|Image courtesy of the National Maritime Museum: http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/110542.html|
James and Joseph Biays even manage to secure an act of the legislature passed in 1805, permitting them to build a road from Bond street to York road (now Greenmount) in order to facilitate getting county produce to market and reaching James's country estate. The road was wiped out by the development of the city eastward of the Jones Falls and to the north of the Point, but it appears to be clearly marked in orange on Poppleton's 1822 map of the city.
|Source: microfilm, Maryland Historical Society|
The single most important exports were wheat and flour. The demand for housing at the point accounts for why the Pennsylvania builder, Robert Long, came to Fells Point and invested in the lots laid out under the auspices of Ann Fell, wife of the owner of the point. He and other Pennsylvania imports such as Dr. Henry Stevenson, along with local investors like the catholic and protestant Carrolls, recognized that the wheat produced in Western and Central Pennsylvania and the conversion to wheat of the tobacco plantations of Maryland’s Eastern Shore could make Baltimore and surrounding mills into a major factor in the export to the West Indies and to Southern Europe of American Wheat and Flour, drawing to it a large urban population in need of housing. In return the commodities and finished goods purchased with the proceeds of the export trade would accelerate the import trade for consumption by the local population and distribution to the interior of the country, first by the waterways and the national road, and then by canals and the railroads financed in part by investors from the City. The results in the growth of the city and personal fortunes were phenomenal, especially when combined in the years leading up to the war of 1812 with a re-export trade as a neutral power acting as carrier and supplier for all sides during the Napoleonic Wars.
|courtesy of Edith Johns|
|detail from Folie, 1792|
|Plat from Barron v Baltimore overlaid on Google Earth showing the damage of the 1817 freshet|
|1822 Poppleton overlaid on Google Earth showing wharves of Craig & Barron and Price|
|Jehu Bouldin Plat of 1826 showing the loss of Biays's new wharf and the extension of Aliceanna street over fill land below where the Kemp shipyard had been|
Cleared for the West Indies, the voyage of the Warren proved to be a compelling story with which Jane Travers and the residents of Fell's Point would have been most familiar. It probably was the talk of every tavern and table where seamen were lined up to sign the articles that detailed their wages for a voyage. The owners of the Warren promised the seamen and their captain, Andrew Sterett of Baltimore, a Navy officer on leave, that it would be a trading voyage to the pacific northwest with an ultimate destination of a profitable sale of the cargo in China, probably Canton. It turned out to be a smuggling venture to Chili, where the seamen, once they were informed of the real instructions, refused to go further. They were thrown into jail, many for a total of three years, before they were released. Their captain, son of a prominent Baltimore family, committed suicide rather than participate in the clandestine operation any further. Eventually the seamen sued for their wages which by Admiralty law continued until they returned to their home port of Fell's Point. Finally, after a quarter of a century without pay, the Supreme Court decided in favor of the seamen. By that time all the principal owners were bankrupt, many sailors were dead or not to be found, and the Federal Court had no enforcement powers. It proved to be Pyrrhic victory, especially for the surviving seamen, although, as usual in such cases, the lawyers for both sides probably profited. The story is documented in full at the digital commons of the University of Maryland School of Law at http://digitalcommons.law.umaryland.edu/mlh_pubs/47/. It is a classic example of the degree of risk and the manner of taking it that was commonly practiced by the first two or three generations of the shipbuilding merchants of Fell's Point, if the voluminous records of the Admiralty side of the Federal Courts are to be believed. One of the principal owners of the Warren was Lemuel Taylor who Betsy Patterson claimed “caused the ruin of half the people” in Baltimore.
An earlier version of this lecture is available on line at: https://youtu.be/k2avYb43Gcg