Baltimore Sanitary Fair Sesquicentennial

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2014 by rob schoeberlein Tagged: , , , ,


Maryland Institute, site of the Sanitary Fair

Maryland Institute, site of the Sanitary Fair


The 1864 Baltimore Sanitary Fair (April 18-April 30) provided the large-scale vehicle for Maryland’s Unionist women to bring together both of their benevolent and patriotic impulses. Other cities across the Union, such as Chicago and Boston, previously coordinated such events. Proceeds from these affairs swelled the coffers of the U.S. Christian and the U.S. Sanitary Commissions, the two major national relief organizations for the Union armed forces. The prospect of holding a fair to raise funds for these entities first arose in Baltimore during the fall of 1863 and a series of female-led meetings soon followed. The women chose the 18th of April as the official opening date and invited a special guest to inaugurate the event.

April 18th witnessed general public celebration, transforming the drab thoroughfares of the war-time city. Acting upon a resolution of the City Council, Mayor John Lee Chapman issued a proclamation asking businesses to close at noon on April 18. Most tradesmen, with the exception of a few ardent secessionists, complied. Likewise, city school pupils enjoyed a half-day. The frenetic pace of city-life came to a complete stand-still as a grand military parade featuring over three thousand soldiers commenced at two o’clock. Starting at Monument Square, the nearly mile long column wended its way through the heart of the business district as the Eighth New York Artillery band serenaded the estimated 30,000 people lining the streets. Over four hundred of the original members of the First Maryland Cavalry, which had included four companies of Baltimoreans, veterans of Stoneman’s Raid, Brandy Station, and Gettysburg, proudly rode in formation. The throngs of spectators “not only repeatedly cheered . . . but from the windows of many of the residences ladies crowded all the available space, waving their handkerchiefs and display[ing] the National banner.” A second parade featured three thousand African-American soldiers in new blue uniforms, their gold buttons reflecting the brilliant sunshine of the temperate day. Constituting a portion of Maryland’s volunteer “Colored” regiments, the new enlistees were “huzzahed on their way to the front by the white population.”

President Lincoln

          President Abraham Lincoln

Acting upon the invitation of the women organizers, President Abraham Lincoln agreed to preside over the fair opening ceremonies. Lincoln’s appearance in Baltimore held symbolic importance for city Unionists, and perhaps, to himself. For loyal citizens it offered both a chance to display their devotion to the man who embodied the Union and cast off doubts about Baltimore’s predominant political sympathy. For the President, coming to Baltimore presented an opportunity to make amends for a past indiscretion. In March 1861, en route to his inauguration, Lincoln secreted himself through Baltimore’s darkened streets in response to the rumor of an alleged assassination plot. Already held in low regard by his affiliation with the perceived anti-Southern Republican Party, many residents regarded the President-elect’s distrustful action as an affront to their city’s honor; even Unionists expressed bewilderment. Later, the President “was convinced that he had committed a great mistake.” By opening the Maryland Fair, Lincoln could both mitigate his wrong and express his confidence in the city’s national loyalty.

Despite the apparent solidarity of the state’s loyal population, the Maryland Fair could only be termed a modest financial success when compared with similar 1864 events. The final tally exceeded just over eighty-three thousand dollars. In contrast, both the New York and Philadelphia fairs each cleared over one million dollars. Yet, when compared to all similar soldier relief fairs, the Maryland total stands respectable. Chicago’s, of December 1863, “netted between $86,000 and $100,000″; Boston’s, held in the state whose militia first answered Lincoln’s Call to put down the Rebellion, garnered but $146,000. Both Illinois and Massachusetts possessed vastly larger and much less philosophically divided populations. While competition for donations from other cities most likely affected Maryland’s net amount, both economic realities and the state’s political division did factor largely.

Maryland Unionists, nonetheless, regarded their fair efforts to be fruitful. Governor Augustus Bradford at the May 2 closing ceremonies remarked, “success is not to be estimated merely by its financial results, but by the wholesome moral influences it exerted . . . it has brought together loyal women . . . and served to show that American patriotism is confined to no climate, nor indigenous to any particular soil.” The press singled out the organizer’s and participants for their devotion. The Baltimore American newspaper lauded “the noble women of Maryland who have labored so long and so well . . . [they] deserve all praise and honor.”



Baltimore’s First Building Laws

In Special Collections on April 8, 2014 by rob schoeberlein

BMS 41, The Builder's Exchange of Baltimore City Collection

BMS 41, The Builder’s Exchange of Baltimore City Collection

We received an unsolicited gift recently, something atypical of what has been donated in the recent past. It is an object that holds significance to both the appearance and growth of Baltimore’s urban landscape. And it’s kind of fun (hey, I’m an archivist—what can I say?)

The item is the signing pen used by the Baltimore’s one-term Mayor Robert G. Davidson (1889-1891) to affix his signature to the 1891 “Building Laws” ordinance. Before that time Baltimore had “no code of laws to regulate the construction and inspection of her new buildings,” according to the City’s Annual Report of 1891. As J. Theodore Oster, Inspector of Buildings, opined, “[i]t is gratifying… that we have at last succeeded in getting a code… passed, which we trust will secure to the public safer and more substantial buildings.” Oster added that he now required at least four more assistants, adding but a slight bump upward to the city bureaucracy.

We know that the item was displayed originally at the offices of the Builder’s Exchange. Founded in 1888, the Exchange headquarters stood at 19 W. Saratoga Street in 1892 and served as a meeting place for individuals in the building trade. A committee from the Exchange was present at the ordinance signing and “requested the pen that was used, and [intended to] have it suitably framed and hung in the exchange.”

BMS 41 detail

BMS 41 detail

The Committee mounted and framed the item in great style. They commissioned a special engrossed background upon which the pen would be mounted. That, in itself, was not unusual. But this background, in addition to the pertinent hand-lettered information about the pen, included fine scrollwork, flourishes, and other embellishments from the fine art of penmanship. Dr. S. C. Malone, who styled himself as an “artist penman” performed the work. Not only did he take on commissioned work, he taught penmanship classes at his Charles Street office and, later, served as an expert witness in matters relating to handwriting analysis. In thirty-eight years, he “testified in 2,000 cases… and lost only seven.”

The pen has been added to the Baltimore City Archives holdings as BMS 41, The Builder’s Exchange of Baltimore City Collection


Sweet Annaline: The Tale of a Marylander at the White House

In Uncategorized on September 24, 2013 by rob schoeberlein

Alderney cow

An Alderney cow (Annaline’s relative)

“Political animal” is a term sometimes used to describe the chief resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Washington, DC’s most exclusive address indeed has seen a number of donkeys and pachyderms, and even a bull moose.  But did you know of Maryland’s four-legged contribution to this menagerie? Baltimore businesman Samuel Moor Shoemaker, a nineteenth century resident of 901 St. Paul Street, made it all possible.

A national tragedy brought Annaline, an Alderney cow from Shoemaker’s farm, to nibble clover at the White House.  On July 2, 1881, at a Washington, DC railroad station, Charles Guitreau, a disappointed government office seeker, unloaded his revolver into the back of President James Garfield.  Letters and telegrams professing sympathy and wishes for the President’s recovery swept over the Executive Mansion.  One Maryland correspondent offered more.  Garfield’s doctors “had found some difficulty in procuring the very best milk, and it was their wish that the milk given their patient should not only be of the best, but should be drawn from one animal”, so Samuel Moor Shoemaker, the owner of a prize-winning cowherd in Greenspring Valley offered Annaline to aid the President’s recovery.

Sent by rail to Washington, Annaline arrived on July 9 and “was tethered at a stable below the State Department Building” just next to the White House.  By sunset, the Maryland cow was chomping upon the cool grass of the White House lawn and “switching her tail in glee.”  The Garfield children witnessed the first milking which produced “a splendid gallon of rich milk, some of which was soon served to the President and relished very much.”

The White House staff treated Annaline as any dignitary or special envoy.  And why should it have been any different?  “The cow [was] doing her part nobly…the nation’s hopes rest[ed] somewhat upon her being a success.”  Curry-combed and washed twice daily, she grazed freely upon the back lawn of the White House during the daylight hours.  Each morning and evening, Annaline feasted on grain back at her stable.

Visitors came to call and others bestowed gifts upon the special lady.  Mrs. Garfield visited with Annaline at the stable, escorted by Secretary of State Blaine.  One smitten Bostonian sent two silver tips for the ends of Annaline’s horns, though “this mark of distinction is not nearly so great as the cow deserves.”

Despite the valiant efforts of our Maryland cow, the President experienced numerous reverses.  On September 6, to speed Garfield’s recovery, his doctors moved him to the seaside resort town of Long Branch, New Jersey.  Annaline remained back in Washington though her transfer was being seriously discussed.  Unwisely, a Jersey cow named “Repartee” took over Annaline’s sacred mission in mid-September. The President died soon thereafter.

Yet, the tale has a happy ending for our sweet Annaline.  Although she never munched upon the verdant grass of Maryland again, she likely spent her last days in the company of the Garfield family.  Mrs. Garfield sent a note of thanks to Samuel Shoemaker in November 1881, after leaving the White House for their Mentor, Ohio farm. She wrote: Your kindness…has enabled me to receive in most excellent condition the cow and household goods from Washington…. It adds one more to the very thoughtful and considerable acts performed for me by the friends of General Garfield.  So it appears that the pampered former White House guest whiled away her hours–chewing her cud, occasionally running from playful children, and very likely “switching her tail in glee.”

Cow image (without the bow) courtesy of:


“Monuments Of Their Patriotism”: Building Baltimore’s Civil War Defenses, Summer 1863 (Part 2)

In Special Collections on July 15, 2013 by rob schoeberlein Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Fort No. 1, West Baltimore

Fort No. 1, West Baltimore

[On the 20th of June, 1863, hundreds of Baltimore’s African American men were pressed into service to build earthen fortifications to further secure the city from a Confederate Army attack.  It was very hard labor for a wage of $1 per day plus rations. ]

Payroll Slip, [July 1863] BRG41-3-1497A

Payroll Slip, [July 1863] BRG41-3-1497A

Who were the workmen? While a full accounting may be impossible, we know a few of them through some payroll slips at the Baltimore City Archives ( Organized into squads under the supervision of white overseers, Joseph Barnes, a drayman from Mullikin Street and Eli Carpenter, a day-laborer from Cider Alley, toiled under the hot July sun with shovel, pick, and pounder stone. Young boys, paid a wage of .50 per day, bore water buckets from which the men would quench their thirst. It is possible that some construction assistance also came from teenagers who were paid .75 per day. Mealtime meant U.S. Army rations, which likely consisted of hard bread (hard tack) with about a pound of meat and some coffee.[1]

General Robert C. Schenck, the regional military commander stationed in Baltimore, took notice of the men and their work.  He “repeatedly urged President Lincoln to authorize enlistment of the several thousand blacks, mostly free, who labored on the fortifications around Baltimore”[2] and “to create from among them a reg[imen]t of Sappers & Miners.”[3] The President eventually agreed to Schenck’s request and Secretary of War Stanton appointed Colonel William Birney, the son of antislavery politician James G. Birney, to take charge of recruiting the workmen. Birney established a Baltimore-based recruiting office in Mid-July and in less than seven weeks filled the ranks of the Fourth US Colored Troops.

On the 20th of July, hundreds of African American laborers from the various project gathered together for a special ceremony.  They assembled at Fort No. 1, also known as Fort Davis, on West Baltimore Street (in the area of today’s Bon Secours Hospital) for the purpose of a flag presentation. The laborers had pooled together their money to purchase a very large, garrison-style flag for the use of the soldiers stationed at the fort.

Some special guests were also present. Two companies, about 160 men, of the newly formed Fourth United States Colored Troops, stood at attention, the gold buttons of their new blue uniforms glinting in the waning afternoon sun. It would be  sometime in late August before they would be issued any firearms. These soldiers, likely constituting Companies “A” and “B,” had been in army dress for only five days.

The workmen chose Colonel Birney to make the presentation speech on their behalf.  Here is an excerpt:

The flag they present you to-day, is in token of their loyalty. Their hearts are true. Whoever else may be swayed from duty, the black remains firm. Pluck him from the very core of rebeldom and he is a true man. You may trust him. All his aspirations are for the success of the right, the triumph of the nation. For him the success of traitors is his own degradation, the dishonor of his family, the doom of his race to perpetual infamy.

You may regard, sir, the presentation of this fine flag, as implying the readiness of the men of color to defend it. You have witnessed their alacrity in springing to the lines of these fortifications when Baltimore was menaced, their cheerfulness in volunteering their labor, their patience in its prosecution. These forts around the city will be monuments of their patriotism. [emphasis added] With equal alacrity, sir, do they respond to the call of the country, “To arms!” When the Goddess of American Liberty hands them the musket, they accept it with stalwart and ready arms, thankful to Providence that their frugal diet has prepared them for the soldier’s rations, that their life of continuous labor in the open air has inured them in advance to the hardships of campaigning, and that they have not now to learn patience and obedience, these two virtues of the soldier.[4]

Some of the workmen did step forward to join the ranks of their brothers and shoulder a musket for the Union cause. In the ensuing months some 1,000 African American men, from Baltimore and elsewhere in Maryland, would fill the ranks of Colonel Birney’s command.

By the end of August, most of the work on the fortifications had been completed.[5] The forts served their purpose but were never actually tested in battle. The closest Confederate incursion came in July 1864 when Major Harry W. Gilmor with 135 men from the First and Second Maryland Cavalry (CSA) regiments traveled down the York Road as far as Govanstown (Govans), then a part of Baltimore County.

With the Civil War’s end, the fortification sites themselves became immediately obsolete and a hindrance to future city development.  Rather than the forts being “monuments” to the patriotism of African American men, the work soon commenced to obliterate them in their entirety.  All buildings were first auctioned off as surplus US Government property.  Next, though it took several years, the city passed ordinances calling for the dismantling of certain earthworks.  Fort No. 8, just south of Greenmount Cemetery, was leveled in 1869 while the Fort Federal Hill breastworks remained until 1879. But unlike the vast majority of the forts, both locations would eventually be designated as public parks, Johnston Square and Federal Hill, respectively. Most became the building sites for Baltimore’s famed row houses.  Fort No. 1 finally succumbed to development in the 1890s.[6]

[1]A Union soldier was entitled to receive daily 12 oz of pork or bacon or 1 lb. 4 oz of fresh or salt beef; 1 lb. 6 oz of soft bread or flour, 1 lb. of hard bread, or 1 lb. 4 oz of cornmeal. The marching ration consisted of 1 lb. of hard bread, 3/4 lb. of salt pork or 1 1/4 lb. of fresh meat, plus the sugar, coffee, and salt.

[2] The Black Military Experience , Ira Berlin, editor ; Joseph P. Reidy, associate editor, Leslie S. Rowland, associate editor. (New York : Cambridge University Press, 1982), p. 184.

[3] Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 6. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1953), p. 317.

[4] Christian Recorder, July 26, 1863.

[5] Sun, August 28, 1863.

[6] Sun, November 24, 1903.


“Monuments Of Their Patriotism”: Building Baltimore’s Civil War Defenses, Summer 1863 (Part 1)

In Special Collections on June 28, 2013 by rob schoeberlein Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Workman's pay slip, July 1863

Workman’s pay slip, July 1863, BRG41, S3, 1497a

In mid-June of 1863, great alarm gripped Baltimore. The Confederate Army under the able command of General Robert E. Lee had crossed into Maryland and might advance in an attempt to take the city. Meetings to organize citizen militias took place throughout the wards. White male citizens, members of the various Union League chapters and the Union Club, mustered into home defense units. If Baltimore fell, the surrender of Washington might be inevitable.

On Saturday, the 20th of June, Mayor Chapman called a special session of City Council to consider the erection of additional defensive fortifications around the city.  In all, “twenty-two works of defen[s]e, of various size and strength… which, in case of attack… would be very difficult to break” were envisioned.  Supported in the endeavor by General Robert Schenck, the regional military administrator, with his offer of supplies and tools to assist in the task, the Council approved $100,000 to build earthen bulwarks to secure the city from Rebel attackers. The U.S. Army ultimately decided on the final location and the types of fortifications to be built.

Baltimore agreed to supply the manpower. General Schenck, however, required the immediate service of 1,000 men by 4PM on the very same day. Could such laborers materialize seemingly from the air? Schenck offered some additional assistance in the form of martial persuasion: “If you have any difficulty in furnishing the labor… I will furnish you the military power to enforce… impressment.”[1] Impressment meant that any person could be seized, without notice, and forced to work, on the fortifications.

The Baltimore City Police, supported by the military, immediately set about gathering all able-bodied men. They, however, singled out only African American males. The hapless men were simply arrested and forcibly marched out to the outskirts of the city under armed guard. It is doubtful that the men had any opportunity to even leave word with family or friends about their fate. A few apparently resisted though not without consequence.  An African American “servant,” a local euphemism for the word “slave,” of one Mrs. Fenby was shot in the foot as he tried to escape from his impressment.[2]

Reverend Alexander Wayman

Reverend Alexander Wayman

The heavy-handed actions of the authorities were unwarranted and an insult to the patriotism of the men. Reverend Alexander Wayman (1821-1895), Pastor of the Bethel A.M.E.Church and a leader in the African-American community, inquired about his son at a local police station and narrowly escaped being sent to work. Before leaving the station, he voiced, “Gentlemen, there is no need of the police officers running after us… this way. All that was necessary was to let us know that we were wanted, and you could have five thousand of us before sun-down.”[3]

Work on the fortifications took place around the clock. Wayman went out again to visit the workmen on early Sunday before his church service, and, once more, was almost made to shoulder a spade. Wayman advised the workman to “be brave” and assured them that “it will come out all right.”[4] The City did eventually come around as Wayman predicted. The City Fathers decided to pay each worker one dollar per day plus rations. Yet, it was a hard-earned dollar, an especially tough, back-breaking labor made worse by the clay-like soil that characterizes most of the region.  The fortifications put up varied in size but they all required the same mounding up and compression of soil. Armed with only pick, shovel and spade, and a large measure of determination on the part of the men, the earthworks did rise.

Heavy labor and hot sun made the work tough but overt racism while on their marches to and from their worksite made things even more onerous. Some white men and boys hurled stones or else insulted them along the way. The African American workmen devised the means to end these incidents. They took up a collection from among themselves and purchased a US flag which would, henceforth, lead them forward on their marches.  From that moment forward, any attack upon them was seen as an attack upon the flag so that the city police, prompted by the Provost-Marshall, provided them with additional protection. In an ironic turn of events, three white men who interfered with the workmen “were taken before the military authorities, who ordered them to labor four weeks on the fortifications with the negroes, without pay and [at] half-rations.[5]

Reverend William Whittingham

Reverend William Whittingham

Not all whites, however, held a low opinion of the men. Many appreciated what they were doing to benefit all Baltimoreans. The mere sight and sound of the marching men greatly impressed one resident of Madison Street, a major east-west artery. The Reverend William Whittingham (1805-1879), Protestant Episcopal Bishop and a staunch Union sympathizer, viewed many columns of men passing by his home on the morning of July 4th, a day typically set aside for rest and celebration. These times, however, were very different and the Confederate Army, though bloodied from the Gettysburg battlefield, would soon be on the march again. Bishop Whittingham recounted:

Daily, now, morning and evening we have long processions of hundreds (sometimes, as [in] last night, thousands) of blacks returning from work on the outer fortifications.  They work by relays, night and day, and are working all day today, holiday or not. They march two by two or four by four, with flags, sometimes singing – with much pride in their employment and evident content[ment] – altho’ they tell funny stories about the way in which they in which some… were run down and forced into service.[6]

To be continued…

[1] U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: Series 1, Vol. XXVII, Part III (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1889), p. 235.

[2] Sun, June 22, 1863.

[3] A. W. Wayman, My Recollections of African M. E. Ministers, or Forty Years’ Experience in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. (Philadelphia: A. M. E. Book Rooms, 1881), p. 86.

[4] My Recollections, p. 88.

[5] Sun, July 3, 1863.

[6] Rev. William T. Whittingham to “Dear Children”, July 4, 1863 William Whittingham Papers (uncataloged series), F. Garner Ranney Archives, Maryland Episcopal Diocese.



“The Hospital at Baltimore” (Part 2)

In Special Collections on June 19, 2013 by rob schoeberlein Tagged: , , , ,

Maryland Hospital For The Insane, 1848

Maryland Hospital For The Insane, 1848

State Control, Moral Treatment, and Patient Care Philosophy
In 1834, due mostly to economic circumstances, the State of Maryland assumed the management of the hospital. Renamed the Maryland Hospital For The Insane, it initially employed nuns from the Order of the Sisters of Charity to act as attendants. This arrangement lasted until about 1840. The races were likely kept separate though it was not an all-white patient facility. Until the late 1850s, the hospital had a regular public visiting day where Baltimoreans and others were invited in to tour the building in order to dispel their negative perceptions about mental institutions. Patients were not exhibited intentionally to these visitors.

Treatment changes promoted by sources abroad would ultimately influence and modify how American doctors viewed their mentally ill patients. Many historians point to the actions and teachings of Dr. Phillipe Pinel as initiating a revolution in the care of the mentally ill. In 1793, he boldly removed the chains from the male patients at the Bicêtre Hospital in Paris, ushering in a new era of “non-restraint.” Pinel believed that within a carefully constructed environment, the mentally ill could be taught self-control and eventually regain their reason.

This revolution in patient care, given the name “Moral Treatment,” was embraced by most American doctors caring for the “insane” by the mid-nineteenth century. Hospital superintendents discovered that occupational or work therapy seemed to improve the condition of certain patients. Toiling in the hospital garden, walking its grounds, even engaging in domestic work, seemed to produce beneficial results. Acute cases might even be allowed to leave the premises for walks with an attendant. To supplement these activities, some hospitals offered hydrotherapy, patients soaking in tubs or being placed into showers.

Early reforms relating to patient care at the Maryland Hospital were internally driven. Moral Treatment appeared to have been fully instituted after the State took control of the facility in 1834. Observations by a visitor in 1835, a jurist from Williamsburg, Virginia describe an enlightened patient care philosophy in place:

Its plan is new to me, and rather new in the world–an entire departure from the English and Virginia (Wmsburg) methods, of treating lunatics, with du[n]king, strait-jackets, iron-grated cells, and the lash… Kindness–engaging the patient’s affections and thoughts–amusing him–affording him exercise, by light labor, walking, riding, music, dancing–with wholesome diet, and cheerful conversation–these are the chief material medica.

The narrative portion of the Maryland Hospital’s own 1844 annual report further underscores the presence of moral management and the non-restraint philosophy at the institution. “Our efforts to supply the inmates with ample means of useful employment, exercise in the open air, and amusements… have been unremitting. In carrying out the moral treatment, these means are indispensable… Among these agents, manual employment for those accustomed to it, holds first rank.” Patients were kept active either by work or by participation in various recreational activities, such as reading within the patient library or attending hospital-organized classes. Annual reports from other state hospitals during this period note similar descriptions and offerings.

Occupational or work therapy offered the first hope of a recovery for certain classes of patient. The 1844 annual report documents a case of a man suffering from obsessive thoughts and depression:

During our hay-making season, last summer, many of our male patients [were] employed in aiding the work, some as spectators. Among them was one who had been for many months in the state of monomania with depression, and had made several attempts at suicide… He was a farmer …After some persuasion, but principally by the example of others, he was induced to amuse himself by mowing a little. As the period of engagement in this activity increased, his mental state improved and in about four weeks afterwards, he returned home entirely restored. Cases similar to this are of frequent occurrence.

Many, but not all patients engaged in some type of work, with certain duties reserved to a particular gender. No one was required by the staff to engage in work nor was any remuneration paid for such efforts. For the male patients choosing to labor, jobs included gardening, working in the carpenter shop, the carting of wood and coal around building or assisting the attendants in other duties performed within the building. The female patients generally involved themselves in the more domestic or gender-based duties of sewing, knitting or assisting in the wash-house or kitchen.

Recreational pursuits were universally appealing to patients. Individuals might choose simply to read the daily newspaper, periodicals, or novels, many of which were donated to the hospital through the benevolence of local businesses. The pursuit of music making, singing, and the playing of games, such as checkers or billiards, helped to pass the hours of a day. Others might stroll about the almost seven acre grounds, through the grove in the back and, perhaps, out to the front lawn to glimpse the cityscape that stretched outside the institution’s walls.

The hospital walls, however, did not limit the diversions available to certain types of patients. These residents often ventured forth into the city and intermingled with its citizens. Carriage rides occurred on an almost daily basis, for distances that ranged from five to fifteen miles. Patients, escorted by attendants, sometimes took a coach to attend church, a public meeting or an “amusing exhibition.” For those wishing more exercise, frequent walks of several miles could be pursued. Fishing parties, sometimes lasting all day, also appeared to be popular with male patients. The close proximity of the Hospital to the nearby Fairmount Park, a private pleasure ground that hosted concerts, fireworks displays, and the occasional balloon ascension, offered additional entertainment.

By the 1850s, the limited space to accommodate patients and the encroachment of the city upon the once rural site prompted the hospital Board of Managers to relocate the facility elsewhere. While it took close to twenty years to complete a new building, the Maryland Hospital moved from its original site to Catonsville in Baltimore County in October 1872. Most of the old hospital was razed by the end of 1873.

Digital image from the Maryland State Archives: MSA SC 5980-1-34.


“The Hospital at Baltimore”

In Special Collections on June 18, 2013 by rob schoeberlein Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,

"Hospital," 1801

“Hospital,” 1801

The Hospital at Baltimore
The circumstances surrounding the founding of the Hospital in Baltimore, the first medical institution in Maryland to specialize in the treatment of mental illness, remain obscure. The waves of yellow fever that visited Baltimore during the 1790s saw the hasty construction of temporary buildings and a tent city for residents upon the high ground above Fell’s Point. This site, chosen for its supposed better air and good drainage, would eventually serve as the six and three-quarter acre grounds of a permanent hospital. The Warner and Hanna map of 1801 (see above) is the first to depict the existence of the hospital, showing a main building, complete with a formal garden and walkways. Though this is likely a fanciful depiction, the remote location, some one-half mile from any densely settled area, likely ensured a peaceful setting for the convalescent. Oriented to the south on a hill, the hospital overlooked the distant Baltimore harbor. One discordant feature, however, was the presence of a graveyard or Potter’s field directly opposite the hospital’s front facade.  Commenting upon the sight of the graves, a later visitor to the institution remarked, “I think [it] rather depressing to the spirits of the unfortunate invalids.”

Knowledge of the facility’s interior comes mostly in the form of visitor accounts and reports of the yearly inspections by the hospital board. In the 1820s, one could tour the facility for the sum of 12 ½ cents. The mentally ill, however, were not intentionally exhibited, as had been the case at the Pennsylvania Hospital. Anne Royall, the published travel diarist, toured the Baltimore facility in 1824. After viewing the wing dedicated for the mentally ill, she wrote:

It is against the rules of the institution to suffer strangers to see the insane; this prohibition proceeds from motives of delicacy towards the friends and relations of those afflicted, who do not wish them exposed. The doors of their cells are secured with bars of iron and heated by furnaces placed on the outside of the wall, one to every room, which conveys heat to the patient. I looked into some of these cells, which were vacant; they were similar to those occupied by the sick, excepting the bedsteads, which were of iron, and without chairs or tables. Though I could not see the unfortunate beings, I could hear them utter the most shocking oaths.

The noises Mrs. Royall heard likely emanated from the patient cells within the basement. The mentally ill deemed violent likely resided here, some being chained behind strong doors.


Hospital (renamed The Maryland Hospital), 1817

Hospital (renamed The Maryland Hospital), 1817

Founding and Early Years
Much credit has been given to Jeremiah Yellott, a mariner and prosperous merchant, for promoting the cause of a permanent hospital at this site, but it is likely a historical embellishment. Influential families more likely banded together and petitioned the State to charter such an institution. Some private citizens understood the need for such a general hospital, pledging money for its support. What is certain is that the Maryland legislature considered a bill to grant a charter to found such an institution in November of 1797. In the Senate proceedings of early 1798, after the passage of the bill of incorporation, the legislators redirected $8,000 originally earmarked for an educational academy to the cause of the hospital, since “this institution is an object of great state importance, and extensively interesting to the people of Maryland.”

The interest of the State or its people, however, would not be sustained. By 1801, when the first ward opened in the partially completed Hospital at Baltimore, its noble purpose had been subverted. During its early years, the institution appears to have catered largely to sick sailors under a U.S. Government contact. From 1802 to mid-1807, the hospital served primarily as a marine hospital, seemingly forgetting its mission to the poor and mentally ill. Instead, another newly founded institution, the Baltimore Dispensary, served as the city’s charity hospital, caring for over 600 patients in 1801 alone.

Since few hospital records for this period exist, it is impossible to determine the number of patients under care. While it is not known for certain if the mentally ill were confined in the institution during this time, some evidence exists to throw doubt upon this supposition. In 1807, Baltimore Mayor Thorowgood Smith would note: “Our City Hospital, if ever designed as a receptacle of deranged persons (and it would appear that this was one object intended to be accomplished by those who caused it to be erected), is very badly constructed for the purpose and should… maniacs under certain terms and conditions…be admitted there, appropriations will be required to make the indispensable alterations in the building.”

Evidentially the operation proved less than economically viable. The 1804 report of the Visiting Committee regarded the building to be in poor shape, noting decaying fences, unpainted exterior woodwork, and windows lacking weights or fastenings with the propensity to crash down and shatter.  In July 1807, after the Hospital lost the U.S. government contract, only two patients resided within the facility. The city refused to sign a long-term contract with the resident physician, who supplemented his income by growing crops of vegetables on the hospital grounds.

In 1808, community leaders and other Baltimoreans once again resurrected the prospect of the Hospital at Baltimore as a care center for the mentally ill. Mayor Smith, in his message of that year, states: “An effort has been made by you…and myself acting in our capacity as citizens of Baltimore, together with the members of the [city] Board of Health, a number of the Clergy, Physicians and other citizens to obtain from the Legislature of Maryland funds for the support of indigent lunatics within the State for this Hospital. This application has not been successful.”

The year 1808, however, appeared to be a pivotal one in the fortunes of the institution as the treatment of the mentally ill became a stated goal. The lease of the hospital to two entrepreneurial physicians, Drs. Colin Mackenzie and James Smyth, may have enhanced the reputation of the facility and prompted citizens to send their family members to Baltimore. Mackenzie had been trained at the prestigious Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s pioneering mental healthcare institution.

Several Chancery Court cases from after 1810 included documentation attesting to mentally ill patients being treated at the hospital. The cost for a patient’s care was about $100 a year, a considerable sum for that time, plus incidentals. Patients with destructive tendencies had to reimburse the facility for their actions.

Though admittance was governed by the ability to pay, certain cases were underwritten by  charities or the city.  In 1813, three Baltimoreans petitioned the city regarding a “female maniac” who had been found on the street with her near-dead infant clutched within her arms. Both were admitted to the hospital, with their bills paid by charity. The infant died, but the mother recovered slowly, and the petitioners hoped the city could take over the expenses as the charitable funds had run out. The city replied that they could not; the woman should instead be sent to the city-run almshouse.

Evidence suggests that the hospital made an effort to retain patients where the ability to pay still existed. In 1817, the hospital steward petitioned the court for the guardianship over an elderly dementia patient still possessing an estate. The petition was successful and the woman remained under medical care.

The Hospital at Baltimore, however, acted mostly as a general hospital.  A patient census for 1819-20 indicates no more than 13 percent of the cases being those relating to mental illness. Unfortunately, no documentary evidence exists to suggest overall treatment or level of care for patients until 1834 when, due to economic circumstances, the State assumed the management of the facility.

Digital images from the Maryland State Archives:
Charles Varle. Warner & Hanna’s Plan of the City and Environs of Baltimore [detail], 1801 , MSA SC 1213
E. Sachse & Co., E. Sachse & Co. Bird’s Eye View of the City of Baltimore [detail],1869, MSA SC 3132


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