Baltimore: A Charming City of
Baltimore: A Charming City of "Firsts"
by Marie Gullard
Baltimore, among the earliest of incorporated cities in the United States, is cloaked in a banner of groundbreaking, vision shaking "firsts." From science and technology, to commerce and education, in architecture and industry, "Charm City", for the last 200 years, has been an innovative and envied leader of the pack. Her accomplishments are legion.
Long before folks marveled at the height of the Washington Monument in D.C., they were climbing the 228 steps of Baltimore's Washington Monument for a bird's-eye view of their town. Dedicated in 1815, this massive tribute to our first president was built "uptown" from the busy port. A few years earlier, in 1798, the first fort built by our young government was erected east of the harbor. It was here, at Fort McHenry in 1814, amidst the "rocket's red glare", that Francis Scott Key wrote The Star Spangled Banner.
The first sugar refinery in the United States was founded here by Garts and Leypoldt in 1796, as well as the premier ice cream factory in the country, founded by Jacob Fussell in 1851. Licorice, the candy of choice for many, has its origins in Baltimore at the J.S. Young Company established in 1869. How sweet it is! And should an antacid be required, consider that the first commercial seltzer, Bromo-Seltzer, was concocted here by Captain Isaac E. Emerson in 1891.
The first use of silk sutures in surgery occurred here at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1882 as well as the first intensive care unit in 1955. Meanwhile, at the University of Maryland Hospital, the first shock trauma unit in the United States was developed in 1961.
Baltimore's "divine firsts" are numerous: the First Methodist Church in America (1784) at the Lovely Lane Meeting House, the first Catholic diocese in the United States, established in 1789, and the first independent Unitarian church founded at 21 Hanover Street. The Quakers held their first general meeting here in 1785, the same year as the founding of the Church of the United Brethren. The first native-born United States citizen to be canonized a saint-Elizabeth Ann Seton-was born in Baltimore in 1809.
Baltimore has played a crucial role in the linking of towns and people as a pioneer of transportation. The First U.S. Stagecoach route, from Baltimore to Philadelphia was established in 1773, while the B&O Railroad of 1828 made its home on these city streets. With the first commercial electric streetcar line, Baltimore was linked to neighboring Hampden in 1885. On the seas, the first steam vessel to regularly cross the Atlantic Ocean, The City of Kingston, was built here in port in 1836, along with the first steam tanker, The Maverick, built in 1890.
Dubbed "The City That Reads", the first Catholic college for women, Notre Dame, was established in 1895. Two years later, the premier country day school in the nation, Gilman School, was founded. The Baltimore College of Dental Surgery (1840) was the first of its kind in the world along with the first publicly financed vocational school, The Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in 1883.
The African-American contribution to our city and nation witnesses the Baltimore birth of the black labor union, The Colored Businessmen's Association, organized by Isaac Meyers in 1869. Baltimorean, Eubie Blake, wrote "Shuffle Along" the first black musical on Broadway, in 1921. In 1967, native son Thurgood Marshall became the first African- American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. The first black newspaper chain, Afro-American Newspapers, has been in operation since 1936, while the Great Blacks in Wax Museum, located on North Avenue is the first of it kind in the country.
That Baltimoreans are industrious goes without saying. That we like to play is evidenced in the fact that "Duck Pin" bowling was introduced here at Diamond Bowling Alleys in 1900. The first Ouija board was invented and patented by Isaac and William Fuld in 1892. However, 149 years earlier, The Maryland Jockey Club became the first Baltimore based professional sports organization in the country.
It's not necessarily that "Charm City" residents like to brag, but one cannot help thinking how different life would be without so many of our city's "firsts". Rainy days would be a disaster without the umbrella and the first factory for its mass production was established here in 1828 by William Beehler. "Fixer-uppers" owe eternal gratitude to Baltimore based Black & Decker who, in 1916 produced the first electric power drill. Eastern Venetian Blind Company gave us an alternative to curtains and screens in 1932, where 15 years earlier, the first gas station with pumps allowed a driver to see exactly how much fuel was going into the tank. Even in this age of e-mail, we'd be in a fast fix without the post office system and the first in the country was inaugurated in Baltimore by William Goddard in 1774. Animal rights activists in our city are proud of the fact that the American Humane Society began here in 1878, while the nation marveled at the first photograph of earth from space-produced at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in 1946. Samuel Morse's telegraph line originated in Baltimore in 1844 and the world of communication is exploding beyond anyone's wildest expectations!
All cities are proud of their accomplishments. All deserve to be. All boast natural and man-made beauty, historic significance, and treasures of art, culture and invention.
That Baltimore is a source of so many "firsts" gives its residents reverential and pride-filled pause along with honest resolve to continue excelling into the 21st century. Visit us this spring, Hagerstown! For more information, log on to www.baltimore.org.