As a major seaport and rail hub straddling North and South, Baltimore was one of America’s most important economic centers for much of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Since the 1970s, however, “Charm City” has fallen on tough times, trapped in a cruel cycle of poverty and violence—but it wasn’t always so. Some snapshots from better days:
1812: During the War of 1812, the city’s shipyards churn out 126 fast-sailing Baltimore Clippers, ideal for taking British prizes. These cheap schooners—only about $75,000 in today’s dollars—ultimately sank or seized some 500 enemy ships.
1910: Thirty-one million dollars’ worth of cargo ($900 million today), especially coffee, iron and molasses, passes through the port of Baltimore headed for the heartland via the Baltimore & Ohio railroad. Founded in 1827, the B&O was generating $83 million in revenue ($2.4 billion today) by 1910, making it the largest cog in Baltimore’s
$187 million ($5.5 billion) economy. Remnants of the line lingered until 1987, but the B&O lives on in Monopoly, where it forever costs $200.
1951: During World War II, the Baltimore-based Glenn L. Martin Co. cranked out 11,000 military planes, and the city’s Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard was christening a new ship every day by 1945. Six years later, all that military might had been redeployed to help spark Baltimore’s peacetime economy. One in ten Baltimoreans worked in manufacturing, many at Bethlehem Steel’s Sparrows Point mill, then the world’s largest, with 30,000 employees.