Hampden Heritage

Archaeology, History, and Heritage in Central Baltimore

Friday, November 18, 2005

Historical research on Hampden

Hello again. Like Dave, I have shamefully allowed my contribution to this blog to lapse. However, I plan to begin a regular series of postings updating you on the historical research I'm doing while we are not in the field. I'm currently working on a paper that will be an analysis of the different ways in which Hampdenites and others have represented Hampden, and specifically its heritage, throughout the 20th century. In addition to the ethnographic observation of HonFest which I undertook this past summer, I have been collecting as much written material as I can find on the history of Hampden. While we usually think of historical documents as being things such census reports, newspaper articles, personal letters, diaries, etc., for the most part I am not looking at these kinds of things (newspapers being the exception). Rather, I am using what would normally be considered to be secondary sources--histories of Hampden and individual institutions within the community (such as churches), the programs for the 50th and 100th anniversary celebrations of Hampden's annexation to Baltimore, and other such things. Essentially, the paper that I am writing will consist of an ethnographic interpretation of these documents, with the goal of tracing the ideas and themes that have characterized the way that people think about Hampden, and especially how these ideas have changed over time.

In addition, I am trying to locate information that will help me to contextualize some of the community institutions that have been important in Hampden at various points, including the Sovereigns of Industry in the 1870s, the Junior Order of the United American Mechanics in the late 19th century, and the Improved Order of Red Men from the 1890s to the present. Oddly enough, the Labadie Special Collection at the Hatcher Library of the University of Michigan, where I am currently a student, seems to be the only place in the country that has information on the Sovereigns of Industry--quite fortuitously, for me.

So, like Dave, I will try to post to this blog about once a week, updating our readers on what sources I've been able to acquire and how I am interpreting those sources. I would love to hear feedback on my interpretations, especially if you disagree, since a Hampdenite's perspective on these sources will undoubtedly be very different from my own--and also since these perspectives in themselves will help to sharpen the ethnographic understanding of Hampden that is so important to our project.


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