A city keen on clean

August 23, 2004

As visitors descend on Baltimore during the summer tourism season, staff writer Larry Bingham offers an occasional look at how the city has been portrayed by writers over the years. Today, an excerpt from a publicity campaign in the 1930s.

"Baltimore believes in soap and water. A casual housekeeper like myself never ceases to marvel at the optimism with which these women scrub while the soot drifts steadily from the vast industrial plants. Yet the women win! No window is foggy. The white steps and sills so very white that they often give me that quick lift of the diaphragm I felt as a child when an unexpected snow left our normally somber steps dazzling.

"And municipal baths have long been a specialty. Portable shower-baths are carried from block to block in the summer time, and this luxurious service offered to heat-harried citizens. It occurs to me that perhaps therein lies the answer to the frequent query: `Well, if Baltimore is so much, why don't we hear of it?'

"Perhaps, I ponder, Baltimore has the quaint idea that it's better to put her extra funds into municipal baths rather municipal fireworks.

"I do not pretend that I know Baltimore. Like quiet, conservative people, she allows herself to be known but slowly, intimately, perhaps, only to her `kin-folk.' Few outsiders, I fancy, can know this old city. But anyone can feel it. Self-respecting, it commands respect. Vital yet peaceful, she inspires a sort of constructive peace in those who partake of her hospitality. Her quiet is not the quiet of stupidity; it is the quiet of an old, established order, a calm conviction. She can adjust to the valuable new without discarding the valuable old."

--Edna Robotham Smith, Baltimore Association of Commerce

- "Facts About Baltimore Worth Knowing," by Edna Robotham Smith in a 1931 publication produced by the Baltimore Association of Commerce

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