James Hodges (1822-1895)
MSA SC 3520-12479
The following essay is in Wilbur F. Coyle, The Mayors of Baltimore (Reprinted from the Baltimore Municipal Journal, 1919), 129-138.
James Hodges, Mayor of Baltimore from November 2nd, 1885, to November 7th, 1887. During this administration the Jones Falls improvement, heretofore inaugurated, was continued; a new observatory at Federal Hill was erected and a $1,000,000 loan for the completion of Lake Clifton was approved. Five schoolhouses were erected and the construction of several buildings for fire-engine and hook-and-ladder companies was authorized. A councilmanic resolution urging a school loan was passed. Another resolution adopted petitioned the Legislature against a reduction of the park tax imposed upon street railway companies as proposed in a bill then pending in the General Assembly. (This bill passed the House and the Senate but was not signed by the Governor, hence did not go into effect). Ordinances providing for the erection of bridges across Jones Falls, at Charles and at Centre streets; also for parking parts of Fulton, Wilkens and Mount Royal avenues were approved. An extension of the structure at Northeast Market, the rebuilding of part of Broadway Market house and the selling of stalls in Canton Market were authorized. Provision was made to acquire a lot and to erect a colored high and grammar school, Saratoga street near Charles (now used as the Central Police Station). Ordinances to open Fulton avenue, from Windsor Mill road (old Liberty road) to North avenue; Payson and Pulaski streets, from Baltimore to Lafayette avenue; Mulberry street westerly from Gilmor to the boundary; Saratoga street, from Monroe to the western boundary; Patapsco street, from Baltimore to Monument streets, were approved. Authority to deepen and widen the channel in "Spring Gardens" and to loan $875,000 to the Western Maryland Railroad Company was granted. An ordinance providing for the removal of all signs and sign posts erected on the curb and extending over the side walks two feet from the building line was approved. A passenger elevator was placed in the City Hall during this administration. The "decimal system" of numbering houses was instituted in Baltimore at this period. Numerous streets were paved mostly with Belgian or asphalt blocks.
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James Hodges was born at Liberty Hall, Kent County, Md., August 11th, 1822. He was descendant of some of the earliest settlers of Maryland. Among his ancestors were William Hodges, Thomas Ringgold, Andrew Hanson, Simon Wilmer, Thomas Hynson and Marmaduke Tylden, all of whom settled in Maryland between 1650 and 1688.
"He was designed for the legal profession," but his father dying while he was quite young the fu ture Mayor was compelled to leave his studies. Coming to Baltimore he entered a commercial house. In 1846 he, with a brother, established the firm of Hodges Brothers which became one of the principal importing notion houses of the United States. Mr. Hodges was a member of the Board of Trade and a delegate attending the convention of the National Board of Trade at Philadelphia in 1868. He was the author of a proposition to establish a depart ment of the Government to be known as "Department of Commerce," which was endorsed by the above convention. In 1873 he consented to be nominated for Mayor of Baltimore but later withdrew. For several years he was president of the Mercantile Library Association. May 4th, 1877, Mr. Hodges was elected a Commissioner of Finance of Baltimore City by the City Council, but resigned this office after a short service. In 1878 he was commissioned by President Hayes to represent Maryland as honorary commissioner at the Paris Exposition of that year. While thus serving he was chosen by the Board of Trade of Baltimore to be a delegate to the France-American Commercial Treaty Conference. He was one of the committee that reported a basis for a treaty of commerce between France and the United States. He was an active member of the Southern Relief Association and a director of the National Union Bank.
Politically Mr. Hodges was a Democrat, and was more or less identified with public affairs and movements in Baltimore, as well as being a leader in commercial matters. He took an active part in opposition to the Know Nothing party; was also greatly interested in street railway legislation and was an advocate of Sunday street car service, a burning question in the latter "50s."
When he was elected Mayor in 1885, Mr. Hodges ran on the regular Democratic ticket defeating Judge George William Brown, a Fusion Candidate.
Mr. Hodges married Miss Josephine A. Bash, November 30th, 1847. He died February 15th, 1895.
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