Baltimore: A Picture History (1858-1968)

Baltimore: A Picture History (1958-1968) Hey, look! I read a book! Me be smart one day!

I forget where I got this book; I know someone gave it to me… I think. If you gave this to me, speak up, so I can thank you!

Commentary by Francis F. Beirne and compiled by The Maryland Historical Society. Copyright 1968; first edition.

I love historical illustrations and photographs, and this book is chock full of them. A good portion of the photos are from the Enoch Pratt Free Library (they have many, many photos online).

If you were to try to find this book (it appears to be out of print) I’d do it more for the photos and history rather for the stellar writing. I found many of the phrases to be dated (expected, for originally written in 1958; the edition I have was put out ten years later and included info about the extra decade). Some of the captions under the photos and illustrations really gave me the giggles. Such gems as “The fountain in Courthouse Square. An ideal spot for “girl watching“…” and yes, “girl watching” came complete with scare quotes. I guess it’s a euphemism for…? For what? Stalking? Oogling? Exposing oneself?

I mean, OK; it can’t be easy to write captions for a couple hundred photos, and knock each one out of the park. And overall I found the history to be written in a conversational tone that wasn’t too dry, wasn’t too lecture-y. But a few times I did find myself rolling my eyes.

I also found myself wanting to know a little more about what has happened since 1968. The book had a slight patriotic slant, and I wonder if they added on the last 40 years would there be a lot of – or any – talk about crime, decay, urban blight, socio-economic differences in neighborhoods. Oh heck, I should be honest; as I just said to a friend on Facebook, it reads like sunny happy Charm City propaganda. You’d think nothing bad ever happened there, and that everyone lived in a honeyed land of hospitals, high rises for rich people, and shopping malls. Riots? What riots? :blink: :blink: The time I wanted most to read about – the time closest to the time I was born – was the part that let me down the most.


The book is set up like a time-line – a prologue of 1729-1858 followed by five chapters, and each chapter had a number of topics.

1858-1875 – early industry and trade, role in the Civil War, politics, and leisure.

1875-1900 – social activities, industry, schooling, more on trade and transportation.

1900-1925 – more on the waterfront, emancipation, the great fire, hospitals, sports, and the soldiers of WWI.

1925-1958 – steamboat travel, more on social aspects and leisure, WWII.

1958-1968 – hospitals, interstates, shopping malls, Charles Center, and high-rises. And more sports.

So… basically, if you are a history buff in general, or love Baltimore, I’d look for this book. I see some used on Amazon in the whopping range of $5.

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