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Icon Information on BRG39 - (Harbor Records)

Series Information
(Harbor Records)

Series Description

One of the first government bodies in Baltimore was a Board of Port Wardens. Established in 1783 by an act of the Maryland legislature the port wardens had general supervisory authority over the town's harbor and wharves, including maintenance. Soon after Baltimore's incorporation in 1797, the office of harbor master was created. This office was to preserve the navigation of the harbor, supervise the mooring of vessels, collect all wharfages and fees, and maintain the city's wharves and docks. In 1813 the Board of Port Wardens was revived and the harbor masters - one for the east side of Jones Falls and one for the west - were placed under its authority.

Believing the municipal government was becoming both too large and too expensive, the mayor and city council in 1820 combined the port wardens and the city commissioners (see RG.3) into one agency. This arrangement lasted until 1850 when a single port warden was established apart from the city commissioners. Another attempt to streamline the city government in 1861 recombined the city commissioners and port wardens for three years. In 1876 the port warden's office was abolished and its duties, including authority over the harbor master, were transferred to unsalaried harbor board. This action was taken in hopes of improving the agency's services which had declined because of excessive interference from partisan politics.

The 1898 city charter placed the harbor board under the bureaucratic administration of the new Public Improvements Department. Duties of the board were narrowed to the point where it was only to superintend the physical maintenance of the harbor, wharves, and docks. A harbor engineer was assigned administrative responsibility over these activities. The harbor master was placed under the comptroller's office and given responsibility to collect wharfages and fees, designate berths for visiting vessels, and insure the general orderlines of the harbor area.

In 1926 a charter amendment abolished the harbor board, created the Bureau of Harbors under the new Department of Public Works, and retained the harbor engineer as head of the new bureau. With the 1964 charter the Bureau of Harbors ceased to exist. The harbor engineer, however, continued his duties within the Department of Public Works.

For additional information see ord. 22 (1797); ords. 6 and 7 (1813); ord. 14 (1850); ord. 3 (1861); ord. 117 (1876); Baltimore City Charter of 1898, sects. 34 and 88; and Baltimore City Code, 1976 ed., art. 10.

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DateSeries NameDescriptionMSA Citation
  Details1813-1876Financial RecordsAssorted volumes recording the financial affairs of the port warden and other related agencies. The records are incomplete and include cash books, 1839-61, 4 vols.; ledgers, 1849-61 and 1870-76, 4 vols.; mud machine and dredging accounts, 1813-55, 2 vols.; wharfage and tonnage accounts, 1828-76, 2 vols.; and Patapsco River Commission accounts, 1853-76, 2 vols.BRG39-1
  Details1797-1901HRS Indexed Records

Assorted documents generated by the Bureau of Harbors and its predecessors, the harbor board and Board of Port Wardens, including accounts, bills, and receipts; correspondence; reports; and specifications. Most items relate to the dredging of the harbor channel.

A separate item index is available at the Baltimore City Archives.

  Details1853-1865Monthly ReportsMonthly reports of the port warden about dredging operations. Information includes names of men employed, pay, number of cubic yards excavated, number of scows discharged, tons of fuel consumed by dredge, and a narrative description of activities.BRG39-3
  Details1916-1951Printed MaterialVariety of items including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers "Report Upon the Improvement of Rivers and Harbors in the Baltimore, Maryland District (1916, 1920); Port Development Commission, "The Port Development Plan of Baltimore, Maryland" (2 copies), 1920; Baltimore Harbor, Foundation Conditions," vol. 3, 1920; "Baltimore Harbor, Survey of Waterfront and Inland Warehouses," vol. 4, ca. 1920; "Harbor Engineer's Plan, McComas St. Bulkhead," 1922; and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, "Baltimore District Project Maps, River and Harbor," 1951.BRG39-4
  Details1822Lewis Brantz Harbor SurveyNotes of a survey, conducted January 11 to February 21, of the basin and harbor authorized by the municipal government in 1820. This volume includes information on weather conditions, soundings, and ranges compiled for the survey. There also is a copy of Brantz's final narrative report submitted on May 8, 1822 to the mayor and city council.BRG39-5

Collection of drawings of bridges, boats, and piers generated for use by the Bureau of Harbors. Vessels included are the iceboats "Annapolis" and "F.C. Latrobe," a harbor patrol boat, and the tugboat "Baltimore," which are represented through numerous detailed drawings such as cross sections, electrical and steam installations, diagrams of valve motion, boilers, connecting rods, and deck plans. Three bridges also comprise part of this series, the Hanover Street Bridge, the Pennington Avenue Causeway over Cabin Branch, and the Pennington Avenue Bridge over Curtis Creek.

The plans and drawings for these structures are quite extensive and include general plans and elevations, wiring diagrams, bascule piers, supports, cross sections, layouts of conduits and manholes, piling plans, and diagrams of operating machinery.

This series concludes with dredging, sounding, and tide charts for the harbor and several maps drawn or copied as part of the harbor study undertaken in the early 1950's, recording pierhead and bulkhead lines and proposed extensions of piers and wharves. This final section also includes copies of laws and ordinances relating to the Baltimore harbor.

A listing of the contents of the two reels of microfilm (BCA 1418-19) is available for use at the Baltimore City Archives.

  Details1852-1876Minute Books, Harbor Commissioners and Basin and Harbor Commission

This series includes the minutes of two different groups that dealt with problems in the Baltimore harbor. The Harbor Commissioners were established in 1852 (see ord. 59) to oversee the removal of obstructions from the channel of the Patapsco River. These minutes cover the period 1852 to 1875 in two volumes. The Basin and Harbor Commission was created in 1873 by the mayor and city council for the purpose of developing temporary and permanent solutions to the problem of sewerage in the harbor basin. These minutes cover the period 1873 to 1876 in two volumes.

Also included are several newspaper clippings concerning the formation and purpose of the Basin and Harbor Commission. All four volumes have been rebound into one book as follows:

"Record Book No. 1 of the Harbour Commissioners," 1852-1858

"Record Book No. 2 of the Harbor Commissioners," 1858-1875

"Basin and Harbor Commission: Minutes of Proceedings," 1873-1874

"Basin and Harbor Commission: Minutes of Proceedings," 1875-1876

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