Hampden Heritage

Archaeology, History, and Heritage in Central Baltimore

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Dissertation Proposal, the good parts. Part 1

I've decided that, in order to have some stuff to post in the low season, I'm going to post some of the less boring parts of my dissertation proposal, which my committee approved early last December. The whole thing's nearly 70 pages long, and a lot of it is academic drival, so I'm just excerpting the good bits. Here's the history part.

Hampden is a neighborhood of Baltimore City, situated on the slopes and ridge between the Jones Falls (rivers and streams in and around Baltimore are often named “Falls”) and Stony Run approximately three miles north of the city’s Central Business district. It lies along the transition between the coastal plain and piedmont regions known in the mid-Atlantic as the “fall line.” The area lies within the Upland Section of the Piedmont Province, specifically Maryland Archaeological Research Unit 14: Patapsco-Back-Middle Drainages (Hall 1999: xii; Shaffer and Cole 1994: 77). Soils in the area are generally well-drained sandy loams, primarily Legore, Joppa, and other urban land complexes.

Nineteenth-Century Hampden: Class, Paternalism and Industry

Hampden’s early economy depended upon its topography, and particularly the ready supply of hydrologic energy available to run machinery. The “suburban factory village” of Hampden began in the 1820’s as a series of water-driven grist mills in the valley of the Jones Falls about three miles upstream of the booming shipping town of Baltimore. In the early years of the nineteenth century, while Baltimore’s waterborne commerce was booming, farmers interested in bringing their goods to market in Baltimore suffered the perils of poor roads: “miery sloughs, dreadful precipices…impassible streams” and other difficulties (Federal Gazette 1804 cited in Olson 1997).

To aid inland trade, Maryland’s government began the construction of a series of turnpike roads. Included among these was the Falls Turnpike Road, which, after 1809, connected mills along the Jones Falls grist mills to the hub of international trade a few miles to the south (Olson 1997: 47-48). By the 1830’s, the construction of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad not only improved this link, but also fueled real estate speculation throughout the region and spurred construction along the Falls Turnpike (Olson 1997: 71-77). In 1833, Lloyd Norriss and William Tyson advertised the sale of a 238-acre parcel on the Jones Falls. The parcel contained a mansion house, a farmhouse, a tavern, and a brick and stone gristmill capable of producing 120 barrels of wheat per day (Baltimore American 1833). Ten years later that Woodberry Mill was one of 18 in the Baltimore area and one of at least three in the immediate locality. Another, White Hall Cotton Factory, was still water-driven (Baltimore American 1843) . However, by 1850, Gambrill Carroll and Co.,White Hall’s owners, had begun the conversion to steam drive. By this time, there were also 27 dwelling houses for mill workers erected on mill property (Baltimore American 1850). The paternalist system that would flourish in Hampden after 1870 was already putting down roots (Baltimore American 1850).

By 1860, Hampden-Woodberry hosted a large foundry and the area was sufficiently populated to warrant the construction, by mill workers, of a library (Baltimore Sun 1860). In the early 1870’s the village had blossomed into a full-fledged mill town, albeit a rustic one. Simultaneously, an apex of industrial development and a backward suburb lacking even paved streets, Hampden played host to no less than five steam-powered cotton duck, or canvas mills, and supported as many as 8,000 inhabitants (Baltimore Sun 1874; Baltimore Sun 1872). It was in this condition that the Maryland’s cotton mill labor delegates found the town on the night of their meeting:

Saturday night, while everything was activity in Woodberry, the people on their several errands were walking up steep and unpaved streets and groping in the dark, the only light in the place being that coming down from the windows of the cottages. With 8.000 inhabitants, large churches of various denominations, a daily newspaper, public halls, numerous large cotton factories and engine works and stores of all descriptions, Woodberry, situated three miles from the heart of Baltimore City has no gas, little or no supply of water, and the most meager kind of communication with the city, to which of necessity one half of the population have business every day (Baltimore Sun 1874)

That meeting signals the beginning of real labor consciousness in Hampden-Woodberry. Throughout the 1880’s and 1890’s, organized labor gained strength, particularly under the auspices of the Knights of Labor, and won a series of strikes, culminating in a successful strike of 1918. This era, from the 1880’s through 1920, can be viewed as the era in which labor was most successful in Hampden. Despite its victories, however, mill operatives continued to make what seem like impossibly low wages: in 1885, men working in the picking room of Maryland cotton duck mills made real wages of just over $1 per day. Women and children made substantially less (Weeks 1886: 167) and the era of labor activism seems to have ended in Hampden in 1923. After a winning a lengthy strike in that year, mill corporations began the slow process of closing their operations and moving them south. While the twentieth century saw the introduction of some light industry to the region, even that began to dissipate by the 1970’s. During that period, Hampden lost all but a few of its manufacturing jobs and much of its service sector.

A series of transformations in world capitalism, famously described by Harvey (1991) including the gradual transformation of the American economy from one centered on production to one centered on consumption, made their mark on Hampden. The movement of the textile mills to the Southern piedmont has altered the neighborhood’s character over the last several decades. Between the 1950’s and the 1970’s, the mills’ decline forced many of Hampden’s blue-collar residents to take jobs outside of the neighborhood. Others set up businesses in the neighborhood - pharmacies, beauty parlors, grocery stores, and so forth, to provide services for the neighborhood’s residents. This constituted a first phase in the transformation of Hampden into an economy driven by consumption.


1804 . In Federal Gazette triweekly vols, Baltimore.

A Library at Woodberry
1860 . In Baltimore Sun, Baltimore.

[Description of Baltimore Mills]
1843 . In Baltimore American, Baltimore.

Hall, C. L. a. L. M. V.
1999 Yearbook of Archaeology 1999, edited by S. H. A. Maryland Department of Transportation. Office of Planning and Preliminary Engineering, Project Planning Division, Environmental Planning Section.

Labor Meeting at Woodberry: The Ten Hour System in the Factories - Speeches by the workingmen, etc.
1874 . In Baltimore Sun, Baltimore.

Olson, S. H.
1997 Baltimore : the building of an American city. Rev. and expanded bicentennial ed. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Md.

Shaffer, G. D. and E. Cole
1994 Standards and Guidelines for Archaeological Investigations in Maryland, edited by D. o. H. a. C. Development. Maryland Historical Trust Technical Report.

The Rockdale Factory for Sale at Public Auction
1850 .

Tour of Woodberry Mills
1872 . In Baltimore Sun.

Valuable Mill and Farm for Sale
1833 . In Baltimore American, Baltimore.

Weeks, T. C.
1886 First Biennial Report of the Bureau of Industrial Statistics and Information of Maryland, 1884-1885, edited by B. o. I. S. a. Information. Guggenheimer, Weil and Co, Printers.


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