltimore merchant named Johns Hopkins died and left $7 million to build a university and hospital. Johns Hopkins University was established in 1876, and the hospital in 1889. See Hopkins, Johns.

The 1900's. Baltimore had a population of 508,957 by 1900. The large immigration of Germans and Irish was followed by the arrival of Czechs, Italians, and eastern European Jews. The city's borders expanded and suburbs appeared.

On Feb. 7, 1904, the Great Baltimore Fire broke out in the heart of the downtown area. The fire, Baltimore's worst disaster, burned for two days and spread over 140 acres (57 hectares). It destroyed nearly every major downtown building. Although no homes or lives were lost, the fire caused damage totaling over $100 million.

By the time World War I began in 1914, all damage from the fire had been repaired. New industries, together with trade, made Baltimore more prosperous than ever. Between 1888 and 1918, the city expanded its boundaries by annexing part of Baltimore County. During World War II (1939-1945), Baltimore's manufacturing plants produced huge quantities of airplanes, chemicals, electronic equipment, ships, and steel. Large numbers of Southern blacks and Appalachian whites moved into the city to work in Baltimore's expanding industries. By 1950, the population of Baltimore reached 949,708.

Recent developments. Since the 1950s, Baltimore has carried out major programs of urban renewal. Friendship International Airport (now Baltimore-Washington International Airport) opened in 1950. That year, workers also began to clear slums for other construction projects. These projects included expressways, new office and apartment buildings, and expansion of Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The Baltimore Arena opened in 1962, and the Charles Center complex was completed in 1974. The Inner Harbor program was begun in 1967. The original program was completed in the mid-1980's, but further construction is planned. In 1992, the baseball stadium Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened.

 






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