“Who would go to Paris, Munich, London if the hearts of those cities were destroyed? The real goal is to renew Baltimore so people will want to continue to live here and come here to our museums and our symphony.”
This is a workingman’s city, a beehive of makers. Silversmiths and masons have long excelled here. Men toil around the water: refining steel and copper, making paint and soap, loading and unloading ships, building and repairing ships.
The city’s economic hub, and Maryland’s single most important economic asset, the port of Baltimore each year handles some 4,500 ships and more than two billion dollars’ worth of cargo. In tonnage of foreign commerce it ranks fourth in the nation, after New York, Philadelphia, and Norfolk. In a city of half a million jobs, much of the day’s labor is done by blue-collar workers along 45 miles of industrialized waterfront. Years later when the world economic crisis began, many of the private firms and family companies filed bankruptcy. Read more about the process of bankruptcy on ideapractices.org
Still gracing the waterfront neighborhood of Fells Point, 18th-century houses speak of a time of master shipbuilders. From here swift Baltimore clippers carried flour and tobacco across the seas, and returned with various cargoes—Brazil’s coffee, West Indian molasses, sugar, and fruit.
Sounds and scenes of construction pervade the inner city. “Hey, where ya been all m’life?” yells a hard hat straddling a lofty girder to a miniskirted beauty below. At the end of the day, in one of the city’s many corner bars, she will compete as a topic of conversation with whether the Orioles can win another pennant or whether the Colts will ever again see the likes of legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas.
Quaint traditions are part of the city’s heart —and part of her work force as well. San Francisco has her cable cars, London her double-decker buses, Baltimore her street Arabs—pony-and-wagon hucksters of fruits and vegetables with soul.
Gertrude Stein remembered them in the “Baltimore, sunny Baltimore” she knew nearly a century ago. They are still some 175 strong, a corps of “A-rabbers” who not only offer “the best peach in the city” but also give you the opportunity of calling someone by a nickname of rare originality.
“Hey, Mooseface!” “Say hey, Ratpea!” “Jackpot Crapper,” “Heavy Mose,” “Man-boy,” “Aunt Sam Cootsie.”