To Benefit The Human Family

In Uncategorized on January 2, 2015 by rob schoeberlein Tagged: , , , , , ,

BRG 16, 1865-257

Petition of “Friends Association in Aid of Freeman,” signed by Rebecca Sinclair Turner, BRG16, 1865-257

As African Americans freed from the bonds of slavery made their way to Baltimore in the winter of 1864, their appearance within the city elicited mixed reactions from the white citizenry.[1]  Rebecca Sinclair Turner, a white member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), had a positive, sympathetic response. As a manager of the Friends’ Association in Aid of Freeman, she helped to house the sick and indigent former slaves, referred others to jobs, and sewed new garments as substitutes for their plantation tow cloth. Her actions sprang forth from what she deemed to be her greater purpose. Turner’s 1865 New Year’s Day journal entry revealed:

I have much to be thankful for–and [personal] desires have arisen that I may be more faithful in the performance of my duties… in all concerns pertaining to this life, whereby the human family may be benefited, and that I may so walk and act not to be a stumbling block in the way of others.[2]

Rebecca Sinclair Turner

Rebecca Sinclair Turner

Other Baltimoreans joined Turner in choosing to benefit the human family by assisting both the freedmen and the city’s general African American population, founding private, non-denominational benevolent organizations to do so.  Their ranks, derived mostly from Union sympathizers and previously helpful persons, such as Quakers and Unitarians, were few in number. This small but very significant cadre of idealistic Marylanders attempted to maximize the effects of emancipation in Baltimore by first organizing schools for the freedmen and their children.  Later, they helped to found an orphanage for the children of deceased US Colored Troops and a home for the elderly. These activities served to supplement the ongoing efforts of Baltimore’s own African American community to aid the newly emancipated.

[1] Appeal for the Shelter of Aged and Infirmed Colored People (1881), Printed Ephemera, Box D-15, Prints & Photographs Department, Maryland Historical Society Library.

[2] January 1, 1865 entry, Rebecca Sinclair Turner diary, Turner Family Papers, RG 5, 152, Society of Friends Archives, Swathmore College.


Emancipation Day in Baltimore

In Uncategorized on November 1, 2014 by rob schoeberlein Tagged: , , , , ,

Resolutions in honor... New Constitution, BCA, 1864-884

Resolutions in honor… New Constitution, BCA, 1864-884

On November 1, 1864, Maryland abolished slavery when a new state constitution forbidding the practice went into effect.  The simple words of Article 24 of that document stated:

“[T]hat hereafter, in this State, there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except in punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted; and all persons held to service or labor as slaves, are hereby declared free.”

How did the Baltimore City government react to the news of emancipation?  The all-male, all-white City Council passed a remarkable resolution that starts:

Whereas it is fitting that a people freed from a barbaric custom of a feudal age should… tak[e] their proud position among the free… Whereas the people of Maryland have by the adoption of a free State Constitution have been redeemed regenerated and disenthralled, And by this progressive act in the cause of freedom… have earned immortal honors for themselves….

A committee of the City Council, at the urging of Mayor Chapman, arranged for a 500 gun salute “as an evidence of  [the] joy felt by the people of Baltimore for the Salvation of Maryland.” Chapman further requested that church bells ring at sunrise to greet the dawning of this new era.

How did Baltimore’s African American population greet the news of emancipation?  According to the Baltimore Clipper newspaper:

The colored portion of our community converted [the first of November] into a day of holiday, thanksgiving, and prayer… they donned their best attire, and social reunions were indulged in… [t]he various churches were thronged during the entire day, and at the church on Saratoga Street [Bethel A.M.E.]… the place was crowded, and at times it was impossible for a vehicle to pass… so dense was the mass of persons. 

Emancipation Day in Baltimore, Baltimore Clipper, November 2, 1864

Emancipation Day activities in Baltimore, Baltimore Clipper, November 2, 1864







The “Other Lincoln Bible”

In Uncategorized on September 6, 2014 by rob schoeberlein Tagged: , , , , ,


The “Other Lincoln Bible,” Fisk University, Franklin Library

President Barack Obama at his inaugurations in 2009 and 2013 used a Bible once owned by the Lincoln Family. Known today as the “Lincoln Bible,” it resides currently at the Library of Congress. Do you know, however, about the “Other Lincoln Bible” at Fisk University and its Baltimore connection?

On September 7, 1864, a delegation of African American Baltimoreans paid a visit to the White House. The purpose was to express their gratitude, on behalf of city’s black community, to President Lincoln for his issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, which they termed “the most sublime State Paper of Modern Civilization.” They also wished to thank him for allowing African American men to shoulder arms in defense of the Union.

Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.[1]  Baltimore’s African American citizens soon organized a fund raising campaign to place a tangible token of their appreciation into the hands of the Chief Executive. Unfortunately, we don’t know the names of the committee members or their decision making when it came to the selection of the gift.[2]

The committee decided that a Bible would be the most appropriate gift for President Lincoln. Yet, this was to be no ordinary Bible. Only the finest would do. Here is a period description of the item:

The book in size is imperial quarto [about 11” x 15”], bound in royal purple velvet. On the upper side of the cover is a solid 18 carat gold plate, nine and a half inches in circumference, bearing a design representing the President in the act of removing the shackles from a slave. On the lower side of the cover is a solid 18 carat gold plate, four inches long and two inches wide, bearing the following inscription:

‘To ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, from the loyal colored people of Baltimore, as a token of respect and gratitude….’

Accompanying the Bible is a solid black walnut case with a silver plate on the lid, on which is engraved a picture of the Capitol and the words ‘Holy Bible.’ [3]

Over five hundred individuals, more women than men, donated various amounts for a total of $580 ($580 in 1864 is the equivalent of $8522 in 2013). The elaborate binding and the engraved gold plate may have been fabricated locally. The work involved to produce the Bible, according to a scholar of Baltimore’s nineteenth century book trade, was within the capacity of a larger city firm such as Lucas Brothers.

In 1916, Robert Todd Lincoln donated the Bible to Fisk University. Today it resides with the Special Collections Department at the John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library.


[1] We simply do not know what the reactions of Baltimore’s citizens were to this momentous news. While some Baltimore newspapers recorded the jubilations of the “contrabands” in Washington, none featured any similar celebratory events within the Monumental City. Even the Baltimore Clipper, one of the staunchest Union sympathizing local papers, merely printed the text of the Proclamation and made no editorial comments.

[2] The Lyceum Observer, an African American owned and operated Baltimore newspaper printed from 1863 to 1866, might have provided those insights. Tragically, only a single issue has survived the ages.

[3] The New York Times, September 11, 1864.













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, Courtesy of Brown University Library

[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.


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