Opening Day:
Maryland Centennial Legislatures of
1700, 1800, and 1900

Archives of Maryland Documents for the Classroom

Maryland State Archives
350 Rowe Boulevard
Annapolis, MD 21401 Phone: (410) 260-6400

Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse, State Archivist

Whether or not we began the 21st Century or really entered the third millennium as of January 1, 2000 will always be a matter of scholarly debate.  Such distinguished keepers of the time as the U. S. Naval Observatory and the Royal Observatory Greenwich remind us that mathematically neither really begins until  January 1, 2001, and newspapers in 1800 and 1900 were of the same opinion with regard to the advent of their respective centuries.  In 1900 the Baltimore Sun  (Monday, December 31, 1900) pointed out that Emperor William of Germany and the editor of a Chicago newspaper, "alone, of all the inhabitants of the world, began the twentieth century on January 1, 1900.  The rest of us have been content to let the nineteenth century live 100 years."

Two hundred years ago last December, as the year 1800 approached, the London Times sputtered and pontificated:

We have uniformly rejected all letters and declined all discussion upon the question of when the present century ends, as it is one of the most absurd that can engage the public attention, and we are astonished to find it has been the subject of so much dispute, since it appears plain. The present century will not terminate till January 1, 1801, unless it can be made out that 99 are 100... It is a silly, childish discussion, and only exposes the want of brains of those who maintain a contrary opinion to that we have stated...
The Times, 26 December 1799 [source:]
To complicate matters further, officially Marylanders, and much of  the rest of the English speaking world, did not recognize January 1 as the beginning of a new year until 1752, one hundred and thirty years after the granting of Maryland's charter when an Act of Parliament required the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar.  Until then, from 1634 until 1753, what is now our Maryland Day, March 25, marked the official beginning of the new year.  Obviously historically we have the right to celebrate new year's twice if we care to do so, but also, as Frank Porter explains in the February 22, 1999 issue of the Archivist's Bulldog, anyone consulting Maryland records prior to 1752, needs to be very careful about interpreting the year of any documents dated between January 1 and March 25.  A newspaper dated January 13, 1700, for example, was really published in January 1701.

Whether or not we have an extra twelve months in which to properly prepare for the advent of a new century and a new millennium need not trouble the 414th session of the Maryland General Assembly, just as it does not trouble those in almost every nation of the world who celebrated the beginning of this new year, 2000.  What we can do is look back with interest at what the General Assembly was doing one hundred, two hundred, and three hundred years ago, reflecting briefly on the issues of the day and the legislation enacted, secure in the knowledge that the American experiment in representative government, open now to the participation of every citizen over the age of eighteen, is alive and thriving in the Maryland State House regardless of what century or millennium it may or may not be.

As we begin our brief journey into the past, I would like to thank those of the Maryland State Archives staff who are engaged in making the Archives web site the most reliable and authoritative source of Maryland legislative, executive and judicial proceedings from the earliest times to the near present, at which point we join forces with the good work currently underway on the Governor's, the Legislature's and the Judiciary's own web sites. With a grant from the Maryland Information Technology Fund, and through what we hope will be continuing General Fund appropriations, the Maryland State Archives is placing on line the collective memory of State Government for the edification and enjoyment of all Marylanders and all prospective friends of Maryland, whether they be potential investors in our future, or just contemplating a visit to the Old Line State.  For continually updated and current information follow the links to the Maryland Manual On Line ( and to the Archives of Maryland (

For what the Legislature was up to in 1700, 1800, and 1900, let us begin by following the links from here:

Guide to Documents

Return to Introduction

The Archives of Maryland Documents for the Classroom series of the Maryland State Archives was designed and developed by Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse and Dr. M. Mercer Neale.  This packet was prepared with the assistance of  Lynne MacAdam, Kathy Beard, Greg Lepore, Nancy Bramucci, R. J. Rockefeller, and other members of the Archives staff. MSA SC 2221-27. Publication no. 2078.

For further inquiries, please contact Dr. Papenfuse at:
Phone: MD toll free 800-235-4045 or 410-260-6401

© Copyright January 2000 Maryland State Archives.