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Maryland Colonial Society Essay Contest
Previous Winners
2008 2007 2006 2005
2004 2003 2002 2001 2000
1999 1998 1997 1996 1995

2008 Contest Theme: "Finding Maryland's Place in the World" 

How has the visual representation of Maryland's place in the world changed from colonial times to the present? In placing Maryland on the map, what interesting features did cartographers highlight over time? Have those elements changed or stayed the same? Why? How have the methods of mapping changed and how have those changes influenced the resulting maps? Has the use of maps changed over time? 

Using the Maryland State Archives Atlas of Historical Maps (2003), the Maryland State Archives web site (http://mdsa.net) and Mapping Maryland: The Willard Hackerman Collection (1998), as well as online map resources such as the Library of Congress (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/browse/ListSome.php?category=Maps) and The David Rumsey Map Collection (http://www.davidrumsey.com/), students are invited to create an illustrated presentation or illustrated written essay on how and why Maryland came to be a place on the map. In doing so, choose one or more maps that interest you the most and explain why. Particular attention might be paid to what strikes you as strange and different from a modern map of Maryland, as state highway map for example.

2008 Winner:  "From Waterways to Highways:  Finding Maryland's Place in the World" by Emily Pritt

2007 Contest Theme: "Hail to the Chief" 

“The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several
States, when called into the actual Service of the United States”…. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution of the
United States." 
This Constitutional provision, making the president of the United States the commander in chief of the military forces of the United States, is at the very foundation of American government. It was enshrined in the nation's Constitution, but the
principle dates from December 23, 1783 when George Washington came before the Continental Congress and resigned his commission as commander in chief of the Continental Army. At the time, Washington was revered as the savior of the new nation. He could well have assumed almost any role he chose - perhaps even been crowned king. His relinquishing of power to the civilian government astonished the world. King George III of England is reported to have remarked that if Washington did resign he would be "the greatest man in the world."  And resign he did, to return to his life as a farmer at his beloved Mt. Vernon. 

That was 223 years ago, but the concept of the president as commander in chief is still central to our government to this day. This year's essay contest assignment is to write about the American president as commander in chief in modern times. How does this role affect American foreign policy? Or pick a time in recent history when having the president as commander in chief was especially important. 

2007 Winner:  "Stones in a Pond and The American Paradox" by Colin Casey

2006 Contest Theme: "What's in a Name?"

Have you ever wondered where the places around you got their names? We all live on streets and in neighborhoods or go to schools and other events that have names. How did these places get their names? What do these names mean or whom do they honor? 

Maryland is rich with interesting names that can be researched and explained. Many of them relate to Maryland's colonial heritage, such as Harford, Frederick, Anne Arundel, and Caroline. However, many others relate to our more recent history, from the 19th and 20th centuries: Hopkins, Giddings, Rowe, McKeldin, Byrd, and Mayo. Other places have interesting names like Accident, Hollywood, Secretary, Fairplay, Friendship, and Prettyboy Reservoir.  Look around you and pick a place that you know - your street,  neighborhood, town, county, school, place of worship, or any other landmark in your life and research how it got its name.  Try to pick a name that is of more recent vintage, ie. from the later 19th or 20th century. Write an essay on the origin of the name. If it is a person, why is he or she worthy of such an honor? If it is a place, where did the name come from and what is its history? 

2006 Winner:  Anna Pritt

  2005 Contest Theme:  "From Rails to Riches:  Early Maryland Railways...the Free State Route to Exploration and
The invention of the wheel was the turning point around which all progress in exploration, heightened commerce and exchange of cultures revolved.  Settlers of early Maryland struggled over rutted trails, by ox-drawn cart or horse-drawn wagon, following their destinies to establish mountain homesteads, valley farms, and waterfront plantations. In this era, the movement of people and stock was constant and determined. 

But the quantum leap in expansion and economic achievement came by way of steam and steel as the first railroads began to crisscross the Maryland landscape. Of particular interest and importance was the engineering involved in the building of the railroads, some of which wound their way along precipitous mountainsides and over seemingly bottomless crevasses. The many rivers of the state had to be forded as well. Bridges, trestles, all had to be strong enough to support the weight of a
huge locomotive and its train...a gargantuan assignment to fulfill. 

The history of railroads in Maryland is a fascinating account of engineering excellence, innovation, and the undaunted perservance of the men who built them, from the company president to the men who laid the tracks. Thus, the topic of this year's contest is "From Rails to Riches: Early Maryland Railways.. The Free State Route to Exploration and Commerce." 

2005 Winner Chris White of Calvert Hall College High School, Baltimore

2004 Contest Theme:  "And the Rockets' Red Glare...Early Maryland Youth at War" 

If there is any outstanding constant in the sad repetition of war throughout history, it is the unflinching heroism of the young who stalwartly defend their countries. Today, we see thousands of our own service men and women, many still in their teens, caught in the crossfire of a confusing "post-war" Iraq. This on-going conflict exacts a grim toll on their ranks every day and forces them to live in constant fear and anxiety. 

Almost 200 years ago, Maryland played its part in the War of 1812, calling on its youth to defend the city of Baltimore. Two shining examples of this courage were Daniel Wells, 19, and Henry G. McComas, 18, both apprentice saddlemakers who are credited with shooting and killing the leader of the British troops, Major General Robert Ross, and who were themselves shot and killed in the same engagement. 

Wells and McComas were indeed brothers-in-arms with our Maryland service members and reservists who now serve in Iraq. This year's Maryland Colonial Society Essay Contest is thus entitled "And the Rockets' Red Glare...Early Maryland Youth at War." Students are asked to research and write about Daniel Wells and Henry McComas, correlating their sacrifice with those of our young people presently in Iraq, if they wish. Some background of the War of 1812 should be included. Discussion of how our National Anthem evolved from that conflict is also welcome. 

2004 Winners:

Best Essay: "And the Rockets' Red Glare...Early Maryland Youth at War" by Chris Borowski, Calvert Hall College High School, Baltimore 

Best Website: "Wells & McComas in the War of 1812" by Greg Livingston, Calvert Hall College High School, Baltimore 

2003 Contest Theme:  "Getting Here From There:  Early Maryland Maps and Travel Journals" 

"For as Geography without History seemeth a carkasse without motion, so History without Geography wandreth as a Vagrant without a certaine habitation." -  John Smith, 1627

John Smith made this observation about the connection between history and geography after returning to England from Jamestown. While in the New World, he began the first mapping of Maryland after two expeditions up the Chesapeake Bay in 1608. His map of the Bay, along with his extensive journals, provide us with much of what is known about the Native Americans and the flora and fauna of the Bay area.  Another important source of information on the earliest days of the colony is Father Andrew White's account of the voyage of the Ark and the Dove to Maryland in 1633/34, called "A Relation of the Successefull beginnings of the Lord Baltemore's Plantation in Mary-land." 

Almost 500 years later, we are still making and using maps to get from here to there, and travel journals are as popular - and useful - as ever. In this contest, you are asked to explore the study of geography and history as interconnected disciplines, drawing on early maps and accounts of travel in Maryland. 

2003 Winners:

Best Essay: "Travel in Colonial Maryland" by Louis Malick, Calvert Hall College High School, Baltimore 

Best Website: A Colonial Journey of Maryland by David Seaman, the Key School, Annapolis 

Remarks by Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse, on the presentation of the Essay Contest awards, Maryland Day, March 25, 2003

2002 Contest Theme:  "The Constant Guardian...Maryland Firefighters and Police in Review"

Amid the tragic memories of September 11 which surround the New York Trade Center Ground Zero and the Pentagon, the incomparable bravery of firefighters and police who lost their lives saving others is a towering example of selfless courage. Their shared history in this tragedy ascends to newer and greater heights, now justly recorded for posterity and forever inscribed upon the hearts and minds of the entire world. Along with this modern achievement in bravery and expertise, the past history of firefighting and law enforcement in Maryland, beginning in the l760s, carries its own shining shield of dutiful constancy and innovative progress. These 240 years are indeed worth reviewing, as the past contributes immensely to the future. Thus, our topic for this year's contest is "The Constant Guardian...Maryland Firefighters and Police in Review." 

2002 Winner:

Best Website: Justin Yan 

  2001 Contest Theme:  "The Body Politic Revisited...Maryland's Colonial Governors, 1634-1776"

The administrations of Maryland's colonial governors were fraught with danger and conflicting forces. The specter of savage attack and warfare were ever-present. Royal taxes and and regulations were violently opposed by the colonists. The chain of command, from the English king to colony proprietor,  was, at times, rife with corruption and scandal. But Maryland's colonial governors carried on, many with remarkable integrity and diplomacy. Hard-earned indeed was the accolade given to Governor Horatio Sharpe in 1769: "...the invariable rectitude of his conduct...his unremitting attention to the happiness and prosperity of Maryland...has secured to him the unabated love and attachment of a grateful people." Such words would be music to the ears of present-day politicians. The dedication and foresight of many of the early governors of Maryland endure through the years. They are inspirational examples of what public servants can accomplish with courage, honor, and perseverance.  Students researched the life and administration one of Maryland's colonial governors from 1634-1776. 

2001 Winners:  

First Place -
"Leonard Calvert: Maryland's First Colonial Governor" by Matthew James Simantel, Calvert Hall College High School 

Second Place -
"Governor Leonard Calvert: Building the Colony" by Andrew Gertz, St. Mary's High School

2000 Contest Theme:  "The View Beyond ... Maryland's Legacy of Environmental Achievement" 

One has only to look beyond our individual boundaries to see the marvel of nature that is Maryland...magnificent vistas of mountains, rolling plains and coastal beauty. The enduring treasure of our protected lands is not mere happenstance. They exist for our pleasure and enjoyment because certain Marylanders, early in this century, cared enough about the environment to take definitive action to protect it. Robert and John Garrett's gift to the State in 1906 of 2,000 acres set in motion a process of Maryland conservation and acquisition of land for the public good which continues today under the supervision of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. 

Each Maryland state forest, each city and county park, each village green carries its own fascinating history as to origin and the people involved in its creation. As this century turns to the new millennium, there is now even a greater need, and hopefully a greater interest, in protecting our diminishing open space - our lifeline to nature's renewal of the spirit and monitor of man's perspective. 

2000 Winner:  "Wye Island: Window on a Living Chesapeake" by Katherine Casey, Key School, Annapolis

1999 Contest Theme:   "From Colonial Colloquy to Free State Cyberspace... Maryland's Achievements in Communications."   

It could be said that man's unwavering desire for improved means of communication was the latchkey which opened the world to universal view. From primal coded drumbeats pulsating through the air to shining star-fields of satellites signaling the earth below, the quest presents an intriguing chronicle of creativity, industry and perseverance. Maryland's pre-eminence in the field of communications has consistently sent strong signals to the world at large. 

1999 Winners:
Best Essay:  "The Tuesday Club 1745-1756: Communication Through Performance in Colonial Annapolis." by Christopher Parker, Key School, Annapolis

Best Website:  Daren Brantley, Key School, Annapolis

1998 Contest Theme:  "Maryland's March to Freedom . . . Three Giant Steps Forward"

In silent silhouette, the remembrance of the countless numbers of Marylanders who defended freedom with their lives outline in glory and honor the most important chapters of our early history. To revolutionary fife and drum, men of George Washington's "Maryland Line" marched to independence. To bosun's pipe and landside volley, the defenders of 1812, on land and sea, secured the future of this State as well as that of the entire country. Later, caught in a confusing whirlwind of blue and grey, Marylanders of the Civil War bravely continued at a particularly sombre march to freedom. Step by step, the pursuit of liberty and equality their goal to win, Marylanders of these conflicts pressed forward with unflagging spirit and dedication so that others might live free.  

1998 Winner:  "Maryland in the Civil War: Leaders on Behalf of the Nation" by Maggie Capelle

1997 Contest Theme:  "A Maryland Mosaic...The Art of Coming Together." 

Colorful, rich and vibrant, the diverse origins of Maryland's many immigrants were inlaid with seams of golden opportunity, artfully fused together in a strong bond of mutual purpose. 

As a State, we have drawn our strength from the very ethnic differences that could divide. Yet, we fit each piece of individual heritage into place to form a pattern of progress which is shaded by moderation, highlighted by tolerance. Our "Maryland Mosaic" is a masterpiece of encompassing ethnic diversity transformed into a triumphant rendering of creative cooperation, understanding and forbearance. 

The broad base upon which foreign born citizens of early Maryland contributed to the state's growth constitutes a fascinating imagery of the various heritages involved, from the colonial presence of the English Calverts, Native Americans and African Americans to a later influx of European and Oriental settlers. 

Our State, known geographically as "America in Miniature," became culturally the world in miniature. Truly, an American collage of multinational new residents arose within our borders...German, Polish, Bohemian, Iranian, Lithuanian, Italian, Hungarian, Syrian, Armenian, Ukrainian, Chinese, Greek, Irish, Scot, Welsh, Russian, French, Latvian and others. 

Needless to say, the bonding of such disparate elements was not the result of free form or haphazard design. Rather, piece by piece, legislative insight and provision assisted the melding process. One of the earliest such guidelines to affect a comparatively large and diverse population in Maryland was the first Baltimore City Charter created 200 years ago in 1796. 

1997 Winner:  "The Influences of Protestantism and Catholicism on Colonial Maryland" by Sara Peoples, The Tome School, North East

Remarks by Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse, on the presentation of the Essay Contest awards, Maryland Day, March 25, 1997

1996 Contest Theme:  "Close Encounters in the Chesapeake"

Students were encouraged to examine the impact of the tribes of the eastern and western shores of Maryland on the economy, culture and growth of colonial Maryland. 

1996 Winner:  "The Native Americans of Maryland: Great Contributors Underappreciated" by Amy Kirkley, Severn School, Severna Park

Remarks by Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse, on the presentation of the Essay Contest awards, Maryland Day, March 25, 1996

1995 Contest Theme:  "The Bay and Beyond ... Maryland's Maritime Achievement."

1995 Winner:  "The Baltimore Clipper" by Jennifer Klima, Perry Hall High School, Baltimore 

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