Maryland’s Fabulous Firsts
Maryland was the seventh state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
It ranks #42 out of the 50 states in terms of size.
But it comes in FIRST in a number of categories.
The list below outlines some of the famous firsts that have put Maryland on the map.
The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company was organized in 1828 as the first public carrier railway in the United States. The country’s first railroad depot, Mount Clare Station, was built in Baltimore in 1830. The world’s first telegraph line was erected between Baltimore and Washington in 1844, Samuel F.B. Morse transmitted the first telegraph message (“What hath God wrought!”) to Mount Clare Station. The B&O used the first steam locomotive, called the Tom Thumb, and later put the world’s first electric railway locomotive into service in 1895. All of these achievements are commemorated at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore.
Joshua Johnston was the first black portrait painter in the country. Some of his works are on display at the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown.
The first umbrella factory in the United States was established in Baltimore in 1828. It marketed under the slogan, “Born in Baltimore, raised around the world.” The Baltimore Museum of Industry includes an exhibit about these umbrellas.
The first wholesale production of ice cream began in 1851, when Baltimorean Jacob Fussell started making ice cream as a way of using excess cream. One of Fussell’s delivery trucks is on display at the Baltimore Museum of Industry.
In 1792, the Baltimore Water Company became the first water company chartered in the United States. The Baltimore Public Works Museum, located in an old sewage pumping station, focuses on all aspects of public works and their effects on the citizens of Baltimore and the rest of the world.
The first commercial electric car line (streetcar line) in the United States began operating between Baltimore and the neighborhood of Hampden in 1885. The Baltimore Streetcar Museum pays homage to the era of the streetcar.
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1916, was the first municipally supported orchestra in the country. Today the orchestra performs at venues around the world but is headquartered at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore.
The first Roman Catholic cathedral in the United States was completed in Baltimore in 1821 and is now called the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Army’s first Aviation Corps was established at College Park Airport, the world’s oldest continuously operating airport, in 1909. Its instructors were none other than Orville and Wilbur Wright, who are memorialized at the College Park Aviation Museum.
The infamous Doc Holliday, the Wild West gunslinger, was a student at the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, which was the first dental college in the world. The school was founded in Baltimore in 1840. The Dr. Samuel D. Harris Museum of Dentistry, which pays tribute to this field of medicine, counts George Washington’s dentures among the most popular items in its collection. (They’re not wooden, by the way.)
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore, where visitors can go to learn the story of Francis Scott Key and the Star-Spangled Banner, was home to the U.S. Army’s first horse artillery, which was formed in 1808.
The first monument dedicated to the memory of war correspondents is located in Gathland State Park near Burkittsville. It was erected by authority of George Alfred Townsend, who wrote under the pen name “Gath,” in memory of journalists who lost their lives while covering the Civil War.
The nation’s first National Catholic Shrine, the Grotto of Lourdes replica, is in Emmitsburg.
The Historic National Road was the first federally funded highway in the United States. Today, drivers can start in Baltimore and travel the Historic National Road through six states before arriving at the Mississippi River.
Maryland was the first colony to enact legislation proclaiming religious freedom. This took place in 1649 in the state’s original capital, St. Mary’s City. Today visitors can learn more about Maryland’s theory of religious tolerance at Historic St. Mary’s City or by visiting St. Clements Island, where the first settlers erected a giant cross in March 1634.
Mistress Margaret Brent was America’s first female lawyer, first female landowner, first female taxpayer and first suffragette. She is memorialized with a plaque at Historic St. Mary’s City.
On November 5, 1781, the Continental Congress elected John Hanson from Charles County the first President of the United States in Congress Assembled. John Hanson Highway, a stretch of Route 50 that passes through Prince George’s County, is named for him.
Maryland was the first state to officially declare a state sport. And you’ll never guess what it is . . . the medieval contest of jousting! Modern visitors can watch jousting tournaments at various sites, many of which are in Southern Maryland. Medieval Times, an entertainment venue that also provides period-style meals, hosts jousting tournaments as part of their program at Arundel Mills shopping mall.
Thurgood Marshall was the first African American Supreme Court justice. He is memorialized at sites throughout the state, including a statue and plaque at the Maryland State House in Annapolis and a statue across from the Baltimore Convention Center.
Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first American-born saint. She also established the first parochial school system in the country when she opened her academy in Baltimore in 1808. The Mother Seton House in Baltimore and the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, commemorate her life and achievements.
Two Carmelite nuns, Ann Theresa Matthews and Frances Dickinson, established the country’s first Roman Catholic convent, now called Mount Carmel Monastery, in Charles County in 1790.
Peabody Institute in Baltimore was the first endowed school of music in the United States and is still considered one of the finest conservatories in the world. Visitors can attend concerts and recitals by students, faculty and visiting guest performers.
In 1784, a 13-year-old Baltimorean named Edward Warren was the first person in America to make a balloon ascension. (He survived, by the way.) Modern visitors to Baltimore can ascend on the HiFlyer, a tethered balloon at Port Discovery.
Washington College in Chestertown was the first school named in honor of George Washington and the only school to which he officially gave his name. Visitors can enjoy a stroll around the campus or one of the many performances and cultural events that take place there.
The first monument to the memory of George Washington was erected in a single day on a hillside near Boonsboro. It is now the centerpiece of Washington Monument State Park.
The Washington Monument in the Baltimore neighborhood of Mount Vernon was the first formal, architectural monument to George Washington. It stands 178 feet and is a column topped by a statue of Washington. It was designed by Robert Mills, who sculpted the more familiar Washington Monument in Washington, DC, and was begun on July 4, 1815.
The first public monument dedicated to Edgar Allan Poe was erected in Baltimore in 1875 at Westminster Hall & Burying Ground. It was partly funded with pennies collected by the schoolchildren of Baltimore and their teachers.
Unlike those above, the “firsts” listed here are not connected to particular tourism sites.
BANKING AND FINANCE
• The country’s first investment banking house was founded by Alexander Brown in Baltimore in 1800.
• The first bank in the United States to pay interest on deposits was the Farmer’s Bank of Annapolis in 1805.
• The first school to offer manual training courses, the Charity Working School, was built on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 1755.
• The first Methodist College in America, Cokesbury College, was started in Abingdon in June 1785.
• The country’s first Roman Catholic college for women, the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, was founded in Baltimore in 1873.
• The first vocational school in the country, Baltimore’s Polytechnic Institute, was established in 1883.
• The first country day school in the United States opened in Baltimore County in 1897. It opened under the name Country Day School for Boys but is now called Gilman School.
• The first school for occupational therapy for disabled soldiers was put into service near Baltimore’s Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in 1918.
• Thomas Moore of Brookeville invented the first refrigerator in 1803 and also coined the term “refrigerator.”
• James Bates of Baltimore invented the first automatic elevator in 1856.
• Ottmar Mergenthaler of Baltimore invented the first linotype/typesetting machine in 1884.
• William Painter of Baltimore invented and manufactured the first cork stoppers for bottles in 1892.
• Reginald Fessenden and Frank Very conducted the first successful experiments in transmitting wireless radio voice messages from Cobb Island in 1900.
• Marylander Alonzo Decker invented the first electric drill in 1914.
• Charles Adler Jr. of Baltimore invented the first traffic signal, which was installed at Falls Road and Belvedere Avenue and began operation on February 22, 1928.
MANUFACTURING AND INDUSTRY
• Fielding Lucas Jr. established Lucas Brothers Inc. of Baltimore and became the first stationer in the United States in 1804.
• George M. Conradt of Frederick opened the first carpet mill in America to make ingrain carpets in 1810.
• Martin Gillet and Company of Baltimore was the first company to import and package tea in America, established in 1811.
• The first silk ribbon made from American silk was manufactured in Baltimore in 1829.
• The first smallpox inoculation was administered by Dr. Henry Stevenson of Baltimore in 1769.
• The first department of public health in the United States opened in Baltimore in 1793.
• The first synthetic sweetening agent, saccharine, was discovered by Constantine Fahlberg and Ira Remsen of Johns Hopkins University in 1879.
• The country’s first medical school, Johns Hopkins University, opened in Baltimore in 1891. (The university itself was founded in 1876.)
• The first woman in America to become a professor at a medical school was Dr. Florence Rena Sabin, who taught at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine from 1901 to 1925.
• The first intensive care unit was developed at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1955.
• The first shock trauma unit in the United States was instituted in Baltimore in 1961. • The first dental textbook in the United States was written by Baltimorean Dr. Chapin A. Harris.
• The first medical school in America to teach hygiene and public health was the University of Maryland.
• The first sex-change operations in the country were performed at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
• The first post office system in the United States was established by publisher William Goddard in 1774.
• The first complete Rural Free Delivery Service of the U.S. Post Office began in Carroll County in 1899.
• The first gas lighting of a building in North America took place in 1802, when Baltimore resident Benjamin Henfrey demonstrated the advancement.
• Baltimore was the first city to illuminate street lights with hydrogen gas when it established that service in 1816.
• Washington County introduced the first bookmobile in the United States in 1905.
PUBLISHING AND LITERATURE
• The first female licensed printer in America was Dinah Nuthead, who inherited her husband’s business in 1696.
• America’s first Sunday newspaper, the Sunday Monitor, was published in Baltimore in 1796.
• The first agricultural publication in the United States, The American Farmer, started in Baltimore in 1819.
• America’s first sporting magazine, The American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine, was published in Baltimore in 1829.
• The first black woman novelist in the country was Marylander Frances Ellen Watkins, who wrote Iola Leroy or Shadows Uplifted in 1892.
• Maryland was the first state to adopt a “shield law” that allows reporters to protect their sources when it did so in 1896.
• The first female journalist in the country was Anne Royall of Baltimore.
• The first black member of the Baseball Writers Association of America was Sam Lacy, the sports editor for the Baltimore Afro American newspaper.
• The first Presbyterian Church was established by Francis Makemie in Snow Hill in 1684.
• The first Methodist Church in the United States, Lovely Lane Meeting House, was organized in Baltimore in 1784. Reverend Francis Asbury was made the first bishop of the church in America.
• The first Sunday school in the United States was organized by members of the Methodist Church in Baltimore in 1787.
• The first church conference held by the United Brethern Church took place in Baltimore in the old Otterbein Church in 1789. The church continues to stand near the famed Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
• The first Catholic diocese in the United States was established in Baltimore in 1789. • Revered John Carroll became the first Roman Catholic Bishop in the United States in 1790.
• The first Roman Catholic seminary was begun in Baltimore in 1791. A chapel of the original St. Mary’s Seminary still stands in the city.
• The first Episcopal Bishop consecrated in the United States was Thomas Claggett of Prince George’s County in 1792.
• The first black religious order, the Oblate Sisters of Providence, was founded in Baltimore in 1829.
• America’s first Jewish community center was established in Baltimore in 1854.
• The first YMCA building in the United States opened in Baltimore in 1859.
• The first stage coach route in the United States was established between Baltimore and Philadelphia in 1733.
• The first American clipper ship (the fastest merchant sailing ship) was built in the Eastern Shore town of Oxford.
• The first regular steam vessel to cross the Atlantic from the United States direct, called the City of Kingston, sailed from Baltimore in 1838.
• The first public performance of the National Anthem took place at the old Holiday Street Theatre in Baltimore in 1814. (It wasn’t made the country’s national anthem until March 4, 1931.)
• The first national nominating convention for president of the United States was held in Baltimore in 1831.
• The first multi-store shopping center building in America (precursor to the present-day shopping mall) opened in Baltimore as Roland Park Marketplace in 1896.