no large cities in maryland -- 3/20/23
Today's selection -- from Money & Banking in Maryland by Stuart R. Bruchey and Eleanor S. Bruchey. Why there were no large cities in Maryland in early colonial times, and what caused Baltimore to finally grow:
"Maryland's economic growth in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries depended directly on population, export crops, and the meteoric rise of Baltimore. Not until the early eighteenth century did native-born Marylanders, black and white, develop resistance to indigenous diseases like malaria and live long enough to have large families. From then on, population figures turned sharply upward. The number of people in Maryland grew from an estimated 6,000 in 1640 to more than 34,000 in 1700. By 1770 some 200,000 people lived in the colony, and ten years later about 248,000. The population was widely dispersed, scattered along the watercourses of the tidewater Chesapeake, and at first almost universally devoted to the cultivation of tobacco. In 1730 Maryland sent 40,606,000 pounds of tobacco to Great Britain (35,080,000 to England and 5,526,000 to Scotland). By 1742, that total had risen to 53,206,000; in 1770 Maryland exported 100 million pounds of the weed to the Mother Country, almost half to Glasgow, whose merchant houses -- by means of representatives or ‘factors’ -- opened stores in the Chesapeake, sold British goods, and accepted tobacco in exchange.
"Despite this growth in cultivation and exports, the tobacco trade failed to generate urban development. Tobacco had no need for cities. The ability of seagoing vessels to call for their cargoes at the planter's dock or at riverine stores encouraged the direct exchange of tobacco for goods. Although a few plantation landings grew into small villages -- Upper Marlboro on the Anacostia and Georgetown on the Potomac, for example -- towns gained little ground as long as tobacco was king. Maryland's principal city through most of the colonial period, Annapolis, illustrated the point. As the meeting place of the General Assembly, its function was perhaps more political than economic.
"This situation changed dramatically under the impact of basic economic changes that called for the services of resident wholesale merchants. Foreign demand for wheat, especially in the West Indies, and its high price in relation to tobacco led to an increased cultivation of grain on the upper Eastern Shore, in the Patapsco region, in western Maryland, and the Pennsylvania piedmont. German immigrants flocked to the Monocacy and Antietam valleys. There they raised cattle and other provisions as well as wheat. Fredericktown and Hager’s Town were soon laid out as ‘wilderness’ market towns where producers and consumers of grain and cattle could meet and conduct business.
"The export demand for wheat had the farthest-reaching consequences. In 1762 the governor of Maryland complained of ‘there being no town or port in Maryland where any considerable quantity of country produce can be purchased at once or altogether’; Marylanders and southern Pennsylvanians who saw the natural advantages of nearby Baltimore Town soon cut roads through the woods and fields to connect the rich granary of the hinterland to the village on the Patapsco. By 1770 eight roads crossed the Pennsylvania-Maryland border southwest of the Susquehanna and led to Baltimore. Over these roads heavy wagons brought loads of wheat, Indian corn, and smaller quantities of flax, hemp, and tobacco to Baltimore for export.
"Thus the export trade in wheat and flour lay behind the rise of Baltimore. Since backcountry wheat, unlike tidewater tobacco, had to be delivered to dockside, the older system of direct exchange was no longer possible. Furthermore, famers could not undertake long trips over country roads on the chance that a vessel would be lying in wait for their crops. Nor could they postpone their homeward trips to wait for goods they wanted in return. Baltimore wholesalers had to build warehouses to store crops until ready for shipment, and retail stores had to keep a constant stock of goods on hand. In this more complex system of exchange the wholesale merchant was the key figure, for it was he who purchased backcountry produce for export and imported goods for the shelves of retailers. In a fairly short time, the inflow of wheat from the backcountry created the role of wholesale middleman and around him gathered a supporting case of retailer, clerks, suppliers, bookkeepers, housebuilders, and others who performed the services a growing community required. Milling flour, baking bread for export, distilling spirits, and shipbuilding became the town’s most important industries. In the immediate neighborhood an iron industry also developed, one that brought about more attendant industries.”