Baltimore is a city with a long and storied history. Established in 1729, it was named after the Irish Barony of Baltimore and was created as a port for transporting tobacco and cereals. Soon, local waterways were used for milling flour. At the outbreak of the American Revolution, Baltimore was a bustling seaport and shipbuilding center.
The Baltimore Clippers sailed the seas and trade spread to the Caribbean. The Navy's first ship, the Constellation, was launched in Baltimore in 1797, and its namesake, the last warship built exclusively by sailing (185 for the Navy), has been moored in the city's harbor since 1955. In the late 1990s, the ship underwent extensive restoration. The Continental Congress met in Baltimore (December 1776 to March 1777) when it was feared that the British would attack Philadelphia, then the national capital. During the War of 1812, the British attempted to capture Baltimore; however, their efforts were thwarted by a successful defense of nearby Fort McHenry (now a national monument and historic sanctuary).
This event inspired Francis Scott Key's poem “The Star-Spangled Banner”. The eastern terminus of the country's first railroad, Baltimore and Ohio (1827), was the city's Mount Clare station; the station has been preserved and now houses a railroad museum. During the American Civil War (1861-1886), although Maryland did not secede from the Union, many of its citizens had Southern sympathies. Union troops occupied Baltimore throughout the war, and the city only gradually recovered from that period of severe upheaval.
A fire on February 7, 1904 devastated most of the business district, but recovery was quick. At the start of World War I, Baltimore began to develop industrially with the construction of steel mills, oil refineries, and related war industries. In the 1920s and early 1930s, Baltimore acquired an intellectual aura thanks to the work of essayist and editor H. L.
Mencken and his circle, including journalists from The Sun newspaper. A period of urban decay in the city center after World War II was followed by a major renovation of the center and coastal areas. Baltimore is now a major seaport with ship repair facilities and a highly diversified economy. The port opens to the sea through Chesapeake Bay and the Chesapeake and Delaware canals and is a major shipping point for cars.
Services, including health care, education, finance, and insurance are an important component of the economy. The headquarters of the Federal Social Security Administration is located in the city, as well as other federal government and military services. Manufacturing includes cars, electronics, steel, processed foods, paper and plastic products, and aircraft parts. Baltimore and its surrounding area are also a center for higher education. Notable institutions include Johns Hopkins University (1876), which includes The Peabody Institute Conservatory of Music (1857); Coppin State University (1900), Towson University (1866), The University of Maryland (1807) and The University of Baltimore (1925), all part of The University of Maryland system; Loyola University of Maryland (1852); The University of Notre Dame of Maryland (1873); Morgan State University (1867); The Maryland Institute College of Art (1826); Goucher College (1888); and Baltimore City Community College (1947).
Other cultural institutions in the city include The Enoch Pratt Free Library (1882), The Baltimore Museum of Art (1914), The Walters Art Museum (1934; formerly called Walters Art Gallery), a symphony orchestra, opera companies and theater companies. The Baltimore Civil War Museum (1999) has exhibits on the city's role in The Underground Railroad. The Inner Harbor area was revitalized in the 1980s with attractions such as The Baltimore National Aquarium. For nearly 200 years, Baltimore served as an important port of entry for people crossing The Atlantic Ocean in search of a fresh start. Many were simply passing through on their way to another place but many others took root here making it a tapestry of cultures.