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If "green bag" was newspaper
jargon, a popular catch phrase succinctly labeling the most public and
dramatic phase of the patronage system, then it would not be surprising
to find that there never was, at least in the early history of its use
in Maryland, an actual "green bag," in which nominations, either mayoral
or gubernatorial, were delivered for announcement and confirmation. The
only nineteenth century reference to a real "green bag" appears in the
Annapolis Evening Capital of February 18, 1888, where Mayor Latrobe
of Baltimore was said to have "emptied his green bag in the City Council
Chamber yesterday [with] great rejoicing among the local appointees...,"
but the story was probably intended to be satirical and did not literally
mean "green bag."
In 1935, when the Pratt Library
and other agencies tried unsuccessfully to determine the origin of "green
bag" there was no discussion of any actual bag. Interviews with former
Secretaries of State and others involved in the appointment process indicate
that there probably was no real green bag as late as the 1940s. Possibly
Governor McKeldin's newly-appointed Secretary of State, John R. Reeves,
was the first to actually use a green bag.
In 1951, Reeves was assigned
the task of delivering the Governor's appointments to the Senate, but he
could not find the green bag supposedly last used, according to one newspaper,
"years ago." Undeterred, Secretary Reeves made a new one. He refused the
offer from one of Governor McKeldin's "female secretaries" to fashion one
of green velvet because it would be too "audacious." Instead he stripped
the upholstery off an office chair and made his own.
By 1951, time had blurred
the distinction between a journalistic catch phrase and physical reality.
With Reeves' chair-cover green bag, Maryland's long political tradition
of delivering gubernatorial appointments to