Hampden Heritage

Archaeology, History, and Heritage in Central Baltimore

Friday, December 23, 2005

Rewind 50 years . . .

1938 was an important year in Hampden: it was the 50th anniversary of the neighborhood's incorporation into Baltimore City. Accordingly, a great "jubilee celebration" was held from June 11 to June 14 of that year, and a souvenir book containing "historical data" and a program of events, very similar to the one put together for the 1988 celebration, was published. According to the compilers of the historical data (Andrew Cavacos and Robert Hayes), it was collected hurriedly over four weeks, "obtained by interviews with old citizens, and from books and newspapers." "A Brief History of Hampden-Woodberry" then begins with a recounting of how Hampden got its name (from the Englishman John Hampden, who opposed the levying of taxes by Charles I; this name was bestowed upon the community by Henry Mankin, who during the mid-nineteenth century owned much of the land that eventually became Hampden), followed by a description of the Hampden Association (which was responsible for purchasing the land for Hampden and subdividing it into individual lots), leisure activities (including movies and baseball), the story of Hampden's annexation to the city and the civic involvement of its citizens, banks, the Boy Scouts, a second early building association, camp meetings, and churches. The mills and the Poole and Hunt Foundry are nowhere to be found. Names of people, however, abound: partial rosters of four baseball teams, members of the newly organized North Baltimore Hunting and Fishing Association, councilmen, mayors, legislators, magistrates and other public servants, bank directors and business owners, and Boy Scout troop masters were all listed by name.

In the paper that Dave presented at the AAA meetings recently, he mentioned that anthropologist John Hartigan has noted the tendency for working-class people to think of history in terms of people and events, whereas middle-class people tend to think of history in terms of places and objects. Thus, I find it interesting that in the case of the 1938 souvenir book, naming individuals seems to be so important. This is interesting because the compilers were not workers, but rather middle-class residents of Hampden. Cavacos was a pharmacist, and while I don't know Hayes's occupation yet, he later published the periodical Notes On History: Hampden-Woodberry and Other Parts of Baltimore out of his home, so I doubt he was working-class. This seeming contradiction may put into question Hartigan's contention, or it may lead to interesting insights about class and class relationships in Hampden.

I'll take a break from posting next week, seeing as how it'll be Christmas week, but the first week in January I'll post a description of, and my thoughts about, Notes on History.


Blogger Dave G. said...

I'm don't think that your research really contradicts Hartigan's work, which is situated specifically in the context of contemporary gentrification. I suspect that class relations and the discourses that govern them have transformed a great deal since 1938.

The kind of particularism that you describe was in vogue not just among amateur historians, but among many "professionals" as well, and likely served a different purpose than the historical representation that now exists. Contemporary historicism has more to do with marketing than veneration, and I think that that's why individual people tend to get replaced.

Also, I wonder if there's not a distinction to be made between the middle middle class Hampden "insiders" that you describe and the upper middle class "outsiders" currently undertaking gentrification here in Hampden.

In short, I think that part of the task before us is to "unflatten" class in Hampden. Class takes on new configurations through time, and space, and particularly shifts as economic relationships shifts.

9:09 AM  
Blogger Car Loans Home said...

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10:08 PM  
Blogger Bob Chidester said...

I agree with you. I didn't have the time or the space in my paper (the one that got turned in for the class I was taking) to cover all the bases in terms of historical/social context that I should have, and the more I think about it, the more I realize that my conclusions might be very wrong.

In any event, I am currently working towards a conception of class that is at least semi-autonomous from the material context of social relations by which class is usually defined. We'll see where it goes.

9:04 AM  

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