Maryland State History
In 1608, Capt. John Smith explored Chesapeake Bay. Charles I granted a royal charter for Maryland to Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore, in 1632, and English settlers, many of whom were Roman Catholic, landed on St. Clement's (now Blakistone) Island in 1634. Religious freedom, granted all Christians in the Toleration Act passed by the Maryland assembly in 1649, was ended by a Puritan revolt, 1654–1658.
In 1814, during the British attempt to capture Baltimore, the bombardment of Fort McHenry inspired Francis Scott Key to write the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner.â€ During the Civil War, Maryland was a slave state but remained in the Union. Consequently, Marylanders fought on both sides and many families were divided.
Maryland's Eastern Shore and Western Shore embrace the Chesapeake Bay, and the many estuaries and rivers create one of the longest waterfronts of any state. The Bay produces more seafood—oysters, crabs, clams, fin fish—than any comparable body of water. Since the 1950s, fish stocks have declined due to increased residential and commercial development in the area and the attendant amount of nutrients, sediment, and toxic substances polluting the water. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Chesapeake Bay Restoration and Protection Executive Order that called on the federal government "to restore and protect the nation's largest estuary and its watershed."
Important agricultural products are greenhouse and nursery products, chickens, dairy products, eggs, and soybeans. Stone, coal, sand, gravel, cement, and clay are the chief mineral products.
Manufacturing industries include food products, chemicals, computer and electronic products, transportation equipment, and primary metals. Baltimore, home of the Johns Hopkins University and Hospital, ranks as the nation's second port in foreign tonnage. The capital, Annapolis, is the site of the U.S. Naval Academy.
Among the popular attractions in Maryland are the Fort McHenry National Monument; Harpers Ferry and Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Parks; Antietam National Battlefield; National Aquarium, USS Constellation, and Maryland Science Center at Baltimore's Inner Harbor; Historic St. Mary's City; Jefferson Patterson Historical Park and Museum at St. Leonard; U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis; Goddard Space Flight Center at Greenbelt; Assateague Island National Park Seashore; Ocean City beach resort; and Catoctin Mountain, Fort Frederick, and Piscataway parks.
In March 2012, Maryland passed legislation to legalize gay marriage, becoming the eighth state to do so.
Jousting in Maryland
A lot of Maryland's unique culture can trace back to its aristocratic founders, George Calvert and his son Cecil, the Barons Baltimore. Calvert was a famous politician and gentleman in the United Kingdom, and the Calverts brought a number of their gentlemanly traditions with them to their Catholic colony. The most esoteric of these was the jousting tournament. In most of the U.S., the knightly contest of the joust was rather foreign—in Maryland, it was widely popular. It was so popular, in fact, that jousting tournaments were used to fundraise during the Civil War. The modern history of jousting in Maryland began in 1950 with the founding of the Maryland Jousting Tournament Association. The association still supports jousting in the state today, and was partly responsible for declaring it the state sport in 1962. Another aristocratic holdover in Maryland is the state flag, which is the heraldry of Cecil, 2nd Baron Baltimore. It combines the heraldry of both his parents' noble houses.
U.S. Naval Academy
The U.S. Naval Academy is the second oldest federal military academy in the United States, and one of the most influential institutions in U.S. military history. The academy was used as a hospital during the Civil War. In the ensuing decades of U.S. expansion overseas, the U.S. Navy became one of the country's key strategic assets. The Naval Academy, obviously, played an important role in training up the officers. The USNA is perhaps equally well-known to the public for its football team; the Navy football team, represented by its mascot Bill the Goat, is one of the most popular in the country, and its rivalry matchup against the Army football team from West Point is one of the biggest games in collegiate sports.
The Sailing Capital of America
The state of Maryland is dominated by the Chesapeake Bay, with a majority of the state being coastal. The Chesapeake is the largest and most productive bay in the United States, with huge maritime shipping and fishing industries. The picturesque waters, warm climate, and the food all attract huge numbers of tourists. Although Rhode Island challenges the claim, Maryland has a longstanding reputation as the sailing capital of American, if not the world. The state hosts many seafaring recreationists, be they on yachts or sailboats, as well as a large number of kayakers who go along the many rivers that flow into the Bay. The Chesapeake is also home to the skipjack, a local kind of sailboat used for harvesting oysters.
Famous Maryland Natives and Residents
- Benjamin Banneker mathematician;
- John Barth writer;
- Eubie Blake musician;
- John Wilkes Booth Lincoln's assassin;
- Francis X. Bushman actor;
- James M. Cain writer;
- Samuel Chase jurist;
- Frederick Douglass abolitionist;
- John Fletcher Hurst bishop and educator;
- Christopher Gist frontiersman;
- Philip Glass composer;
- John Hanson president of Continental Congress;
- Matthew Henson explorer;
- Billie Holiday jazz-blues singer;
- Johns Hopkins financier;
- Reverdy Johnson statesman;
- Thomas Johnson political leader;
- Francis Scott Key lawyer and poet;
- Barbara Kingsolver novelist;
- Thurgood Marshall jurist;
- H. L. Mencken writer;
- Hezekiah Niles journalist;
- Charles Willson Peale painter;
- Nancy Pelosi public official;
- Frank Perdue farmer, businessman;
- Michael Phelps swimmer;
- Adrienne Rich poet;
- Babe Ruth baseball player;
- Upton Sinclair novelist;
- Roger B. Taney jurist;
- Harriet Tubman abolitionist;
- Leon Uris novelist;
- John Waters filmmaker;
- Frank Zappa singer.
U.S. State Comparisons
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