Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Baltimore’s First Civil War Monument

Governor Thomas Holliday Hicks
 Governor Thomas Holliday Hicks
In 1866, Der Deutscher Union Verein von Maryland (The German Union Club of Maryland) erected Baltimore’s first Civil War monument.[1][2] It celebrated the memory of Maryland’s Unionist Governor Thomas Holliday Hicks (1798-1865), who many thought helped to prevent Maryland from seceding. The monument’s organizers were drawn largely from the ranks of the Unconditional Unionist party, individuals who had promoted the immediate emancipation of the enslaved.[3] Why erect a monument to Governor Hicks? The dedication plaque underscored the reasons:
As a tribute to a native born citizen it is an object lesson to posterity of the gratitude, patriotism and unswerving loyalty of the German-Americans of Baltimore in the War for the Union.[4]
The Union Verein solicited funds and commissioned the monument. The club chose Haino [Heinrich] Isermann (1826-1899), a naturalized US citizen born in Germany, to be the monument’s sculptor. Unfortunately, no image of the 1866 Hicks monument has been discovered to date. We know with certainty, however, that the statue was a portrait bust set upon a tall and heavy pedestal. No exact information as to its size or dimensions has been found but existing documents suggest that the sculpture was made of marble and larger than life, or was in what is known as “heroic” size.  Its pedestal featured a bronze dedication plaque.     

The Union Verein first offered the completed work to the City of Baltimore. However, the City supposedly denied the sculpture a place in any of the squares or parks.[5] It appears that the Union Verein had no alternative but to locate the monument on private land. “Rost’s Garden,” a pleasure park connected to George Rost’s (1817-1871) brewery, served as the monument’s first site. The Garden as the setting for the monument made sense for numerous reasons. Rost, another naturalized citizen from Germany, had stood staunchly with the Union, even heading a local soldiers’ aid society.
Rost's Garden, Belair Road near north Avenue, 1869
Rost’s Garden, Belair Road near North Avenue, 1869
The formal dedication of the Hicks monument occurred on Thursday, June 7, 1866. Union war heroes General Franz Sigel, Union Army group commander, and Colonel Faehtz of the Eighth Maryland Regiment, among others, made celebratory speeches. The ceremonies concluded with a jovial feast and plenty of “gertensaft” (amber beer), all provided by “patriotic Old [Mr.] Rost.”[6]
Rost’s death, a change of ownership of the Garden, and the growth of Baltimore itself would ultimately affect the monument’s surroundings. However, until the mid-1890s, Irish fraternal groups, Bohemian gymnastics contests, church groups, political clubs, and gatherings of Civil War Union veterans, all continued to gather under the stony gaze of Governor Hicks.[7]
Baltimore City’s growth and the redevelopment of the land ultimately necessitated the removal of the Hicks monument in 1896. The Baltimore City government, under Republican Mayor Alcaeus Hooper, promptly came forward with assistance. The City Council passed a resolution to fund the dismantling, removal and storage of the statue. It also directed the Baltimore City Art Commission to select “a suitable site in a public square or park” for the monument’s permanent home.[8] The monument was removed from its setting, transported, and placed within an outdoor marble yard in West Baltimore.
An advocate for the monument’s re-erection soon materialized. Union veteran J. Leonard Hoffman (1843-1920?), an energetic naturalized German-American citizen, as part of a committee, spearheaded the task of finding a permanent home for the monument. Hoffman approached the Art Commission regarding the preservation and display of the monument. A Commission sub-committee advised Hoffman against pressing for the monument to be placed on public land.[9] The monument, due to years of exposure to the outdoor weather, needed a thorough cleaning and the dedication plaque also had warped with age.[10]  Hoffman’s committee successfully lobbied for State funding for the monument’s restoration. [11]
Finding a permanent home for the monument came next. Hoffman, on the advice of the Art Commission, first made an overture to the Maryland Historical Society. The Society appears to have considered accepting the monument as “a work of art” and not an historical object, but in the end rejected the offer.[12] Ultimately, it was the Maryland Institute (known today as the Maryland Institute, College of Art or MICA) that agreed to serve as the final location for the monument. It selected a most prominent and visible location for the monument within its then harbor area building: “Against the wall at the head of the stairs leading up from the main entrance”.[13] On August 19, 1898, the Hicks monument, at long last, was re-erected.
Ruins of the Maryland Institute, 1904
Ruins of the Maryland Institute, 1904 
Unfortunately, the monument’s new home proved to be a rather short-lived sanctuary. In the early hours of Sunday, February 7, 1904, a smoldering fire ignited within a building located many blocks west of the Institute. The emerging flames were soon wind-swept eastward and gave rise to a two-day conflagration known as the “Great Baltimore Fire”, which consumed some seventy blocks of the central business district, including the Maryland Institute. The Institute’s roof and walls collapsed unto itself, destroying all that was within. Only the monument’s bronze dedication plaque survived the inferno. Yet, even that has now been lost to time.[14]
NOTE: This post is derived from the full-length article on the Hicks Monument entitled “Baltimore’s First Civil War Monument: An Object Lesson to Prosperity on the Loyalty of the German-Americans” by Robert W. Schoeberlein appearing in The Record [The Journal of the Society of the History of Germans in Maryland], V. XLVIII, March 2020, p.12-25.   

[1] See the “Maryland Military Monuments Inventory” compiled by the Maryland Historical Trust for the dates of all monuments: https://mht.maryland.gov/documents/PDF/monuments/MMM-Inventory.pdf
The Gleeson monument, to a deceased Confederate soldier, was designed to be situated within a cemetery. The Hicks Monument, however, was always intended to be placed in a public space.
[2] Der Wecker, June 6 and 7, 1866.
[3] Henry Elliott Shepherd, History of Baltimore, Maryland, from Its Founding as a Town to the Current Year, 1729-1898… Etc, (Uniontown, PA.?: S.B. Nelson, 1898). 165. Unconditional Unionist 1866 meeting leadership rolls included Christian Bartell, Franz Sigel, E.F.M. Faehtz (these three individuals spoke at the monument dedication ceremony), William Schnauffer and Anton Wieskettle. Identified members of the Union Verein included George Rost, H.F. Wellinghoff, Karl Seitz, William Eckhard, and W.F. Bissing.
[4] Sun, June 18, 1905.
[5] Sun, April 21, 1897.
[6] Der Wecker, June 8, 1866.
[7] Sun, June 22, 1891.
[8] First Branch Journal, May 11, 1896, 822.
[9] Sun, April 21, 1897.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Laws of the State of Maryland… April 1898, (Baltimore: King Brothers, State Printers, 1898), Chapter 440, 1053-55.
[12] Sun, April 21, 1897.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Sun, June 18, 1905.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Mount Vernon Place “Improvement” Study

Conceptual drawing of Mount Vernon Place redevelopment, 1946 

During the mid-1920s the idea of turning Mount Vernon Place into a cultural center first began to be investigated.  At that time three art-related institutions were located upon the Place: The Walters Art Gallery, The Peabody Institute of Music; and the Baltimore Museum of Art.[1] The long-range pursuit of this plan suffered an initial setback when the Baltimore Museum of Art decided to locate elsewhere in the city.  Though the Great Depression deferred the dream of making the Place into a cultural center, the concept did not entirely die.
Post-World War II prosperity gave the redevelopment plan new impetus.  Under the administration of Mayor Theodore McKeldin, the first plan was laid out to redevelop the Place.  The architect Dana Loomis working with the firm of Wrenn, Lewis, and Jencks formulated the initial concept for the area.  An eight-page report, that included a conceptual drawing, was submitted to Baltimore’s Department of Public Works for consideration and possible implementation in October 1946.[2]  Most of the private dwellings upon the south side of Washington Place were slated to be leveled (with the exception of the project architect Francis Haynes Jencks’ own family home at No. 1, today known as Hackerman House). That opulent circa 1848 mansion would have been retained and become the Baltimore “Mayor’s House.”
Other plans called for a new “sunken” east-west expressway to abut the south perimeter.  Part of an exit ramp would have been situated at the east end of the Place.  If the expressway would have undermined the peaceful integrity of Mount Vernon Place, the Wrenn, Lewis, and Jencks plan hoped to obliterate much of the fabric.  The plan paradoxically advocated that the best means for “preserving” the Place was to first destroy most of it.
Ramp from the proposed East-West Expressway, 1946 
Ultimately, the redevelopment initiative never came to fruition.  The presence of a watchdog organization in the form of the Mount Vernon District Improvement Association assisted in thwarting the plans.  Douglas Gordon, the president of this group, mounted a campaign that ultimately killed the bond issue to underwrite the construction during the 1950s.[3]
[1] The BMA was housed at the Mary Garrett Mansion [demolished in the early 20c.]; replaced by an apartment building on the southwest corner of Monument and Cathedral Streets.
[2] Copy of report, October 28, 1946, “Walters Art Gallery” project file, SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Wrenn, Lewis and Jencks Architectural Collection) MSA SC 2349, Maryland State Archives.
[3] John R. Dorsey, Mount Vernon Place: An Anecdotal Essay with 66 Illustrations, (Baltimore: Maclay & Associates, 1983), 86-89.

Monday, May 13, 2019

“Unwearied in Their Attentions”: Secessionist Women and the 1866 Southern Relief Fair

Cover from Final Report of The Southern Relief Fair, 1866
Report… Ladies’ Southern Relief Association, 1866 (Rarebooks Collection, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries)
The Civil War deeply divided Baltimoreans along philosophical and sectional lines. The Secessionist women of Baltimore, those whose sympathies lay with the South, were often singled out for their devotion to the Confederacy. They supported their husbands and brothers in gray throughout the war, often risking arrest, imprisonment, or banishment. During the post-war era, the 1866 Southern Relief Fair provided the large-scale opportunity for them to demonstrate both their patriotic and benevolent dedication to the people of the South.
Fundraising fairs in Baltimore had been organized and held for decades previously. Most Baltimore fairs, but not all, appear to have been orchestrated by women to benefit their own church congregations. One of the earliest recorded, held in 1827, was to aid the needy children of Greece in the aftermath of the overthrow of their Turkish occupiers. The largest such effort came in 1864, with the Maryland State Fair for U.S. Soldier Relief or, as it is more commonly known, the Baltimore Sanitary Fair.
The prospect of holding a fair to raise funds for impoverished Southerners first arose in Baltimore during the fall of 1865. The sixty-six year old Jane Gilmore Howard, wife of General Benjamin Chew Howard, was elected to serve as the President of the Relief Fair. All six of Mrs. Howard’s sons had worn the Confederate gray. Annie Thomas, 46, a Virginian by birth, and Elizabeth Key Howard, 62, the daughter of Francis Scott Key, served as vice presidents. These latter two women were distinguished from the other Fair executive committee members in that their spouses had been arrested in 1861 and detained by US military authorities for disloyalty.
By early March 1866, 316 women had banded together to shape and promote the relief fair. A handful of well-to-do German immigrant women were also included. It does not appear that any woman officer connected with Baltimore’s 1864 US Sanitary Fair served as a manager in this endeavor. Speaking of the Relief Fair committee, the Baltimore American newspaper stated “[w]e do not find the name of a single loyal lady, nor among its gentleman managers and… we find… that the great mass… have been, and still are, active and persistent in the sentiment of disloyalty.”
In contrast to the 1864 Sanitary Fair, the April 2, 1866 opening day of the Relief Fair did not bring a holiday-like atmosphere throughout the city. No parades; businesses and schools remained open. Held at the Maryland Institute hall (when it was located near today’s Inner Harbor), the Relief Fair hosted no high ranking Washington officials on the opening night or any night. Also noticeably absent was any official delegation from Baltimore City or the Maryland State government.
The city newspapers reported immense crowds present throughout the entire length of the fair’s run. As the Baltimore Gazette reported, “[s]tretched across the centre of the hall is the star-spangled banner [a US flag], and at the end of the hall, the same emblems are [draped].” This overt nod to national patriotism and to a restored Union, however, was tempered by what no city newspaper described explicitly. Upon many of the 57 display tables, either for sale or for raffle, could be found portraits of the military heroes of the Confederacy. Paintings, prints and photographs of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Joseph E. Johnston, to name a few, could be found throughout the hall. No likenesses of Jefferson Davis appear to have been present. Less than one year before, Baltimore’s Secessionists could have been arrested by the US Provost Marshall for displaying or even possessing such images.
The Southern Relief Fair could be termed a great success when compared to similar efforts. The 1864 Sanitary Fair managers raised a final amount of just over $86,000. The Relief Fair women, in comparison, grossed approximately $160,000 for their efforts, about 2.3 million dollars in 2011 currency. The Baltimore Gazette opined “[the ladies] have been constant in their attendance and unwearied in their attentions…[t]he Fair women of Baltimore have crowned themselves with laurels, well deserved in many ways. The Fair also revealed that the split in Baltimore society still remained chasm-like within the breasts of many. The Baltimore American, a moderate Unionist paper during the conflict, simply refused to report on the Relief Fair. It gave the following reason:
“If there had been any attempt made, or any desire evinced, to secure the participation of the Union people of the city or State in this Fair, it would have been promptly responded to by them and heartily seconded by the American. On the contrary, there has been a persistent effort to make [the fair] a grand disloyal demonstration.”
In conclusion, the Southern Relief Fair gave Baltimore’s Secessionist women their most spectacular means to express their devotion to the people of the South. Channeling their energies, the women successfully mobilized thousands of fellow Marylanders, as well as sympathetic out-of-state parties, behind the cause of assisting the destitute citizens of the former Confederacy.

To Benefit The Human Family

BRG 16, 1865-257
Petition of “Friends Association in Aid of Freeman,” signed by Rebecca Sinclair Turner, BRG16, 1865-257
As African Americans freed from the bonds of slavery made their way to Baltimore in the winter of 1864, their appearance within the city elicited mixed reactions from the white citizenry.[1]  Rebecca Sinclair Turner, a white member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), had a positive, sympathetic response. As a manager of the Friends’ Association in Aid of Freeman, she helped to house the sick and indigent former slaves, referred others to jobs, and sewed new garments as substitutes for their plantation tow cloth. Her actions sprang forth from what she deemed to be her greater purpose. Turner’s 1865 New Year’s Day journal entry revealed:
I have much to be thankful for–and [personal] desires have arisen that I may be more faithful in the performance of my duties… in all concerns pertaining to this life, whereby the human family may be benefited, and that I may so walk and act not to be a stumbling block in the way of others.[2]
Rebecca Sinclair Turner
Rebecca Sinclair Turner
Other Baltimoreans joined Turner in choosing to benefit the human family by assisting both the freedmen and the city’s general African American population, founding private, non-denominational benevolent organizations to do so.  Their ranks, derived mostly from Union sympathizers and previously helpful persons, such as Quakers and Unitarians, were few in number. This small but very significant cadre of idealistic Marylanders attempted to maximize the effects of emancipation in Baltimore by first organizing schools for the freedmen and their children.  Later, they helped to found an orphanage for the children of deceased US Colored Troops and a home for the elderly. These activities served to supplement the ongoing efforts of Baltimore’s own African American community to aid the newly emancipated.
[1] Appeal for the Shelter of Aged and Infirmed Colored People (1881), Printed Ephemera, Box D-15, Prints & Photographs Department, Maryland Historical Society Library.
[2] January 1, 1865 entry, Rebecca Sinclair Turner diary, Turner Family Papers, RG 5, 152, Society of Friends Archives, Swathmore College.

Emancipation Day in Baltimore

Resolutions in honor... New Constitution, BCA, 1864-884
Resolutions in honor… New Constitution, BCA, 1864-884
On November 1, 1864, Maryland abolished slavery when a new state constitution forbidding the practice went into effect.  The simple words of Article 24 of that document stated:
“[T]hat hereafter, in this State, there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except in punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted; and all persons held to service or labor as slaves, are hereby declared free.”
How did the Baltimore City government react to the news of emancipation?  The all-male, all-white City Council passed a remarkable resolution that starts:
Whereas it is fitting that a people freed from a barbaric custom of a feudal age should… tak[e] their proud position among the free… Whereas the people of Maryland have by the adoption of a free State Constitution have been redeemed regenerated and disenthralled, And by this progressive act in the cause of freedom… have earned immortal honors for themselves….
A committee of the City Council, at the urging of Mayor Chapman, arranged for a 500 gun salute “as an evidence of  [the] joy felt by the people of Baltimore for the Salvation of Maryland.” Chapman further requested that church bells ring at sunrise to greet the dawning of this new era.
How did Baltimore’s African American population greet the news of emancipation? According to the Baltimore Clipper newspaper:
The colored portion of our community converted [the first of November] into a day of holiday, thanksgiving, and prayer… they donned their best attire, and social reunions were indulged in… [t]he various churches were thronged during the entire day, and at the church on Saratoga Street [Bethel A.M.E.]… the place was crowded, and at times it was impossible for a vehicle to pass… so dense was the mass of persons. 
Emancipation Day in Baltimore, Baltimore Clipper, November 2, 1864
Emancipation Day activities in Baltimore, Baltimore Clipper, November 2, 1864

The “Other Lincoln Bible”

The “Other Lincoln Bible,” Fisk University, Franklin Library
President Barack Obama at his inaugurations in 2009 and 2013 used a Bible once owned by the Lincoln Family. Known today as the “Lincoln Bible,” it resides currently at the Library of Congress. Do you know, however, about the “Other Lincoln Bible” at Fisk University and its Baltimore connection?
On September 7, 1864, a delegation of African American Baltimoreans paid a visit to the White House. The purpose was to express their gratitude, on behalf of city’s black community, to President Lincoln for his issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, which they termed “the most sublime State Paper of Modern Civilization.” They also wished to thank him for allowing African American men to shoulder arms in defense of the Union.
Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.[1]  Baltimore’s African American citizens soon organized a fund raising campaign to place a tangible token of their appreciation into the hands of the Chief Executive. Unfortunately, we don’t know the names of the committee members or their decision making when it came to the selection of the gift.[2]
The committee decided that a Bible would be the most appropriate gift for President Lincoln. Yet, this was to be no ordinary Bible. Only the finest would do. Here is a period description of the item:
The book in size is imperial quarto [about 11” x 15”], bound in royal purple velvet. On the upper side of the cover is a solid 18 carat gold plate, nine and a half inches in circumference, bearing a design representing the President in the act of removing the shackles from a slave. On the lower side of the cover is a solid 18 carat gold plate, four inches long and two inches wide, bearing the following inscription:
‘To ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, from the loyal colored people of Baltimore, as a token of respect and gratitude….’
Accompanying the Bible is a solid black walnut case with a silver plate on the lid, on which is engraved a picture of the Capitol and the words ‘Holy Bible.’ [3]
Over five hundred individuals, more women than men, donated various amounts for a total of $580 ($580 in 1864 is the equivalent of $8522 in 2013). The elaborate binding and the engraved gold plate may have been fabricated locally. The work involved to produce the Bible, according to a scholar of Baltimore’s nineteenth century book trade, was within the capacity of a larger city firm such as Lucas Brothers.
In 1916, Robert Todd Lincoln donated the Bible to Fisk University. Today it resides with the Special Collections Department at the John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library.
[1] We simply do not know what the reactions of Baltimore’s citizens were to this momentous news. While some Baltimore newspapers recorded the jubilations of the “contrabands” in Washington, none featured any similar celebratory events within the Monumental City. Even the Baltimore Clipper, one of the staunchest Union sympathizing local papers, merely printed the text of the Proclamation and made no editorial comments.
[2] The Lyceum Observer, an African American owned and operated Baltimore newspaper printed from 1863 to 1866, might have provided those insights. Tragically, only a single issue has survived the ages.
[3] The New York Times, September 11, 1864.

Baltimore Sanitary Fair Sesquicentennial

Maryland Institute, site of the Sanitary Fair
Maryland Institute, site of the Sanitary Fair
The 1864 Baltimore Sanitary Fair (April 18-April 30) provided the large-scale vehicle for Maryland’s Unionist women to bring together both of their benevolent and patriotic impulses. Other cities across the Union, such as Chicago and Boston, previously coordinated such events. Proceeds from these affairs swelled the coffers of the U.S. Christian and the U.S. Sanitary Commissions, the two major national relief organizations for the Union armed forces. The prospect of holding a fair to raise funds for these entities first arose in Baltimore during the fall of 1863 and a series of female-led meetings soon followed. The women chose the 18th of April as the official opening date and invited a special guest to inaugurate the event.
April 18th witnessed general public celebration, transforming the drab thoroughfares of the war-time city. Acting upon a resolution of the City Council, Mayor John Lee Chapman issued a proclamation asking businesses to close at noon on April 18. Most tradesmen, with the exception of a few ardent secessionists, complied. Likewise, city school pupils enjoyed a half-day. The frenetic pace of city-life came to a complete stand-still as a grand military parade featuring over three thousand soldiers commenced at two o’clock. Starting at Monument Square, the nearly mile long column wended its way through the heart of the business district as the Eighth New York Artillery band serenaded the estimated 30,000 people lining the streets. Over four hundred of the original members of the First Maryland Cavalry, which had included four companies of Baltimoreans, veterans of Stoneman’s Raid, Brandy Station, and Gettysburg, proudly rode in formation. The throngs of spectators “not only repeatedly cheered . . . but from the windows of many of the residences ladies crowded all the available space, waving their handkerchiefs and display[ing] the National banner.” A second parade featured three thousand African-American soldiers in new blue uniforms, their gold buttons reflecting the brilliant sunshine of the temperate day. Constituting a portion of Maryland’s volunteer “Colored” regiments, the new enlistees were “huzzahed on their way to the front by the white population.”
President Lincoln
          President Abraham Lincoln
Acting upon the invitation of the women organizers, President Abraham Lincoln agreed to preside over the fair opening ceremonies. Lincoln’s appearance in Baltimore held symbolic importance for city Unionists, and perhaps, to himself. For loyal citizens it offered both a chance to display their devotion to the man who embodied the Union and cast off doubts about Baltimore’s predominant political sympathy. For the President, coming to Baltimore presented an opportunity to make amends for a past indiscretion. In March 1861, en route to his inauguration, Lincoln secreted himself through Baltimore’s darkened streets in response to the rumor of an alleged assassination plot. Already held in low regard by his affiliation with the perceived anti-Southern Republican Party, many residents regarded the President-elect’s distrustful action as an affront to their city’s honor; even Unionists expressed bewilderment. Later, the President “was convinced that he had committed a great mistake.” By opening the Maryland Fair, Lincoln could both mitigate his wrong and express his confidence in the city’s national loyalty.
Despite the apparent solidarity of the state’s loyal population, the Maryland Fair could only be termed a modest financial success when compared with similar 1864 events. The final tally exceeded just over eighty-three thousand dollars. In contrast, both the New York and Philadelphia fairs each cleared over one million dollars. Yet, when compared to all similar soldier relief fairs, the Maryland total stands respectable. Chicago’s, of December 1863, “netted between $86,000 and $100,000”; Boston’s, held in the state whose militia first answered Lincoln’s Call to put down the Rebellion, garnered but $146,000. Both Illinois and Massachusetts possessed vastly larger and much less philosophically divided populations. While competition for donations from other cities most likely affected Maryland’s net amount, both economic realities and the state’s political division did factor largely.
Maryland Unionists, nonetheless, regarded their fair efforts to be fruitful. Governor Augustus Bradford at the May 2 closing ceremonies remarked, “success is not to be estimated merely by its financial results, but by the wholesome moral influences it exerted . . . it has brought together loyal women . . . and served to show that American patriotism is confined to no climate, nor indigenous to any particular soil.” The press singled out the organizer’s and participants for their devotion. The Baltimore American newspaper lauded “the noble women of Maryland who have labored so long and so well . . . [they] deserve all praise and honor.”