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Series Information
(Baltimore City Commissioners)

Series Description

The City Commissioners were established in 1797 (Ordinance 14) and were responsible for the management of street paving, leveling, repairing, opening and closing; the care of wells and pumps; and the establishment of sewers and property boundaries. The complex work of these City Commissioners was often in conjunction with other municipal, county, and state agencies. The authority for the opening, extension, and closing of streets was generally sought in the state legislature with the City Commissioners responsible for the practical execution of the work. The City Commissioners funded their work in a variety of ways including special assessments from affected property owners, special appropriations from municipal government, and loans.

The Commissioners were united with the Commissioners of Health from 1809 to 1820. Then came under the Board of Port Wardens from 1820 to 1850 and 1861 to 1863. From approximately 1807 to 1861 the Superintendent of Streets and Pumps was under the direction of the Commissioners. However, in 1866 the Superintendent became the Commissioner for Opening Streets (RG. 58).

The care of streets was haphazard, experimental and according to most historians, largely unsuccessful in providing adequate maintenance. This program did represent, however, the largest municipal expenditure in the early years. The work of the Baltimore City Commissioners was absorbed under the new charter of 1898 by the Department of Public Improvements and Department of Review and Assessments.

For further information about this agency see the published annual reports, 1824-1899, which are available in the Department of Legislative Reference Library. Two books which also include information on the work of the Commissioners are Jacob H. Hollander, The Financial History of Baltimore (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1899) and Gary Lawson Browne, Baltimore and the Nation, 1789-1861 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980).

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DateSeries NameDescriptionMSA Citation
  Details1798-1899Administrative filesIndexed by the Historical Records Survey (HRS) in the late 1930's, these records include correspondence, street grading, street openings and closings, deeds and other property records, paving bonds and contracts, establishments of streets, pump warrants and petitions, plats, miscellaneous bills and receipts, permits for the removal of dirt, permits for the construction of frame buildings, sewerage construction, and petitions and applications for street work.BRG3-1
  Details1893-1894City Commissioners' ReportsThe Baltimore City Commissioners reported on the repair and maintenance of streets, alleys, bridges, gutters, plates, sewers, drain pipes, inlets, and railways. Other information included detailed tables and summaries of revenues collected, the number and kinds of trolley poles in the city, abandoned cable and railroad tracks, and the appropriations required for the maintenance of streets, sewers, and railroad tracks within the city limits.BRG3-2
  Details1808-1883City Commissioners' Financial ReportsThis series contains financial ledgers and journals with information on annual appropriations for public works projects, paving and pump assessments, notices to repair footways, bonds for city contracts, cash book receipts, and accounts of bridge and street repairs. Other information includes the minutes of the city tax commissioners (1825- 1827), journal of the city assessors (1812-1813), and proceedings of the city commissioner's office (1857-1858).BRG3-3
  Details1866-1891Ordinances and Resolutions Relating to the City CommissionersThese seven bound volumes are manuscript ledgers containing the ordinances and resolutions before the city council relating to the city commissioners office. The descriptions note whether or not the ordinance was passed by the council.BRG3-4
  Details1812-1842ProceedingsRecords of the meetings and activities of the City Commissioners. Included are petitions and other administrative materials. There is a gap in the records between 1822 and 1825.BRG3-5
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