The Archivist's Bulldog

Vol. 12 No. 11, Newsletter of the Maryland State Archives, June 8, 1998

by Pat Melville

The Archives' collection of government publications, printed materials from state and local government agencies, contains many reports concerning education in Maryland. For the period of 1829 through 1862 the reports fall into three categories - annual reports of the Baltimore City Commissioners of Public Schools, financial reports from the State Treasurer or Comptroller, and reports from legislative education committees. The financial reports are basic documents showing the sources of income for the school funds and the distributions to the individual counties and specific academies throughout the state. In 1842, for example, the levy on banks and an insurance company yielded $26,419.80 for the free school fund. Baltimore County received $660.49 and Baltimore City $660.50. Each of the other counties was given $1,320.99.

The reports from education committees to the General Assembly follow the general themes of lamenting the unsatisfactory state of education in most of Maryland and of advocating changes for improvement, most of which remained suggestions until the mid-1860s. The act of 1825 provided for a uniform system of education that was never fully implemented because in many counties the required ratification failed to be approved by the voters and funding was insufficient. As the state became increasingly mired in the financial misfortunes of the C & O Canal and B & O Railroad, it lacked the resources to devote to other initiatives such as schools. A committee on education in 1837 recommended continuation of the state school fund to be supplemented by local taxes. A majority of the committee, however, opposed the imposition of a direct tax for education and favored funding "obtained by light taxation and by voluntary subscription."

Another committee in 1843 analyzed the education system and prepared draft legislation that was not adopted. The committee criticized the distribution of the fund for academies, colleges, and schools which provided $3,000 to St. John's College in Annapolis and $800 to each of the counties for redistribution to academies. St. Mary's and Charles counties had agreed to direct their shares to the academy at Charlotte Hall. The committee viewed the academy funds in the other counties as insufficient and wasted because the moneys were divided among so many individual academies. "These institutions having but little aid other than this pittance, are for the most part, unable to render any extended or substantial service to the community in which they are located...."

Appended to the 1843 report was an analysis of responses to a questionnaire sent to each county and Howard District. Thirteen of the twenty-one jurisdictions replied. This report provided an outline of the public school system, exclusive of the academies. The number of primary schools in each of the counties reporting included 88 in Allegany, 22 in Anne Arundel, 24 in Caroline, 29 in Charles, none in Cecil (schools were kept in private houses and churches), 44 in Dorchester, 80 in Frederick, 20 in Howard, 31 in Prince George's, 24 in Queen Anne's, 40 in Somerset, 20 in St. Mary's, and 40 in Worcester. The number of students were listed as totals or averages - about 20 per school in Allegany, 525 in Anne Arundel, about 12 per school in Caroline, between 700 and 800 in Charles, between 10 and 40 per school in Dorchester, 2500 to 3000 in Frederick, 526 in Howard, about 900 in Prince George's, and about 25 per school in Queen Anne's. All counties received money for schools from the state. Other sources of funding, if available, varied. Anne Arundel and Queen Anne's levied both county and district taxes, Charles, Dorchester, Frederick, Howard, and Prince George's levied only county taxes. St. Mary's raised money by private subscription, and Allegany and Worcester by charging tuition.

In 1853 another legislative committee recommended a centralized and standardized system of education. The report was highly critical of the existing system, calling it "totally unequal to the task of educating our children. In a great majority of the counties the local laws have been found entirely inadequately to the ends for which they were designed. In many the system has become almost extinct; in others, it has never been adopted; while in but very few the working of the system gives satisfaction to the people." It was felt that state expenditures for support of private academies and public schools were not being used effectively because so many children remained uneducated.

In many of the reports examined for this article the use of flowery language is quite prevalent when discussing the value of education. One example will suffice to give readers the flavor of this 19th century writing. "These facts speak to us in forcible accents. They tell us in language that cannot be denied, that with all our efforts in the cause of education, the march of ignorance is rapidly on the advance, that thousands of the sons and the fair daughters of Maryland are growing up to manhood and womanhood with minds incapable of appreciating the blessings that flow from the free and happy institutions under which they live; with minds incapable of teaching their children to place a proper estimate upon these time honored institutions; with minds incapable of enjoying the favors of fortune, or the blessings which nature has so abundantly cast around them; with minds which must forever remain a blank to the enjoyment of the purer pleasures which are only tasted at the fountains of knowledge."

Sources: (1)Treasurer of the Western Shore (Communication on Education) Maryland Public Documents 1842 R [MSA PD436, MdHR 811899]; (2)General Assembly, House of Delegates, Committee on Education (General System of Education Establishment Minority Report) House and Senate Documents 1836 O [MSA PD1634, MdHR M60-93] and (General System of Education Establishment Report) House and Senate Documents 1836 P [MSA PD1635, MdHR M60-94]; (3) Secretary of State, Treasurer of the Western Shore, and State LIbrarian (Report and Draft of a Code for Support of Common Schools) Maryland Public Documents 1843 [MSA PD485, MdHR 811949]; (4) General Assembly, House of Delegates, Committee on Education (Report) Maryland State Documents 1853 K [MSA PD662, MdHR 812127].

(from Prince George's County Genealogical Society Bulletin, Oct. 1997, Vol. 29, No. 2, p. 39)

You brake for libraries.
You hyperventilate at the sight of an old cemetery.
You would rather browse in a cemetery than in a shopping mall.
You are more interested in what happened in 1697 than in 1997.
Savage, Torrey and Pope are household names, but you cannot remember what to call the dog.
You can pinpoint Harrietsham, Hawkhurst, Kent, but can't locate your state capital on the map.
You think every home should have a copier and a microfilm reader.
You know every registrar of deeds in the state by name, but they lock the doors when they see you coming.
You store your clothes under the bed because your closet is full of books and papers.
All your correspondence begins "Dear Cousin".
You have traced everyone of your ancestral lines back to Adam and Eve, have it documented, and still do not want to quit.

by Shashi Thapar

Allen, Gloria Seaman, Maryland Album: Quiltmaking Traditions 1634-1934
Arps, Walter E., Jr., Heirs and Orphans: Anne Arundel County, Maryland Distributions, 1788-1838
Baxter, Angus, In Search of Your European Roots Beitzell, Edwin W., Life on the Potomac River
Carr, Roland T., 32 Presidents' Square
Hershey, Virginia Sharpe, Those Southern Milners
Jourdan, Elise Greenup, Early Families of Southern Maryland, Vol. 1, rev.
Keller, S. Roger, Crossroads of War: Washington County, Maryland in the Civil War
Peden, Henry C., Jr., Inhabitants of Baltimore County 1763-1774
Powell, Allan, Maryland and the French and Indian War, 250th Anniversary Edition
Raineys, John L., Camelot Island, 1858-1964
Risjord, Norman K., Builders of Annapolis: Enterprise and Politics in a Colonial Capital
Ryan, Dennis P., A Salute to Courage
Schackel, Paul A., Annapolis Pasts: Historical Archaeology in Annapolis, Maryland
Seymour, Helen E., 1850 Federal Census: Talbot County, Maryland
Simmons, Christine N., Cemetery Sites in Anne Arundel County, Maryland
Taskar, James R., Taskar Heritage
Wallis, Lucille A, Samuel Wallis of Kent County, Maryland, Book III, Part 3
Weeks, Christopher, An Architectural History of Harford County, Maryland

Founded 1987

Edward C. Papenfuse, State Archivist
Patricia V. Melville, Editor
Mimi Calver, Assistant Editor
Lynne MacAdam, Production Editor
Rita Molter, Circulation

The Maryland State Archives is an independent agency in the Office of Governor Parris N. Glendening and is advised by the Hall of Records Commission. The Chairman of the Hall of Records Commission is the Honorable Louis L. Goldstein, Comptroller, and the Vice Chairman is the Honorable Robert M. Bell, Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals.

The Archivists' Bulldog is issued bi-monthly to publicize records collections, finding aids, and other activities of the Archives and its staff. Subscription cost is $25 per year, and the proceeds go to the State Archives Fund. To subscribe, please send your name, address, and remittance to: the Maryland State Archives, 350 Rowe Boulevard, Annapolis, Maryland 21401-1686. Phone: MD toll free: (800) 235 4045; or (410) 260-6400. FAX: (410) 974 3895. E-mail: The Editor welcomes editorial comments and contributions from the public. The Archives maintains a Website on the Internet at: