Grauer paints a progressive portrait of Baltimore


September 29, 1991|By James H. Bready

Whither Baltimore? While the reports issue from governmental and academic study panels, another and much more accessible view arrives: the book "Baltimore, Jewel of the Chesapeake," by Neil A. Grauer (Windsor Publications, $34.95). Without tables and graphs, but with 140 resplendent color photos, "Baltimore" carries over into the '90s the feeling of upward and outward motion, of metropolitan progress, that highlighted the '80s.

Mr. Grauer takes the long view. His Baltimore begins with John Smith and George Calvert and, many notable events and personages later, contemplates high-speed Baltimore-Washington rail transit. With an eye for interesting detail (do you know what were the words of Samuel F. B. Morse's second telegraph message?), Mr. Grauer balances formal history and daily living -- and contemporary comment.

Himself once a New Yorker, then a Baltimore newspaperman, cartoonist and widely published free-lance writer, Mr. Grauer now has four books to his name. A danger in "Baltimore," with its business wellsprings (the latter half consists of 48 corporate profiles, by Joan G. Ford), would be writing that goes overboard; happily, Mr. Grauer emerges dry of wit and of attire.

A word must be put in for the score or more Baltimore photographers whose work is represented. This book could make Bostonians and San Franciscans want to move here.


A court document from St. Mary's County, filed by an executor for Robert and Rebecca Cole, drably lists farm receipts and rTC expenditures. But, as the only thing like it surviving from its century, that 1662-1673 document beams light upon the life of tobacco planters in early Maryland. Lois Green Carr, Russell R. Menard and Lorena S. Walsh have extracted full cliometric significance from it in "Robert Cole's World" (University of North Carolina Press, $39.95, $19.95 paper).


How many years has it been since a new book plugged in this column was free? Meet "A Guide to Newspapers and Newspaper Holdings in Maryland" (State Department of Education, Division of Library Development and Services, 200 W. Baltimore St., 21201; no charge).

"Guide" is a product of the U.S. Newspaper Project, which in 1982 set out to "locate, catalog, and preserve through microfilming all newspapers ever published in this country." Peter H. Curtis, curator of Marylandia at the University of Maryland libraries in College Park, heads the bibliographic phase locally.

In 253 printout pages, and from the Aberdeen Enterprise to the Williamsport Transcript (and including an earlier, 1811-1813 Baltimore Sun) "Guide" encompasses Maryland journalism through last Oct. 1. Eighty-seven public repositories hold these newspapers, in originals or on microfilm. What's more, "Guide" invites additions and is not copyright.


Police and fire go together, in Baltimore, like book and author. The year of "Homicide," by David Simon, is also that of "Turnout: a Firefighter's Story," by Bill Hall (Greenberg Publishing; paper, $12.95). Mr. Hall is a veteran member of the city Fire Department; as fireman, paramedic or rescue technician he has "responded to over 15,000 emergency calls." Colleagues tell him stories, but much of his book is eyewitness recall (culminating in Pigtown's 1986 Koppers Company arson fire -- 45 engines, from 18 companies).

Alarm following alarm, with 16 pages of color photos, "Turnout" is more than a book for fire buffs. Mr. Hall, immediate and ingenuous as a narrator, makes the fires on TV news seem pallid.

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