1878 atlas gives view to the past

September 06, 1994|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Sun Staff Writer

On any day in 1878, Hector H. Goodman, an Annapolis merchant, could likely stand outside his small drugstore at 11 Main St. near the City Dock and watch the goings-on in the old seaport village.

To his left was the town's coal office, right next to Market House. Up near Church Circle, William H. Gorman & Co. ran the Maryland Hotel.

The coal house is gone now, though Market House is still in place. The Maryland Hotel has become the Maryland Inn. Restaurants and tourist shops line Main Street. And Mr. Goodman's drugstore? It now sells T-shirts.

Yet, glimpses of those bygone days can be found in the 1878 atlas of Anne Arundel County, reprinted last month by the Anne Arundel Genealogical Society and the Ann Arrundell County Historical Society.

The book is a time capsule, a peek at the world of Mr. Goodman and Mr. Gorman, and of notable North County families like the Pumphreys and the Linthicums.

Carl M. Shrader, who edited the atlas, said it was reproduced from the 89-page, hand-bound original. Digital electronic scanning ensured accuracy in reproduction. Pages that had been painted in watercolor are now shaded in grays.

Because of its meticulous attention to detail, the atlas is considered a rarity. It lists county residents, their addresses, occupations, where they settled, how many acres they owned, and where they were born. The Savage and Guilford areas, which now lie in Howard County, are also included. Back then, they were part of Anne Arundel County.

"You can tell what life in Anne Arundel was like in the 1870s by looking at that map," said Gregory Stiversont, assistant director of the Maryland State Archives.

"These are invaluable resources to anyone doing local history. One of the usual problems you have in history is trying to put a person or a place in a specific place. You might get that they were in Maryland. But to put a person near this river or that street and say they were there is very difficult," said Mr. Stiversont, who teaches Maryland history at Anne Arundel Community College.

Oversized atlases like the one from 1878 became popular in the 1870s, and may have been done nationwide. Atlas makers rode from town to towns seeking patrons to buy subscriptions to finance their projects.

Cartographer G. M. Hopkins of Philadelphia, who published the 1878 atlas of Anne Arundel, is said to have surveyed the county by foot and on horseback, and to have interviewed many of the 23,000 residents.

His company and another, Lake, Griffing & Stevenson, also of Philadelphia, were two of the largest atlas-making companies.

Lake, Griffing & Stevenson did the first atlas in Maryland, the 1873 atlas of Frederick County. The company then started doing business on the Eastern Shore, leaving the rest of the state to Hopkins.

Mr. Stiversont said he believes five to 10 atlas workers, spread out in a given area and using a base map, could complete an atlas in a few weeks.

"They're remarkably accurate, so a lot of care went into them," he said.

The atlases are also remarkably rare. Printed on heavily acidic pulp paper, many simply deteriorated. Mr. Stiversont is lucky enough to have one from that era. His great uncle passed down the family's 1870s atlas of Carroll County.

The 1878 atlas of Anne Arundel lists the names of its patrons, the Cromwells and the Shipleys. The 1994 version also lists the names of its patrons.

Patrons in the 1870s tended to be affluent farmers and merchants.

"Bigger was better. Ostentatious did mean something and if you could afford one of those things, you were somebody," said Mr. Stiversont.

The 1878 atlas measures 13 1/2 by 17 1/2 inches, a large size for its time.

The patrons also wanted to leave a testament of their time, an image of life before the large farms disappeared. They saw the chances diminishing for their descendants to own thousands of acres as they had. Atlas makers benefited from this desire for a legacy.

"They could appeal to their vanity, their desire to leave their mark on a map, something that would last long after them," said Mr. Stiversont.

The atlases were never intended as road maps. "This was a status symbol," Mr. Stiversont said. "This was something to show you'd made it. And if you had it, you had it for posterity to show. You certainly wouldn't throw it in the old wagon if you were heading off to town."

The 1878 atlas of Anne Arundel County has been a primary reference at the Kuethe Library in Glen Burnie. Historians, archaeologists and highway builders refer to it, said Mary K. Meyer, the library's director.

The library, home to the Historical & Genealogical Research Center, is run by the historical and genealogical societies. It houses 4,500 periodicals and other materials relating to genealogy and local history. Users from as far as Alaska and Oklahoma have often asked where they could buy a copy of the atlas.

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