Baltimore's Beginnings

The Colonial government established Baltimore in 1729, at the end of the broad Patapsco River that empties into the Chesapeake Bay. Named for George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore and the founder of Maryland, the town grew as a port and shipbuilding center and did booming business during the War of Independence.

A quantum leap came at the turn of the 19th century: from 6,700 in 1776, the population reached 45,000 by 1810. Because it was the home port for U.S. Navy vessels and for the swift Baltimore clipper ships that often preyed on British shipping, the city was a natural target for the enemy during the War of 1812. After capturing and torching Washington, D.C., the British fleet sailed up the Patapsco River and bombarded Baltimore's Fort McHenry, but in vain. The 30- by 42-foot, 15-star, 15-stripe flag was still flying "by the dawn's early light," a spectacle that inspired "The Star-Spangled Banner."

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