The Baltimore Experience 400 Years of History History Timeline
Captain John Smith explores the Patapsco River and what is now known as the Middle Branch. He notes that the area seemed to be of good farmland, but absent of Native Americans.
Baltimore Town is founded and named after the first colonial governor.
The town of Fell’s Point is founded and quickly becomes a major port and shipbuilding center.
Jones Town, a rival to Baltimore Town, is laid out on the east bank of the Jones Falls. Both the town and the falls are named after the region’s first European settler, David Jones.
Baltimore Town and Jonestown merge.
The city’s legendary Lexington Market, labeled the “gastronomic capital of the world” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, opens on land donated by American Revolutionary War hero John Eager Howard.
With an increasing population and needs, citizens decide to incorporate as a city.
Saint Elizabeth Seton takes her vows as a nun in the Saint Mary’s Seminary Chapel. She was canonized in 1975, a first for a native-born United States citizen.
Construction begins on artist Rembrandt Peale’s “Museum and Gallery of Fine Arts.” The structure, still standing and today known as the Peale Museum, was the first in the Western hemisphere to be designed and built as a museum.
In a defining point in the War of 1812, British forces attack Baltimore, approaching by land and by water. After the battle, Francis Scott Key is moved by the sight of the U.S. flag waving triumphantly over Fort McHenry and pens the National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The Baltimore Basilica, designed by architect Benjamin Latrobe, is consecrated. It is the First Roman Catholic cathedral built in the United States.
The nation’s first commercial railroad, the Baltimore & Ohio, is chartered by the State of Maryland.
Construction of Baltimore’s Washington Monument is complete, making it the first significant monument to the nation’s first president.
Twenty-year-old Frederick Douglass, held in slavery in Baltimore and working as a shipyard caulker, escapes to freedom on a train bound for Philadelphia. He quickly becomes a leader in the abolitionist movement. His autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, is published seven years after his escape from Baltimore.
Lloyd Street Synagogue is erected. The synagogue was the first for Maryland and today is the third oldest standing synagogue in the United States.
The first blood of the Civil War is shed on the streets of Baltimore in what is called the Pratt Street Riots. Southern sympathizers attack Union troops moving through the city. The city is held under martial law for the remainder of the Civil War.
Near Fort McHenry, an immigration station opens at Locust Point welcoming thousands of immigrants from Europe. Baltimore is the third largest port-of-entry on the East Coast until the station’s closure at the beginning of World War I.
Isaac Myers, a successful African American entrepreneur, organizes a group of white and black businessmen to establish the Chesapeake Marine Railway and Dry Dock Company. The company, located in Fell’s Point, was unique in that it employed both white and black workers. Myers served on the company’s board and devoted much of his time supporting efforts to establish black trade unions to ensure equality in hiring and pay.
Industrialist Johns Hopkins dies, bequeathing his fortune to the establishment of a university and hospital that both bear his name today.
Workers of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad strike against salary cuts, shutting down operations across the railroad network. At Baltimore’s Camden Station, violent clashes occur between the workers and the state militia before President Rutherford B. Hayes sends in federal troops to restore order.
The Enoch Pratt Free Library opens. It is one of the first free public library systems in the United States.
Within 36 hours, the Great Fire of Baltimore consumes more than 1,400 buildings in the city’s downtown. Reconstruction quickly commences.
During a particularly virulent time in the city’s race relations, the Baltimore Branch of the NAACP is founded. The branch would later grow to be the nation’s second largest and one of the most influential in the Civil Rights Movement.
The city annexes portions of neighboring Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County and triples it total area to 92 square miles. During the 1920s the newly annexed lands (largely open areas or farmland) were transformed into new residential neighborhoods.
The first liberty ship, SS Patrick Henry, is launched from Baltimore’s Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard. Around 2,700 of the inexpensive and quick-to-build cargo ships were built to haul materiel and other supplies to Europe and beyond.
Local civil rights groups challenged school segregation and won, making Baltimore the first city below the Mason-Dixon Line to desegregate a public school (the prestigious high school Baltimore Polytechnic). After the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the school board promptly voted to desegregate the school system, one of the first in the nation to do so. The NAACP attorney who argued that landmark case was Baltimore’s own Thurgood Marshall, who later became the first African American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Jewish Museum of Maryland is founded. Today it is the largest regional Jewish museum in the United States.
Threatened by an ambitious highway plan, Fell’s Point residents and preservationists succeed in listing the colonial neighborhood in the National Register of Historic Places.
HarborPlace opens, establishing the Inner Harbor as a tourist destination and crown jewel for the city.
The National Aquarium opens and quickly becomes a beloved attraction for visitors and residents.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards opens, heralding in a new generation of “retro” major league ballparks.
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum for Maryland African American History and Culture opens its doors, preserving and sharing the historic contribution of African American Marylanders.
Baltimore begins its three-year commemoration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812.