Editor’s Note: Our book reviewers have taken a break, so “Books: Old, New and Obscure” will return in a later issue.
Maryland ranks 19th among the fifty states in population and only 42nd in area, but ranks way above that in its significance. “You Will Find It in Maryland” presents our state as a very important one indeed! My copy of this treasure trove of fascinating facts belonged to my mother and I remember perusing its parchment style pages now and then as a child. It was published in 1945 by Records and Goldsborough Inc., makers of Melrose, a Maryland style rye whiskey, in honor of their 60th year in business. It was also meant to celebrate the great state of Maryland, to which the company owed so much of its success. It celebrates the then-recent victory in World War II, to which the company contributed by switching from beverage production to industrial alcohol needed by our military and that of our allies overseas. It was written by Stirling Graham, son-in-law of the company’s founder.
There are pages devoted to narrative history about such things as the establishment of the colony and its role in the founding of the new nation. The first copies of the Declaration of Independence were printed in Baltimore. Annapolis served as the temporary capital and George Washington surrendered his command of the army in the very state house still in use today. Also highlighted are the state’s involvement in War of 1812, and the Civil War, as well as the industries that supported our involvement in world conflicts. Other pages describe the state seal, state flower, the state song, and the writing of our national anthem. The geography from ocean and coastal plain, to Chesapeake Bay, to rolling hills, to Appalachian Mountains are described. (Graham notes that the only geographic element found in our nation, but lacking in Maryland, is a desert.)
Other sections of the book discuss industries and natural resources. Leisure pursuits described include boating, fishing, horse racing, duck and fox hunting, and hiking. “Typical” culinary delights are described, though they may seem unusual to modern Marylanders. For example the typical Sunday breakfast is said to be incomplete without kidney stew and hot waffles. Other dishes mentioned are a soup called “clear green turtle,” and pastries called charotte russe and chocolate kussoth. (I found those on the internet. They look to be decadently delicious.) Of course oysters, crabs and fried chicken are on the menu.
Since the book was written so long ago, I found some
descriptions of life, to be part of history, but bearing little resemblance to today. Ocean City, for example, is described as a “family seashore without the fanfare and ballyhoo of big resorts.” To get there, one must cross the Chesapeake Bay ferryboat. Baltimore is said to be uncrowded and having no towering skyscrapers or subways. Tobacco farms and the rolling of hogsheads to port for shipment of tobacco are discussed as little changed from how they operated in colonial times.
The most interesting parts of the book are lists of Maryland “firsts.” As a child, reading these lists of firsts in our nation, made me aware of the significance of our state. One of the most notable is that in 1649 we were the first colony to pass a law guaranteeing religious freedom. Rhode Island makes a similar claim. They did precede us, but theirs was part of their charter, whereas as ours was a law. It only included believers in the Trinity, but it was a start.
There are quite a few firsts involving religion. Since Maryland was established as a Roman Catholic colony, a lot of those firsts have to do with that. There is no attribution regarding the first Roman Catholic church, however, as that distinction belongs to areas colonized by Spain. Maryland can boast of the first Roman Catholic bishop, first ordained priest, first ordained African American priest, first cathedral, first seminary, first Sisters of Charity, and Notre Dame, the first Catholic college for women. Other denominations which got their start in our nation here in Maryland are the Presbyterian, Methodist Episcopal, Swedenborgian, Independent Methodist, and United Brethren churches.
According to the author, the first demand for woman’s suffrage in the entire world was made by Margaret Brent in 1647. Property ownership was one of the requirements for voting rights. A businesswoman with considerable property holdings, she petitioned the Maryland legislature for this right, but was denied.
Quite a few transportation firsts are listed. The oldest US Navy ship, the Constellation, was built here in 1797. (An older Navy ship built in Philadelphia a few months earlier is no longer around.) Most famous are the first railroad and the Tom Thumb steam engine in the 1800’s. The harbor in Baltimore, located farther inland than other east coast cities, made it the ideal starting point for travel and freight transport to the expanding Midwest. The first stone arch railroad bridge, the Carrollton Viaduct in Baltimore, was built in 1829 and is still in use today. Maryland led the way in medicine as well. We can boast of the first inoculation against smallpox in our nation, first college of dental surgery (now part of the University of Maryland), first medical society, and first woman professor at a medical school.
One of the firsts claimed for Maryland when the book was written in 1945 — that Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1883, was the first vocational school, doesn’t hold up in the age of Google research — St. Louis, Missouri opened one in 1879.
Religion, medicine, education, invention, business, industry, politics, monuments, architecture, communication, sports, cuisine, and the arts all lay claim to Maryland firsts. We have a great and proud history indeed. I am a proud Marylander and this book has enlightened my pride in the state I call home.
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