Traveling Tuesday: Baltimore in the 1800s
I was born in Baltimore, but my family relocated to New Jersey when I was still a young child. However, my father’s family members are long-time residents, so I continue to have close ties with the city. While brainstorming ideas for my story Dinah’s Dilemma, I was researching U.S. cities that had a gang presence during the mid- to late-1800s. Unfortunately for Baltimore, “Charm City” was near the top of the list. I was unfamiliar with this seamy side of my hometown and began to research with gusto in order to find a group for my protagonist’s brother.
About eighty years before the moniker Charm City surfaced, Baltimore was often referred to as Mobtown, first for the riots that occurred leading up to the War of 1812, then later for the violence that stalked its streets. By 1870, the city was home to more than a quarter million people, falling behind New York, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, St. Louis, and Chicago. An influx of Irish and German immigrants escaping famine and social unrest in Europe flooded the city tipping the percentage of foreign-born residents to nearly twenty-five percent. African-Americans also flocked to Baltimore creating competition for jobs.
With tensions high, it’s unsurprising that gangs began to infiltrate. The Bloody Tubs, Rips Raps, and Plug Uglies all started prior to the Civil War and with the exception of the Plug Uglies, continued their activities into the late 1870s. The Baltimore Crew gang wouldn’t show up until 1900. All three gangs were used by political parties to influence and intimidate voters, wreak havoc on election day, and assassinate opponents and murder law enforcement officers. Arson, knife-fighting, and robbery were also part of the gang’s repertoire.
A full decade would pass before public outcry against the violence would become loud enough for politicians to disassociate with the gangs and begin to clamp on their crimes. The 1880s saw a growth in manufacturing and new industries sprang up such as men’s clothing, canning, tin and sheet-iron products, tobacco, and foundries. Houses were constructed adding to city’s economy.
Now ninety-two square miles, Baltimore has come a long way since its inception of sixty acres in 1729. Have you visited Charm City?
About Dinah's Dilemma
Will she have to run from the past for the rest of her life?
Dinah Simpkins has no chance of making a good marriage. Her outlaw brothers and her father’s gambling addiction have ruined the family’s reputation. Then the Westward Home and Hearts Matrimonial Agency provides an opportunity for a fresh start. After Dinah arrives in Nebraska, she discovers her brothers played a part in the death of her prospective groom’s first wife.
As a former Pinkerton detective Nathan Childs knows when someone is lying. The bride sent by the matrimonial agency may be beautiful, but she’s definitely hiding something, and he has no intention of marrying her until he uncovers the truth. But an easier solution may be to send her packing. Then his young daughter goes missing. He and Dinah must put aside their mutual hurt and mistrust to find her.
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