Baltimore Revisited: Stories of Inequality and Resistance in a U.S. City

Nicknamed both “Mobtown” and “Charm City” and located on the border of the North and South, Baltimore is a city of contradictions. From media depictions in The Wire to the real-life trial of police officers for the murder of Freddie Gray, Baltimore has become a quintessential example of a struggling American city. Yet the truth about Baltimore is far more complicated—and more fascinating.


All We Do is Talk Steel: Oral Histories of Sparrows Point

All We Do is Talk Steel: Oral Histories of Sparrows Point is a new collection of interviews with workers from the world’s largest steel mill which closed in 2012. These interviews emphasize the “epic civilization” of the Bethlehem Steel steelworkers, including their efforts to build a union, campaigns to bring civil rights and women’s rights into the union and the families and communities they created along the way. [26 March 2019 article from The Dundalk Eagle]

Contact Bill Barry to obtain a signed copy.


Baltimore Prohibition: Wet & Dry in the Free State

Baltimore native Michael T. Walsh, an adjunct professor of U.S. history at the Community College of Baltimore County, has published Baltimore Prohibition: Wet & Dry in the Free State. “There was perhaps no region more opposed to Prohibition than Baltimore and Maryland. The Free State was defiant in its protest from thoroughly wet Governor Albert Ritchie to esteemed Catholic Cardinal James Gibbons. Maryland was the only state to not pass a "baby" Volstead enforcement act. Speakeasies emerged at Frostburg's Gunter Hotel and at Baltimore's famed Belvedere Hotel, whose famous owls' blinking eyes would notify its patrons if it was safe to indulge in bootleg liquor. Rumrunners were frequent on the Chesapeake Bay as bootleggers populated the city streets. Journalist H.L. Mencken, known as the "Sage of Baltimore," drew national attention criticizing the new law. Author Michael T. Walsh presents this colorful history.” [Arcadia Press]


Cherry Hill: raising successful black children in jim crow baltimore

Baltimore native Linda G. Morris published Cherry Hill: Raising Successful Black Children in Jim Crow Baltimore in 2018. “Before Opie lived in Mayberry, Beaver and Wally in Mayfield, and Betty, Bud and Kathy in Springfield, there were thousands of little Black children experiencing the same quality of life in Cherry Hill, a post WWII planned suburban community containing a public housing project on a southeastern peninsula of Baltimore City. These children had a sense of being loved, being free, being safe, and above all, having the space they needed to stretch out and enjoy small town living. They could play all day with their friends, skate and ride their bikes all over town, and chase the ice cream man's truck, with the admonishment to be home by the time the streetlights came on. The author was one of those children, and she rallied sixty or so of her Cherry Hill contemporaries to share what life was like for them in what they know to be a special place and time.” (Google Books)

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Old Maryland Mills, A Portfolio

“Old Maryland Mills, A Portfolio” is John McGrain’s 5th book in recent years with photos from his extensive photographic collection. Part I is a history of Maryland mills beginning in Colonial times through the 1970’s. Part II, “Album of Maryland Mills” is packed with mill photographs from Maryland Counties.
Old Mills is now on sale exclusively through the HSBC library. Copies may be purchased for $20 (tax included) in person or through the mail for $20 plus $5 shipping and handling.

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BCHS board member Ida E. Jones’ new book was published in January 2019

BCHS board member Ida E. Jones’ new book was published in January 2019

Baltimore: A Political History Hardcover  by Matthew A. Crenson


Charm City or Mobtown? People from Baltimore glory in its eccentric charm, small-town character, and North-cum-South culture. But for much of the nineteenth century, violence and disorder plagued the city. More recently, the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in police custody has prompted Baltimoreans―and the entire nation―to focus critically on the rich and tangled narrative of black–white relations in Baltimore, where slavery once existed alongside the largest community of free blacks in the United States.

Matthew A. Crenson, a distinguished political scientist and Baltimore native, examines the role of politics and race throughout Baltimore’s history. From its founding in 1729 up through the recent past, Crenson follows Baltimore’s political evolution from an empty expanse of marsh and hills to a complicated city with distinct ways of doing business. Revealing how residents at large engage (and disengage) with one another across an expansive agenda of issues and conflicts, Crenson shows how politics helped form this complex city’s personality.

Crenson provocatively argues that Baltimore’s many quirks are likely symptoms of urban underdevelopment. The city’s longtime domination by the general assembly―and the corresponding weakness of its municipal authority―forced residents to adopt the private and extra-governmental institutions that shaped early Baltimore. On the one hand, Baltimore was resolutely parochial, split by curious political quarrels over issues as minor as loose pigs. On the other, it was keenly attuned to national politics: during the Revolution, for instance, Baltimoreans were known for their comparative radicalism. Crenson describes how, as Baltimore and the nation grew, whites competed with blacks, slave and free, for menial and low-skill work. He also explores how the urban elite thrived by avoiding, wherever possible, questions of slavery vs. freedom―just as, long after the Civil War and emancipation, wealthier Baltimoreans preferred to sidestep racial controversy.

Peering into the city’s 300-odd neighborhoods, this fascinating account holds up a mirror to Baltimore, asking whites in particular to re-examine the past and accept due responsibility for future racial progress.


Baltimore Prohibition: Wet and Dry in the Free State by Michael T. Walsh  


There was perhaps no region more opposed to Prohibition than Baltimore and Maryland. The Free State was defiant in its protest from thoroughly wet Governor Albert Ritchie to esteemed Catholic Cardinal James Gibbons. Maryland was the only state to not pass a "baby" Volstead enforcement act. Speakeasies emerged at Frostburg's Gunter Hotel and at Baltimore's famed Belvedere Hotel, whose famous owls' blinking eyes would notify its patrons if it was safe to indulge in bootleg liquor. Rumrunners were frequent on the Chesapeake Bay as bootleggers populated the city streets. Journalist H.L. Mencken, known as the "Sage of Baltimore," drew national attention criticizing the new law. Author Michael T. Walsh presents this colorful history.


Flickering Treasures: Rediscovering Baltimore's Forgotten Movie Theaters by Amy Davis and Barry Levinson


Baltimore has been home to hundreds of theaters since the first moving pictures flickered across muslin sheets. These monuments to popular culture, adorned with grandiose architectural flourishes, seemed an everlasting part of Baltimore’s landscape. By 1950, when the city’s population peaked, Baltimore’s movie fans could choose from among 119 theaters. But by 2016, the number of cinemas had dwindled to only three. Today, many of the city’s theaters are boarded up, even burned out, while others hang on with varying degrees of dignity as churches or stores.

In Flickering Treasures, Amy Davis, an award-winning photojournalist for the Baltimore Sun, pairs vintage black-and-white images of opulent downtown movie palaces and modest neighborhood theaters with her own contemporary full-color photographs, inviting us to imagine Charm City’s past as we confront today’s neglected urban landscape. Punctuated by engaging stories and interviews with local moviegoers, theater owners, ushers, and cashiers, plus commentary from celebrated Baltimore filmmakers Barry Levinson and John Waters, the book brings each theater and decade vividly to life.

From Electric Park, the Century, and the Hippodrome to the Royal, the Parkway, the Senator, and scores of other beloved venues, the book delves into Baltimore’s history, including its troubling legacy of racial segregation. The descriptions of the technological and cultural changes that have shaped both American cities and the business of movie exhibition will trigger affectionate memories for many readers. A map and timeline reveal the one-time presence of movie houses in every corner of the city, and fact boxes include the years of operation, address, architect, and seating capacity for each of the 72 theaters profiled, along with a brief description of each theater’s distinct character.

Highlighting the emotional resonance of film and the loyalty of Baltimoreans to their neighborhoods, Flickering Treasures is a profound story of change, loss, and rebirth.


The Streak: Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken Jr., and Baseball's Most Historic Record by John Eisenberg


The fascinating story of baseball’s legendary “Ironmen,” two players from different eras who each achieved the coveted and sometimes confounding record of most consecutive games played

When Cal Ripken Jr. began his career with the Baltimore Orioles at age twenty-one, he had no idea he would someday beat the historic record of playing 2,130 games in a row, a record set forty-two years before by the fabled “Iron Horse” of the New York Yankees, Lou Gehrig. Ripken went on to surpass that record by 502 games, and the baseball world was floored. Few feats in sports history have generated more acclaim. But the record spawns an array of questions. When did someone first think it was a good idea to play in so many games without taking a day off? Who owned the record before Gehrig? Whose streak—Gehrig’s or Ripken’s—was the more difficult achievement?

 Through probing research, meticulous analysis, and colorful parallel storytelling, The Streak delves into this impressive but controversial milestone, unraveling Gehrig’s at-times unwitting pursuit of that goal (Babe Ruth used to think Gehrig crazy for wanting to play every game), and Ripken’s fierce determination to stay in the lineup and continue to contribute whatever he could even as his skills diminished with age.

 The question looms: How do these streaks compare? There were so many factors: the length of seasons, the number of teams in the major leagues, the inclusion of nonwhite players, travel, technology, medical advances, and even media are all part of the equation. This is a book that captures the deeply American appreciation—as seen in the sport itself—for a workaday mentality and that desire to be there for the game every time it called.


Your Maryland: Little-Known Histories from the Shores of the Chesapeake to the Foothills of the Allegheny Mountains by Ric Cottom


"Good evening, I’m Ric Cottom. Welcome to Your Maryland." Since 2002, when he first delivered his now-classic radio segment on Maryland history, Ric Cottom has narrated hundreds of little-known human interest stories. Collected here are 72 of his favorite on-air pieces, enhanced with beautiful papercut illustrations by Baltimore artist Annie Howe. From accused witches and the murderous career of gunsmith John Dandy through tales of Johnny U and the greatest game ever played, Your Maryland covers nearly four centuries of the Free State’s heroes and scoundrels.

Entertaining listeners of all ages while sparking their interest in the past, Cottom’s beloved Your Maryland is a unique blend of carefully researched regional history and narrative nonfiction. He deftly emphasizes the human dimension of Maryland’s colorful past: its athletes (two- and four-legged), beautiful spies, brilliant writers, misunderstood pirates, and ghosts. All of that color, suspense, and humor―as well as the author’s unusual talent for discovering interesting historical facts and personages―is part of your Maryland.


John W. Garrett and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad by Kathleen Waters Sander  


Chartered in 1827 as the country’s first railroad, the legendary Baltimore and Ohio played a unique role in the nation’s great railroad drama and became the model for American railroading. John W. Garrett, who served as president of the B&O from 1858 to 1884, ranked among the great power brokers of the time. In this gripping and well-researched account, historian Kathleen Waters Sander tells the story of the B&O’s beginning and its unprecedented plan to build a rail line from Baltimore over the Allegheny Mountains to the Ohio River, considered to be the most ambitious engineering feat of its time. The B&O’s success ignited "railroad fever" and helped to catapult railroading to America’s most influential industry in the nineteenth century.

Taking the B&O helm during the railroads’ expansive growth in the 1850s, Garrett soon turned his attention to the demands of the Civil War. Sander explains how, despite suspected Southern sympathies, Garrett became one of President Abraham Lincoln's most trusted confidantes and strategists, making the B&O available for transporting Northern troops and equipment to critical battles. The Confederates attacked the B&O 143 times, but could not put "Mr. Lincoln’s Road" out of business. After the war, Garrett became one of the first of the famed Gilded Age tycoons, rising to unimagined power and wealth. Sander explores how―when he was not fighting fierce railroad wars with competitors―Garrett steered the B&O into highly successful entrepreneurial endeavors, quadrupling track mileage to reach important commercial markets, jumpstarting Baltimore’s moribund postwar economy, and constructing lavish hotels in Western Maryland to open tourism in the region.

Sander brings to life the brazen risk-taking, clashing of oversized egos, and opulent lifestyles of the Gilded Age tycoons in this richly illustrated portrait of one man’s undaunted efforts to improve the B&O and advance its technology. Chronicling the epic technological transformations of the nineteenth century, from rudimentary commercial trade and primitive transportation westward to the railroads’ indelible impact on the country and the economy, John W. Garrett and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad is a vivid account of Garrett’s twenty-six-year reign.


Soldiers, Spies & Steam: A History of the Northern Central Railway in the Civil by Scott Mingus  


The first book to examine the role of the Northern Central Railway during the Civil War, this work discusses the origins of the NCRW, its route structure, destructive Confederate raids at the start of the war, and the troops who rode the rails. President Lincoln used the Northern Central to travel to and from Gettysburg for the dedication of the National Cemetery; his brief remarks are immortalized as the Gettysburg Address. His funeral train would also pass over the same route. Accidents, spies, sabotage, political intrigue, and the expansion of the railroad as a military and economic necessity form the backbone of the book. Of special interest is a detailed examination of a series of controversial photographs taken at Hanover Junction, Pennsylvania, which may or may not show Abraham Lincoln on his way to deliver the Gettysburg Address.


Baltimore City Police History: A Historical Timeline by Kenny James Driscoll Sr,‎  Wesley Wise (Editor)


A book about the history of the Baltimore Police Department, from start to present. This is done in a yearly timeline, followed by a day-to-day timeline.


Musical Maryland: A History of Song and Performance from the Colonial Period to the Age of Radio by David K. Hildebrand, Elizabeth M. Schaaf


In Musical Maryland, the first comprehensive survey of the music emanating from the Old Line State, David K. Hildebrand and Elizabeth M. Schaaf explore the myriad ways in which music has enriched the lives of Marylanders. From the drinking songs of colonial Annapolis, the liturgical music of the Zion Lutheran Church, and the work songs of the tobacco fields to the exuberant marches of late nineteenth-century Baltimore Orioles festivals, Chick Webb’s mastery on drums, and the triumphs of the Baltimore Opera Society, this richly illustrated volume explores more than 300 years of Maryland’s music history.

Beginning with early compositions performed in private settings and in public concerts, this book touches on the development of music clubs like the Tuesday Club, the Florestan Society, and H. L. Mencken’s Saturday Night Club, as well as lasting institutions such as the Peabody Institute and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO). Yet the soundscape also includes militia quicksteps, sea chanteys, and other work songs. The book describes the writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner"―perhaps Maryland's single greatest contribution to the nation's musical history. It chronicles the wide range of music created and performed by Maryland’s African American musicians along Pennsylvania Avenue in racially segregated Baltimore, from jazz to symphonic works. It also tells the true story of a deliberately integrated concert that the BSO staged at the end of World War II.

The book is full of musical examples, engravings, paintings, drawings, and historic photographs that not only portray the composers and performers but also the places around the state in which music flourished. Illuminating sidebars by William Biehl focus on late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century song of the kind evoked by the USS Baltimore or inspired by the state's history, natural beauty, and romantic steamboats. The book also offers a sampling of the tunes that Maryland’s more remarkable composers and performers, including Billie Holiday, Eubie Blake, and Cab Calloway, contributed to American music before the homogenization that arrived in earnest after World War II.

Bringing to life not only portraits of musicians, composers, and conductors whose stories and recollections are woven into the fabric of this book, but also musical scores and concert halls, Musical Maryland is an engaging, authoritative, and bold look at an endlessly compelling subject.


Two against Lincoln: Reverdy Johnson and Horatio Seymour, Champions of the Loyal Opposition by William C. Harris


Reverdy Johnson (1796–1876), Maryland senator, and Horatio Seymour, Democratic governor of New York, were two influential opponents of Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans during the Civil War. But unlike the Copperheads, they staunchly supported the war to suppress the rebellion. The story of these two figures of the loyal opposition by Lincoln Prize-winning author William C. Harris provides a new way of understanding critical controversies relating to the purpose of the Civil War, its conduct, emancipation, white racial opinion, loyalty, military conscription, and civil liberties.

Johnson, a distinguished lawyer, former Whig, and conservative Unionist, did not believe that the secessionist states had left the Union, an idea with broad implications for post-war reconstruction. Like Seymour, he opposed Republican efforts in Washington to end slavery, assuming such a policy would backfire against the Union. However, Johnson in 1864 spoke in favor of the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery. Before the war, Seymour supported Stephen Douglas's popular sovereignty policies, allowing the territories to decide whether or not to permit slavery, and during the war he opposed any tampering with slavery. Two Against Lincoln explores how these two men negotiated issues of emancipation, reconstruction, and reconciliation, all while navigating the roiling currents of partisan politics. The book includes illuminating accounts of the framing of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1866, the ephemeral National Union (Democratic) Party of 1866, the role of Senator Johnson in the approval of the military reconstruction acts of 1867, the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, and, finally, the presidential election of 1868 in which Seymour as the Democratic candidate did better than expected against war hero U. S. Grant.

Building on the author’s award winning work on Lincoln and the border states, Two Against Lincoln illustrates the complexity of political divisions in the Union states, as embodied in two powerful, controversial leaders of the time.


The No. 26 Sparrows Point Line: Chronicles of the Red Rocket (1903 – 1958) by Elmer Hall

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This book details the No. 26 Sparrows Point Streetcar Line. It includes an overview of all the routes that the Sparrows Point line utilized over its entire history. These include the old Point Breeze line over Colgate Creek, the Howard and Franklin Streets Route, the Fayette and Pearl Streets route via Fayette Street, the Fayette and Pearl Streets via Lombard Street, Pratt and Grundy to Sparrows Point, the Fort Howard Line and the route to Bay Shore. The route proceeds across Fairmount Avenue to Pratt and Grundy. it continues out of the Eastern Ave underpass to Dundalk Ave. From there it proceeds south on Dundalk Ave crossing the Bear Creek drawbridge before entering the shipyard at Sparrows Point. It proceeds on to the town of Sparrows Point and Sparrows Point Station.

Wallis in Love: The Untold Life of the Duchess of Windsor, the Woman Who Changed the Monarchy by Andrew Morton

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Before she became known as the woman who enticed a king from his throne and birthright, Bessie Wallis Warfield was a prudish and particular girl from Baltimore. At turns imaginative, ambitious, and spoiled, Wallis's first words as recalled by her family were "me, me." From that young age, she was in want of nothing but stability, status, and social acceptance as she fought to climb the social ladder and take her place in London society. As irony would have it, she would gain the love and devotion of a king, but only at the cost of his throne and her reputation.

In WALLIS IN LOVE, acclaimed biographer Andrew Morton offers a fresh portrait of Wallis Simpson in all her vibrancy and brazenness as she transformed from a hard-nosed gold-digger to charming chatelaine. Using diary entries, letters, and other never-before-seen records, Morton takes us through Wallis's romantic adventures in Washington, China, and her entrance into the strange wonderland that is London society. During her journey, we meet an extraordinary array of characters, many of whom smoothed the way for her dalliance with the king of England, Edward VIII.

WALLIS IN LOVE goes beyond Wallis's infamous persona and reveals a complex, domineering woman striving to determine her own fate and grapple with matters of the heart.

Health and Humanity: A History of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 1935-1985 by Karen Kruse Thomas


Between 1935 and 1985, the nascent public health profession developed scientific evidence and practical know-how to prevent death on an unprecedented scale. Thanks to public health workers, life expectancy rose rapidly as generations grew up free from the scourges of smallpox, typhoid, and syphilis. In Health and Humanity, Karen Kruse Thomas offers a thorough account of the growth of academic public health in the United States through the prism of the oldest and largest independent school of public health in the world. Thomas follows the transformation of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health (JHSPH), now known as the Bloomberg School of Public Health, from a small, private institute devoted to doctoral training and tropical disease research into a leading global educator and innovator in fields from biostatistics to mental health to pathobiology.

A provocative, wide-ranging account of how midcentury public health leveraged federal grants and anti-Communist fears to build the powerful institutional networks behind the health programs of the CDC, WHO, and USAID, the book traces how Johns Hopkins helped public health take center stage during the scientific research boom triggered by World War II. It also examines the influence of politics on JHSPH, the school’s transition to federal grant funding, the globalization of public health in response to hot and cold war influences, and the expansion of the school’s teaching program to encompass social science as well as lab science.

Revealing how faculty members urged foreign policy makers to include saving lives in their strategy of "winning hearts and minds," Thomas argues that the growth of chronic disease and the loss of Rockefeller funds moved the JHSPH toward international research funded by the federal government, creating a situation in which it was sometimes easier for the school to improve the health of populations in India and Turkey than on its own doorstep in East Baltimore. Health and Humanity is a comprehensive account of the ways that JHSPH has influenced the practice, pedagogy, and especially our very understanding of public health on both global and local scales.

Baltimore Memories: A Pictorial History of the mid 1800s through the 1930s  by The Baltimore Sun Media Group & Enoch Pratt Free Library


The Baltimore Sun Media Group, in partnership with Enoch Pratt Free Library, is pleased to present this hardcover coffee-table book, "Baltimore Memories: A Pictorial History of the 1800s through the 1930s." This heirloom-quality, 168-page book features a glimpse of life in and around Baltimore in stunning historic photos from the archives of the Sun and Enoch Pratt Free Library. We are thrilled to also include historic photos from our readers.