Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore, Maryland

Tour the claustrophobic tenement where the famous author fell in love with his future wife and published his second book.

Edgar Allan Poe is among my favorite authors, but his life wasn’t without controversy. As a young man, Poe enlisted in the U.S. Army and served several years before applying to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Before going to West Point (and subsequently getting booted out), he stayed at the home of his widowed aunt Maria Clemm, where he met her ten-year-old daughter Virginia Eliza Clemm.

Their narrow red brick duplex stood at No. 3 Amity Street in Baltimore Maryland. Today, it is the Edgar Allan Poe House & Museum. Poe lived in this house with the Clemms for approximately one year before attending West Point. Besides his aunt and her daughter, Maria’s ailing mother and possibly her 14-year-old son Henry also lived there (Henry died at a young age at an unknown date).

Touring the small rooms and claustrophobic passages to the second floor and the attic, I can’t imagine what it was like with four people living there without electricity, air conditioning, or plumbing. Despite these conditions, Poe managed to publish Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems in 1829.

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National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore, Maryland

This eclectic museum brings the African American experience to life, but some sections are definitely not suitable for children.

As a fan of both history and wax museums, I was thrilled to discover this museum in Baltimore’s struggling northeastern neighborhood of Oliver. The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum features over 150 life-sized wax figures representing a range of personalities from African American history, as well as a few ancient ones as well.

The museum’s depiction of ancient history is, for lack of a better word, imaginative. In the entryway, a large figure of a dark-skinned Hannibal the Great sits on a war elephant. Hannibal, a Carthaginian leader who fought the Romans circa 218 BC, was ethnically Phoenician, not from Sub-Saharan Africa. Likewise, the museum depicts Egyptian pharaohs as black when they were actually Middle Eastern in origin. Some even had red hair.

Perhaps the most controversial exhibits have to do with the Atlantic slave trade, lynching, and racism. It’s estimated 12 to 12.8 million Africans were forcibly transported across the Atlantic over a span of 400 years under horrible conditions. The wax exhibit leaves nothing to the imagination.

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Father Divine: The Man Who Called Himself God

At a time when scarcity affected millions, one eccentric preacher offered men and women a taste of the American dream.

During the 1930s, a man appeared in America offering salvation through the simple act of eating. “Father Divine”, professing himself to be God incarnate, urged his followers to transcend race and poverty through the power of positive thinking. His message crossed racial lines because he appealed to shared traditions in American culture. This eccentric preacher offered Americans, both black and white, rich and poor, hope that racial unity and personal perfection could be achieved through the union of religion and the dinner table.

Father Divine began life as George Baker, Jr. in the border state of Maryland less than fifteen years after the Civil War. His mother, Nancy, had been born a slave in the 1840s. Two Catholic masters owned her over the course of her life, Lemuel Clemens and Henry B. Waring. Both required that she attend the Catholic churches they had erected on their respective properties.

In 1864, when Maryland outlawed slavery, Nancy went into service as a maid and already had two daughters by unknown persons. She married a man named George Baker in the 1870s and the two moved into a ghetto outside of Rockville, Maryland known as ‘Monkey Run.’ George Baker, Jr. was born shortly after, in May 1879.[1] Nancy and her family attended Rockville’s Jerusalem Methodist Church, a separatist branch, where, according to historian Jill Watts, “inevitably, the intense spirituality and religious dedication of the African-American community left a deep impression on George.”[2]

His mother died when he was a young man. She was five feet tall and weighed four hundred and eighty pounds. A coffin had to be built inside their house and could only be removed after the doorway had been hastily expanded. Historian R. Marie Griffith theorized that Nancy’s extreme size, acquired after moving to Monkey Run, was a response to the oppressive conditions of slavery she had experienced as a young woman.

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Class of ’61: Disappointing and Forgettable Historical Drama

This made-for-TV drama meanders through the opening salvos of the American Civil War.

Written by Jonas McCord, directed by Gregory Hoblit, and produced by Steven Spielberg, Class of ’61 premiered on ABC in April 1993. This confusing drama follows members of the West Point class of 1861 and their families as they head off to join opposing sides of the war. It’s notable for an early appearance by Clive Owen, who is the only actor to stand out among the myriad of stock characters.

As the film opens, three friends, Shelby Peyton (Dan Futterman), George Armstrong Custer (Josh Lucas), and Devin O’Neil (Clive Owen), are attending the United States Military Academy at West Point. Tensions are high as Confederate troops fire on Fort Sumter, leaving cadets with divided loyalties. Shelby Peyton, a Virginian, decides to resign and head south to join the Confederacy, despite his engagement to O’Neil’s sister, Shannon (Sophie Ward).

Back home in Maryland, Devin O’Neil learns his brother Terry (Christien Anholt) has joined pro-Southern partisans, which upsets his pro-Union Irish family. Things get complicated when O’Neil is unable to secure a commission in the Union Army. He rooms with George Custer in Washington, DC, where he falls in love with Lily Magraw (Laura Linney), who also happens to be a Southern spy.

Things get even more complicated when Shelby Peyton returns to his plantation, where his favorite slave, Lucius (Andre Braugher), has killed two slave catchers in an escape attempt. He is forced to flee northward in the Underground Railroad, leaving his pregnant wife behind to an uncertain future. Will destiny reunite all these characters at the First Battle of Bull Run?

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Antietam National Battlefield

The Battle of Antietam was fought on September 17, 1862 near Sharpsburg, Maryland, between Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War. The battle ended inconclusively and resulted in approximately 22,717 total casualties.

Established August 30, 1890, Antietam National Battlefield preserves 3,230 acres of the original battlefield east of Sharpsburg. A self-guided driving tour of the park is 8.5 miles long with 11 stops. They also offer several smaller walking tours at principal battle sites, with accompanying full-color booklets. The booklets are available in the Visitor Center for $1 and offer detailed maps, photos, and a narrative of events. It’s a great way to experience the battlefield outside your car, and really understand the battle in relation to the fields, forests, and landmarks.

The Battle of Antietam unfolded in three stages: morning (north), mid-day (center), and afternoon (south), with three uncoordinated Union attacks. The much smaller Confederate army was able to shift forces to meet each attack individually. The fighting was desperate and deadly, some of the bloodiest of the war. Lee’s army was at a low point in terms of manpower because many Confederate soldiers had gone home to harvest their fields. General Lee believed Marylanders would join his ranks as he moved north, but with a few exceptions, they stayed home.

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Mount St. Mary’s University and Father Brute’s Ghost

The ghosts of a Catholic priest, and a Confederate soldier mortally wounded at Gettysburg, are among the most famous phantoms said to roam here.

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Mount St. Mary’s is a private Catholic university outside Emmitsburg, Maryland in the Catoctin Mountains. It is a small school on a 1,400 acre campus, with a little more than 1,700 undergraduates. It has a storied history, with a legendary foundation.

In 1805, a French priest named Father John DuBois saw a light in the hills as he passed between Frederick and Emmitsburg. It was growing dark, so he traveled toward the light, thinking it was a farmhouse. Exhausted, he laid down for the night beneath a large oak tree. When he woke up, he saw he was in a beautiful spot in the Catoctin Mountains. Local Catholics called it “St. Mary’s Mountain,” so it seemed an ideal place for a church.

DuBois also established a school, which grew into a seminary. Father Simon Bruté became a teacher there in 1812. The university was officially founded in 1830, and it doubled as a boarding school until the early 1900s. Bradley Hall is a remnant of those boarding school days. Not far from where Father DuBois erected his church, he also created a small shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is now known as the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, with extensive gardens and statuary.

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Monocacy National Battlefield

Monocacy National Battlefield is located along Urbana Pike, outside Frederick, Maryland. Fought July 9, 1864, the battle pitted Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early’s Corps against Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace’s VIII Corps in the American Civil War. The battle resulted in approximately 2,200 total casualties.

While Antietam is a well-known and popular battlefield, many are unaware that a second battle took place in Maryland. This battle was part of Jubal Early’s 1864 campaign to threaten Washington, D.C. and draw forces away from Ulysses S. Grant’s siege of Petersburg, Virginia.

While the battle was a Southern victory, Union forces delayed the Confederates long enough for reinforcements to arrive in Washington, D.C., earning Monocacy the moniker “the Battle that Saved Washington.” Nicely-designed interpretive signs explain various stages of the battle along a six-mile driving tour route.

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