Look up, Baltimore baseball fans! You’ve come a long way.
The origin of baseball in Baltimore is a ridiculously complicated affair. Scant photographic evidence remains and accounts in newspapers, which used nicknames for teams and players as often as they did proper names, leave behind a murky, hard-to-follow record.
By the 1870s there were already a handful of defunct Maryland base ball* clubs with names like the Excelsiors, the Marylands, the Pastimes, the Monumentals, etc. Keeping track of who they were, where they played, where they packed up and left town to play before coming back under another team name is a chore difficult for the most earnest of sporting historians. Add to this mess a game so loosely organized that it was impossible to even agree on a national champion until 1894. A little research on the subject yields a solid argument for keeping things simple, so here goes…
Meet your Lord Baltimores a.k.a. the Yellow Stockings a.k.a the Baltimore Canaries, so called for their bright yellow uniforms. These dandies wore thick silk shirts—instead of the usual flannel—emblazoned with the Calvert arms, wide white belts, and snazzy yellow and black argyle socks.
The year was 1872. Out of the ashes of Waverly’s Pastime Base Ball Club, which started fielding amateur players as early as 1861, came the Lord Baltimores. When the team played well, fans called them Lords. When they didn’t win, fans were more inclined to call them Canaries. They were the city’s first professional team under the auspices of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, but they were its second professional team overall.
The honor of being Baltimore’s first professional base ball club went to the Marylands who in the late 1860s defected to Fort Wayne, Indiana when wealthy businessmen there flashed some cash and convinced them to stay while the team was in town for a game. After a brief dalliance as the Fort Wayne Kekiongas, half the team returned home to Charm City to form the Lords. Not surprisingly the team was plagued from the start with rumors that they threw games.
In their three seasons of existence (1872-1874), the Lord Baltimores played their home games at Baltimore’s Newington Park, which was located between Baker and Gold Streets. There are no known photographs of the venue, though with the help of G.M. Hopkins’ Atlas and the Sachse Company’s “Bird’s Eye View…” we’re able to get some idea of when and where the park stood. Newington Park was located on Pennsylvania Avenue “extended” in West Baltimore.
The club’s most popular player, Lipman Emanuel “Lip” Pike (1845–1893),** was also the first Jewish major leaguer. Known as the “Iron Batter,” the left-handed batsman was a homerun king at a time when dingers were only an occasional treat. A noted speedster, Pike was no stranger to the inside-the-park homerun and had a reputation for racing any challenger for a cash prize. On August 16, 1873, he reportedly raced a horse named “Clarence” in a 100-yard sprint at Newington Park, and won by four yards with a time of 10 seconds flat, earning him a cash prize that would amount to about $5,000 today).*** While in Baltimore Lip Pike ran a cigar store on Holliday Street near Fayette. His financial prospects outlived his team’s.****
Finishing their first and second seasons in second and third place respectively, the future of the Lords club was looking bright. But the Panic of 1873 caught up with the team’s financiers. Funding dried up and the team they fielded in 1874 was a disgrace. They ended their final season 9-38, 31.5 games behind the first place Boston Red Stockings. (Joe Tropea)
* Prior to 1890, baseball was written “base ball.”
**Baseball Almanac, United Press International. October 9, 1986.
*** Joseph Siegman, Jewish Sports Legends: The International Jewish Sports Hall Of Fame, 2005.
**** Lip Pike played and managed teams up and down the East Coast after the Canaries went kaput. When his baseball days were over he ran a haberdashery that became a well-known hangout for baseball enthusiasts. In 1893, he died of a heart attack at age 48 and was buried in his native Brooklyn, N.Y.
James H. Bready, Baseball in Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins Press, 1998.
Paul Batesel, Players and Teams of the National Association, 1871-1875, McFarland, 2012.
Glimpses Into Baseball History blog, “Early Baltimore Baseball, Part 16,” http://baseballhistoryblog.com/2055/early-baltimore-baseball-part-16/
West Baltimore was once a densely packed, vibrant neighborhood full of theaters, local businesses, and industry. Drive down many of the streets today and you’re likely to see a vacant lot or a boarded up row house on nearly every other block. But even an empty field has a history. The tiny, off-kilter house pictured to the left is one of the oldest houses in West Baltimore. Or at least it was circa 1865 when the photograph was taken. Like many of Baltimore’s historic structures it has been lost to time and the march of progress. It is now the site of a vacant lot. Built in the mid-1700s, the two-story wood frame house was located at 930 West Baltimore Street, two doors west of Amity Street. The property is known as the Sulzebacher house. The name is most likely a corruption of Sulzbach; according to the Baltimore city directories, a currier named Peter Sulzbach occupied the residence for a few years in the 1840s.
The house is of typical design for a mid-eighteenth century home in Baltimore. The gable roof may point to the construction of the home in the 1760s or 1770s; by then “gambrel roofs had fallen out of favor and most frame houses were a full two stories in height, with gable roof, with or without dormers.”* The building’s obvious tilt was characteristic of structures “located on streets built to match a since-altered street grade.”** Visible on the second floor is a fire insurance seal. Also called a fire mark, these iron, copper, or lead emblems indicated that a specific insurance firm paid a volunteer fire department to protect it – Baltimore’s first paid fire department was established in 1859, but the fire seals often remained left on the buildings. The Sulzebacher house survived for over 150 years, no mean feat for a wood frame house from that period. Sometime before 1911 the house was razed – the structure is not visible on the 1911 edition of the Sanborn fire insurance atlas – and replaced by a three-story barber shop.
The house at 932 West Baltimore Street, the edge of which can be seen in the photograph, may have been even older. Built in the same period, it had a much larger frontage than its neighbor at 930. The original structure was razed just a few years prior to the Sulzebacher house to make way for a motion picture theater. Both 932 and 930 West Baltimore Street appear to have caught the eye of rival theater owners. At around the same time that James W. Bowers was pursuing the properties at 932, A. Freedman had similar designs on 930. Freedman apparently lost the contest, because the only theater that debuted was Bower’s Aladdin Theater, which opened its doors to the public near the end of 1909. Advertising itself as “West Baltimore’s finest motion picture house,” the Aladdin theater seated about 400 patrons.
Between 1910 and 1938 the theater changed both ownership and names a number of times. In 1917 J. Louis Rome purchased it and renamed it the New Aladdin. The following year it came under the control of C.E. Nolte and his partner, Baltimore-born movie mogul Frank Durkee, whose Durkee Enterprises owned or controlled a large number of the movies houses in Baltimore, including the Ritz, the Palace, the Arcade, and the Senator. In 1930 the theater became the New Queen. It was open for less than a year, perhaps closing from the effects of the Great Depression. Then from 1933 to 1938 it operated as the segregated Booker T. Theater. This was the last of the property’s run as a host for cinematic productions – in 1942 it was converted into a plant for the New Gold Bottling Company, a soft drink manufacturer.
The New Gold Bottling Company was founded in 1925 by Greek immigrant Dionicios Karavedas. The company went on to produce Sun Spot, a popular orange flavored soft drink, whose advertisements boasted that it was made with real orange juice. During the 1950s and 1960s, the beverage, which retailed for a nickel, could be found in neighborhood stores and confectionaries throughout the city. The riots of 1968, which hit West Baltimore particularly hard, led to a decline in business for the soft drink manufacturer. In an odd change of direction, Dionicios’s son Nicholas, who took over the company after his father retired in 1960, began producing a sugar detecting beverage alongside his sugar enhancing ones – in the 1970s, he was involved with developing a product known as GTTS (Glucose tolerance testing solution) that detected the presence of gestational diabetes in pregnant women. Through a new company, Custom Laboratories, Inc., Karavedas went on to become the “the largest supplier of glucose testing solutions in the country.”***
By the 1980s, the beverage companies were still producing their dissimilar drinks on West Baltimore Street. But the city had its own plans for the site. In the mid-1980s it began purchasing properties on both the 900 and 800 blocks of West Baltimore Street for a proposed redevelopment project.
By 1992 the Karavedas owned companies were the remaining holdouts. According to a Baltimore Sun article from that year, the beverage companies were “the last tenants on a block the city has been clearing for as-yet unspecified housing or commercial redevelopment use.”**** By 1998, they had relocated across the city to Highlandtown. Twenty years later the 900 block of West Baltimore street, now owned by the University of Maryland, still remains undeveloped, a field of grass surrounded by a mixture of boarded up row homes, storefronts, University of Maryland medical buildings, and vacant lots. (Damon Talbot)
*Hayward, Mary Ellen & Frank R. Shivers Jr., ed., The Architecture of Baltimore: An Illustrated History (Baltimore: JohnsHopkinsUniversity Press, 2004), p. 9.
**The Passano Files, Baltimore Street (928, West)
****”Boondoggle on Baltimore Street,” The Baltimore Sun, March 16, 1992.
Sources and further reading:
”Boondoggle on Baltimore Street,” The Baltimore Sun, March 16, 1992.
The Dielman-Hayward File, Karavadas, Dionicios
Hayward, Mary Ellen & Frank R. Shivers Jr., ed., The Architecture of Baltimore: An Illustrated History (Baltimore: JohnsHopkinsUniversity Press, 2004)
Headley, Jr, Robert Kirk, Exit: A History of the Movies in Baltimore (University Park, Md: Robert Kirk Headley, Jr., 1974)
Headley, Jr, Robert Kirk, Motion Picture Exhibition in Baltimore: An Illustrated History and Directory of Theaters, 1895-2004 (London: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2006)
Jones, Carleton, Lost Baltimore Landmarks: A Portfolio of Vanished Buildings (Baltimore: Maclay & Associates., 1982)
Kelly, Jacques, “Nicholas D. Karavedas, beverage producer, dies,” The Baltimore Sun, October 19, 2010.
Life Magazine, December 24, 1965
The Passano Files, Baltimore Street (928, 930-932, West)
Ever wonder about Hoes Heights? The hidden and oft-overlooked north Baltimore neighborhood of Hoes Heights bears the name of Grandison Hoe, a freed slave in Antebellum Baltimore who once owned and operated a farm on the location. Nestled between its more renowned neighbors—Hampden to the south and Roland Park to the north— this neighborhood remained entirely African-American until the last few decades. Hoes Heights, bound by Cold Spring Lane to the north, 41st Street to the south, Falls Road to the west and Evans Chapel Road to the east, became part of Baltimore City under the 1918 Annexation Act. It is an architecturally diverse community consisting of 19th century stick style houses, turn of the century single-family homes, and brick rowhouses. Many are probably familiar with this neighborhood’s most prominent feature—the 148 foot tall water tower located on Roland Avenue near the intersection of University Parkway.
The earliest reference to the Hoe property is found in an 1857 map of Hampden and its surrounding regions by J. Morris Wampler (seen to the left). The property’s boundaries terminated to the north at what is now Roland Heights Avenue and to the west along the crest of the hill that descends to Falls Road. In the 1860 census of Baltimore County, Grandison is listed as being 40 years of age with property worth $3,600 and an estate worth $200—a modest house on valuable land. Also listed as residents of the farm are his 38-year-old wife Lucy, their five children, and a man named Augustus Green. All are identified as farmers.
The history of Hoes Heights prior to 1857 is somewhat murky. Who deeded Grandison Hoe, a freed slave, this coveted piece of land? Eliza Hoe, who may have been a sister or close relative of Grandison, shows up in the 1870 census as a housekeeper for a branch of the Fendall family in Bolton Hill. This same family also owned property adjacent to Hoes Heights, which was once part of Charles Ridgley’s massive North Baltimore estate. This Hoe-Fendall connection could possibly explain how Grandison ended up with the land.
Hiram Woods (1826-1901), a local sugar refining magnate who owned land north of Cold Spring Lane, so desired Hoe’s Hill (as it was then known) that he offered several times to buy the land and resettle the Hoes in Cross Keys, a small African-American village just to the north. Woods even offered to relocate the family burial ground. The Hoes rejected the offer. (Woods’s parcel later became part of Roland Park.)
As the Hoe family grew older the need for more living quarters arose. Grandison’s two sons, William and Richard, built their own houses adjacent to their father’s. Relatives, possibly from Charles County, moved to the Hoe farm and built homes. As the 20th century approached, the occupants of Hoes Heights began shifting from farm to domestic work, earning their livings in Roland Park and other exclusive neighborhoods. The harsh circumstances of the Great Depression forced the Hoes to sell portions of their land in order to pay delinquent tax bills. As a result, several blocks of small brick rowhouses were built on 43rd Street, 42nd Street, Evans Chapel and Providence Road during the 1930s and 1940s. Around 70 houses were built with most sold to African-American veterans returning from World War II.
By 1876, Grandison Hoe was most likely deceased—the 1877 Atlas of Baltimore and its Environs, Vol. 1 by G. M. Hopkins shows the name Lucy Hoe on the parcel. The map also depicts a P. Solvine as the property owner of a small piece of land above Roland Heights Avenue terminating at Cold Spring Lane. The Solvine parcel (now part of Hoes Heights) eventually came to be known as Heathbrook. A mid-1970s census report states that Heathbrook was 100 percent white, while Hoes Heights was 100 percent African-American. Historically the two communities have maintained close ties—the Heathbrook Community Organization has worked closely with the Hoes Heights Improvement Association, but the two have remained separate entities.*
Today, Hoes Heights continues to feel more like a rural village than a city neighborhood. The amicable neighbors and tranquil setting gives the impression of simpler times and a real connection between past and present is evident. (Bryson Dudley)
Hoes Heights: A Neighborhood Plan (Hampden Pratt library vertical file)
1860 BaltimoreCounty census (Towsontown courthouse)
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
Baltimore Evening Sun May 8, 1934
Baltimore‘s Two Cross Keys villages by Jim Holechek
Baltimore Deco by S. Cucchiella
While writing a previous post that looked at the debate over the oldest house in Baltimore, a coworker introduced me to another longstanding Baltimore debate. After reading the post, my coworker gently chided me for the use of “Fell’s Point” rather than the correct “Fells Point.” Not being a native Marylander, I was unfamiliar with the argument over the little mark of punctuation, or the fact that its use, or absence, can elicit such strong feelings. Just within the last dozen or so years, the debate has been addressed in the pages of The Baltimore Sun, City Paper, and Baltimore Magazine, with various theories proposed. A 1999 City Paper article, for instance, states that Fells Point is spelled without an apostrophe, because it’s not a mark of ownership, but rather “the plural of ‘Fell,’ presumably in honor of the two brothers.” (The two brothers being English Quakers Edward and William Fell) The reaction got me curious, so I decided to do a little digging of my own, to see if a brief history of the apostrophe could be charted.
In 1730, English carpenter William Fell arrived in Maryland and purchased a plot of land overlooking the Northwest branch of the Patapsco River. The small 100-acre tract, called Copus’s Harbor, soon became known as Fell’s Prospect. The success of his younger brother Edward, who settled in Maryland a few years earlier and set up a successful store on the east side of Jones Falls, convinced William to make the trip across the Atlantic. Both William and Edward figured prominently in Baltimore’s early history – in 1732, Edward and a group of settlers founded a town they called Jones’s or Jones Town, after David Jones who first settled the area around Jones Falls in 1661.
When William died in 1746, he left his settlement and business interests to his son Edward, who in 1763, laid out the town that bears his family’s name. Needing residents and revenue for his new venture, Edward placed an advertisement in the January 14, 1762 issue of the Maryland Gazette newspaper notifying those who had submitted their names for the right to purchase lots in his new town that their “Lea[s]es are now ready to be filled up…” In what is probably one of the earliest printed references to the Point, the land is described as being near “Baltimore-Town, Maryland, on a Point known by the Name of Fell’s-Point.” (Note the liberal use of the hyphen, a common stylistic choice in the period.) Four years later, Edward’s wife Ann placed another ad in the Gazette, this time threatening legal action against new residents of the town for unpaid debts. The ad retains the apostrophe but dispenses with the hyphen.
The Maryland Gazette, the state’s first newspaper, set a precedent that most other newspapers from the period followed. Early papers published from the Point continued to use the apostrophe, including the Fell’s Point News-letter and Mercantile Advertiser (1835), and The Courier and Inquirer (1836). The neighborhood’s first newspaper, the Fell’s-Point Telegraphe (1795), retained Edward Fell’s original use of the hyphen as well.
The Baltimore Sun, founded in 1837, also utilized the possessive apostrophe until changing course early in the twentieth century. A keyword search through the Enoch Pratt Library’s online database of The Baltimore Sun from 1837 to 1985 reveals the usage of “Fell’s Point” almost exclusively throughout the 1800s. (Fells’ – the plural possessive form of Fell – can also be found on occasion.) It appears that sometime in the early decades of the twentieth century, the paper made a decision to switch to “Fells,” although “Fell’s Point” can still be found in articles as late as 1985.
Within decades of the founding of the community, however, references to the Point that omit the apostrophe could be found scattered through manuscripts and government documents. In 1773, Fell’s Point was incorporated, along with Jones’s Town and Baltimore Town, forming the City of Baltimore. Three years later, the first census of what was now the neighborhood of Fell’s Point was taken. The apostrophe is eliminated. Members of the Fell family were also not overly concerned with using the possessive when referring to their own town; a June 29, 1769 land indenture for the sale of “Lot 90” in “Fells Point” to a Robert Harrison of Dorchester County is signed by Ann Fell. Edward consistently omits the mark in a record of his business transactions from the period.
The preferred usage of early historians of Maryland and Baltimore was “Fell’s Point.” One of the earliest histories of the city, Thomas Griffith’s Annals of Baltimore, published in 1824, doesn’t reference either “Fells” or “Fell’s” Point, but “Fell’s Prospect” does appear within its pages. Historian Thomas Scharf, in his History of Baltimore City and County, published in 1881, the standard reference work on Baltimore through the mid-twentieth century and still one of the best sources on the history of early Baltimore, uses “Fell’s Point” throughout. By the twentieth century though, the balance had tipped and today both forms can be found in equal measure in scholarship on the city.
Although newspaper publishers and historians remained generally loyal to Edward Fell’s original use of the possessive apostrophe through the nineteenth century, cartographers have omitted it from their work from almost the beginning. In 1792, Frenchman and self-styled geographer A.P. Folie produced the first printed map of Baltimore – and employed the apostrophe. Most subsequent nineteenth century maps however, including Fielding Lucas Jr.’s, Plan of the City of Baltimore, drafted under the direction of the state legislature of Maryland and the mayor and city council of Baltimore in 1822, omit the apostrophe. An identically titled map produced in 1882 by Englishman Thomas Poppleton and commissioned by the city, uses the same designation. The Poppleton map remained the standard reference map for Baltimore until the publication of the Bromley Atlas in 1896. Today, the ubiquitous Google maps has replaced its printed predecessors as the leading geographical resource, and it too omits the apostrophe.
An appeal to the federal government to provide resolution to the debate is no help, as the government began eliminating the possessive use of the apostrophe for geographic names on most maps and signs in 1890. The following is the official stance of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, the organization charged with overseeing U.S. naming conventions:
“Since its inception in 1890, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has discouraged the use of the possessive form—the genitive apostrophe and the “s”. The possessive form using an “s” is allowed, but the apostrophe is almost always removed. The Board’s archives contain no indication of the reason for this policy…Myths attempting to explain the policy include the idea that the apostrophe looks too much like a rock in water when printed on a map, and is therefore a hazard, or that in the days of “stick–up type” for maps, the apostrophe would become lost and create confusion. The probable explanation is that the Board does not want to show possession for natural features because, ‘ownership of a feature is not in and of itself a reason to name a feature or change its name.’”
As of 2013 only five natural features have official license to use the possessive apostrophe. These include Martha’s Vineyard, granted permission in 1933 after an extensive local campaign, and Clark’s Mountain in Oregon, which received the blessing of the Board in 2002 to “correspond with the personal references of Lewis and Clark.” The federal disregard for the apostrophe applies only to geographic names. According to Board’s website,
“[a]lthough the legal authority of the Board includes all named entities except Federal Buildings, certain categories—broadly determined to be “administrative”—are best left to the organization that administers them. Examples include schools, churches, cemeteries, hospitals, airports, shopping centers, etc. The Board promulgates the names, but leaves issues such as the use of the genitive or possessive apostrophe to the data owners.”
Other administrative branches of the U.S. government have followed suit. In 1969, “Fells Point” was added to the National Register of Historic Places, the U.S. government’s official list of the nation’s historic sites worthy of preservation, becoming the first area in Maryland recognized as such. Although you’ll find subject entries on the Library of Congress’s list of authority headings for both “Harper’s Ferry” and “Harpers Ferry” as well as “Pike’s Peak” and “Pikes Peak,” you won’t find reference to “Fell’s Point.” If you’re going to cite a source according to Library of Congress standards then “Fells Point” is the proper designation.
Today, “Fells Point” is by far the most common and popular usage. Most modern newspapers, including the Gazette: The Fells Point Newspaper (now defunct), City Paper, and The Baltimore Sun, use it. The Baltimore City government also endorses “Fells.” For Google, the ultimate arbiter of popularity in the internet era, it is no contest—a Google search for “Fells Point” generates some 2.5 million hits; “Fell’s Point”, on the other hand, produces a meager 300,000. Although vastly outnumbered, there are still a few groups that continue to carry the banner for the apostrophe including The Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fell’s Point and the Fell’s Point Residents’ Association. In 2009, Baltimore Magazine joined the minority, switching its allegiance from “Fells” to Fell’s.”
Although “Fell’s Point,” the grammatically correct and first choice of founder Edward Fell will probably continue to be used, it may eventually disappear. With the U.S. government, the Baltimore City government, and most importantly, the Google juggernaut, all aligned against “Fell’s Point,” its future looks bleak. And while people have been omitting the possessive apostrophe for hundreds of years, the internet has greatly accelerated the practice. In recent years the debate over the increasing decline of the apostrophe has become a major issue in Great Britain, with some cities removing the offending mark from street signs. In 2001, some concerned folk even established an Apostrophe Protection Society. When British book seller Waterstone’s, dropped the apostrophe from its name in January of 2012, the chairman explained that “it was a matter of simplifying the name to suit its digital presence.” At this rate, we may see the apostrophe go the way of other rarely seen punctuation marks like the hedera or the snark. Perhaps the possessive apostrophe will be just one more thing our Intel-equipped descendants will mock us for. (Damon Talbot)
Sources and Further Reading:
Francis, G. Gardner, Fell’s Point bicentennial jubilee. 1730-1930. Two hundredth anniversary (Baltimore: The Weant press, 1930)
Greene, Susan Ellery, Baltimore: An Illustrated History (Woodland Hills California: Windsor Publications, 1980)
Papenfuse, Edward C. and Joseph M. Coale III, The Hammond-Harwood House Atlas of Historical Maps of Maryland, 1608-1908 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982)
Scharf, Col. J. Thomas, The Chronicles of Baltimore, (Baltimore: Turnbull Brothers, 1874)
Scharf, J. Thomas, History of Baltimore City and County (Baltimore: Regional Publishing Company, 1971)
Among the many mysterious photographs in MdHS’s collections, two of an elephant stand out as particularly unsettling. Buried in the Subject Vertical File, an artificial collection that was compiled throughout the years, in the Photographs and Prints room is a folder labeled “Animals–Elephant–1898–Hanging.” In this folder rests two tattered and faded turn-of-the-century prints of an elephant being hanged. (They’re pretty disturbing, so we’ve saved the more disturbing of the two for the end of this post. Scroll to the bottom at your own discretion.) We’ve long wondered what the two photographs could possibly represent. Who would hang an elephant? Why hang an elephant as a public spectacle? And what would the Humane Society, which had been operating in the United States since 1866, have to say about this?
One persistent rumor floating around the library goes that the elephant was hanged to death as punishment for killing or harming a handler. Noted skeptic H.L. Mencken, then a rookie journalist writing for The Baltimore Herald, covered the event, which as it turns out actually took place on June 7, 1900.* Mencken unfortunately adds to our confusion in his memoir, Newspaper Days 1899-1906, where he wrote offhandedly about the episode in a passage on the tenacity of press agents:
“The [incident] I remember best was the hanging of a rogue elephant, for I was assigned to cover it. This elephant, we were informed, had become so ornery that he could be endured no longer, and it was necessary to put him to death. Ordinarily he would be shot, but Bostock [the elephant’s owner and well-known animal showman], as a patriotic and law-abiding Englishman, preferred hanging, and would serve as the executioner himself.” (Newspaper Days 1899-1906  33-34.)
In part Mencken’s memories were accurate. Frank Bostock, the owner of Bostock’s Zoo or Wild Animal Show as it was alternately known, was an Englishman and he did in fact oversee Sport’s hanging. The rest of Mencken’s memories, undoubtedly jumbled over time, do not align with the facts.
Part of the confusion can be explained by the fact that, as disturbing as it sounds, there were actual punitive elephant executions in the early twentieth century. Topsy the elephant was electrocuted to death in 1903 for allegedly killing three men—one of them a severely abusive trainer who reportedly fed him a lit cigarette. Thomas Edison even filmed Topsy’s gruesome execution for posterity. The fact that electricity and moving pictures were relatively new and novel inventions can only partially explain why Edison would have filmed this horror. In 1916 Mary the elephant was hanged for allegedly killing her trainer. The heavily doctored photo evidence of this murder pales in comparison to the photos of poor Sport.
After searching through microfilm of Baltimore’s major newspapers at both the H. Furlong Baldwin and Enoch Pratt libraries, the mystery of the photos is now solved and it’s unlike anything I could have expected. The truth of Sport’s sad tale is as follows.
In 1900 when crowds still got excited about world fairs and expositions, Frank Bostock, internationally known as a top animal trainer in Paris, London, New York, and Chicago, was transporting his Wild Animal Show from New York to Baltimore. Bostock, known as “the Animal King,” had recently started a zoo at the old Cyclorama building at Maryland and West Mount Royal Avenues, now the site of University of Baltimore’s Gordon Plaza. (Baltimoreans today also know this as the plaza where the Edgar Allan Poe statue sits.) The Cyclorama building once housed a giant painting of the Battle of Gettysburg, but by the 1880s visitation slowed and the art was removed. Before Bostock took over, the building served as a roller rink, a bike riding school, and as a venue for evangelical revivals.
“Bostock’s Zoo would not have been anything like what we think of today as a public zoological garden,” says Dr. Nigel Rothfels, author of Savages and Beasts: The Birth of the Modern Zoo. Though many of his animals were trained, most were simply stored in cages as they would have been in circus menageries at the time. Bostock was also involved in the Elks’ Exposition located at North and Greenmount Avenues. The Elks planned to open their attraction in June. It was to include a veritable greatest hits of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition: Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, Barnum’s Circus, an exact reproduction of the Chicago World Fair Midway, and Bostock’s Wild Animal Show which replaced Hagenbeck’s Zoo in the Baltmore midway.
In mid-May 1900, on a train bound for Baltimore, somewhere in New Jersey, two of Bostock’s elephants, Jolly and Sport, began to roughhouse. By all accounts this wasn’t unusual for the two pachyderm friends, but on this day and on this train there were grave consequences. Sport backed into the door of his boxcar, which gave way to his considerable weight, and was ejected from the moving train. According to The Sun, “He emitted a terrible scream that drowned the locomotive whistle and the clatter of the train and startled the brakemen into instant activity.” His spine irreparably damaged and unable to get up on his own, Sport was lifted by a derrick back onto the train to continue his trip to Baltimore.
Once at his destination, veterinarian Dr. Robert Ward examined Sport and advised ending the animal’s life as the most humane option. The recommendation opened a debate on methods. A precision rifle shot to the brain was ruled out as too risky in the case of a miss. Poison was deemed too dangerous as some believed elephants could go violently out of control, harming or even killing those nearby. The final choice came down to hanging by rope or electrocution, the latter ruled out at the last minute for unspecified reasons. Most accounts portray Bostock and his staff as highly distraught over the loss of Sport and firmly in favor of hanging as the least horrific form of execution. He even took care to consult with the local Humane Society who agreed that hanging was the most merciful way to end Sport’s suffering.
In a strange twist of fate, further misfortune beset Bostock’s enterprise when Jolly mysteriously dropped dead the day before the hanging. According to his handlers, Jolly, a seventeen-year-old Indian elephant had been very depressed since his friend Sport’s accident. On Tuesday evening Jolly was given half a gallon of rye whiskey, on Bostock’s orders, in an effort to lift his spirits and the following morning died within minutes of his daily exercise routine. Heart failure was the diagnosis.
When the day arrived to end Sport’s suffering, Baltimore newsmen flexed their typewriters. “Misfortune of elephantine proportions” began the account in The Baltimore American. The Baltimore News led the morning with the least accurate headline on the matter, “To Be Electrocuted.” The Herald‘s cub reporter Henry Mencken went on in true tabloid style, “Like a common murderer, James W. Sport, the Asiatic elephant of the Bostock Midway Carnival Company, was hanged… at the Bolton freight yards of the Northern Central Railway, where he had been incarcerated since his condemnation.”
Accounts differ on the extent to which Sport suffered. The Baltimore American reports that he went quietly, “…if [Sport] felt any pain after the first tightening of the fatal noose, it was not discernible.” But The Sun and Herald told of how he “trumpeted wildly” and “struck dismay to the hearts of those about him.” Most agree that he was gone within nine minutes, hanged from a freight yard derrick able to support his two tons of girth. An estimated two thousand spectators gathered for the hanging, some on rooftops. At first authorities attempted to hold the crowds back, but the Bolton Street yards proved too porous. Despite Mencken’s retelling in his memoir, there seems no proof that Bostock or any promoter touted the hanging beforehand. No tickets were or could have been sold given the freight yard venue and it seems unlikely that it was a stunt to promote Bostock’s business, already operating in the confines of the wildly popular Elk’s Exhibition.
Jolly and Sport were taken to the Elk’s grounds where their remains were sold to local furriers Messrs. Dumont & Co. of 318 Light Street. An autopsy revealed that Sport’s spine was broken, confirming that a mercy killing was in fact the kindest thing to do for him. Nothing revealed why Jolly met his end. Although young for an elephant, zoo-kept elephants during this time period often only lived just seventeen to nineteen years.**
Business resumed as usual for Bostock who still had two elephants left, Big Liz and Little Roger. But it didn’t go on in Baltimore for much longer. On a freezing cold night at the end of January of the following year, Bostock’s Zoo caught fire due to faulty electrical wiring located in the ceiling and burned to the ground. Some 300 animals including lions, polar bears, pumas, jaguars, monkeys, and others perished in the flames. Bostock refused to open the pens to free the animals at the expense of the public, but that did not stop rumors of wild animals running amok from flying around the city. It was a gruesome thing that the picture at right cannot even begin to capture. Despite the carnage, many old enough to remember have fond memories of Bostock’s as evidenced in the old “I Remember…” series the Sunday Sun Magazine used to run in the inner cover. Bostock left Baltimore for New York City and in 1904 the animal king opened Bostock’s Arena at Dreamland in Coney Island. It too burned down, along with the rest of Dreamland, in 1911—the day after he reportedly sold his interest in the business.
Bostock’s short-lived Baltimore enterprise operated concurrently with the Baltimore Zoo, though the latter got its start at Druid Hill Park in 1876 by an act of the Maryland state legislature. Newspaper men and advertisements of the day used the term zoo to refer to both, but we should not mistake them as similar entities. Bostock was a showman who trained and worked his animals for entertainment purposes. He regularly moved exotic stock around the country, not unlike a traveling circus. Although news accounts portrayed him as a man who cared deeply about his livestock, this should be weighed against the fact that some of his animals, like Jolly, were valued at $10,000. But neither should Bostock be remembered as a man who sold tickets to an elephant lynching.
Similarly we should not put the Baltimore Zoo on too high a pedestal. By the 1890s, the public zoological garden boasted a modest collection including sheep, deer, camels, monkeys, an alligator, and some birds.*** The Baltimore Zoo, which did not become the Maryland Zoo in name until 2004, grew its collection at a much slower pace. It didn’t get its first resident elephant until 1924. Her name was Mary Ann and she is reportedly buried somewhere on the Druid Hill grounds. While the public zoo provided somewhat more stable environments for its animals than Bostock, zoological practices in the 1900s were still lacking by today’s standards.
The tale of Sport’s untimely demise was reduced to the words “elephant 1898 hanging” on a mislabeled photograph folder. Inaccurately remembered by a famous newspaper reporter, the elephant that apparently never hurt anyone could have been remembered as a rogue or killer of man as rumors and mistakes innocently become facts—such is history. Mencken, writing his memoir some forty years later, would certainly have more clearly remembered Sport’s hanging had he reviewed his own coverage in the pages of The Herald. Today thanks to microfilm and historic newspaper scanning, we are able to piece together what really happened to Sport. (Joe Tropea)
* Accounts in the following major newspapers confirm that these photos are from 1900, not 1898: Baltimore American, Baltimore Morning Herald, The Baltimore News, The Baltimore Sun, and The New York Times. Unequivocal proof is found in the Baltimore American of June 8, page 12, where a nearly identical photo to the one above can be seen. This article is based on accounts in the above mentioned publications from June 6-8, 1900.
** Mott, Maryann, “Wild Elephants Live Longer Than Their Zoo Counterparts,” National Geographic News, December 11, 2008. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/12/081211-zoo-elephants.html
*** Hoage, R.J. and William Diess editors, New Worlds, New Animals: From Menagerie to Zoological Park in the Nineteenth Century.
Special thanks to Dr. Nigel Rothfels and The Maryland Zoo for invaluable help and guidance with this article.
Sources and further reading:
Jensen, Brennen. “Beastly Night,” City Paper, July 2, 2003.
Hoare, Ruth Mohl. “I Remember … The Enchanting Old Bostock Zoo,” Sunday Sun Magazine, October 2, 1960.
Mencken, Henry Louis. Newspaper Days 1899-1906 (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1941.)
Rothfels, Nigel. Savages and Beasts: The Birth of the Modern Zoo (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins UP, 2002.)
Shaffer, F. Ward. “I Remember … When Fire Swept Bostock’s Zoo,” Sunday Sun Magazine, August 2, 1953.
“Rare & Vintage: Souvenir of Frank Bostock’s Coney Island”
Vannorsdall Schroeder, Joan. “The Day They Hanged Mary the Elephant in East Tennessee,” May 1, 1997.
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 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.
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.*
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.
“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.
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.