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(Department of Education)

Series Description

The Baltimore City Department of Education is headed by a Board of School Commissioners, a group which predates the department and has run the public schools since their beginning in 1828. In 1898 the department was created to assist the board in running the schools, but the records described below are largely those of the board.

In 1825 the state government approved a public school system to be organized by county and the next year authorized Baltimore to create its own separate public school system. The mayor and city council accepted the state's authorization (ord. 3, 1828), but it was not until March 1828 that a school system was started with the creation of a Board of School Commissioners (ord. 19, 1828). The board met and established four schools, the first of which opened in September 1829. The earliest extant records of the board's proceedings are their minutes which begin in 1836 (series 1A), but there are copies of deeds for school property dating from 1830 (series 5A).

Since its inception the duties of the Board of School Commissioners have remained the same while a bureaucracy has developed to carry out these duties. The board has always been empowered to provide for the government and discipline of the schools including the establishment of a curricula and the schools to teach it, as well as the provision of personnel, buildings, and supplies to aid in educating the students.

While the school system was small, the board administered the schools itself, creating various committees of its members for specific duties. The board decided what subjects would be taught, by what methods, and with what textbooks. It examined candidates for teaching positions, annually elected teachers and principals, and disciplined personnel. The board chose school sites, erected or rented school buildings, and approved each expenditure for maintenance of the buildings. The results of the board's actions are contained in their minutes (1836-1979), and published annual reports (1849-1981), and rules (1878-1963). None of the board's correspondence appears to have survived except that which was read into the minutes.

As the number of schools increased, the board had difficulty supervising the daily operations as well as a general school system. In 1866 they hired a superintendent of public instruction whose duties had been performed by the board's treasurer since 1828. Records pertaining to school supertendence before 1866 are included in the board's records, and after 1866 the extant records of school superintendance appear as reports to the board. There are a few records from individual superintendents (series 2), but few such records are in the Baltimore City Archives at present.

One of the most important duties of the Department of Education has been the hiring of personnel. In the early years, the board examined and hired personnel. Later the superintendent administered the examinations and recommended qualified persons for the board to elect. Finally these duties evolved into a division of personnel. The personnel records in the archives are those created by the board and the superintendent. None of the current division of personnel records are included.

A major concern of the Board of School Commissioners was the provision and maintenance of school buildings. In the early years records pertaining to school buildings are in the board's minutes and annual reports. Although the board's minutes and reports continued to contain building data, a division of physical plant also kept building records.

Few of the individual school's records have come to the Baltimore City Archives. It is assumed that these records are either still in the schools or were destroyed when the schools closed or moved. Records of the Baltimore City College and samples of student work in all city schools in 1876 and 1893 are at the Maryland Historical Society in collection MS 1820.

The Department of Education is currently a much more complex agency than these records suggest. The main functions of the department, however, remain the same as those of the first Board of School Commissioners and the department's records currently in the Baltimore City Archives reveal how such functions were carried out in the nineteenth century.

For more information on the Baltimore public school system in the nineteenth century see Bernard Christian Steiner, History of Education in Maryland 1894, volume one of Clayton Colman Hall, Baltimore: Its History and Its People (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1912) and Thaddeus P. Thomas, The City Government of Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, series 14 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1896). There is also a brief outline entitled "The History of Public Education in the City of Baltimore, 1829-1959" in series 1M. For other material on education in Baltimore see the bibliographic essay in this volume.

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DateSeries NameLegacy Accession NoDescriptionMSA Citation
  Details1830-2001Board of School Commissioner RecordsRG 31 Series 1A - 1NIncludes minutes, annual reports, committee records, circulars, rules of order, school directories, President's papers, and other materials.BRG31-1
  Details1916-1925, 1929-1950, 1975Superintendent of Public InstructionRG 31 Series 2A - 2EIncludes papers from Charles J. Koch, Henry S. West, David E. Weglein, Roland N. Patterson as well as auditorium seating charts.BRG31-2
  Details1869-1871Personnel RecordsRG 31 Series 3A - 3FIncludes eligibility lists, election/promotion records, employee lists, disciplinary records, minutes from the Teacher Mutual Benefit Association, and payroll records.BRG31-3
  Details1846-1944Individual School RecordsRG 31 Series 4A - 4FIncludes records from Woodberry School, English-German School #6, Western High School, Male High School, Baltimore City College, and an unidentified school.BRG31-4
  Details1830-1876, 1929-1936, 1942, 1946, 1956, 1966Division of Physical PlantRG 31 Series 5A - 5FIncludes deed lots, building specifications, photographs, and plats and drawings of school buildings.BRG31-5
  Details1934-1944MapsRG 31 Series 6A - 6BIncludes a map of the school system and the geographic distribution of enrollment for the Boy's Vocational School.BRG31-6
  Details1940-1973Instructional Division RecordsRG 31 S7Includes radio and television: histories, annual reports, and outlines of this department's work.BRG31-7
  Details1981Office of Science Contains the Elra M. Palmer Memorial Scholarship Fund Agreement.BRG31-8
  Details1921-1982Published Materials 

Reports, brochures, rules and regulations, policy and procedural guidelines, directories, newsletters, curriculum outlines, and examples of other miscellaneous printed materials generated for or by the Department of Education.

Additional printed materials may be found in other series in this record group (e.g. IB, IE, IF, and 1L). These items have been arranged into subject groupings and listed individually thereunder.

A file folder listing is available at the Baltimore City Archives.

  Details1810Arithmetic Book 

A question and answer arithmetic book authored and presumed handwritten by Maria Prescott beginning on October 20, 1810. This book contains enumeration, multiplication tables and questions and answer sections on the subjects of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The pattern set in each section first includes questions and answers about the subject, followed by examples and applications through word problems.

This educational tool predates the establishment of the city school system and the Board of School Commissioners. There is no indication as to which school Maria Prescott attended nor is there any additional information available about Maria Prescott herself.

  Details1852-1988Eastern High School Contains newspapers, and graduation files.BRG31-11
  Details1928-1971Baltimore Bulletin of Education A journal of the public schools of Baltimore City, published monthly under authority of the Board of School Commissioners by the Bureau of Research.BRG31-12
  Details1951-1955Bureau of Research Includes 1951 City school building survey, albums and loose photographs of Baltimore City Public Schools BRG31-13
  Details1900-1980Bureau of Research Library Various books, publications and reports collected or produced by the Bureau of Research relating to a wide range of educational topics including cirriculum development, schools surveys, desegregation, etc. Material retrieved by the City Archives in fall 2015. A box listing with titles is available here: 2016 list of materials complied by Yonghoon Jang, MLS.

  Details1858-1896Eastern Female High School Academic record books for the Eastern Female High School. Books contain student names, course grades, school fees, lates, absents, and conduct of each student.BRG31-15
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