Baltimore

In 1729, Maryland’s colonial assembly appointed seven commissioners to purchase 60 acres of land on the north bank of the Patapsco River and establish a city named Baltimore. Although a latecomer among East Coast cities, Baltimore experienced phenomenal growth, and it quickly became an important part of the social, political, cultural, and economic landscape of colonial North America. Initially, the site upon which Baltimore was founded consisted of three small settlements, Jonas Town (Jones Town), Fell’s Point, and Baltimore Town. The commissioners who purchased the land for Baltimore Town divided it into sixty 1-acre lots, which they then sold for 40 shillings each. Each new settler was allowed the purchase of a single lot and was required to build a house on the land within eighteen months of the date of purchase or forfeit the title. For almost thirty years, the area did not experience much growth. The settlement at Baltimore Town consisted of twenty-five houses, a church, a brewery, a tobacco inspection house, a tavern, and a barbershop. By the 1760s, however, Baltimore became increasingly attractive to sailors and merchants, who recognized its value as a port that could easily accommodate local, as well as overseas, trade. Baltimore annexed both Jonas Town and Fell’s Point by the 1770s and, by 1776, had a population of 6,755, a much larger number than Maryland’s capital, Annapolis. Like most other colonial cities, especially those located on or near the coast, Baltimore owed its existence to trade. In the years preceding the Revolution, Baltimore became the center of trade in Maryland, and a variety of goods passed through the burgeoning port on a daily basis. After 1760, large amounts of wheat, corn, and flour from Maryland’s upper Eastern shore, as well as tobacco and flax, passed through Baltimore on its way to ports as far off as the West Indies and Europe. By 1760, Baltimore had also become a critical link in a network of local trade that extended to all parts of Chesapeake Bay. The coming of the Revolution only served to further enhance Baltimore’s status as a social, political, and economic leader within the colonies. It became the county seat in 1768. Baltimore residents also formed their own Sons of Liberty political club and swore resistance to the Stamp Act. Following the Boston Tea Party, Baltimore residents decided to send much-needed food to Boston to help those individuals who could not work because of the British blockade of Boston Harbor. Baltimore also became the temporary site (from December 1776 to February 1777) of the United States in Congress Assembled, when British capture of Philadelphia seemed inevitable. Countless Baltimore residents fought in the Revolution, and more than 240 privateers left the port of Baltimore to attack British commercial vessels. The first cruisers of the Continental Navy, the Hornet and the Wasp, were at least partially constructed in Baltimore shipyards. Founded in 1729, Baltimore was a relative latecomer among East Coast cities, but it soon became one of the busiest ports in the Chesapeake and a center of shipbuilding, maritime trade, finance, crafts, education, and medicine. (Private Collection/Bridgeman Art Library) Baltimore experienced a growth spurt during the Revolution and by 1790 had a population of 13,503 inhabitants. By the 1790s, Baltimore’s average annual exports included approximately 260,000 barrels of flour, 20,000 barrels of beef and pork, 20,000 barrels of fish, 8,000 casks of butter and lard, 8 million board feet of lumber, and 5 million shingles, with a total value of approximately $3.6 million. In addition, Baltimore was exporting foreign articles worth approximately $9 million, mostly West Indian sugar that was sent to Europe aboard American ships. Trading was often conducted in one of Baltimore’s many public markets, the first of which, located on the northwest corner of Baltimore and Gay streets, was in operation by 1765. A few wealthy merchants dominated trade in Baltimore and in most cases also assumed the role of civic and social leader. In addition to overseeing the activities at their warehouses and wharves, located along the waterfront, and their counting houses, located in the center of Baltimore’s financial district, wealthy merchants served as town commissioners and were the majority of stockholders in the Bank of Maryland as well as the local branch of the Bank of the United States. By 1790, Baltimore had become the fifth-largest city in the United States and one of the busiest ports on the Chesapeake. It was a center for shipbuilding and the related crafts of rope making, sail making, and rigging manufacture, as well as the home of many skilled artisans and craftsmen, including carpenters, masons, tanners, saddlers, butchers, bakers, and cabinetmakers. In the early nineteenth century, Baltimore would become a center of education and medicine as well. Michael A. Rembis See also: Calvert, George (First Lord Baltimore); Maryland; Maryland (Chronology). Bibliography Land, Aubrey C. Colonial Maryland: A History. Millwood, NY: KTO, 1981. Maryland Historical Society. Maryland Heritage: Five Baltimore Institutions Celebrate the American Bicentennial. Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1976. Middleton, Arthur Pierce. Tobacco Coast: A Maritime History of Chesapeake Bay in the Colonial Era. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984. Reps, John W. Tidewater Towns: City Planning in Colonial Virginia and Maryland. Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1972. Banks and Banking The concept of banking dates centuries back to the days of biblical moneychangers. In every transaction, moneychangers took a percentage. They collected a profit, which is what every bank does in order to extend credit or loan money. The first country to impose mercantilism and profiteering on its American colonies was Spain. The Spanish American colonies were not allowed independent access to markets in Europe or abroad. All trade had to be filtered through Spain first, and heavy tariffs were imposed on all imports. The rationale, of course, was that the colonies only existed to support the mother country; and all profits were to return to her. Profit seeking also influenced the settlement of the British colonies. For example, Jamestown was funded by the English shareholders of a joint-stock company. And though the colony faced major setbacks at the outset, when it began raising and selling tobacco the company’s shareholders began receiving substantial profits. Baltimore, Maryland @ 48 Hour Film Project Phillips Seafood Baltimore Restaurant Award Winning Crab Cakes National Aquarium – Baltimore Aquarium Visit Baltimore

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