Baltimore is known by many nicknames, such as Charm City, Monument City, Mobtown, Clipper City, and several others. The story behind each of them provides just a brief overview of the interesting bits of history from Baltimore's past, and learning some fun facts helps to provide some context when visiting this one-of-a-kind city. It's not the capital of Maryland—that goes to Annapolis—but it is the state's biggest city and has an important place in U.S. history.
When planning for your upcoming trip to Baltimore, use these fun facts to organize your itinerary and potentially discover something you didn't know was there.
A City of Firsts
While larger cities like New York frequently get all the glory for "firsts," many crucial items were invented in Baltimore.
- The first umbrella factory in the United States was established in Baltimore in 1828.
- The first United States post office system was inaugurated in Baltimore in 1774.
- The first dental school in the world was founded in Baltimore in 1840.
- The first telegraph line in the world was established between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore in 1844.
- Baltimore was the first city to implement a 311 service as a non-emergency hotline.
- The first civic monument dedicated to President George Washington, Baltimore's Washington Monument, is located in Mount Vernon.
- The first successful manned balloon launch in the United States, operated by 13-year-old Edward Warren, was launched from Baltimore in 1784.
- The first professional sports organization in the United States, The Maryland Jockey Club, was formed in Baltimore in 1743.
- The first Catholic cathedral built in the United States is the Baltimore Basilica of Assumption.
- Baltimore was the first city in the United States to illuminate its streets using hydrogen gas in 1816.
- The first bloodshed of the Civil War, a clash between pro-South civilians and Union troops, happened in Baltimore in 1861.
- Baltimore was home to the first Black-owned shipyard in the United States. The shipyard is now the African American heritage site, the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park Museum.
- Snowballs, the icy treat with flavored syrup, were invented in Baltimore during the Industrial Revolution and paved the way for more modern slushies and snow cones.
- Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is the first and only United States airport to have a dedicated trail for hiking and biking.
By the Numbers
You may already be aware of Baltimore's population (620,000 in the city and over 2 million in the metro area), but there are plenty of other numbers to know in this town.
Historical Facts and Figures
Baltimore has a history as interesting and diverse as its citizens, dating back to the Indigenous Susquehannock people who inhabited the area before the British colonialists arrived and established the Port of Baltimore in 1706.
- Francis Scott Key wrote the National Anthem while watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.
- During the 1800s, Baltimore served as the second greatest port of entry for United States immigrants.
- The Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 burned for 30 hours, destroying 1,500 buildings and leveling entire neighborhoods. One of the reasons that the fire blazed out of control was because of a problem with mismatched hose couplings. After the fire, firefighting equipment was standardized across the United States.
- The USCGC Taney, the last ship to survive Pearl Harbor afloat, is docked in Baltimore's Inner Harbor and is available for tours.
There's no shortage of famous faces that have called Charm City home, from a number of athletes to a Supreme Court Justice.
- Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time (he holds 22 medals), was born in Baltimore.
- Famous major league baseball players Babe Ruth, Cal Ripken, Jr., Billy Ripken, Lefty Grove, Frank "Home Run" Baker, and Harold Baines were all born in Baltimore.
- Cult filmmaker John Waters was born and raised in Baltimore and his movies often pay homage to his home city, including his most famous, "Hairspray."
- Sideshow performer Johnny Eck, known as the amazing "Half Boy," is a Baltimore native. You can catch a display about him at Ripley's Believe it or Not!
- David T. Abercrombie, the founder of the Abercrombie & Fitch brand, was born in Baltimore in June 1867.
- Edgar Allan Poe's mysterious death occurred in Baltimore, and he was laid to rest at Westminster Hall and Burial Grounds.
- Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, was born in Baltimore in 1908.
- Reginald F. Lewis, the first African-American to own a billion-dollar company, was born in Baltimore, and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum is named in his honor.
- Billie Holiday, the late world-famous jazz singer, was born in Baltimore. A monument in her honor stands on the corner of Lafayette and Pennsylvania Avenues.