Three Books That Capture Aspects of Old Baltimore Town

I just love these books that Arcadia Publishing puts out, especially if they are about the city of my birth – Baltimore. Recently, I got my hands on three of them.

I found each of them to be an interesting read in and of themselves. They covered a wide array of topics.

The first one I would like to tell you about is entitled: “Growing Up in Baltimore: A Photographic History.” The author is Eden Unger Bowditch. Its cover caught my attention.

It shows about sixty youngsters who were newspaper boys in the city, sitting in front of the office of a news outlet – the “Baltimore News.” Most of the photos in the book are dated around WWI. Some of the photos brought back memories for me of my own newspaper days.

Back in the late fifties, I had a paper route in Locust Point for the now-defunct “Baltimore Evening Sun.” My boss was the late Louis Gilweiser. He was a very nice man; I enjoyed working for him. (In his leisure time, he was a member of an orchestra that once played in Latrobe Park.)

I had a very small route with about 50 or 60 homes on the delivery list. I was in high school (Calvert Hall) at the time.

At one of my stops (close to my home), a woman complained that I wasn’t putting her paper up close to her front door. She wanted it right up there on the top step in case it rained or snowed.

(Oh yea, we’ll see about that!) Afterward, I went out of my way to put her paper on her “bottom” step! She bitched even louder. I ignored her.

She then complained, not to my boss, but to my Irish mother. Well, as it turned out that tactic  –  worked!

My mother was the last person I wanted to catch heat from. After that, I made sure “Ms. Complainer” got her paper placed on her top step.

Years later, “Ms. Complainer” and I became friendly. It turned out she was Boston Irish. We had a good laugh over my silly antics.

In any event, there are a lot of terrific photos in the “Growing Up” book. They cover the waterfront so to speak.

There are sections with photos showing children at home, school, play, and at work. Some of the ones of children at work you will find disturbing. They show kids in their “bare feet” working in a factory for up to “ten hours a day – six days a week.”

This was long before there were any laws on the books to protect children from such brutal activities. Praise God for the social Justice activists that put an end to such misery.

Next up for review is “Baltimore Close Up,” a book by Christopher T. George.

This entertaining book of photos captures Baltimore from the days of its celebration of the Star-Spangled Banner up to the Civil War and to the building of Harborplace. Some of the highlights for me were the intimate pictures of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, George Herman “Babe” Ruth, the final resting place of Edgar Allan Poe, and a portrait of the great newspaperman himself – H.L. Mencken.

The author also spotlighted the effects of the fire of 1904 on Baltimore, the erection downtown of the Bromo Seltzer building, the days of the fabled electric streetcars, the mighty guns of Fort McHenry (which I played on with my twin brother Jim), and multiple scenes of Baltimore during WWI and WWII. The author even came up with a portrait of Abraham Lincoln’s assassin – John Wilkes Booth.

Mr. George found the room, too, for photos of women at work in our city – like the ladies who labored in the dry-docks and shipyards of Baltimore before and after WWII. (Think classic photo of –  “Rosie the Riveter!”) There were also photos of Baltimore Harbor before the legendary James Rouse built Harborplace in the 1970s.

(Yours truly learned to swim in the harbor waters near the Domino Sugar plant – at the foot of Hull Street, around the year – 1950.)

Overall, Mr. George’s book, “Baltimore Close Up,” is a big plus in capturing the essence of our city during the period of history described above.

Finally, I want to say a few words about Tom Liebel’s “Industrial Baltimore” tome.

The B&O Railroad takes center stage in this one. Its towering grain elevators, sprawling docks at Locust Point and huge warehouses all get spotlighted. This is only right since it was the B&O, along with other companies, that helped to put Baltimore on the map, beginning with its extensive piers and rail yards in South Baltimore.

There is plenty more in Liebel’s book to make it a special treat. Keep in mind that, thanks to Bethlehem Steel and related industries, the Baltimore area made major contributions to our country’s victories in WWII.

If you add the three books above to your library, you will find a rich collection of photos, plus a history of Baltimore City and its industrial growth from 1860 to 1945.