Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Ferdinand C. Latrobe (1833-1911)
MSA SC 3520-1698

The following essay is taken from the Baltimore City Government pages,
Adapted from Wilbur F. Coyle, The Mayors of Baltimore (Reprinted from the Baltimore Municipal Journal, 1919), 129-138.

Ferdinand Claiborne Latrobe served as mayor of Baltimore seven times, but was elected to office only twice.  The term was then for two years.  He was first elected in 1875 and inaugurated November 1st, of that year, serving until November 5th, 1877.  His second term came as a consequence of the death of Mayor Kane, who expired June 23rd, 1878.  A special election was held which Mr. Latrobe was chosen for the remaining part of the (Kane) term, which covered the period from July 15th, 1878, to November 5th, 1879.  Being re-elected, Mr. Latrobe served from November 3rd, 1879, to November 7th, 1881.  He was again inaugurated November 5th, 1883, this term expiring November 2nd, 1886.  His next administration as mayor was from November 7th, 1887, to November 20th, 1889.  He also served from November 18th, 1891, to November 16th, 1893, and, being reelected, was in office from November 16th. 1893, to November 20th, 1895 when he permanently retired.

Mr. Latrobe's administrations extended intermittently over a period of twenty years, and were characterized by much activity.  The construction work of the permanent water supply from the Gunpowder River was begun December 3rd, 1875, and this, with Lake Montebello, was completed in October, 1881.  The contract for the Guilford Reservoir was let July 30th, 1888, and the work was finished June 26th, 1893.  Lake Clifton was completed December 27th, 1888.  The bill for the present post office was passed by Congress June 18th, 1879, and. the building was dedicated September 12th, 1889.  Ice-boats were built; the Jones Falls Improvement (walling in the falls) was undertaken--that is, the old masonry was replaced and substantial retaining walls were erected in many sections not previously improved.  Parts of the Harford Run sewer were constructed.   The Northeastern Market was opened about 1880.  A Topographical Commission was created April 26th, 1893, and the preparation of an elaborate map of Baltimore City was begun.  A court house, electric conduit, water, street paving, Jones Falls improvement, storm water sewer, schoolhouse and park loans were approved.

A Court House Building Committee was appointed May 18th, 1893, and a contract for the present structure was awarded July 22nd, 1895.  The Baltimore Manual Training School (now Polytechnic Institute) was organized in 1884, and provision was made for a new building on Courtland street (now City Hall Annex No. 2) in 1889.  A new City College (present structure) was begun in 1895; and during the same year a Western Female High School (part of the present building) was completed. Plans were made for a Manual Training School for Colored pupils in 1892. During Mayor Latrobe administrations twenty-nine other schoolhouses were erected.  The Enoch Pratt Free Library was opened January 4th, 1886, the Johns Hopkins University inaugural ceremonies took place February 22, 1876, and the university received students the following October.  The Johns Hopkins Hospital opened May 7th, 1889.  In June, 1895, an Electrical Commission to construct underground wire conduits and an Art Commission to pass on designs of public buildings, bridges, etc., were created.  A Commission on Sewers, appointed May 23nd, 1893; made an extended study for Baltimore and published several elaborate reports.  This commission, however, had no connection with the one that later had charge and built baltimore's fin system, completed in 1916, although it contributed much valuable information on the subject.

The Saint Paul Street, Calvert Street and Cedar Avenue bridges over Jones Falls were constructed and provision was made for erecting the present North Avenue bridge over the same stream as well as a bridge over Gwynn's Falls at Columbia Avenue.  A fish hatchery was installed in Druid Hill Park; Carroll Park was acquired in 1889 and Clifton Park in 1894, also several additions were made to the Federal Hill reservation at this time. A commission on the establishment of manufacturers was appointed, the Harbor Board was created, and the office of Port Warden abolished.  The City Yard was abandoned.  An ordinance to purchase land for an infectious disease hospital was passed.  The appointment of black teachers in black schools was authorized.  Provision was made for installing keyless fire alarm boxes.  Telephone, telegraph, electric light and other poles, (trolley wire supports excepted) were taxed.  An appropriation for a Revolutionary War monument was approved.  In 1876 the City Librarian was authorized to contract for stationery and printed matter for Municipal Departments.  Eutaw Street (now Eutaw Place) from Laurens Street to North Avenue was again widened and plans for parked squares adopted.  The same year, 1876, ordinances to open Presstman Street from Gilmor to the western city limits and Broadway from Gay Street to North Avenue were approved, and the method of appointing Commissioners for Opening Streets, also the Board of School Commissioners was changed so that a member of each body should be appointed each year.  The opening of Biddle Street from Washington Street to the eastern city limits was authorized in 1877.   In 1880 a resolution requesting the General Assembly to investigate a combination of the gas light companies was passed and authority to appoint an unpaid commission to frame a general building code for the city was granted.  The Office of Inspector of Illuminating Gas was created in 1881, and a Councilman resolution for the appointment of Tax Commission to examine and report upon the present system of assessment, and of collecting taxes in this city" was adopted.  The use of the ice-boat F. C. Latrobe was allowed the Free Summer Excursion Society.  This is the first recorded instance of using that boat for such purposes.  Electric lighting in public squares, markets and streets was first authorized in 1881.

Provision was made in 1884 to open Patuxent Street from Monument to Eastern Avenue; Bolton Street from Laurens to North Avenue; John (now Preston) Street from Gay Street to the eastern city limits; Federal Street from Eden to Wolfe Streets; Lanvale Street from Bond to Wolfe; Monroe Street from Baltimore Street to Liberty Turnpike; Lexington Street from Holliday to Aisquith Streets.  The same year, 1884, the Office of Fire Marshall was abolished and in its stead a board of Fire Commissioners was appointed.  In 1885, plans for the opening of North Avenue from Pennsylvania Avenue to Walbrook, Hoffman Street (Mount Royal Avenue) from North Street (Guilford Avenue) to Dolphin Street were approved.  An electric railway operating with Daft motors was opened August 10th, 1885. This road gave "Baltimore the claim of being the pioneer in the use of a strictly commercial overhead trolley service."  The City limits were extended June 1st, 1888, the area increasing thereby from 13,202/1000 square miles to 31,648/1000 square miles of land and water.  Shortly thereafter ordinances were passed making many streets in the then Annex public.  The extension of Eutaw Place from North Avenue to Druid Hill Park was authorized at this time (1888).  Ordinances to open Etting Street from Baker to North Avenue and widening Gay Street from Exeter to Jones Falls were approved in 1892.  Provision was made for constructing a sewer in Fremont Avenue from Pratt Street to Lanvale in 1893.  The opening of the following streets were authorized in 1893: Chew Street (Ashland Avenue) from
Chester to Patterson Park Avenue; Nanticoke and Carroll Streets, from Bayard to Bush Streets; Lanvale, from Wolfe to Washington Streets; Northwest Street, from Calhoun to Fulton Avenue; Smallwood, from Pratt to Fayette Street.  Many highways were repaved with improved street paving-Belgian blocks, Mosaic blocks, sheet asphalt, etc. from 1892 to 1895.  The Belt Line tunnel, Howard Street (B. & O. R. R.), was completed February 1st, 1895.

When Mayor Latrobe was first elected chief executive there were twelve fire engine and three hook and ladder companies.  Upon retiring from the mayoralty the fire department included nineteen steam fire engines, seven chemical engines and ten hook and ladder companies.  The United States Census taken in 1880, shows the population of Baltimore was 332,313.

Ferdinand Claiborne Latrobe was born in Baltimore October 14th, 1833.  He studied law and was admitted to the Bar.  He was elected to the House of Delegates in 1868, serving as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee during this term.  Being returned to the House of Delegates for the following session, he was chosen Speaker of House.  Mayor Latrobe's several administrations are mentioned specifically heretofore, but without reference to politics, or the political history incident thereto.  He was mayor seven times, and had various battles inseparable from heated political campaigns; moreover, he was not always successful in his aspirations for office, but the mayor was a "good loser," and generally recovered quickly from political setbacks.  Campaign after campaign found him in the thick of his party.  In 1873, he was defeated by Joshua Vansant.  Mr. Latrobe, however, won the Democratic nomination in 1875, and was elected.  In 1877 he was defeated for renomination by Colonel George P. Kane, who was later chosen mayor.  Upon Colonel Kane's death, Mr. Latrobe filled the unexpired term and was his own successor in 1879.

On October 24th, 1883, Mayor Latrobe, Democratic candidate, defeated J. Monroe Heiskell, who ran on a Citizens ticket, and at the election held October 26th, 1887, he (Latrobe) was successful over both David L. Bartlett, Republican and William J. Ogden, Union Labor candidate.

In 1889 he was succeeded by Robert C. Davidson, the latter appearing in the arena as a business men's candidate, and is assumed to have had the backing of the regular Democratic Organization.  Mr. Davidson secured enough votes in the City Convention to get the nomination, Mayor Latrobe's support for re-election being nominal.  November 3rd, 1891, Mr. Latrobe, the nominee of the regular Democratic element defeated Solomon Davies Warfield who ran on the Republican and also on the City Democratic tickets.  Again in November, 1893, Mayor Latrobe was successful over William T. Malster, Republican; William Kleinle, Prohibitionist and Frederick W. Schultz on the Citizen ballot.

It is very difficult to write of Mayor Latrobe and confine oneself to his official activities.  Mr. Latrobe became more than mayor, man or citizen of Baltimore.  He was an institution.  No person in Baltimore enjoyed a broader or more diversified acquaintance.  He came of a highly distinguished Maryland family, and was, himself, the son of that eminent, scholarly lawyer, John H. B. Latrobe, and a nephew of B. H. Latrobe, the engineer who built the B. & O. Railroad over the Allegheny Mountains.  He was educated at the College of St. James, Washington County, and in 1858 became counsel of the B. & O. Railroad Company.  He took the stump, for Greeley and Brown in 1872, which was the year prior to his defeat by Joshua Vansant for the Democratic nomination for Mayor of Baltimore.  As his record shows, be was politically active in Baltimore for years.  He was a good orator, and a lawyer of ability.  Governor Swann appointed him Judge Advocate General, and while thus serving, Mr. Latrobe was instrumental in organizing eleven fine regiments of militia.  He was at various times president of the Industrial Exposition and Musical Festival Association; one of the incorporators of the American Union Telegraph Company; a director of the Academy of Music; president of the Consolidated Gas & Electric Light Company; a director in the American District Telegraph Company and president of the Park Board.  He married in 1860, Miss Swann, a daughter of Thomas Swann.  She died in 1865, survived by a son.  In 1880 Mr. Latrobe married the widow of Thomas Swann, Jr., who had been a Miss Penrose.  There were three children by this marriage.  Mr. Latrobe died January 13th, 1911.  An imposing monument to Mayor Latrobe was erected at Baltimore Street and Broadway in 1914, by the city.

Return to Ferdinand C. Latrobe's introductory page

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