Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Joshua Vansant (1803-1884)
MSA SC 3520-2148

Source:  Wilbur F. Coyle, The Mayors of Baltimore (Reprinted from The Baltimore Municipal Journal, 1919), 123-127.
 
 
Joshua Vansant was Mayor of Baltimore from November 6th, 1871 to November 3rd, 1873; November 3rd, 1873 to November 1st, 1875.  During this administration a resolution to establish a morgue was passed but not then carried into effect.  An ordinance to register births and deaths was approved.  The City Hall was dedicated October 26th, 1875.  The "Clay Street fire" which caused $760,000 damage started July 25th, 1873.  A new structure at Cross Street Market, previously authorized, and one at Richmond Market were finished and the Northwestern and Western Police Station houses were completed.  The City Library, City Hall, was established.  The City College building on North Howard Street (since razed) was completed and nine other school buildings were erected.  The first German-English school was established.  The first school house for colored children was constructed, although public education of this race was begun some years before.  Several storm-water sewers were built; new fire engine houses were occupied.  Various kinds of improved street paving (wood, asphalt and Belgian blocks) were tried out.  The amount of street paving laid during this administration was greater than for any previous period of the same length.  A new High Service Reservoir, Druid Hill Park, was completed and the Gunpowder temporary supply (to afford emergency relief to the city in case of a diminution of volume in the supply of Jones Falls) was built in 1873.  The preliminary works, surveys, etc., of the Gunpower permanent supply was made and an ordinance authorizing the beginning of the constructive work was passed.  The School Board was empowered to collect fees from non-resident pupils attending the public schools.  The offices of "Assistant Superintendent of education" and "Examiner of Titles" were created.  A petition was sent to Congress urging a new Post-office building.  Several extension to Riverside Park and the purchase of Federal Hill as a public square were authorized by ordinance.  The Richmond Market Hall was rented to the Fifth Maryland Regiment for an Armory and Company A of the First Maryland Cavalry began the use of Broadway Market Hall for similar purposes.  The Park tax was reduced from one-fifth of the street railway's gross receipts to twelve per cent. and a still further reduction of this tax was attempted.  An ordinance to appoint a Commission to inquire into the best mode of removing garbage, street dirt, etc., was passed, and provision was made to establish permanent Port Wardens lines (lines to which piers may be extended).  A one and one-half million dollar loan for Jones' Falls Improvement; a four million dollar loan for introducing Gunpowder River water into Baltimore and a three hundred and twenty thousand dollar loan to the Western Maryland Railroad were approved.  The widening of North Avenue, from Greenmount Avenue to Charles Street, and the condemning and opening of this avenue from Greenmount to Belair Avenues, were authorized.  Provision was made to extend Lanvale Street, from Charles to (Greenmount Avenue, and Calvert Street, from John (Preston) Street to North Avenue, also Calhoun Street, from Baker to Northwest Streets.

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Mr. Vansant was born December 31st, 1803, at Millington, Kent County, Maryland.  He was of Dutch (Holland) stock and a hatter by trade.  He came to Baltimore in 1818; married Miss Mary Ann Menzies, of Boston, January 24th, 1824.  Mr. Vansant was named as the "Workingmen's" candidate for the State Legislature about 1833, and the "Jackson Men" or Democrats nominated him for the same office concurrently, but he declined these nominations.  The City of Baltimore at that period was entitled to only two representatives in the House of Delegates, and in 1834 Mr. Vansant and Mr. Samuel Brady (afterwards Mayor) were nominated for the Legislature on the Democratic or "Jackson" ticket; both were defeated.  In 1836 Mr. Vansant was chosen by the Reform Party, as an elector for State Senate, members of that body being decided upon by "electors" instead of by direct vote as at present.  In 1839 to 1841 Mr. Vansant was Postmaster at Baltimore and in 1845 he represented Baltimore City in the House of Delegates.

Elected to Congress in 1853 he served until March 4th, 1855, but was defeated for re-election by the Know Nothing Party Candidate.  He was chosen an elector of President and Vice-President of the United States in 1860, and was a member of the State Constitution Convention which met in 1867.

Mr. Vansant was elected Mayor of Baltimore in 1871 by the Democratic Conservative Party, and was re-elected in 1873.  Being appointed Comptroller of Baltimore in 1876 he served until his demise April 7th, 1884.  He also held the following offices, viz:

Commissioner of Finance of Baltimore City from 1846 to 1855; President of the Trustees of the Poor for Baltimore City and County Almshouse, from 1847 to 1853, and 1861; President of the Board of Trustees for Bay View Asylum 1868 to 1870; State of Maryland Director in the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad from 1851 to 1857; President of a Commission to study best means to supply Baltimore with water, 1852-54; Commissioner of Public School, from 1862-64, inclusive (being President of the Board the two years) ; President of the Board of Directors of the Maryland Penitentiary, 1867-69; President of the Building Committee of the (present) City Hall in 1869 to 1875; Member of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh Educational Fund and Farm School from 1868 to 1871; Member of the Board of the Maryland Institute for the promotion of Mechanic Arts 1847 to 1863 and President of the Board for ten years; President of the Liberty Fire Company from 1839 to 1869; President of the Standing Committee of the United Fire Company for some years; Member of the Washington and First Baltimore Hose Company for several years.  Mayor Vansant's wife died July 1st, 1877, and his demise occurred April 7th, 1884.

Commissioner of Finance of Baltimore City f rom 1846 to 1865; President of the Trustees of the Poor for Baltimore City and -County Almshouse, from 1847 to 1853, and 1861; President of the Board of Trustees for Bay View Asylum 1868 to 1870; State of Maryland Director in the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad from 1851 to 1857; President of a Commission to study best means to supply Baltimore with water, 1852-54; Commissioner of Public School, from 1852-54, inclusive (being President of the Board the last two years) ; President of the Board of Directors of the Maryland Penitentiary, 1867-69; President of the Building Committee of the (present) City Hall in 1869 to 1875; Member of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh Educational Fund and Farm School from 1868 to 1871; Member of the Board of the Maryland Institute for the promotion of Mechanic Arts 1847 to 1863 and President of the Board for ten years; President of the Liberty Fire Company from 1839 to 1859; President of the Standing Committee of the United Fire Company for some years; Member of the Washington and First Baltimore Hose Company for several years. Mayor Vansant's wife died July 1st, 1877, and his demise occurred April 7th, 1884. 

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