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An American Tragedy

(left) Clarence Mitchell Jr. staging a one man picket line supporting school desegregation in Baltimore, 1954, MdHS, Political Ephemera Collection.
(right) Parren Mitchell protesting segregation of teacher’s training programs at Douglas High School, Paul Henderson, July 1948, MdHS, HEN.00.A2-161 (detail)

Many who devote their lives to bringing about social change can recall a single incident or episode that altered their perceptions and determined their path in life. Civil rights activist Rosa Parks recalls that one of the first ways she realized the difference between “a black world and a white world” was when, as a child, she saw white children riding buses to school while she had to walk. For historian Howard Zinn, featured in a previous post, it was his experiences as a bombardier during World War II that had a profound effect on his later career as a civil rights and anti-war activist, and outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy. For brothers Clarence Mitchell Jr. (1911-1984) and Parren Mitchell (1922-1907), it was the 1933 lynching of George Armwood in the small town of Princess Anne on Maryland’s Eastern Shore that set the course for their future careers as two of Maryland’s foremost civil rights leaders.

The Eastern Shore was a place apart in the 1930s. Socially and economically it was closer to the south than to the rest of Maryland, particularly in terms of race relations. The roots of a longstanding hostility between blacks and whites in the region were established early in the nation’s history. In 1783 Maryland ended the slave trade across the state, except on the Eastern Shore. Somerset County, where Princess Anne was the county seat, was one of six main centers of slave trading in the state. Isolated both geographically and economically from much of the rest of the state, the economic frustrations of poor whites in the area were often taken out on their African American neighbors. By the 1930s, the increased economic hardships of the Great Depression caused simmering hostilities to boil over, with violent result.

Map of Maryland Showing Somerset County, from Maryland’s Historic Somerset, Board of Education, Somerset County, Princess Anne, MD, 1955.

On December 4, 1931, Matthew Williams, an African American man, shot and killed his white employer in Salisbury and then turned the gun on himself in an unsuccessful suicide attempt. That evening, a mob of more than a thousand dragged Williams from his hospital bed where he lay critically wounded, and hung him up on the courthouse lawn. His body was then dragged to the town’s African American business district, and set on fire.  The Williams murder was the 32nd lynching in Maryland since 1882, and the first since 1911. Less than two years later, another lynching took place that would mirror the Williams murder with frightening similarity in nearby Princess Anne.

Mary Denston, the elderly wife of a Somerset County farmer, was returning to her home in Princess Anne on the morning of October 17, 1933 when she was attacked by an assailant. A manhunt quickly began for the alleged perpetrator, 22-year-old African-American George Armwood. He was soon arrested and charged with felonious assault. By 5:00 pm, an angry mob of local white residents had gathered outside the Salisbury jail where the suspect had been taken. In order to protect Armwood from the increasingly hostile crowd, state police transferred him to Baltimore. But just as quickly he was returned to Somerset county. After assuring Maryland Governor Albert Ritchie that Armwood’s safety would be guaranteed, Somerset county officials transferred Armwood to the jail house in Princess Anne, with tragic consequences.

Sources are conflicting regarding many of the details of the assault on Denston and the subsequent murder of George Armwood, but what is certain is that on the evening of October 18 a mob of a thousand or more people stormed into the Princess Anne jail house and hauled Armwood from his cell down to the street below. Before he was hung from a tree some distance away, Armwood was dragged through the streets, beaten, stabbed, and had one ear hacked off.  Armwood’s lifeless body was then paraded through the town, finally ending up near the town’s courthouse, where the mob doused the corpse with gasoline and set it on fire.

Clarence Mitchell Jr. was a cub reporter for Baltimore’s Afro-American newspaper when he was sent across the bay to report on the lynching. It was his first assignment with the paper. Mitchell, accompanied by photographer Paul Henderson and two other reporters from the newspaper, arrived in Princess Anne mid morning on October 19 after an all night journey from Baltimore. By the time the four newspapermen arrived at the crime scene, Armwood had been dead for some time. Mitchell described the horrific sight in vivid detail for the readers of the October 28 issue of the Afro-American:

“The skin of George Armwood was scorched and blackened while his face had suffered many blows from  sharp and heavy instruments. A cursory glance revealed that one ear was missing and his tongue clenched between his teeth, gave evidence of his great agony before death. There is no adequate description of the mute evidence of gloating on the part of whites who gathered to watch the effect upon our people.”

In a 1977 interview conducted for the McKeldin-Jackson Oral History Project, Mitchell goes into further detail about the lynching:

Interviewer Charles Wagandt can be heard expressing utter disbelief at the idea that the lynching was advertised, but in fact this was the case. Denton Watson, Mitchell’s official biographer, writes that,

“…the advent of the lynching had been well advertised throughout Maryland, neighboring Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia. In Princess Anne members of the fire department sounded the alarm and brought out the fire truck as a signal for the mob to gather. Everyone, including newspaper reporters, had ample time to attend the event. No one was surprised by the news….”

The lynching was celebrated throughout the town. The Afro-American reported that the mob danced around Armwood’s burnt remains singing “John Brown’s Body” and “Give me something to remember you by.” Small crowds gathered throughout the night discussing the murder. One man was quoted as stating,  “It would have cost the state $1,000 to hang the man. It cost us 75 cents.” Pieces from the rope used to hang Armwood were taken as souvenirs.

Mitchell returned to his home on Bloom street in northwest Baltimore a changed man. He had been involved in civil rights activities prior to the lynching—in 1932 he joined the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and was the vice president of the City Wide Young Peoples Forum (established by future wife Juanita Jackson). But being witness to the violence of the lynching, which was outside the scope of his experiences living in Baltimore, galvanized his thinking. This, and his coverage of the trial of the Scottsboro Boys, nine African American boys charged with the rape of two white women in Scottsboro, Alabama, “awakened his interest in the…need for extensive social and judicial reforms in the country.” That evening, as he related the events of the day to his family over dinner he was so upset he couldn’t eat. For Clarence’s younger brother Parren, 11 years old at the time, seeing his brother’s reaction had a profound effect on the boy. In the clip below taken from a 1976 McKeldin-Jackson Project interview, Parren Mitchell discusses his reaction to his brother’s experience and the impact it had on him.

The murder of George Armwood was the last recorded lynching in Maryland. Clarence returned to Princess Anne to cover the trial of four men arrested for their participation in the lynching. Violence was again in the air as another mob formed, and National Guard troops were sent in. The case was eventually dismissed due to insufficient evidence. Out of the more than 5,000 documented lynchings that occurred in the United States between 1890 and 1960, less than one percent resulted in a conviction.

Clarence Mitchell, Jr. and Parren Mitchell, not dated, Clarence Mitchell Jr. Funeral Program, March 23, 1984, MdHS, MS 3092.

Both Clarence and Parren went on to dedicate their lives to furthering the cause of civil rights. Following World War II, Clarence became the labor secretary for the NAACP, and in 1950 he became the director of the organization’s Washington bureau, quickly emerging as the leading civil rights lobbyist in Washington. Known as the “101st Senator,” he was instrumental in helping to usher major civil rights legislation through Congress: The Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, and 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. One journalist called him “the prime source of moral pressure for the cause of racial justice.” In 1985 the city courthouse in downtown Baltimore was named in his honor.

Parren’s career was no less distinguished than that of his elder brother’s. Within a year of the Armwood lynching, Parren joined his brother in a picket against local merchants over discriminatory hiring practices near their home in northwest Baltimore. Over the course of a more than 50 year career in the civil rights movement and politics at the state and national level, Mitchell established a number of firsts for African-Americans. In 1950 he became the first to attend the University of Maryland’s College Park campus when he was accepted into the school’s graduate school of sociology after suing to gain entrance.

When Mitchell was elected to Congress in 1970 as a representative of Maryland’s 7th district, he not only became the first African-American congressman from Maryland, but the first since 1898 to hold a congressional seat from a state south of the Mason-Dixon line. He also was one of the founding members of the congressional black caucus. Over the course of his eight terms as a congressman, Mitchell remained a tireless advocate for increasing economic opportunities for minorities and minority owned businesses. (Damon Talbot)

Sources and further reading:

African American Leaders of Maryland: a Portrait Gallery, Suzanne E. Chapelle & Glenn O. Phillips (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 2004)

“Clarence Mitchell: Man who was always there,” Peter Kumpa, Baltimore Evening Sun, March 20, 1984.

Here Lies Jim Crow: Civil Rights in Maryland, C. Fraser Smith (Baltimore: The JohnsHopkinsUniversity Press, 2008)

Lion in the Lobby: Clarence Mitchell, Jr.’s Struggle for the Passage of Civil Rights Laws, Denton L. Watson (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1990)

“Parren J. Mitchell: 1922-2007, Crusader for justice dies at 85,” Sun staff, Baltimore Sun, May 29, 2007

“Parren Mitchell, 85, Congressman and Rights Leader, Dies,” Douglas Martin, The New York Times, May 30, 2007.

“Shore starting to face up to past, some say,” Tom Dunkel, Baltimore Sun, February 25, 2007.

http://www.msa.md.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc3500/sc3520/013700/013750/html/13750bio.html

http://www.visionaryproject.org/mitchellparren/

http://baic.house.gov/member-profiles/profile.html?intID=60

http://suite101.com/article/rosa-parks-challenges-segregation-law-a175677

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Then and Now: Pratt Street – A View From the Power Plant

Aerial view looking northwest from the roof of Pratt Street Power Plant, ca. 1905, MdHS, MC4734.

Today’s “Then and Now” photograph was taken from the roof of the Pratt Street Power Plant, ca. 1905. The three-story buildings shown here on the 500 block of East Pratt were built to replace a row of four-story buildings, most likely involved in maritime supply or wholesale commodity trades, that were destroyed by the Baltimore Fire of 1904 (see photo below).

The devastation caused by the Baltimore Fire can be seen here on Pratt Street. This photo is looking southeast from the Continental Trust Building. The power plant can be recognized by its four smokestacks rising above the roof-line. “Looking Southeast from Continental Trust Building,” MDHS, PP179.174.

Amazingly, by the time the featured photograph was taken in 1905 much of the area had been rebuilt. The northeast corner of Pratt and Gay Streets became a waterfront lodging call the Marine Hotel, later demolished in 1973.

The Power Plant was designed by architect Henry Brauns of the firm Baldwin and Pennington,  to generate the electricity used to power Baltimore’s trolley cars. Though it endured the fire and several ownership changes over the 20th century,  it was finally closed 1973, when the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company concluded it had no further use for the plant. In the 1980s the power plant held both a short-lived amusement park and then a dance club. Since 1997 it’s been home to  chain stores such as Barnes and Noble, ESPN zone (now closed), and the Hard Rock Cafe (surprisingly not closed).  Today it is also the headquarters for the Cordish Company Developers, and the architecture and planning firm Design Collective. Were it not for the recognizable shell of the Power Plant,  this section of Pratt would be hardly recognizable today. (Eben Dennis)

Looking northwest along Pratt Street from the 3rd floor of the Power Plant. Photo by Anna Dennis

Sources:

The Passano File, Maryland Historical Society

Peterson, Peter B. The Great Baltimore Fire. Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society Press, 2004.

Hampden Reservoir: A Muddy History

The Hampden Reservoir as it appeared in 1880 (note the pump house right of center in this photo). Subject Vertical File Medium Photographs (Baltimore Reservoirs) Hampden Reservoir [SVF].

As a follow up to last week’s post, “Slabtown to Hampden,” I’m focusing this week on the Hampden Reservoir, the impetus of the map’s creation. With city pipes bursting left and right the past couple weeks, you could say that this has been on my mind. Here’s a quick history of the reservoir accompanied by the tale of a strange murder which resulted in the draining of the reservoir in 1957.

The City Needs a Water Supply

In the early days of Baltimore an abundance of natural springs provided clean and pure water for its inhabitants; but alas, good things never last. As the population grew, springs became stressed, contaminated, and even dried up. There was a need for pumps, wells, and general infrastructure to be created, so after a decade of attempts to establish a water company, a 1797 ordinance passed that appropriated $1,000 to erect pumps in the city’s streets. It seems this ordinance passed because people had concerns about putting out fires; they were complacent about the cruddy water they drank. The linear causation likely had fewer steps. Fire burning skin is easier to comprehend than water gets dirty, we drink water, we get sick. Boy it’s a good thing we don’t make reactionary environmental decisions like that anymore….

By 1800 the idea of bringing water from Gwynns Falls, Jones Falls, and/or Herring Run was being kicked around, and the City Council began plans to divert water into the city. In 1804 water from Carroll’s Run ( a source of springs on the west side) was in the process of being piped to the city, when land owners whose property the pipe encroached upon issued an injunction stopping the efforts. Unable to accomplish its goal, the city was forced to rely on its civic minded citizens. Gen. Samuel Smith, Alexander McKim, Elias Ellicott, Robert Goodloe Harper, Thomas McElderry, and John Eager Howard, formed the committee which laid the groundwork for the creation of the Baltimore Water Company on April 20, 1804. This company was funded through subscriptions by citizens, insurance companies, and corporations.

On the suggestion of civil engineer Jonathan Ellicott, the company set its sights on the Jones Falls. The elevation and dry season volume made the waterway quite suitable. Though they couldn’t purchase the water rights as far north as they desired in Woodberry, John Eager Howard sold the rights to the water around  the present day site of the Preston Street bridge. A storage reservoir to hold the water delivered by a millrace from this site was built on the corner of Calvert and Centre Streets, which was also the site of the Baltimore Water Company’s offices.

By 1830 there was yet another need to increase the supply of water to the growing city. Wooden pipes were replaced with cast iron pipes, new plans were made, and surveys were drawn up to determine how to supply Baltimore with “a never failing supply of pure, fresh, and wholesome water.”*  Due to their elevation above sea level, Gwynns Falls and the part of Jones Falls near Tyson’s mill (in present day Hampden) seemed to be the most suitable sources. Unlike the landowners along the Gwynns Falls, however, many of the landowners on the Jones Falls made outright refusals to sell their property, and the committee recommended the Gwynns Falls as the best choice.

Fast forward twenty-eight years. New iron pipes had been laid, new water sources were exploited, and a new reservoir had been built to supply water for the east side of the city. But it still wasn’t enough. The city continued to expand and grow. After an ordinance was approved by the City Council on July 11, 1857 to provide an increased water supply from the Jones Falls, the water board authorized the money to buy the water rights from Rock Mills north of Woodberry for $150,598, and Swann Lake (now known as Lake Roland) for $289,539.

The map from last week’s post, made by Chief Engineer of the City Water Board J. Morris Wampler, was drawn for the purposes of purchasing and condemning land for the conduit from Lake Roland to the new city reservoir in Hampden on the present day south side of Roosevelt Park. The Hampden reservoir was completed in 1861 three years after it began at a cost of $206,643.50 by John W. Maxwell and Company. Maxwell, along with Joseph H. Hoblitzell and F.C. Crowley, constructed the dam at Lake Roland, the conduit, and the new reservoirs at a total cost of 1.3 million dollars. The conduits construction consisted of the excavation of three separate tunnels totaling over 5,000 feet, and over 6 million bricks. All of the pipes used in the project were manufactured in the Poole and Hunt foundry and presumably rolled up the hill. The work was done by mechanics and day laborers.

The Hampden Reservoir in 1906. Taken from the Bromley Atlas of Baltimore City and Vicinity, plate 17.

The Hampden Reservoir remained in operation until 1915, when the municipal water supply was reconstructed once again, and the polluted 40,000,000 gallon reservoir was reduced to a neighborhood ornament. In 1930 it was drained and cleaned, and the pipes were cut off entirely from the city water system to prevent any contamination through seepage. Though the city threatened to drain it for years, Hampden residents managed to block all proposals for more than forty years.

A Murky Murder and a Heliport

In 1957 the Hampden reservoir was drained as investigators searched for a .32 caliber automatic weapon they believed was used in the murder of sandwich-shop proprietor Vincent DiPietro. A few weeks before it was drained, a youth laborer named Donald Coleman was charged in the killing of DiPietro after making “certain admissions” following four days of interrogation. Though DiPietro was a known hot-head, and had stabbed a man in his shop a year earlier, for some reason revenge was discounted as a motivation by the investigators; nor was a robbery mentioned in any report.

Only minutes after the investigators pulled the gun out of the mud of the drained reservoir, DiPietro’s widow (who he had also stabbed in a separate incident several months prior) married John C. Lloyd in the Hampden Methodist Church (now known as the United Methodist Church) directly across the street from the muddy pit. When the Rev. Leslie Werner, who was conducting the ceremony on short notice—unaware of the woman’s connection to the victim—told the couple that the gun was discovered, there wasn’t much of a response. Only after reading their names on the marriage certificate and directly questioning her relationship to the slain man did Rev. Werner realize it was her deceased husband. A week after the marriage the reservoir was once again filled back in with water to the delight of Hampden residents.

In 1960 the Bureau of Water Supply began draining the reservoir without announcement. The city then revealed plans to fill the muddy pit and turn it into a Department of Aviation heliport. The residents, led by Rev. Werner,  responded with an immediate outcry. The irate citizens protested that helicopters would be a major disturbance to the school, recreation center, and churches in the immediate proximity. Werner called the ordeal “an infringement on our territorial rights without due recourse to a public hearing.”** Eventually the city recanted on the heliport. The draining did continue, however, as the city conveniently had an arrangement with the contractors excavating the new Jones Falls Expressway nearby. In exchange for a local site to dump the excavated soil, the city would receive a discount on the cost of that stretch of highway.

So it was settled, the mud from the Jones Falls Expressway filled the giant hole, and the reservoir has been largely forgotten.

(Eben Dennis)

This is a photograph of Roosevelt Park, the former site of the Hampden Reservoir, from roughly the same angle. The pump house from the previous photograph is behind the line of trees. Photograph of Roosevelt Park taken in 2012 by Anna Dennis.

An aerial view of Roosevelt Park taken from Googlemaps.

Sources:

*Scharf, J. Thomas. History of Baltimore City and County. Baltimore, MD: Regional Publishing Company, 1971.
Passano File, H. Furlong Baldwin Library, Maryland Historical Society.
“Water Bureau Draining Reservoir at Hampden,” Baltimore Sun, October 5, 1930.
“Police Probe ‘Wide Open’: No Definite Suspects Held In DiPietro Slaying,” Baltimore Sun, March 2,1957.
“DiPietro Slaying Laid to Laborer: Man, 21, Held Without Bail On Murder Charge,” Baltimore Sun, March 28, 1957.
“Reservoir Plug May Be Pulled,” Baltimore Sun, April 7, 1957.
“Police To Drain Reservoir For DiPietro Murder Gun,” Baltimore Sun, April 9, 1957
“Youth Presented in DiPietro Case: Jury Acts Though Murder Weapon Is Not Found,” Baltimore Sun, April 24, 1957.
“Gun Found by Police in Reservoir,” Baltimore Sun, April 28, 1957.
“Water Refilling Reservoir Again,” Baltimore Sun, May 7, 1957.
**”Residents Fight Heliport Plans: Would Ban Move To Use Reservoir Site Near School,” Baltimore Sun, May 2, 1960.
“Views Given on Heliport: Chilcote Sees False Fear; Draining Halt Held Unlikely,” Baltimore Sun, May 5, 1960.
Bromley Atlas of Baltimore City and Vicinity, 1907, plate 17.

Maryland Ahead by (Clarence) Miles

After Clarence Miles died on October 8, 1977, the Baltimore Sun described him as “an urbane man who never forgot the value of good common sense. And he applied both traits with rich results for the city and the state.”[1]Miles has long been an overlooked figure in Maryland history, primarily overshadowed by the passage of time and such larger-than-life contemporaries like Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr., Theodore R. McKeldin, George P. Mahoney, and William Donald Schaefer. Yet, Miles’ contributions played a significant role in charting the course Maryland took during the last half of the twentieth century.

Graduating from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1920, and being admitted to the state bar, Miles quickly made a name for himself within prominent Democratic political circles. He first gained prominence during the telephone rates case of 1924. At the time, the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company sought to increase rates by eight percent, prompting statewide protests from individual counties. Miles, then serving as the City Solicitor for Salisbury, argued on behalf of Caroline, Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester counties before the Public Service Commission.[2] Governor Albert Ritchie singled out Miles’ efforts in the telephone rates case, and named him People’s Counsel to the Public Service Commission. Beginning on January 1, 1925, Miles served as People’s Counsel for fifteen months, resigning in March 1926.  The Baltimore Sun praised Miles for his industry and energy, “showing purpose and demonstrating ability to protect the public interests.”[3]

Clarence Miles (left front) with Richard Nixon and Governor Theodore McKeldin, 1954. SVF Sports Baseball Orioles vs. White Sox, 1954.

Ironically, in a career that demonstrated such early promise, the People’s Counsel would be the last public office Miles held in a long, storied career. Miles’ stature within the Democratic Party grew during the 1930s and 1940s. So much so, the Baltimore Sun considered him a powerful figure within the party, known for facilitating harmony between the state party’s divergent wings. However, by the early-1950s, Miles’ stature within the party weakened. He lost favor within the party for his support of Dwight D. Eisenhower during the 1952 presidential election. In supporting Eisenhower, Miles became viewed as a “prime mover” in an inter-party rebellion that witnessed forty-seven prominent Maryland Democrats throwing their support for the Republican nominee. Four years later, however, Miles publicly supported the Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson, accepting the chairmanship of the Volunteers for Stevenson and Kefauver campaign in Maryland.[4]The damage was nonetheless done.

Clarence W. Miles with Orioles Jim McDonald and Harry Byrd, 1955. Photo taken from the book Eight Busy Decades: the Life and Times of Clarence W. Miles (page 40) edited by Jacques Kelly.

Yet, one of Miles’ major accomplishments came outside the political realm. He worked closely with Mayor Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr. and local financiers to bring the St. Louis Browns to Baltimore. In September 1953, with Baltimore holding slim hopes of landing the Browns, Miles offered to purchase eighty percent of the team’s stock, costing a total of approximately $2,450,000. The money Miles produced proved influential in helping Baltimore secure a Major League Baseball team.[5] As a result, Miles became the Orioles first team president. His tenure, however, proved less successful. With the Orioles performing poorly during the 1954 and 1955 seasons, Miles leadership style facilitated resentment from members of the Board of Directors, especially given the organization’s free-spending ways in acquiring young talent. The Board ultimately squeezed Miles out as team president in November 1955.[6]

Miles experience with the Orioles paved the way for his most memorable role: member of the Greater Baltimore Committee (G.B.C.). As people and businesses left Baltimore in the post-war period, revitalization became viewed as the remedy for the city’s decay. The Commission on Government Efficiency and Economy called for the extension of “blight-correction activities” into the city’s core.[7] However, without a coherent policy, most plans failed. By January 1955, members of Baltimore’s business community formed the G.B.C., whereby members would work with municipal agencies to facilitate “prompt and aggressive action” to correct city problems.[8] Miles not only served as one of the organization’s founders, but he also served as the organization’s first chairman. Through Miles’ efforts, the G.B.C. helped “prepare Baltimore for a downtown renaissance,” especially through the development of One Charles Center as a building block of revitalization.[9]

Eight Busy Decades: the Life and Times of Clarence W. Miles available at the H. Furlong Baldwin Library at MdHS.

Miles efforts not only served to benefit Baltimore, but also his native Eastern Shore. In November 1963, Miles, with New York’s Steuben Glass Company President Arthur A. Houghton, Jr., formed the Wye Institute. The institute stood as a non-profit organization designed “to help guide the economic, cultural and educational growth of the once-isolated Eastern Shore.”[10] Miles served as the Wye Institute’s first president, overseeing a rocky beginning which included a quickly prepared survey that sharply criticized the region’s business and civic leaders for their inability to communicate and work together for the general good. As a result, Eastern Shore leaders grew disenchanted with the Wye Institute.[11] Miles’ tenure, however, paved the way for an educational summer camp designed to broaden the cultural and educational horizons of the Eastern Shore’s youth.[12]Over time, the Wye Institute played a pivotal role in working with business and civic leaders in the development of the Eastern Shore, integrating the region with the rest of the state.

By September 1965, Miles left his position as president of the Wye Institute to focus on his campaign for governor. He had hinted at the prospect of running months earlier, prompting the Baltimore Sun to comment that, “[w]ith his family roots in the Eastern Shore, his law office in Baltimore and the General Assembly his sometimes area of activity [as a lobbyist], his qualifications for a general approach to State issues couldn’t be more promising.”[13] Miles became the first Democrat to enter the gubernatorial race in September 1965. With “Maryland Ahead By Miles” as the campaign slogan, Miles advocated for a limited form of open housing legislation, while also supporting reform to the state’s tax code, constitution, and horse racing industry. Miles finished fourth in the Democratic primary, but made his presence felt. Being from the Eastern Shore, Miles cut into front-runner Thomas B. Finan’s base of support in the region, enabling George P. Mahoney to capture the nomination through his anti-open housing slogan, “Your Home is Your Castle – Protect It.” Miles ultimately endorsed Spiro T. Agnew, who defeated Mahoney in the general election.[14]

Click on the play button below to hear a clip from a 1976 interview with Miles discussing the 1966 campaign.

Miles continued to work actively to benefit Maryland during his later years. While contemplating to run for governor, Miles served as a statewide chairman to the State Constitutional Convention Commission, which sought to modernize Maryland’s constitution. Governor Agnew later appointed Miles as chairman of the Maryland Gambling Commission. As chairman, Miles worked to develop a comprehensive plan to reorganize Maryland horse racing. The reorganization, known as the Miles Plan, went unadopted.[15] However, Miles’ significance cannot be seen through the lens of a failed gubernatorial campaign or an unadopted horse racing measure. Miles’ significance can be seen through his efforts in bringing baseball to Baltimore, not to mention his efforts in laying the foundation for revitalizing Baltimore and the Eastern Shore. Through his oral history interview recorded in 1976, listeners will be able to hear Miles express his thoughts on events and organizations that shaped Maryland during the twentieth century. Events and organizations which he held considerable influence. In the process, listeners will gain a rich perspective from an influential, though overlooked, figure in Maryland history. (Richard Hardesty)

Richard Hardesty is currently a doctoral student at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. In the summer of 2009, his article, “‘[A] veil of voodoo’: George P. Mahoney, Open Housing, and the 1966 Governor’s Race” appeared in the Maryland Historical Magazine. Richard’s current research examines the role the Orioles played in shaping Baltimore’s urban renewal and identity.


[1] “Clarence Miles, GBC founder, dies at 80,” Baltimore Sun (Baltimore): October 9, 1977; “Clarence W. Miles,” Baltimore Sun, October 11, 1977.

[2] In explaining the need to increase rates, Chesapeake and Potomac President A. E. Berry noted, “[t]he growth of Baltimore has forced heavy burdens upon our company and plant. For example, the number of telephones in Maryland has increased from 122,512 in 1919 to 159,722 in 1923. By 1928, we figure that there will be 206,764 telephones in the State.” Berry noted that, in order to prevent a curtail in service to a growing clientele, the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company had to increase its rates by eight percent. “Three Utilities Likely to Seek Raise in Rates,” Baltimore Sun, March 29, 1924;  “Will Join Forces Today In Fight On Phone Rates,” Baltimore Sun, July 23, 1924; “To Resume Hearing in Phone Case Today,” Baltimore Sun, October 21, 1924.

[3] “C. W. Miles Gets P. S. C. Place to Succeed Maloy,” Baltimore Sun, December 27, 1924; “T. J. Tingley Named People’s Counsel,” Baltimore Sun, March 17, 1926; “People’s Counsel,” Baltimore Sun, March 18, 1926.

[4] Charles G. Whiteford, “Democrats Again Plan To Back Ike,” Baltimore Sun, September 23, 1955; “Clarence Miles, GBC founder, dies at 80,” Baltimore Sun, October 9, 1977.

[5] Historian James Edward Miller speculated that Miles had been motivated by his political ambitions. As Miller noted, “Miles had long-term ambitions to run for political office and recognized that the prestige acquired by bringing a major league team to Baltimore would aid his eventual bid.” Miles never revealed his intentions for bringing baseball to Baltimore. Not only did Miles lose most of his records in a house fire during the early-1970s, but his memoir did little to reveal his true intentions. However, Miller’s analysis had merit, especially in light of Miles’ support of Eisenhower in 1952. James Edward Miller, The Baseball Business: Pursuing Pennants & Profits in Baltimore (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1990), 32; Jesse A. Linthicum, “Miles Offers To Buy 80% Of Browns Stock,” Baltimore Sun, September 29, 1953.

[6] The organization spent $700,000 on acquiring young talent during the Orioles first two years in Baltimore, only to have the team finish in seventh place both seasons. As a result, the Board sought to move in a new direction, pushing Miles out in the process. Miles, for his part, publicly cited his obligation to his law practice as the reason for resigning. “Miles Resigns Post as Orioles’ President Amid Atmosphere of Dissension,” New York Times (New York): November 8, 1955; “Miles Quits Board Job With Orioles,” The Washington Post (Washington): November 17, 1955; Lou Hatter, “Miles Leaves Oriole Board; Others Remain,” Baltimore Sun, November 17, 1955; Miller, The Baseball Business: Pursuing Pennants & Profits in Baltimore, 47-8.

[7] The Commission reported that only four of Baltimore’s twenty-eight wards gained tax revenues from 1925 to 1950, while seven wards lost tax revenue.  The remaining seventeen wards did not gain or lose its tax money.  As Miles noted, “[p]rojecting those trends into the future, the report concluded that the city would reach a turning point in which the growth in new development could not match the deterioration in the value and assessment of the older properties.” Clarence W. Miles, Eight Busy Decades: The Life and Times of Clarence W. Miles, ed. Jacques Kelly (Queenstown, Maryland: White Bank, 1986), 57; “City Slums Increasing, Report Says,” Baltimore Sun, November 16, 1952.

[8] Miles, Eight Busy Decades: The Life and Times of Clarence W. Miles, ed. Kelly, 58-61; “83 Leaders Form City ‘Action’ Unit,” Baltimore Sun, January 6, 1955.

[9] “Clarence W. Miles,” Baltimore Sun, October 11, 1977.

[10] Douglas D. Connah, Jr., “Shore Soon To Get Help,” Baltimore Sun, April 28, 1964.

[11] “Study Is Critical Of Eastern Shore,” New York Times, October 25, 1964; “Advice Disturbs Maryland Shore,” New York Times, February 14, 1965.

[12] “Wye Camp Dedicated,” Baltimore Sun. May 29, 1966.

[13] “While We Wait,” Baltimore Sun, June 29, 1965.

[14] Governor Harry Hughes noted in his autobiography that Miles’ candidacy played a pivotal role in preventing Finan from obtaining the Democratic nomination. In running for governor, Miles took votes away from Finan, enough to ensure that he finished third behind Mahoney and Representative Carlton R. Sickles. Without Miles’ candidacy, Finan would have received enough votes to overtake both Sickles and Mahoney. Miles’ candidacy did shape the outcome of the Democratic primary, but, in a race where Mahoney won by 1,939 votes, Miles’ candidacy did not represent the only reason behind Mahoney’s victory. Despite being viewed as a perennial loser, Mahoney had been a noted vote-getter, though his popularity had started to wane by the early-1960s. His candidacy, though, was not simply aided by Miles, but also by Finan and Sickles themselves. As the two front-runners, Finan and Sickles spent so much time going after each other that they overlooked Mahoney, allowing him to fly under the radar during the primary. Mahoney also benefitted from divisions amongst the state’s civil rights leadership, as they either supported Finan or Sickles. Lastly, Mahoney benefitted from Sickels poor showing in his home jurisdiction of Prince George’s County. Opponents attacked Sickles’ stance on open housing, to the point where some linked Sickles to the issue of busing. While Sickles ultimately carried Prince George’s County, he did so by a narrow margin, hindering his chances for the nomination. See also, Richard Hardesty, “‘[A] veil of voodoo’: George P. Mahoney, Open Housing, and the 1966 Governor’s Race,” Maryland Historical Magazine 104 (Summer 2009): 145-184; Harry Roe Hughes and John W. Frece, My Unexpected Journey: The Autobiography of Governor Harry Roe Hughes (Charleston: The History Press, 2006); Whiteford, “Miles Asks Free Homeowner Sale,” Baltimore Sun, May 18, 1966.

[15]  “Clarence Miles, GBC founder, dies at 80,” Baltimore Sun, October 9, 1977.

Psychedelic Relic

The process of accepting donations of books, photographs, manuscripts, and other items into the Maryland Historical Society’s collection can be unpredictable. Donations run the gamut from a single postcard, to a family scrapbook, a collection of personal papers, to the entire archive of a business or corporation. Sometimes the entire transaction of accepting a donation can take less than half an hour. On occasion it can be a many month process involving multiple emails and phone calls, hours of exploring the potential research and historical value of a particular donation, filling out paperwork, coordinating schedules, and arranging the actual transfer of materials. There are other instances where a potential donor will simply show up at the front door with something they’d like to give us, we have one look and take it off their hands, as is the case with the item featured here.

Cream, Baltimore Civic Center, November 3, 1968, Edgar Argo, poster collection, Maryland Historical Society. The Baltimore Civic Center (today the First Mariner Arena) has played host to countless musical acts over its history, including two performances by the Beatles on September 23, 1964 – their only visit to the city.

This is an original concert poster for the rock group Cream’s November 3, 1968 concert date at the Baltimore Civic Center during their “farewell” tour of the United States. Often referred to as the first supergroup, Cream, consisting of Eric Clapton on guitar, Jack Bruce on bass and lead vocals, and Ginger Baker on drums, broke up immediately after the tour amid growing tensions between band members. Although the poster indicates that the Baltimore concert was “their farewell performance,” the group also performed the following night in Providence, Rhode Island. This was followed by two shows at the Royal Albert Hall in London on November 26, their last performances together until reuniting for a number of concerts in the 1990s and 2000s.

Baltimore Sun, November 2, 1968

While it’s debatable that the members of Cream were “the most important controversial pop stars in the world” in 1968—other groups were more important in the history of rock and roll, for instance a group called the Beatles comes to mind, and bands such as the Rolling Stones and the Doors were arguably more controversial—the band was hugely popular and influential, with Clapton recognized as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Wheels of Fire, their recently released album, had a four week run atop the Billboard album chart and would become the world’s first platinum selling double album. The opening acts for the date at the Civic Center were the Moody Blues and the Terry Reid Group. (Terry Reid is pictured at the top of the poster)

The poster was designed by Edgar Argo, a Maryland-based cartoonist and illustrator who passed away in 2009. Durwood C. Settles, the promoter of the concert, was responsible for bringing many of the biggest acts of the era to the Baltimore – Washington area including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, James Brown, and the Grateful Dead. Although not present here, the byline “Durwood C. Settles Presents” on a concert poster usually indicated a quality program. As in many of the rock posters of the era, there are rumored to be a few obscured or hidden images. See if you can spot them. (Damon Talbot)

Sources:

http://nj1015.com/this-day-in-music-history-107/

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/cream-mn0000112462

http://www.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/Music/05/03/cream.reunion.concert/index.html

http://blog.postercentral.com/tag/durwood-c-settles-presents/

From Slabtown to Hampden

[title] Hampden Improvement Association map, J. Morris Wampler, 1857.

As I was inventorying some of our maps a couple months ago, I was very excited to stumble across a crumbly, crusty, and torn map of Hampden from 1857. Though we have an absolutely staggering amount of material in our collection, we do not have a lot from the community that almost half of our library staff calls home.

I’m of the opinion that historical material needs two of three factors in order to survive for future generations: luck, money, and someone caring. Most of our collections have benefited from all three. Because of this there is less material representing working class people that survives than the wealthy; in other words, without money the material’s survival relies heavily on luck. Since Hampden was a traditionally a working class community, less stuff has survived, making the manuscripts, artifacts, and photographs that much more valuable.

So what can I learn from this swiss-cheese piece of map that somehow made its way to our library years ago? For one, I learned that the history of the area represented in the map is equally full of gaps—not a coincidence. Second, I learned that the best way to fill these historical gaps is by using the resources the map lives amongst in our library. A healthy library (and the help of Francis O’Neill) can make each crumb exponentially more valuable.

There are three very striking features on this map. (1) The ornate title reading “Hampden Improvement Association; Property Baltimore County, 1857, J. Morris Wampler;” (2)  it is subdivided into 250 numbered, mostly undeveloped plots; and (3) the name H. Mankin, the man responsible for giving the village known as “Slabtown” its modern name “Hampden,” on a couple of the larger plots with two houses.*

The Mankin plot can be seen here as #270. The street directly north of the lot, 3rd avenue, is present day 36th street, or “The Avenue.”

Using The Baltimore Sun and the Dielman-Hayward file, we found that J. Morris Wampler was appointed Chief Engineer of the City Water Board in 1857; he most likely designed the Hampden reservoir. It appears this map was commissioned by the Hampden Improvement Association, perhaps to create the path for a pipe from the reservoir at Roland Park to another reservoir at the present day site of Roosevelt Park in Hampden.

We found references to the Hampden Improvement Association in The Baltimore Sun, but couldn’t figure out exactly what it was. We did find reference to the incorporation of a similar group calling themselves “the trustees of Hampden Hall,” in Chapter 222 of Laws of Maryland, 1856. This group evidently had the joint goal of forming a girls school. In the process of incorporating, they established themselves as a land company. Whether this was coincidence, an accident, or for economic reasons is unclear, and though two lots are called “College Lots” on the map, no school was ever established. The names associated with Hampden Hall are John N. McJilton, David Stewart, Samuel Wyman, Isaiah Martin, and Henry Martin. After looking up H. Mankin in the Dielman-Hayward file, I noticed that his father was named Isaiah. I am guessing this is a typo and these two “Martins” are actually the “Mankins.”

General Henry Mankin (1804-1876) made his fortune in shipping, taking over the firm Clark and Kellog,  when its founders retired. He was responsible for establishing the first regular lines between the major ports of Baltimore and Liverpool; his fleets became famous for the large quantity of freight that was sent overseas, and the hundreds of immigrants who arrived on his boats returning to harbor. In 1838 Mankin married Sarah Anne Foard, and they bought a country place north of Baltimore between Falls Turnpike and Stoney Run called Mount Pleasant. They planted many trees and flowers, and soon the area that is now known as Hampden “became noted for its beauty and fragrance.”

Predicting that Baltimore would be forced to expand northward, Mankin left the shipping business and formed the Hampden Improvement Association (possibly through the Hampden Hall maneuver) as a business venture with the Mount Pleasant tract at its heart. Unfortunately for Mankin the expansion did not happen at the rapid rate he anticipated—it  was slowed by the Civil War. Mankin passed away In 1876 a much poorer man than he had been in the 1850s, his investment never really panning out. Though the village had greatly increased in size due to an influx of mill hands and foundry workers, it  never turned into the prosperous business venture he envisioned. In 1887 Hampden was incorporated into the city when Baltimore expanded northward.

(Eben Dennis)

*Outsiders originally called the village “Slabtown” after the architecture of its small houses. This name was greatly disliked by the majority Irish population of the tiny village, and they pushed to name the town Kellyville, after Martin kelly, the inn keep and man responsible for building many of these houses. Evidently he was a modest man and declined. The largest landowner in the community was General Henry Mankin (1804-1876), and thinking the name Hampden (after 17th century British statesmen John Hampden) sounded distinguished, he got it to stick.

The plot owned by the Clarke family was part of the Mount Pleasant tract (not to be confused with Mankin’s mansion of the same name), presumedly purchased from Henry Mankin. The Clarke family built the buildings shown in the map above called the “Beaumont Estate.” The property next changed hands to the Dulin Family who eventually sold it to the Maryland Casualty Company. Shortly after the first World War the Maryland Casualty Company built the structure we know of today as the Rotunda.

Sources

“Man in the Street: Martin Kelly,” The Baltimore Sun, Feb 11, 1951.

“Classified Ad #23,” The Baltimore Sun, May 1, 1868.

“Classified Ad #15,” The Baltimore Sun, January 9, 1861.

“Classified Ad #35,” The Baltimore Sun, June 29, 1859.

“Local Matters,” The Baltimore Sun, July 25, 1857.

“Local Matters,” The Baltimore Sun, May 28, 1856.

Passano Historic Structures Index, Maryland Historical Society.

Dielman–Hayward File, Maryland Historical Society.

“Sketch of the Life of Henry Mankin,” Dielman–Hayward File, Maryland Historical Society.

Baltimore County. Map of Hampden. 1857, M271, Maryland Historical Society.

Laws Made and Passed by the General Assembly of the State of Maryland, 1856.

Chalkley, Mark. “Hampden Woodberry.” Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, South Carolina, 2006.

Election Recollection: Errol Morris’ Op-doc from the NY Times

With tomorrow’s vote looming over us, we decided to direct our readers to Errol Morris’ thoughtful Op-doc video “11 Excellent Reasons Not to Vote,” from last week’s New York Times.

Click here for the Video. Morris’ full text appears below.

And to loosely tie this post together with our collection, we’ve thrown in a few pieces of political ephemera from the Democratic National Convention held in Baltimore 100 years ago. To reward our faithful readers we’ve included a very obvious clue for our Movember contest.

Don’t forget to GO OUT AND VOTE!

National Democratic Convention Program, Politcal Ephemera, Series R, Box 3, Maryland Historical Society

Two programs from the Democratic Convention of 1912 in Baltimore. (L) pamphlet produced by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (R) convention booklet featuring Mayor James H. Preston on the cover. Political Ephemera, Series R, Box 3, MdHS

“11 Excellent Reasons Not to Vote”  by Errol Morris. NYT, Oct. 30, 2012.

It doesn’t look good for the United States.

We are proud when Iraqis and Libyans dodge bombs to vote in their first free elections in decades, and then, when it’s our chance, we barely exceed their turnout rates. Often, we do worse. Roughly half of us vote, and the other half don’t.

It made me wonder: What’s stopping us? Do we have reasons not to vote? How can we hear so much about the election, and not participate? If hope isn’t doing it, isn’t the fear of the other guy winning enough to brave the roads, the long lines?

In the middle of October, I spoke to more than 50 people between 18 and 40, almost all of whom are planning to go to the polls on Nov. 6. That made them exceptional: only 51 percent of young people voted in 2008. A smaller group is expected this year.

Before asking why they will vote, I asked why most young people won’t. They told me that many of the issues they care about — climate change, civil rights, the war on drugs, immigration, prison reform — are not discussed by Democrats or Republicans. That there is such a gulf between what candidates say they will do, and what they do, that it’s impossible to trust anyone. That apathy is actually supported by the evidence.

Voting is a leap of faith. Calling it a civic duty is not enough. Either you believe that the system is both changeable and worth changing, or you don’t — and most new voters are not convinced.

The arguments against voting have been persuasive to many Americans. But what about the flip side? Why bother? Here I think the arguments are better. War and peace. Equal rights for women and same-sex couples. My personal favorite, the balance of the Supreme Court. The prospect of meeting the love of your life at the polling place. Several people argued that if you don’t vote, you lose your right to complain about the results of an election. But I respectfully disagree. In our society, the right to complain is even more fundamental than the right to vote.

I don’t know what, in the end, forces me to vote. It could be fear; it could be guilt. Although my mother died over 10 years ago, I feel that she is watching me, and I don’t want to disappoint her.

I would like to thank everyone who volunteered to be interviewed. I would also like to thank Doug Abel, Bob Chappell, Steven Hathaway, John Kusiak, Isaac Silverglate, Nick Rondeau, Dan Mooney, Jeremy Landman, Julie Ahlberg, Robert Fernandez, Amanda Branson Gill, Dina Piscatelli, Eric, Lori and Jessica Lander, Bina Venkataraman, Linda Carlson, Angus Wall, Jennifer Sofio Hall, a52, Kim Bica, Kirsten Thon-Webb, Arcade, Dana May, Patrick Regan, Ronnie Lee, Zoey Taylor, Adam Picchietti, Timothy Collins, Josh Kearney, Max Larkin, Drew Beirut, Reid Savage, Karen Skinner, Ann Petrone and Julia Sheehan.

This Op-Doc video was produced in collaboration with two creative agencies, CHI & Partners NY and Moxie Pictures, and with the I CAN. I WILL. Campaign for Our Time, a nonprofit organization that advocates for young voters and consumers.

Errol Morris  is an Academy Award-winning filmmaker (“The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara”) and author of the recent book “A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald.” His first film, “Gates of Heaven,” is on Roger Ebert’s list of the 10 best movies ever made, and his latest, “The Unknown Known: The Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld,” will open in 2013.  He lives in Cambridge, Mass., with his wife and two French bulldogs.

Movember at MdHS

It’s Movember, so here’s a contest!

As you may have heard November is Movember, which is national mustache month. The Movember Foundation seeks to raise awareness about prostate cancer and other male cancer initiatives.

In honor of Movember and to help raise awareness here in the Fatti maschil, Parole femine (Manly deeds, Womanly words) state we tapped our collective hivemind to handpick the best ’staches from our collections. We even threw in a few of our own. Can you tell who’s who?

Try our Movember contest: The first four responses with the most correct answers could win one of the following items:

Maryland History in Prints, 1743-1900 by Laura Rice (a $75 value)

Gardiner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the Civil War (Dover, 1959, a $16.95 value)

DVD – Baltimore: a Modern City of Charm and Distinction (a $12 value)

A Family passes to visit MdHS (2 adults & up to 4 children, a $20 value)

Please email your responses to specialcollections@mdhs.org

In addition to this contest, which has rules (please see them below), MdHS library and Special Collections staff will also be taking up a collection for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Donations can be made at the H. Furlong Baldwin Library or here.

*MdHS employees, volunteers, interns, board and committee members are not eligible to win prizes. They are eligible to win bragging rights.