School Improvement in Maryland
Clarifications: Each clarification provides an explanation of an indicator/objective to help teachers better understand the skills and/or concepts.

Standard 5.0 History

Topic C. Conflict between Ideas and Institutions

Indicator 2. Explain the political, cultural, economic and social changes in Maryland during the early 1800s

Objective b. Describe the importance of changes in industry, transportation, education, rights and freedoms in Maryland, such as roads and canals, slavery, B&O railroad, the National Road, immigration, public schools, and religious freedoms


The early nineteenth century was a period of tremendous change and growth for Maryland. One of the earliest and most significant changes was in the area of transportation. Just after the American Revolution, the nation engaged in a major effort to improve transportation networks. In Maryland as elsewhere, the efforts began with the improvement of existing roads and the construction of new ones. During the colonial period, when the population was concentrated in Southern and Eastern Maryland, Marylanders relied largely on the region's many waterways for transportation. As people moved northward and westward beyond the fall line, good roads became vital for the movement of people and goods. Existing roads were few in number and constructed of dirt, which quickly became rutted and were impassable or nearly so in bad weather. A popular solution was the construction of turnpikes, roads paved with crushed stone or wood that were financed and constructed by private companies that recouped their money through tolls. With the admission of Ohio to the Union, Congress began construction on the National Road, which eventually connected Cumberland, Maryland to Illinois. To ensure that Maryland fully benefited from the National Road, Maryland oversaw the construction of turnpikes from Baltimore to Cumberland. The National Road and Maryland turnpikes to Baltimore linked the Midwest economically and socially to the more established Eastern seaboard.

Marylanders also participated in the canal and railroad crazes. Just after the turn of the nineteenth century, the easiest way to transport goods at the time was by water. The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, still in operation today, was constructed to connect the Chesapeake Bay with the Delaware River, saving ships the long voyage around the Delmarva Peninsula when moving between Baltimore and Philadelphia. The Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal was constructed to bypass the dangerously shallow and rocky water at the lower end of the Susquehanna River to help New York and Pennsylvania farmers get their goods to the Chesapeake Bay. Similarly, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was constructed to help boats bypass the rapids and waterfalls on the Potomac River on their way between Washington, D.C. and Cumberland. The ultimate goal of that project was the connection of Washington, D.C. to the Ohio Valley, but the unexpected expenses and difficulties of construction prevented the realization of that goal. Still, the C&O Canal was used heavily for over 70 years. On the same date construction of the C&O Canal began, construction on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad began. It was the United States' first railroad. The success of the B&O Railroad in linking Baltimore to the fertile Ohio Valley ensured Baltimore's dominance of Maryland commerce. The railroad quickly replaced canals as the preferred mode of transportation, and other railroads were built, including the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad, the Annapolis and Elk Ridge Railroad, and the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad (connected to York, PA). The improved web of roads, canals, and railroads tied together the diverse regions of the state and greatly facilitated intra- and inter-state commerce.

Linked to the growth of transportation networks was the rise of industry in central Maryland, especially Baltimore. Baltimore became the processing center for agricultural products grown in the newly settled areas of western, northern, and central Maryland. Mills for grinding wheat into flour and producing textiles sprang up along the city's numerous streams and rivers. The many jobs that attended the rise of industry and urban centers in central Maryland attracted thousands of European immigrants to the area. Many Irish immigrants, who tended to be poor and unskilled, worked on the construction of the transportation network or as domestic servants. Large numbers of Germans, many of whom were skilled and financially secure, also immigrated to central and western Maryland, where they often formed tight-knit communities.

Another area that saw advancements during the early nineteenth century was education. A 1826 law authorized the first public schools. At that time, most children received only a few years of very basic education before entering the workforce, and wealthy children were tutored at home or attended private schools. The law did not provide much funding for the schools, however, so counties and cities were slow to open free public schools. Only after the Civil War did Maryland develop a statewide public school system. Despite the slow growth of public education, many private schools opened during this time, as well as several institutions of higher learning, including Washington College, St. John's College, and the Medical College of Maryland.

Many rights and freedoms expanded in the early 1800s as well. As a result of the American Revolution and the Constitution's Bill of Rights, Maryland no longer had an official religion, and many religions flourished. Catholics finally enjoyed political equality after a century of discrimination, and Baltimore became a center for the new religion of Methodism. Early in the century, Jews still suffered severe discrimination and were excluded from political life. A bill in 1826, however, granted them the right to vote and hold office.

Modest gains were also made in rights and freedoms for some African Americans. Although many of Maryland's blacks were still enslaved and enjoyed almost no rights and freedoms, an increasing number of African Americans in Maryland were free. The transition from tobacco agriculture to less labor-intensive wheat production made slavery less profitable, and the rhetoric of the American Revolution and the of rise evangelical religion led many slaveholders to question the morality of slaveholding. As a result, many slaveholders manumitted, or freed, their slaves during the early nineteenth century. The nation's largest free black community developed in Baltimore, comprised of both legally free blacks and runaway slaves. Unfortunately, free blacks did not enjoy equal rights. They were denied the right to vote, barred from many occupations, and required to carry freedom papers at all times.

Resources for Objective 5.C.2.b: