Maryland State Study

MarylandThis is a Maryland state study, all about Maryland’s history, geography, and some fun things to do when you’re studying Maryland.

Super Short History

Maryland was first settled in 1634.  The earliest settlers bought an existing village from an Indian Chief who was anxious to trade guns and other technologies with the settlers.  The settlement attracted thousands who mostly became tobacco farmers.  Most of the original setters were Catholics who were being mistreated back home in Europe and who sought asylum in their own colony in the New World.  But very quickly Protestants also began to settle in Maryland, soon making up a majority, though Catholics still held the highest positions in government.  A backlash against Catholics back in England spilled over into Maryland where the Protestants revolted and burned Catholic churches and threatened Catholic families.  In 1658 the Calvert family, original holders of the charter for the colony, regained control and instituted laws of religious freedom, the first colony in America to do so.  Later this religious freedom would founder, but nonetheless it became the foundation of the religious freedom that would one day become a hallmark of the United States.

Leonard Calvert, brother of Lord Baltimore, and first governor of Maryland. Image public domain, Wikimedia.

Though Maryland was a slave state from the beginning of the colony in the years after the Revolutionary War, the number of slaves decreased and the number of free black families increased dramatically as the economy shifted to skilled labor and Methodist and Quaker ministers preached against slavery.  At the time of the Civil War Maryland was still a slave state, but had thousands and thousands of free black families living in her borders.  Maryland remained loyal to the Union during the war.  Maryland was not subject to the provisions in the Emancipation Proclamation because it was not a state in rebellion.  In 1864 Maryland voluntarily rewrote its constitution to abolish slavery.  In 1867 all male citizens were given the rights of suffrage.

In the mountains of western Maryland. Image by TrailVoice, CC license, Wikimedia.

By 1877 Democrats had retaken control of Maryland politics and they rejected Maryland’s 1864 constitution and repealed laws that gave blacks equal rights and voting rights.  These rights would not be fully restored until the 1960’s at the insistence of the federal government.

Baltimore city sky line. Photo in the public domain, Wikimedia.

Maryland grew quickly and prospered during the years of the Industrial Revolution.  WWI and WWII expanded Maryland’s industries in manufacture, shipping, and military complexes.  Following the war Maryland’s industry declined, big business bought out family farms, and the cities began to deteriorate as working class people lost their good paying jobs and struggled to find work.  In the late 20th century Maryland turned this around with urban renewal programs and efforts to create tourism and other industries in the state.  Maryland’s middle class families have recovered and are now some of the wealthiest in the United States, while the poverty level is the lowest in the United States.  Today Maryland’s economy is based on commercial fishing, tourism, produce farming, tobacco farming, chicken farming, electronics, computer equipment, chemicals, airplane manufacture, coal mining, healthcare, and biotechnology.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge at Annapolis, Maryland. Photo by Andrew Bossi, CC license Wikimedia.

Geography of Maryland

Maryland is a mid-Atlantic state and one of the smallest and most densely populate in the United States.  The eastern shore on the Chesapeake Bay is low lying sand dunes which give way to swampy estuaries.  Moving west the land rises to the oak forests of the Piedmont region and in the most western part of the state are mountains covered with pine.  Most of the rivers in Maryland drain into the Chesapeake Bay.  The climate of Maryland is mostly sub-tropical, but colder winters hit periodically when northern weather from Pennsylvania dips south.

Fabulous Facts

  • Rare wild ponies, believed to be shipwreck survivors, live on Assateague Island.
  • The national capital, Washington D.C., was carved out a portion of Maryland.  Many US government agencies and offices are located in Maryland and a big sector of its economy is based on the federal government.
  • Famous Marylanders include Babe Ruth, Cal Ripken Jr., Francis Scott Key, Elizabeth Ann Bailey Seton, Spiro T. Agnew, Thurgood Marshall, Dr. Ben Carson, Rachel Carson, Tom Clancy, Matt Drudge, Upton Sinclair, Toni Braxton, Harriet Tubman and many others.
  • The first telegraph was developed and sent in Maryland by Samuel Morse.
  • The Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore is a national treasure with its beautiful architecture.  It was completed in 1820.

    Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Baltimore, Maryland.  Image released to public domain, Wikimedia.

 Map Exploration

Label and color a Maryland Map.  Include the major cities, landmarks, and natural features.  Use a student atlas to aid you.

Maryland Map

More Explorations

Look up the state symbols for Maryland: flag, bird, tree, motto, flower and so on.  Make a poster, the map of Maryland in the center and the symbols around the outside.

The Baltimore Aquarium is a major tourist destination.  Visit if you can.  If not take a virtual tour of the aquarium and learn about it online.

The Chesapeake Bay is central to Maryland’s economy, geography, and identity. Learn more about the Bay and what has been done in recent decades to restore and preserve its waters.  After you have done your research create a project showing what you have learned.  It could be a diorama, a science project, a slide show, a video, or a research paper.

Fort McHenry is an important historical site in Maryland.  Learn about its history.  Today it is also a National Park.  Learn what happened there.  Then learn the Star Spangled Banner, the national anthem that was penned there during the War of 1812.

The cannons of Fort McHenry trained on the harbor. Photo by Bohemian Baltimore, CC license, Wikimedia.

Additional Layers

  • Just before and during the Civil War Lincoln and the Governor of Maryland had several prominent pro-slavery politicians including the mayor of Baltimore arrested and jailed until pro-union people could be elected in their places, among other dubious practices.  Some say this was necessary in war time, others say it was unconstitutional, no matter the circumstances.  Read more and decide for yourself.
  • Johns Hopkins Hospital, an enormous research hospital, is located in Maryland.  Learn more about what they do there.

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