Giovanni da Verrazzano, an Italian navigator in the service of France, probably visited (1524) the Chesapeake region, which was certainly later explored (1574) by Pedro Menéndez Marqués, governor of Spanish Florida. In 1603 the region was visited by an Englishman, Bartholomew Gilbert, and it was charted (1608) by Capt. John Smith.
In 1632, Charles I granted a charter to George Calvert, 1st Baron Baltimore, yielding him feudal rights to the region between lat. 40°N and the Potomac River. Disagreement over the boundaries of the grant led to a long series of border disputes with Virginia that were not resolved until 1930. The states still dispute the use of the Potomac River. The territory was named Maryland in honor of Henrietta Maria, queen consort of Charles I. Before the great seal was affixed to the charter, George Calvert died, but his son Cecilius Calvert, 2d Baron Baltimore, undertook development of the colony as a haven for his persecuted fellow Catholics and also as a source of income. In 1634 the ships Ark and Dove brought settlers (both Catholic and Protestant) to the Western Shore, and a settlement called St. Mary's (see Saint Marys City) was set up. During the colonial period the Algonquian-speaking Native Americans withdrew from the area gradually and for the most part peacefully, sparing Maryland the conflicts other colonies experienced.
Religious conflict was strong in ensuing years as the Puritans, growing more numerous in the colony and supported by Puritans in England, set out to destroy the religious freedom guaranteed with the founding of the colony. A toleration act (1649) was passed in an attempt to save the Catholic settlers from persecution, but it was repealed (1654) after the Puritans seized control. A brief civil war ensued (1655), from which the Puritans emerged triumphant. Anti-Catholic activity persisted until the 19th cent., when in an unusual reversal of the prevailing pattern many Catholic immigrants came to Baltimore.
In 1694, when the capital was moved from St. Mary's to Annapolis, those were the only towns in the province, but the next century saw the emergence of commercially oriented Baltimore, which by 1800 had a population of more than 30,000 and a flourishing coastal trade. Tobacco became the basis of the economy by 1730. In 1767 the demarcation of the Mason-Dixon Line ended a long-standing boundary dispute with Pennsylvania.
Economic and religious grievances led Maryland to support the growing colonial agitation against England. At the time of the American Revolution most Marylanders were stalwart patriots and vigorous opponents of the British colonial policy. In 1776 Maryland adopted a declaration of rights and a state constitution and sent soldiers and supplies to aid the war for independence; supposedly the high quality of its regular
troops of the line earned Maryland its nickname, the Old Line State. The U.S. Congress, meeting at Annapolis, ratified the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War in 1783. A party advocating states' rights, in which Luther Martin was prominent, was unsuccessful in opposing ratification of the Constitution, and in 1791 Maryland and Virginia contributed land and money for the new national capital in the District of Columbia.
Industry, already growing in conjunction with renewed commerce, was furthered by the skills of German immigrants. The War of 1812 was marked for Maryland by the British attack of 1814 on Baltimore and the defense of Fort McHenry, immortalized in Francis Scott Key's
Star-Spangled Banner. After the war the state entered a period of great commercial and industrial expansion. This was accelerated by the building of the National Road, which tapped the rich resources of the West; the opening of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal (1829); and the opening (1830) of the Baltimore & Ohio RR, the first railroad in the United States open for public traffic.
Southern ways and sympathies persisted among the plantation owners of Maryland, and as the rift between North and South widened, the state was torn by conflicting interests and the intense internal struggles of the true border state. In 1860 there were 87,000 slaves in Maryland, but industrialists and businessmen had special interests in adhering to the Union, and despite the urgings of Southern sympathizers, made famous in J. R. Randall's song,
Maryland, My Maryland, the state remained in the Union.
At the beginning of the Civil War, President Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and sent troops to Maryland who imprisoned large numbers of secessionists. Nevertheless, Marylanders fought on both sides, and families were often split. General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia invaded Maryland in 1862 and was repulsed by Union forces at Antietam (see Antietam campaign). In 1863, Lee again invaded the North and marched across Maryland on the way to and from Gettysburg. Throughout the war Maryland was the scene of many minor battles and skirmishes.
With the end of the Civil War, industry quickly revived and became a dominant force in Maryland, both economically and politically. Senator Arthur P. Gorman, a Democrat and the president of the Baltimore & Ohio RR, ran the controlling political machine from 1869 to 1895, when two-party government was restored. New railroad lines traversed the state, making it more than ever a crossing point between North and South. Labor troubles hit Maryland with the Panic of 1873, and four years later railroad wage disputes resulted in large-scale rioting in Cumberland and Baltimore. During the 20th cent., however, Maryland became a leader in labor and other reform legislation. The administrations of governors Austin L. Crowthers (1908–12) and Albert C. Ritchie (1920–35) were noted for reform. Ritchie, a Democrat, became nationally known for his efforts to improve the efficiency and economy of state government.
The great influx of people into the state during World War I was repeated and accelerated in World War II as war workers poured into Baltimore, where vital shipbuilding and aircraft plants were in operation. In addition, military and other government employees moved into the area around Washington, D.C.
Since World War II, public-works legislation, particularly that concerning roads and other traffic arteries, has brought major changes. The opening of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in 1952 spurred significant industrial expansion on the Eastern Shore; a parallel bridge was opened in 1973. The Patapsco River tunnel under Baltimore harbor was completed in 1957, and the Francis Scott Key Bridge (1977), crosses the Patapsco. Other construction projects have included the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, formerly called Friendship International Airport (1950), south of Baltimore, and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (1954). The state gained a different kind of attention in 1968 when its governor, Spiro T. Agnew was elected vice president.
Maryland experienced tremendous suburban growth in the 1980s, especially in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area. This growth occurred in spite of a decline in government jobs, as service sector employment rose dramatically. Suburban Baltimore grew as well although the city proper lost 6.4% of its population during the 1980s. Baltimore undertook major revitalization projects in the 1980s and the early 1990s, including the construction of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the new home of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team.
Maryland has become increasingly popular as a vacation area—Ocean City is a popular seashore resort, and both sides of Chesapeake Bay are lined with beaches and small fishing towns. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge has brought the culture of the Eastern Shore, formerly quite distinctive, into a more homogeneous unity with that of the rest of the state; the area, however, is still noted for its unique rural beauty and architecture, strongly reminiscent of the English countryside left behind by early settlers.
Sections in this article:
- Facts and Figures
- Government, Politics, and Higher Education
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: U.S. Political Geography