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Maryland State History

History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People


1608—John Smith charts Chesapeake Bay for England

1631—William Claiborne established a trading post on Kent Island

1634—Leonard Calvert buys land from the Indians

1649—The Religious Toleration Act passes

1664—Slavery becomes legal

1775—Maryland enters the Revolutionary War

1788—Maryland becomes the 7th state in the Union

1791—Maryland gives up land to create Washington D.C.

1814—Francis Scott Key writes “The Star-Spangled Banner” in Baltimore

1828—The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad begin America’s first railway

1844—First telegraph message is sent from Baltimore to Washington DC

1862—The Battle of Antietam

1876—John Hopkins University opens in Baltimore

1904—Baltimore’s downtown is destroyed in the Great Fire

1952—Chesapeake Bay Bridge opens

1954—Baltimore’s public schools are desegregated

Native Americans lived along the Nanticoke, Patuxent, and Susquehanna Rivers when European explorers arrived.  The Spanish were the first to see Maryland in the 1500s.  In 1608, John Smith of Virginia sailed northward up Chesapeake Bay into Maryland.  In 1631, another Virginian, William Claiborne, opened a trading post on Kent Island.  This was the first colonial settlement in Maryland.

In 1632, English nobleman Cecil Calvert was granted the Maryland land region.  Calvert believed growth and development would more easily come, in a place where all Christians could worship how these pleased.  In 1634, colonists were sent to Maryland and founded St. Mary’s City.

Trade restrictions and high taxes led to the Revolutionary War in 1775.  Marylanders opposed the Stamp Act, protested the Boston Port Bill by burning a boat and the tea cargo, and attended the First Continental Congress in 1774 in Philadelphia.  Baltimore served as the country’s capital until after the war when it was moved to Annapolis.

In 1788, the United States Constitution was signed.  Maryland became the 7th state to join the new country, with Annapolis as the state capital.  In 1791, Washington D.C. was created from land donated by Maryland, and became the nation’s permanent capital.

Several battles from the War of 1812 were fought in Maryland.  British soldiers raided towns along the Chesapeake Bay, defeated Americans in the Battle of Bladensburg, and burned the Capitol and other government buildings in Washington D.C.  On Sept. 12, they attacked Baltimore and fired on Fort McHenry.  The American army defended the city and drove them out of Maryland.  This battle inspired the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The Civil War began in 1861.  Although many plantation owners in Maryland fought with the Confederacy, Maryland’s legislature sided with the United States and adopted a new constitution that ended slavery.  Again, many battles were fought on Maryland soil.

In 1919, Congress passed the prohibition law, prohibiting the manufacturing, selling and transporting of alcoholic beverages.  Maryland opposed the law, because it violated their state’s rights.  Because of this, they were known as the Free State.

After World War II, Maryland improved its transportation systems.  BWI Airport opened and many bridges, tunnels, and highways were built.  When the Supreme Court ruled segregation in schools as unconstitutional in 1954, Maryland changed the fastest of all the southern states by integrating schools and neighborhoods.  Several school systems were expanded.

In 1985, Maryland began a government project to clean up the waste from cities and factories flowing into Chesapeake Bay.  The waste was killing many of the fish and shellfish living there.  Since then, millions of oysters have been placed in the bay.