Baltimore’s Forgotten Pioneers

Sharing Their Story

Carroll’s Hundred and Baltimore are forever joined by their geography, economics, and history. Little is known about this important relationship, but a fascinating story is emerging here after many years of historical and archaeological research at the site. The discoveries at Carroll’s Hundred are fundamental to our understanding of Baltimore, its central role in the rise of American industrial dominance in the twentieth century, and most importantly who propelled it there. It is time for the contributions of these American pioneers to be fully recognized and appreciated.

Our story explores the true source of American greatness — the diversity and ingenuity of its people. Even in 18th-century Maryland, they represented an astonishing array of cultural backgrounds and ethnicities ranging from the indigenous peoples of the Americas, to Africans, to Northern Europeans. Starting in the 1730s, these new Americans were creating a social fabric in the Upper Chesapeake region — one we would recognize today as typically Mid-Atlantic — hard-working people of vastly different ethnicity and culture who were creating a revolutionary new society and a new industry.

The story begins in 1732, when King George I granted a land patent for Carroll’s Hundred (originally known as Georgia) to Dr. Charles Carroll. Carroll valued the area principally for its forests, its bog iron deposits, its suitability for tobacco, and its proximity to a natural harbor with prime shipping access to English markets.  It had all the resources needed to manufacture iron and grow tobacco on an industrial scale.  By the 1770s, the vast iron plantation at Carroll’s Hundred, now owned by the Doctor’s son, was a quarter mile to the west of Baltimore Towne. Its enslaved and indentured workers were pioneering an entirely new type of industrial iron manufacturing, a precursor to assembly line mass production. Not only did they produce munitions for the Revolution, they also paved the way for what would become the American city known for its “king of steel” in the 1950s – Baltimore’s Bethlehem Steel Company at Sparrow’s Point – the second largest producer of steel in the world.

A Silent Revolution

By the end of the Revolutionary War, the labor force at Carroll’s Hundred had grown and the plantation’s operations had diversified into wheat production, milling, iron founding, and ship-building. Tobacco was no longer king, so Charles Carroll and other planters’ need for concentrated slave labor was vanishing. At the same time among Baltimore’s new merchant class there was a rising demand for skilled workers. These economic conditions led many planters to hire slaves out to fill the new demand for artisans, craftspeople, and tradesmen. Slaves were making their way off plantations like Carroll’s Hundred and into the area around Baltimore Towne to fill the jobs of cooks, launderers, blacksmiths, and sawyers. At the same time, for these and other economic reasons, more and more blacks were freed. By the 1860s, Baltimore’s free black population was the largest in the nation. By the end of the 19th century, Baltimore’s African American population grew to become the second largest in the nation outside of New York.1 From industrial iron manufacture to supplying skilled labor to Baltimore’s new domestic markets, Carroll’s Hundred and its diverse community were helping to revolutionize America’s transformation from a rural to a mercantile economy.2
1 Phillips, Christopher. Freedom’s Port. Urbana and Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.
2 Morgan, Philip D. Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake & Low Country. Chapel and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

How Will We Tell This Story?

Explore the many dimensions of Carroll’s Hundred through links to archaeology, educational activities, historical information, news, and ways to become involved.

"Carroll’s Hundred fundamentally changes our understanding of Baltimore’s central role in the rise of America’s industrial dominance in the twentieth century."