25 Things You Should Know About Baltimore
Interested in learning more about Charm City? Grab a can of your favorite brew (preferably some Natty Boh) and read on for 25 things you probably don't know about Baltimore.
1. Famed slugger and leftie pitcher Babe Ruth (born George Herman Ruth in 1895) was a Baltimore native. He originally played for the town's minor league team before he was quickly scooped up by the Boston Red Sox. Ruth developed his love of the game at St. Mary's reform school, where his powerful hits resulted in occasional damage to school property.
2. Entrepreneur and philanthropist Johns Hopkins founded the nation’s first research university in Baltimore in 1876. The university, research institutions, and hospital that now bear his name serve as the state's largest private employer.
3. At one point in the 19th century, Baltimore’s status as a port city made it second only to Ellis Island in the number of immigrants it processed. Before 1850, new arrivals entered the country through Fell's Point, but as their numbers increased, they were brought to Locust Point, next door to Fort McHenry, instead.
4. You’ve got Baltimore to thank for the B&O Railroad square you’re lucky to land on in a game of Monopoly. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was the country’s first commercial railroad. In 1877, the Great Railroad Strike caused turmoil among railway workers after the B&O company tried to lower their wages. In Baltimore, violence broke out between civilians and the National Guard; 10 people were killed and parts of the railway station were burned.
5. The Baltimore Inner Harbor is home to the National Aquarium, considered to be the country's first public aquarium. It's home to more than 20,000 fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and marine mammals.
6. Also in the Inner Harbor? The world’s tallest pentagonal building, the Baltimore World Trade Center, which stands 405 feet high.
7. Baltimore was the site of the nation's first Roman Catholic archdiocese, founded in 1789, as well as the first major cathedral, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Construction on the massive building was finished in 1821.
8. "The Star Spangled Banner” traces its roots back to Baltimore. The composer, Francis Scott Key, wrote the lyrics to the national anthem as he looked out over a flag waving at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. The tune wasn’t all that patriotic, though—Key used the same melody as a popular (and relatively bawdy) British drinking song.
9. Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, is a Baltimore native. His incredible speed earned him the nickname "The Baltimore Bullet."
10. The USS Constellation, the very last Civil War ship still floating—as well as the last sail-operated warship built by the Navy—is docked in Baltimore. Earlier this year, the organization responsible for its maintenance enlisted the help of former inmates, all members of its job placement program, on much-needed repairs to the historic vessel.
11. French artist Henri Matisse has found an unlikely home in Maryland. The Baltimore Museum of Art features the world's largest collection of his works, which the public can view—along with the rest of the museum's offerings—for free.
12. Baltimore’s state bird (and proud baseball team mascot), the Baltimore oriole, got its name from its black-and-yellow feathers that echo the colors on Lord Baltimore’s coat of arms.
13. Some jazz greats hail from the heart of Baltimore. Singer Billie Holiday grew up in the city before making her way to Harlem with her mother. Jazz singer and big band man Cab Calloway also hails from Baltimore, where he decided to pursue an entertainment career against his lawyer father's wishes.
14. The next time you and a friend crack open a six-pack, thank Baltimore. The town's National Bohemian brewing company, later acquired by Pabst Brewing Company, began selling its brews by the half dozen in the 1940s. The reason? Company execs decided four beers was too few, but eight too many.
15. Operated by a lucky 13-year-old, the first manned balloon to successfully take to the skies in the U.S. was launched right out of Baltimore in 1784.
16. In 1774, the first post office in the United States was inaugurated in the city.
17. Almost a century later, the first telegraph line to be established anywhere in the world was set up between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. by Samuel Morse.
18. Squeaky clean teeth became a priority with the establishment of the world’s first dental school in Baltimore in 1840. One famous alum of the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery: Wild West gunslinger Doc Holliday.
19. The nearby National Museum of Dentistry boasts an impressive collection of tooth-related artifacts, including George Washington's dentures (made, as Atlas Obscura notes, "from gold, ivory, lead, and human, horse and donkey teeth") and oral hygiene tools used by Queen Victoria.
20. David Simon, The Wire's showrunner, populated his beloved, Baltimore-set drama with real-life Baltimoreans—most memorably, Felicia "Snoop" Pearson, the fearless (and fearsome) member of Marlo Stanfield's organization.
21. Hydrogen gas lamps, used to keep streets bright at night in the days before electricity, were first used in Baltimore in 1817.
22. On a fateful February day in 1904, a fire swept through the city, burning down more than 70 blocks in downtown Baltimore. The Great Baltimore Fire took down more than 1500 buildings in just 30 short hours. After the fire, changes were made in the safety standards for firefighting equipment.
23. The Baltimore airport has a unique offering it claims no other airport in the country has: a dedicated hiking and biking trail on-site.
24. Baltimore is the final resting place of the inventor of the Ouija board, Elijah Bond. Not surprisingly, his headstone resembles one of his spirit-channeling devices.
25. Edgar Allan Poe was a Baltimore native, and is buried in the city's Westminster Hall and Burying Ground. Baltimoreans are so proud of this native son that even the town's NFL team—the Ravens—pays homage to the literary icon.