Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Robert C. Davidson (1850-1924)
MSA SC 3520-12480


The following essay is taken from Wilbur F. Coyle, The Mayors of Baltimore (Reprinted from The Baltimore Municipal Journal, 1919) pp. 167-172.

Robert C. Davidson was Mayor of Baltimore from November 20th, 1889, to November 18th, 1891.  During this period the operation of the street railways by cable began, the cars running on regular schedule May 23rd, 1891.  Prior to this time there had been no general rapid transit in Baltimore, although the overhead wire system, to a limited degree, had been attempted in the suburbs on short runs.  Cable cars were extensively and satisfactorily used in Baltimore for several years, but were finally replaced by the installation of overhead trolley systems.  The bridges at Monroe street over the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad tracks, in the southwestern section of the city and one at Cedar avenue across Jones Falls were completed while Mayor Davidson was in office.  Plans, for replacing a wooden bridge over Jones Falls at North avenue, were made which resulted in the present fine structure.  The acquisition of a steam launch for the Quarantine Station was authorized.  A fire-boat was built and a water-tower was added to the apparatus of the Fire Department.  Twelve schoolhouses were erected.  Provision was made for constructing additional buildings at Bay View for treatment of insane.  An ordinance relating to the route of the Baltimore Belt Line (Baltimore and Ohio Railroad) was approved, which authorized the construction of the tunnel under Howard street as a part of the scheme.  It is claimed the first electric motor operating in tunnels was used on this road.  Grade crossings on the Union Railroad (now used by the Pennsylvania System), between Broadway and the eastern city limits were abolished by ordinance.  Authority was granted for the construction of an elevated electric street railway on North street (now Guilford avenue).  An Act of Assembly of 1890 authorized the Western Maryland Tidewater Railway Company to build a railroad adjacent to and over parts of Jones Falls, from Woodberry to Eastern avenue and thence through certain streets to the Eastern city limits, but the construction as planned was never undertaken.  Sections of the Falls referred to have since been covered and are now a street—The Fallsway.  Long Bridge, known also as Light Street Bridge, over the Patapsco from Ferry Bar to Brooklyn, which was originally built about 1856 and later acquired jointly by Baltimore City and county was rebuilt and an appropriation was made during Mayor Davidson's régime for the completion of the structure, which, however, was razed in 1917, when the fine Hanover Street Bridge was opened to traffic.  Authority to sell $350,000 of Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company stock, owned by the city, was granted.  Ordinances to acquire ground for an addition to Druid Hill Park and to sell part of the old Bolton Depot lot to the Baltimore Belt Line Railroad were approved. Provision was made to purchase the site of part of Carroll Park. A new building code was adopted.  Authority to dredge a part of Spring Garden from the Bush street dock to the channel in Middle Branch was granted.  Provision was made to regulate the sale of fruits, vegetables and other perishable articles in streets and highways of Baltimore.  The establishment of a morgue was authorized, Ordinances to condemn and open Pulaski street from Baltimore to Franklin streets; Riggs avenue from Stricker street to Fremont avenue; Chase and Madison streets from Washington to Patterson Park avenue; Collington avenue from Monument to Biddle streets, and Ridgely street from Ostend to Gwynns Falls were approved.  The widening of Fayette street from Calvert to Liberty streets and the opening of many streets in the then new annex (1888 extension) were authorized. Provision was made for printing a new City Code, Several storm-water sewers were constructed and numerous streets were paved with Belgian blocks or sheet asphalt.

Baltimore's population in 1890 was 434,439.

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Mr. Davidson was born in Lunenburg, Va., December 25th, 1850.  His family moved to Richmond, Va., in 1860, where young Davidson stayed until 1865 when he came to Baltimore.  Shortly after arriving he procured employment as a boy with Daniel Miller & Co., rising from one position to another until he became confidential clerk, then in January, 1877, a member of. the firm.  Mr. Davidson, a Democrat, never held public office previous to being elected Mayor.  He ran on that ticket, but was also backed by what was known as "The Business Men's Democratic Association," and the regular Democratic organization is said to have been sympathetic to his candidacy.  At the primary election Mr. Davidson secured enough delegates from the various wards to the City Convention to insure the nomination over Ferdinand C. Latrobe, Mayor. In fact he was practically unopposed, Mayor Latrobe's support for re-election being nominal.  The primary was held September 24th, 1889.

Mr. Davidson defeated Alexander Shaw, a Republican, who ran as a Fusion candidate, by over 3,000 votes.  The inauguration of the new Mayor took place November 20th, 1889.  Mr. Davidson at one time was somewhat interested in financial matters, and was a director in the Western National Bank.  After relinquishing the Mayoralty he later took up his residence in New York.

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