Upcoming releases on Baltimore history

The Men of Mobtown: Policing Baltimore in the Age of Slavery and Emancipation (Justice, Power, and Politics) by Adam Malka


What if racialized mass incarceration is not a perversion of our criminal justice system's liberal ideals, but rather a natural conclusion? Adam Malka raises this disturbing possibility through a gripping look at the origins of modern policing in the influential hub of Baltimore during and after slavery's final decades. He argues that America's new professional police forces and prisons were developed to expand, not curb, the reach of white vigilantes, and are best understood as a uniformed wing of the gangs that controlled free black people by branding them—and treating them—as criminals. The post–Civil War triumph of liberal ideals thus also marked a triumph of an institutionalized belief in black criminality.

Mass incarceration may be a recent phenomenon, but the problems that undergird the "new Jim Crow" are very, very old. As Malka makes clear, a real reckoning with this national calamity requires not easy reforms but a deeper, more radical effort to overcome the racial legacies encoded into the very DNA of our police institutions.


On Middle Ground: A History of the Jews of Baltimore by Eric L. Goldstein, and Deborah R. Weiner


In 1938, Gustav Brunn and his family fled Nazi Germany and settled in Baltimore. Brunn found a job at McCormick’s Spice Company but was fired after three days when, according to family legend, the manager discovered he was Jewish. He started his own successful business using a spice mill he brought over from Germany and developed a blend especially for the seafood purveyors across the street. Before long, his Old Bay spice blend would grace kitchen cabinets in virtually every home in Maryland. The Brunns sold the business in 1986. Four years later, Old Bay was again sold―to McCormick.

In On Middle Ground, the first truly comprehensive history of Baltimore’s Jewish community, Eric L. Goldstein and Deborah R. Weiner describe not only the formal institutions of Jewish life but also the everyday experiences of families like the Brunns and of a diverse Jewish population that included immigrants and natives, factory workers and department store owners, traditionalists and reformers. The story of Baltimore Jews―full of absorbing characters and marked by dramas of immigration, acculturation, and assimilation―is the story of American Jews in microcosm. But its contours also reflect the city’s unique culture.

Goldstein and Weiner argue that Baltimore’s distinctive setting as both a border city and an immigrant port offered opportunities for advancement that made it a magnet for successive waves of Jewish settlers. The authors detail how the city began to attract enterprising merchants during the American Revolution, when it thrived as one of the few ports remaining free of British blockade. They trace Baltimore’s meteoric rise as a commercial center, which drew Jewish newcomers who helped the upstart town surpass Philadelphia as the second-largest American city. They explore the important role of Jewish entrepreneurs as Baltimore became a commercial gateway to the South and later developed a thriving industrial scene.

Readers learn how, in the twentieth century, the growth of suburbia and the redevelopment of downtown offered scope to civic leaders, business owners, and real estate developers. From symphony benefactor Joseph Meyerhoff to Governor Marvin Mandel and trailblazing state senator Rosalie Abrams, Jews joined the ranks of Baltimore’s most influential cultural, philanthropic, and political leaders while working on the grassroots level to reshape a metro area confronted with the challenges of modern urban life.

Accessibly written and enriched by more than 130 illustrations, On Middle Ground reveals that local Jewish life was profoundly shaped by Baltimore’s "middleness"―its hybrid identity as a meeting point between North and South, a major industrial center with a legacy of slavery, and a large city with a small-town feel.


A Paris Life, A Baltimore Treasure: The Remarkable Lives of George A. Lucas and His Art Collection by Stanley Mazaroff


In 1857, George A. Lucas, a young Baltimorean who was fluent in French and enamored of French art, arrived in Paris. There, he established an extensive personal network of celebrated artists and art dealers, becoming the quintessential French connection for American collectors. The most remarkable thing about Lucas was not the art that he acquired for his clients (who included William and Henry Walters, the founders of the Walters Art Museum, and John Taylor Johnston, the founding president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art) but the massive collection of 18,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures, and etchings, as well as 1,500 books, journals, and other sources about French artists, that he acquired for himself. Paintings by Cabanel, Corot, and Daubigny, prints by Whistler, Manet, and Cassatt, and portfolios of information about hundreds of French artists filled his apartment and spilled into the adjacent flat of his mistress.

Based primarily on Lucas’s notes and diaries, as well as thousands of other archival documents, Stanley Mazaroff’s A Paris Life, A Baltimore Treasure tells the fascinating story of how Lucas brought together the most celebrated French artists with the most prominent and wealthy American collectors of the time. It also details how, nearing the end of his life, Lucas struggled to find a future home for his collection, eventually giving it to Baltimore’s Maryland Institute. Without the means to care for the collection, the Institute loaned it to the Baltimore Museum of Art, where most of the art was placed in storage and disappeared from public view. But in 1990, when the Institute proposed to auction or otherwise sell the collection, it rose from obscurity, reached new glory as an irreplaceable cultural treasure, and became the subject of an epic battle fought in and out of court that captivated public attention and enflamed the passions of art lovers and museum officials across the nation.


Breaking Babe Ruth: Baseball's Campaign Against Its Biggest Star (Sports and American Culture) by Edmund F. Wehrle


Rather than as a Falstaffian figure of limited intellect, Edmund Wehrle reveals Babe Ruth as an ambitious, independent operator, one not afraid to challenge baseball’s draconian labor system. To the baseball establishment, Ruth’s immense popularity represented opportunity, but his rebelliousness and potential to overturn the status quo presented a threat. After a decades-long campaign waged by baseball to contain and discredit him, the Babe, frustrated and struggling with injuries and illness, grew more acquiescent, but the image of Ruth that baseball perpetuated still informs how many people remember him to this day. This new perspective, approaching Ruth more seriously and placing his life in fuller context, is long overdue.