Busted: the Chinkapin Game Club, 1963
On March 9, 1963, Sgt. Richard T. Davis and his Baltimore County Police force exited Jervis Marshall’s barn having made two arrests, written 67 summonses, and seized 11 dead chickens. The chickens or more appropriately, gamecocks, were the unfortunate victims of the Chinkapin Game Club (CGC), an illegal gambling ring operating in various barns around Baltimore County. When the police raided the barn at 11 p.m., there were an estimated 130 people present, some of who slipped out of back doors or squeezed through broken windows to avoid getting pinched. The other 65 who did not get away had their names printed in the pages of The County News Week, a Towson-based weekly that then served Baltimore County.
While today cockfighting is not thought of as an issue in Maryland, the sport is in fact a prevalent part of the state’s darker history. Cockfighting in Maryland dates back to its colonial youth, as the sport travelled along with European migration. The sport seemed to diminish in popularity during the 19th century due to its gruesome content. However, a Baltimore Sun article published in 1937 highlights that cockfighting was still flourishing in Maryland’s farmlands. John Arnold wrote that the fights were, “part of an elaborate well-organized sport… with small arenas holding as many as 500 spectators.” He also noted that authorities were well aware of the rings, but imposed little to no resistance against the organizations. Arnold noted this oversite was most likely due to the sport’s popularity amongst Baltimore County’s elite.
Cockfighting rings operate much like horseracing. People of means purchase a bird or several birds and pay a handler or “feeder” to mold them into gamecocks. Roosters of particular breeds are selected by handlers based on strength, agility, and aggression (the Baltimore Top-knot was bred specifically for cockfights). These men then trained the birds in a fashion similar to boxers via sparing matches, exercise, and diet. Once a feeder determines a cock ready to fight, usually around 2 years old, they will enter the bird into a wagered fight. Gamecocks are generally retired by the age of 4 (the average lifespan is 15-20 years), but this is of course if they are lucky enough to win all of their battles as any loss means immediate death.
In the weeks before a fight, the feeder will pluck body feathers, trim tail and wing feathers, and clip the wattle (the flappy red jowls) as a means of increasing its chances of victory by decreasing areas the other bird can attack. The feeder’s final fight prep is the addition of the spur. Roosters have natural bone spurs on the backs of their legs and to make these weapons more lethal, feeders file the spurs down and attach metal ones. Again like horseracing, money can be wagered by spectators on the outcome of each match. In ’63, the CGC had enough local popularity that it handed out schedule cards and even scheduled memorial fights for one Harry Keller (unknown).
For his involvement in the CGC, the court fined Jervis Marshall $150 (about $1000 today) for “maintaining a disorderly house and animal cruelty.” Marshall’s accomplice Joseph Woolford received a similar fine of $100 for animal cruelty. Of the other 67 men summoned, none appeared in court. All simply paying the fine of $11. Current Maryland state law deems cockfighting a felony and punishable by three years in prison and a max fine of $5,000. Possession of a gamecock is a similar offense, while spectators are charged with a misdemeanor. (Ben Koshland)
Arnold, John. “Cockfighting In Baltimore County: In the Darkened Barns Of The Gentry The Mains Still Continue,” The Baltimore Sun, May 30, 1937.
Crews, Ed. “Once Popular and Socially Acceptable: Cockfighting,” Colonial Williamsburg Journal, Autumn 2008.
“Cockfighting Charge Laid To Two Men: Police Surprise 130 In Raid On Heated County Barn,” The Baltimore Sun, March 11, 1963.
“Feathers Fly as 69 are Arrested in Police Raid of Cockfight Here,” The County News Week, March 14, 1963: p.1.
“2 Are Fined In Cockfight: 67 Others Forfeit $778 In Collateral In County,” The Baltimore Sun, Mar 23, 1963: p.32.
The month of October is known for two holidays—Halloween and Columbus Day, as well the 31-day celebration that is National Pork Month. But few outside the archival profession (and probably few within it as well) know that October is also American Archives Month. In commemoration of Archives Month, first celebrated in 1969, here are a few “then and now” images of the archives and library of the Maryland Historical Society.
This is the first post of a series that will show images of buildings, street scenes, and other locales from the Maryland Historical Society’s collection of more than 1,000,000 photographs, alongside photographs of how they appear today.
The following two photographs show the main reading room of the library as it looked in 1920, two years after MdHS moved from its former location in the Athenaeum building (no longer in existence) on St. Paul Street, and in 2012.
The basement storage area located underneath the main reading room is where many of the library’s collections are housed. What staff members today refer to as “the belly,” has seen its share of interns scream in fear, as staff, having forgotten about the intern supposedly hard at work down below, locked the gates and shut the lights off. The photographs below show the room as it has appeared at various times over the past 92 years.
The last three images are of the library’s east room, which today houses the microfilm collection, genealogical volumes, and other resources. It has also been used as a museum gallery and a rare book room. (Damon Talbot)
This week, with the final Obama-Romney debate bearing down on us, we thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the more bizarre political and election-related items in our holdings. In doing so we set our sights on Maryland’s own Spiro Agnew, the Nixon administration, and the many products Agnew’s likeness and political legacy inspired, as reflected in our collections. Please note that we are leaving the library collections this time out, with the exception of one item, and venturing into MdHS’s museum collection to explore these curious pieces of political and material culture.
Baltimore County native Spiro T. Agnew (1918-1996) began his political life as a Democrat but then switched parties when he discovered few opportunities for advancement. He was elected Baltimore County Executive in 1962 and Governor of Maryland (R) in 1966. Agnew’s legacy as Governor will be remembered by many Marylanders for his excoriation of African-American leaders in the aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Others may remember him for his higher profile exploits later in his career.
The Spiro Agnew wristwatch pictured here was purchased at Hutzler’s department store on November 5, 1970. According to the receipt, it cost $20.75—not a small chunk of change. According to the Inflation Calculator this is roughly the equivalent of $123.00 dollars today. (Currently, original Agnew watches go for $50-100 on eBay.)
The Agnew wristwatch reflects a nationwide trend in the 1960s and ’70s to popularize political figures in a variety of media. Agnew’s selection as the VP candidate by Richard Nixon and election victory in 1968 made him a national figure and subsequently tied him to the most infamous administration in U.S. history. Entrepreneurs wasted no time capitalizing on both men’s likeness from the moment they took office. The first Spiro Agnew watch was designed by Dr. Hale E. Dougherty’s Dirty Time Company ca. 1970 and by July of that year at least 50,000 were on order at department stores across the nation.
At least two other manufactures of the Agnew watch went into production in 1970. The watch became wildly popular. According to vintage wristwatch blog HODINKEE, Elizabeth Taylor, John Lennon, and Republican and Democratic Congress-members owned Agnew watches. “Dougherty even sent an early watch to Agnew who wrote back that the watch was ‘both attractive and clever,’ before later changing his tune and threatening legal action over the use of his likeness and invasion of his privacy,” reports HODINKEE blogger Eric Wind. Dougherty was the only manufacturer not to comply with the Vice President’s demand to donate a portion of the profits from the watch to “Agnew-designated charities.” The physician refused on the grounds that the watch was a sort of political cartoon and complying with the demand would set a dangerous precedent for artistic freedom of expression.**
A complicated moderate not afraid to change his position, Agnew supported Maryland’s first open housing laws, helped repeal its anti-miscegenation law, stood as an alternative to state Democrats wishing to distance themselves from the racist sloganeering used by his ’66 gubernatorial election rival, Baltimore contractor-turned-politician George “Your home is your castle” Mahoney, and was an outspoken critic of antiwar demonstrators. Despite all that, by the early 1970s Agnew literally became a joke. The Baltimore Sun reported that a popular joke in 1970 went, “Did you know that Mickey Mouse wears a Spiro Agnew watch?” Forced from office by accusations of extortion, tax fraud, bribery and conspiracy, he was the first Vice President to resign from office.**
Along with the watch also came the T-shirt of the wristwatch. Why, you may wonder, would a wristwatch need its own shirt? Because T-shirts were the internet memes of the 1970s and ’80s.
Another variation of the Agnew wristwatch was the Agnew alarm clock. According to our provenance records, this clock was designed and illustrated by Baltimore attorney Zelig Robinson, who appears to be one of the other two manufactures of the Agnew watch. Robinson can be seen in an AP Wireservice photo from July 16, 1970 standing next to his wife and the Vice President who is proudly wearing the watch made in his own image. The photo’s caption notes that Robinson was able to meet with the VP because he—unlike Dougherty—was willing to pony up 25 percent of the proceeds to a charity of Agnew’s choice.
Finally, we have this little gem from MdHS’s ephemera collection. One could not have purchased any of the above items at any store we know of and been given this bag to tote away their collectibles, but here it is, and nonetheless it exists: the Democrats for Nixon tote bag. This bit of propaganda was aimed at siphoning votes away from Senator George McGovern (D – South Dakota), who unlike his ’72 election rival Nixon did not keep his plans for ending the Vietnam War a secret.
McGovern ran on a platform promising withdrawal from Vietnam, amnesty for draft evaders, and a 37 percent reduction in military spending over the next three years. It’s worth pointing out that two thirds of his platform came to fruition within the next five years. (George McGovern passed away as this post was being prepared on the morning of October 21, 2012. R.I.P. Sen. McGovern.) The video that follows the bag provides some more context behind the concept of Dems for Nixon. The toy soldier and secret plan jokes practically write themselves. (Joe Tropea)
Democrats for Nixon TV ad ca.1972
*”2 of 3 Spiro Wristwatches Windup with His Approval,” The Baltimore Sun, July 17, 1970: p.C11. http://www.hodinkee.com/2010/8/3/the-spiro-agnew-watch-a-gag-that-united-elizabeth-taylor-joh.html
**”Spiro Agnew Watches,” The Baltimore Sun, July 12, 1970: p.SD15.
White Knight: The Rise of Spiro Agnew, Jules Witcover, Random House, 1972.
“Spiro T. Agnew and Middle Ground Politics,” Justin P. Coffey, Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. 98, No. 4, Winter 2003.
“Spirogate: The Washington Post and the Rise and Fall of Spiro Agnew,” Charles J. Holden and Zach Messitte, Vol. 102, No. 3, Fall 2007.
“‘A Veil of Voodoo’: George P. Mahoney, Open Housing, and the 1966 Governor’s Race,” Richard Hardesty, Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. 104, No. 2, Summer 2009.
The most valuable resource for studying the buildings of Baltimore is not Google Maps—in fact, it isn’t online at all. It is an index card collection of historic structures known as the Passano File that lives in the H. Furlong Baldwin Library at the Maryland Historical Society. Edited and overseen by Francis O’Neill, a reference librarian who began working in the MdHS library in 1981(the year this writer was born), the file is comprised of over 40,000 entries.* If you walk into our library and hear the antiquated clacking of a typewriter, you are hearing the sound of Mr. O’Neill at work on the most richly detailed catalog of our city’s geographic history.Alongside Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner, the Paul Henderson Photograph Collection, the William Stone Engraving, and the McKeldin-Jackson Oral History Collection, the Passano File stands among the most valuable gems in our collection.
From 1935 through 1940, Eleanor Phillips Passano (1870-1949), a library volunteer at MdHS , worked on a card file that connected family names to specific properties in Baltimore and the surrounding counties. Over the course of the next 50 years, this file remained dormant. As the years passed, what was once a rich source of information became less and less useful; modern researchers had become chronologically detached from the family names previously associated with the buildings decades before.
By his fifteenth year at the MdHS library, O’Neill had noticed the waning use of the Passano File. More importantly, however, he recognized the informational value and research potential of the resource. In 1995 O’Neill began the process of reorganizing the Passano File according to geographical location rather than family name, linking the cards to a permanent physical space. Most importantly, he once again began updating and adding index cards, giving the Passano File a whole new life.
The Passano File is arranged geographically in the sense that it is alphabetical by street address. As you flip through the typed index cards, you physically travel east and west or north and south through Baltimore’s streets. Through address changes, fires, and demolitions, each index card describes the history of the buildings, estate, or neighborhoods that have existed at the modern address of the geographic space. Each card also contains further references to photographs, articles, and books about the structures.
Since the formal title is the Passano Historic Structures File, and structure is a somewhat vague term, O’Neill needed to settle on a definition. For convenience and practicality’s sake, O’Neill defines a structure as “anything you can go in and out of.” Parks, neighborhoods, and cemeteries, accompany the buildings and city blocks. When asked how monuments fit into this scheme (being for the most part solid structures), he matter-of-factly responds, “I have a different file for those.”
As the majority of us get dumbfounded, overwhelmed, and are eventually numbed by the waves of information that constantly flow past us, Francis O’Neill narrows his scope. He casually filters, plucks, and types up information about the city as it changes around him. Luckily for those who venture into our library with a little curiosity, he makes it available for our use. I nominate a name change to the Passano-O’Neill File. Anyone with me? The Passano File is open to researchers from 10-5pm Wednesdays through Saturdays. Ask for Mr. O’Neill.
As an example, I’ve photographed the cards for 2001-2003 Druid Park Drive from the file. You can see that these five cards contain detailed information about the location, as well as references to other books and articles in our library.
*index card count derived from a mathematical formula that relied heavily on the width of my finger.
Welcome to the inaugural post of what will be a monthly series highlighting interviews and other recorded materials from the Maryland Historical Society’s collection of over 1200 oral histories. The collection ranges from interviews with Maryland politicians such as Theodore R. McKeldin, mayor of Baltimore (1943-1947, 1963-1967) and governor of Maryland (1951-1959), to interviews with more anonymous figures, such as Baltimore screen painter Richard Oktavec. MdHS’s earliest oral history is a 1948 Library of Congress recording of an interview with Baltimore journalist H.L. Mencken; the most recent addition is a 2012 interview with Esther McCready, the first African-American undergraduate accepted at the University of Maryland in 1950.
This month we’ll be spotlighting an oral history project conducted in 2008 and just recently made available to the public: Collision: People and Events that Shaped the Vietnam era in Maryland. The project, a joint endeavor between MdHS and the now defunct Doris M.Johnson High School in Baltimore, consists of eight interviews with anti-war activists and Vietnam veterans.
Maryland was host to a number of significant anti-war activities during the Vietnam War era. One of the more famous incidents occurred on May 17, 1968 when a group of Catholic activists, including brothers Philip and Daniel Berrigan, set hundreds of draft records ablaze outside of the Catonsville Selective Service office. In October of 1968, the group, which came to be known as the Catonsville Nine, was found guilty in federal court of destruction of U.S. property and interference with the Selective Service Act of 1967. Sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to three and a half years, some of the group chose to go underground; in 1978, Mary Moylan, the last remaining at large member surrendered to the FBI. The Catonsville Nine action and subsequent trial were a major influence on future anti-war and peace actions.
A larger, but less well known series of protests occurred on the campus of the University of Maryland, College Park in May of 1970. On May 1, in response to President Nixon’s announcement of the U.S. invasion of Cambodia the previous day, over 1000 anti-war protesters occupied Route One, ransacked the ROTC armory on campus, and engaged state and local police in often violent confrontations. The thirteen hour long episode marked the beginning of a three week series of violent protests that eventually saw the National Guard called in. Although overshadowed by the deaths of four students at the hands of National Guardsmen on May 4 at Kent State University, the demonstrations were some of the largest and most violent of those that swept college campuses during that month. The National Guard also returned to the campus in the spring of 1971 and 1972 in response to student protest.
Interviewees in this project include activist and former nun, Elizabeth McAlister, widow of Catonsville Nine member Philip Berrigan (1923-2002). McAlister discusses the Catonsville Nine action and subsequent trial and her own involvement in the anti-war movement, as well as providing insights into Philip Berrigan’s faith and philosophy. Activist David Eberhardt, in a separate interview, speaks about his involvement in the civil rights and peace movements, including his role as a member of the Baltimore Four. The group, which included Phillip Berrigan, was arrested for pouring blood on draft records at the Baltimore Custom House on October 27, 1967.
The project also contains one of the last interviews with historian and activist Howard Zinn before he passed away in January of 2010. Zinn, best known for his book A People’s History of the Unites States, discusses his anti-war activism during the Vietnam War as well as his experiences as a bombardier during World War II. Below is a clip from the interview with Zinn speaking about the impact of Baltimore Quaker Norman Morrison’s November 2, 1965 self-immolation in front of the Pentagon in protest of the Vietnam War.
Photograph: Interviewee Jordan Goodman took this photograph of anti-war demonstrators gathering on College Avenue at the University of Maryland, College Park on May 5, 1971. (Photograph is not part of the MdHS’s collection)
For more information on this oral history project, including an inventory of the interviews, please visit the project page. (Damon Talbot)
Eighty years before Governor Martin O’Malley was attending conventions, enjoying the national spotlight, and entertaining thoughts of a presidential run, another Democratic governor from Maryland was poised to make a run at the presidency. Albert Cabell Ritchie (1836-1936) ran the state for 15 years and was the first Maryland governor to be re-elected by popular vote. By 1932 he had won four gubernatorial elections, been a leading voice of opposition to Prohibition, and become a major contender for the Democratic party’s nomination for President, again. Four years earlier, he lost his party’s nomination to West Virginia’s John W. Davis who previously lost the 1924 election to Republican incumbent Calvin Coolidge. (Ritchie also had an eye on the presidency in ’24.)
On June 23, 1932 before a reported throng of 80,000 supporters, Ritchie told the crowd gathered at Mount Royal Station to see him entrain for the DNC, “I am still just one of you… subject to all the same impulses and fallability.” The following day the governor was greeted “like a conquering hero” by thousands in Chicago, according to The Baltimore Sun.*
Barely a week had passed before Ritchie ran into the force that was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In Chicago, Ritchie contended with the likes of New York’s Al Smith and Texas’ John Garner for his party’s nomination. Despite not getting that nomination, Ritchie supported FDR and was even rumored to have his name thrown in the hat for Vice President. It was thought that he would make a good counterbalance to Roosevelt. But it was Garner, who was then serving as Speaker of the House, who prevailed and received the VP slot. By the end of the first New Deal (1934), Ritchie was denouncing FDR as a radical set to overthrow the American way.
Things only got worse for the governor. An outspoken opponent of the New Deal, Ritchie began losing support from within his own state party. With many Marylanders suffering the effects of the Great Depression and a widely publicized lynching on the Eastern Shore that further tarnished his reputation, Ritchie began to lose popularity throughout his state. In 1934 he lost a fifth bid for Governor to Republican Harry Nice, who exploited the rumblings within the state’s Democratic Party and attacked Ritchie as the boss of a corrupt machine who had overstayed his welcome.
Today some Marylanders may only know the name Ritchie as that of a highway or coliseum, but the “Ritchie Era” in Maryland (1919-35) is fertile ground for researchers of all stripes. MdHS’s Special Collections department holds the strongest collection of Ritchie materials in existence: the Ritchie Papers, 1915-1936, MS710 (over 75 scrapbooks, notebooks, and diaries, notes for speeches, etc.), pamphlets, printed addresses, position papers penned by Ritchie, and more. (Joe Tropea)*The Baltimore Sun, June 24 & 25, 1932. p.1.
Brown, Dorothy. “The Election of 1934: the ‘New Deal’ in Maryland,” Maryland Historical Magazine 1973 68(4): 405-421.
Chepaitis, Joseph B. “Albert C. Ritchie in Power: 1920-1927”. Maryland Historical Magazine 1973 68(4): 383-404.
Search 100 years of Maryland Historical Magazine
“I feel strange—but its a grand occasion,” said MdHS President George L. Radcliffe, dressed in a bushy brown wig, yellow-plumed black hat, tunic, and breeches of Cecilius Calvert, as he stood with 350,000 other Baltimoreans, celebrating the return of the Orioles to the Major Leagues on April 15, 1954. Described as the “parade of the century,” civic organizations, manufacturers, merchants, and breweries of Baltimore designed elaborate floats and marched from Johns Hopkins, south down Charles Street, west on Madison, down Howard, east on Baltimore Street, and from Holliday east to the Fallsway.*
Clowns, army men, beauty queens, a marching band, and Vice-President Richard Nixon (who threw out the first pitch of their inaugural home game), can all be seen in this clip from “Play Ball with the Orioles,” narrated by legendary announcer Ernie Harwell (1918-2010). Noticably absent from the festivities was Baltimore mayor Tommy D’Alesandro Jr., who was in the hospital and ordered to bedrest by his doctors. D’Alesandro was instrumental in bringing a major league team back to Baltimore after more than 50 years,** after he promised his constituents a big leage stadium and a team to fill it. His dream was realized when the St. Louis Browns franchise moved east to become the Baltimore Orioles of the American League.
“Play Ball with the Orioles” will be screened in its entirety at MdhS on Saturday Oct. 13th as part of “Maryland on Film.” Admission is free! (Eben Dennis)
RSVP to this event via Facebook here.
“Election Recollection” is a series we’ll run from now through January’s Presidential inauguration (or so). Here we’ll feature political/election-related items from MdHS’s photograph, manuscript, and ephemera holdings.
This first installment takes us back to the Roaring Twenties, a time when Marylanders were, for the most part, as committed to state’s rights as they were committed to their opposition to the Eighteenth Amendment, which established Prohibition.
Staunch supporter of the wet cause Albert C. Ritchie was sworn in for his third term as Governor of the state of Maryland on January 12, 1927. He did not wait long to start campaigning for the office of President as evidenced here in this photo from MdHS’s Hughes Company photo collection. (Joe Tropea)
The MdHS library has created an Orioles shrine from items in our Sports Ephemera Collection. Hopefully this collection of World Series tickets, programs, memorabilia, and a starting lineup of Orioles heroes (represented in assorted baseball cards) will send send positive energy to the O’s as they begin their playoff run! The MdHS library will keep the candles lit throughout the postseason. In a digital metaphor-y kind of way, of course. That would be really irresponsible collections management. We don’t sleep here.
Keep checking back throughout the postseason to see more great Orioles images! (Eben Dennis)