The Archivists' Bulldog

Vol. 9, No. 21, Newsletter of the Maryland State Archives, June 26, 1995

The Records of the Savings Bank of Baltimore and the Metropolitan Savings Bank,
[MSA SC 4313]

by Nancy Bramucci
The records of the Savings Bank of Baltimore and the Metropolitan Savings Bank are an extraordinarily rich collection relating to the lives of hard working, independent, wage-earning citizens of the city dating back to the first depositors of 1818 (by May 1818 there were 79). While historians have traditionally examined economic mobility of working class families, they have been hampered by the absence of financial records. The best known use of banking records to study working class mobility is Stephan Thernstrom's examination of workers in nineteenth century Newburyport in Poverty and Progress. Yet Thernstrom did not have access to account books as extensive as the Savings Bank of Baltimore records and based his conclusions on limited information from thirty-nine accounts. Twenty of his sample cases came from laboring depositors with more than $500 in holdings; the remainder possessed less than $500 in holdings. This produced a sample in which owners of substantial property holdings were over-represented while laborers owning no property at all were under-represented.

Historians have delved into many aspects of Baltimore's past, but with the exception of the study of the role of the bank in the economic development of the city by Peter Payne and Lance Edwin Davis in 1956, and the doctoral dissertation on Mutual Savings Banks In Baltimore by future bank president Robert W. Thon, Jr. in 1935, none has had the opportunity that these records offer of assessing the role of individual account holders in the economic, political, and social history of the city.

Founded as a mutual savings bank in 1818 to promote thrift and financial security among the working class, the Savings Bank of Baltimore has long held a prominent position in Baltimore's history. We were interested in bringing the records to the Maryland State Archives as a special collection to make them readily accessible to scholars. There scholars could study the "mechanick, the labourer, the sea faring man, the apprentice, male and female domestick and the industrious poor" of Baltimore who entrusted their savings to the bank. Of particular interest are the returning Civil War Veterans, many of whom were immigrants and African American Soldiers, who deposited their pay with the bank.

Through the generosity of First Fidelity Bank, the Archives is able to support a summer internship program which introduces students to the problems and procedures of establishing archival control over permanently valuable historical records, emphasizing modern research techniques in the use of those records. For the first phase of the program, interns, under the direction of a professional archivist, will process and catalog the collection according to the Archives' standard computerized collections management system. The remainder of the summer will be devoted to continuing the Archives' research relating to Baltimoreans who served in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) during the Civil War. After the records are processed, relevant information on African American depositors and institutions will be compiled to enhance our understanding of the economic status of USCT soldiers and the growth of the African American community in Baltimore.

When processing is completed, the compiled database will be accessible to researchers visiting the Archives' public search room through the Archives' existing computer network. If microfilmed, the film will be made available to researchers across the country through the Interlibrary Loan Network. The database will also be added to the Archives' World Wide Web site, and researchers around the world will be able to view the database via the Internet.

In addition to making the records accessible to scholars and employing them in a project of great interest to the African American and other ethnic communities in Baltimore, the Archives will complete an oral history interview of William Beasman, chairman emeritus, and a portable 4-5 panel exhibit with 1-2 exhibit cases that will focus on the history of the bank and will incorporate some of the rarer documents, the strong box, and the portraits or images of the portraits in the bank's collection. The exhibit will be a cooperative project between the City Life Museum and the State Archives and placed in the lobby of the renovated Savings Bank building on Charles Street as part of the celebrations relating to the bicentennial of the charter of Baltimore.

The importance of the First Fidelity Bank Collection to historians cannot be overstated. The partnership between the First Fidelity Bank and the Maryland State Archives is an unique opportunity to preserve and make accessible an exceptional financial collection. The First Fidelity Bank Collection of the Savings Bank of Baltimore and the Metropolitan Savings Bank will provide historians with the potential of an unrivaled examination of Baltimore's working classes in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They contain a wealth of information on the early history of Baltimore and reflect the role the Savings Bank of Baltimore, through its successor First Fidelity Bank, continues to play in the community.

INTERNSHIP PROJECTS

by Pat Melville
During the summer several internship projects are being pursued at the Archives. The First Fidelity/Savings Bank of Baltimore records project involves the processing of materials from the Savings Bank of Baltimore and the Metropolitan Savings Bank, dating from 1818. [For more information about the records and the work concerning them, see the article on p. l.] The supervisor is Nancy Bramucci, assisted by returning intern Emily Murphy. The interns are Daniel Flaumenhaft, Clare Norcio, and Eleanor Stewart.

The First Ladies and Official Hostesses project involves research on the women who lived and worked at Government House. Being assembled is biographical and anecdotal information on the first ladies and official hostesses as well as the use of Government House over the years. The supervisor is Elaine Rice. The interns are Sally Craig, Corinne Funk, and Emily Oland.

A student from the University of Delaware conservation program has joined the Archives for the summer to gain hands-on experience with conservation work. She will experience all aspects of conservation work, with a concentration on the Allegany County plats project. The supervisor is Hanna Szczepanowska, and the intern is Allison McGuire.

The Government Information project centers around the Maryland Manual operation. It involves research on Maryland government, primarily historical background on various state agencies. The supervisor is Diane Frese, and the intern is Keith Carrington.

The Publications project concerns the inventory of publications for sale and preparation of a descriptive catalogue. The supervisor is Rocky Rockefeller. The interns are Hannah Krimins, Ann Luttman, and Jamie Sharrer.

COMING EVENTS

Tue., Jun. 27, Hall of Records Commission meeting, conference room, 12:00 noon.
Tue., Jul. 4, Closed for Independence Day.

PUBLICATION NOTICE

Because of the Independence Day holiday the next issue of the Bulldog will be published on July 10, 1995.

SPORTS

by Doug McElrath
Archives Sizzles in the Heat!
Hot, steamy weather returned to Annapolis on June 21 and the Archives softball team returned to its winning ways with a decisive 15 - 5 triumph over state agency rival DHCD. Nervous fans led by the vocal Reggie "Radar" Davis may have wondered if the Archives would be able to play as both Bills of Bodziak were away ("Wild" Bill was reported to have been seen negotiating with a Hollywood talent scout) and Arian "The Barbarian" Ravanbakhsh was nursing a sore back. Fortunately, the Bodziak farm system came through with another fine player in the person of Frank "The Frenzy" who joined Revo "Rage" Luistro and Tim "Trouble" Siekierka in the Chuck "Mr. Style" Bodziak Brigade. This game also witnessed the return of Rob "Razor" Gentry who was last seen in action on Opening Day.

The game itself was never really in doubt as DHCD showed evidence of bureaucratic malaise in the quality of its offensive production and defensive aptitude. Contributing to DHCD's ineptitude was the excellent pitching of Mariana "The Menace" Toves who was making her league debut on the mound. Meanwhile the Archives was coolly efficient, putting the game on ice by the end of the second inning seizing a 9 - 2 lead. "Style" Bodziak led-off in the first inning with a stinging double which was followed by a two-run shot by "Frenzy" who entered the record books as one of the elite who hits a homer in a first at-bat. In the second, the Bottom-of-the-Order got things rolling with finely-stroked hits from "Rage" Luistro and Dana "Demon" Grogan which was followed by consecutive base knocks from "Frenzy," "Razor" Gentry, Steve "Say Hey" Bennett, and "Trouble" Siekierka. This set-up Gus "Anvil" Andujar who launched a titanic shot to right for a 2-RBI home run. "Say Hey" Bennett got into the home run parade with a 3-run blast in the fifth.

Defensively, the team looked sharp. The "Style" Bodziak to "Demon" Grogan relay eliminated a number of DHCD base runners, "Rage" Luistro made a tough tag at third to end an inning, and "Trouble" Siekierka made an excellent sliding catch on the foul line in right. Offensive honors go to "Frenzy" (4 for 5 with 3 RBIs), "Trouble" Siekierka (4 for 5, 1 RBI), "Style" Bodziak (3 for 5), "Razor" Gentry (3 for 5, 2 RBIs), "Rage" Luistro (3 for 5, 1 RBI), and "Say Hey" Bennett (2 for 5, 5 RBIs!).

Next week on June 28 we have the game everyone wants to watch. On the historic Hospital Point field at the Naval Academy, the Archives will face its most detested rival: The Capital. Last year's game featured one of the greatest come-backs in Archives softball history. Can the Archives repeat its dominance of the fourth estate's least distinguished representatives? Stayed tuned!


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