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Baltimore History

The Port of Baltimore was founded in 1706 around Locust Point, in what’s now South Baltimore, making this one of the oldest cities in Anglo North America. By the time of the American Revolution, Baltimore was one of the major harbors of the New World. The city had the best shipbuilders in the Americas—arguably the world—and was quick to provide both boats and crews for the privateer fleets that harassed the British during the Revolution and the War of 1812. In the latter conflict, the U.S. made a convincing case for its continued independence when it drove off the redcoats by land and by sea in the vicinity of Baltimore. During the 19th century the city grew to be the largest in the American South (this is technically the South, by the way—you’re south of the Mason Dixon line here), thanks to the economic activity fostered by the Baltimore & Ohio railway line, the philanthropy of businessmen like George Peabody (who supported state bonds), the growth of industry and the continued commerce of shipping. Slavery remained legal in Maryland up to the Civil War, and pro-Confederate Baltimore had to be placed under martial law after protestors rioted against Union troops. In the early-20th century Baltimore was still a major industrial and shipping center, a role further cemented by World War II. But the city never properly developed its infrastructure and public works programs. The repercussions of this neglect were keenly felt in the post-war period. Baltimore had always experienced uneasy race relations, and in the period following the 1950s, industrial jobs and the white population streamed out of the city limits. While revival projects like the gentrification of the Inner Harbor spruced things up in the 1980s, the city’s true period of re-growth and re-assertion is relatively recent, a result of improved city governance and creative class magnetism. Baltimore has become a hotspot for artists, musicians and the ambitious who are sick of the cost of living in New York and D.C., and it’s growing more fascinating (and worth visiting) by the day.

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