05 - Baltimore and the Patapsco River



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Baltimore sits at the head of the Patapsco River. Home of the Star Spangled Banner, the first railroad in the United States and gateway for the grain and coal from the Appalachian mountains and Ohio valleys, Baltimore has transitioned from a heavy industrial base to a balanced economy. Baltimore's past and its future can be seen from the waters of the Potapsco and its tributaries.




By Hank McComas

Established in 1729, the town of Baltimore served the economic needs of the farmers in the surrounding rich farm lands. Lying farther west than any other major Atlantic port, Baltimore became a favorite port for shippers supplying the early western migrations and later for getting products from the rich coal fields of the Appalachians and fertile valleys of the Ohio. Between the war for Independence and the war of 1812, Baltimore tripled its size to nearly 50,000 residents. Baltimore quickly became an economic powerhouse and grew to the second largest city in the United States. The importance of Baltimore as a transportation hub is seen in this early road map.



Over the years, Baltimore established a number of "firsts": the first professional sports organization ( Maryland Jockey Club 1743 ), first US stage coach (Baltimore to Philadelphia 1773); first dredging machine ( Baltimore Mud Machine 1783); first manned balloon ascension in America ( Edward Warren - 1784); first electric refridgerator ( Thomas Moore - 1803 ); first still existing (barely) manufacturer of silverware in U.S. ( Samuel Kirk Company -1815); first permanent monument to George Washington ( THE Washington Manument - 1815) ; first commercial railroad for passengers and freight ( B&O railroad - 1828); first coal burning steam locomotive ( Tom Thumb - 1830); first steam boat company in the U.S.( Baltimore Steam Packet Company - 1840 ); world's first telegraph line ( Baltimore to Washington - Samuel A Morse 1844 ); first YMCA ( Pratt & Scroeder Streets 1859 ); first animal welfare association ( American Humane Society - 1878 ); first synthetic sweetner; ( saccharine - John Hopkins University - 1879 dramamine & CPR too! ); first commercial electric street car (Baltimore to Hampden - 1885); first steam tanker built in America ( "the Maverick" - 1890); first commercial antiacid ( Bromo Seltzer - 1891); first practical submarine ( "Argonaut" - 1897 ); first publically funded municipal orchestra ( Baltimore Symphony Orchestra -1916 ); first photo of earth from space ( Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab - 1946); first African American supreme court justice ( Thurgood Marshall - 1967 ).

Baltimore played a crucial role in the War of 1812 by defeating the British in the Battle of Baltimore. After sacking Washington and burning many Federal government buildings, the British naval fleet met stiff resistance when soldiers stationed at Fort McHenry successfully held off a British naval attack on Baltimore ( Battle of Fort McHenry ). That fierce battle was commemorated in a poem by Francis Scott Key and later became the words to our National Anthem. British troops landing at North Point and marching overland toward Baltimore also met with stiff resistance and were driven back to their ships ( Battle of North Point ). British forces then sailed further north in the Bay and attacked Havre de Grace and other towns at the head of the Bay and along the Eastern Shore.

When the war ended in early 1815, Baltimoreans resumed their vigorous foreign trade efforts and Baltimore grew into the second largest city in the United States. Baltimore's overseas trade was principally with the Caribbean Islands and South America, regions undergoing economic and social changes. At the same time, the American frontier was pushing even farther west, threatening to leave Baltimore behind in its economic wake. The state of Maryland concentrated its efforts on completing the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, designed to link the Potomac and Ohio River valleys, but the city of Baltimore supported an overland link in the form of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Although the two competed for routes and freight, to the eventual ruin of the canal and the financial embarrassment of the state, Baltimore's railroad reached Cumberland in 1842 and, by 1874, stretched to Chicago. Baltimore harbor became a busy port with large ocean sailing ship docking at its many piers to off load cargo for re-distribution by smaller watercraft throughout the Chesapeake region or loading onto the railroad for transport to all ppoints to the north ansd west.



Author at Fort Carol in Baltimore Harbor by Julio Perez

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