June 19, 2012

Maryland – “The Old Line State”

Maryland map

Just the Facts…

bird – Baltimore Oriole
flower – black eyed susan
tree – white oak
capital – Annapolis
union – 7th on April 28, 1788
population – about 5 1/2  million




The Basics 

In Maryland, it’s all about “the Bay.”  The Chesapeake Bay runs down the middle of Maryland and is the center of the state, both geographically and culturally.   Both the east and west shores of the northern part of the Chesapeake Bay are in Maryland – that is over 7,000 miles of coastline!

Interestingly enough, Maryland has no natural lakes!  It has some man-made lakes and natural ponds and marshes, but the glaciers did not move far enough south to carve lakes out of the land.  This absence of ancient glacial activity also affects Maryland’s soil, which has more sand, silt and clay than areas further north.

In 1791, Maryland gave the federal government nearly 70 square miles to use for the nation’s capital, Washington DC.  Virginia gave the federal government the other 30 square miles, making 100 square miles total for the nation’s capital.  Maryland was a border state in the Civil War – it was originally a slave state but ultimately sided with the Union and tried to remain neutral.

Maryland was named in honor of Henrietta Marie, the wife of King Charles of England.  It was founded for a specific purpose – to provide a safe haven for people of Roman Catholic faith (there were times in England when it was illegal to be Catholic).  Both the first Catholic university and the first Catholic cathedral in America were established in Maryland.

Its Claim to Fame

Our national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner was written in Maryland!  Francis Scott Key was on a British ship in the Chesapeake Bay when he watched the attack of Fort Henry in Baltimore.  Mr. Key was negotiating for the release of American prisoners of war and the battle began while he was on board.  Mr. Key was not allowed to leave until the battle was over, for fear that he had learned too much information about the British forces.  The battle waged overnight.  In the morning, Mr. Key saw that the American flag was still standing, meaning that Fort Henry did not fall! He wrote a poem about his experience while traveling back to Baltimore, which became our national anthem.  Do you know the words to the Star Spangled Banner? It is sung at the beginning of every baseball game!

Maryland is rich in African American heritage.  Harriet Tubman was born in Maryland to slave parents.  From the time Harriet was a little girl she would find ways to resist the unfair and cruel way she was treated, through running away and wearing layers and layers of clothing to protect her from beatings.   In 1849, Harriet escaped slavery by walking nearly 90 miles to Philadelphia.  She was helped and protected along the way by members of the Underground Railroad.  After reaching Philadelphia, Harriet missed her family and returned to Maryland to help them escape as well.   Over the course of her life, Harriet returned to Maryland 13 times to lead more than 70 slaves to freedom.

What Makes it Tick

The Chesapeake Bay is the heart of Maryland – it provides people with weekend fun as well as jobs during the week.  The Chesapeake is the largest freshwater estuary in America.  An estuary is a transition zone between a body of freshwater (like a river) and an ocean. It is partially enclosed, which allows for the co-mingling of freshwater and saltwater and creates a unique marine environment.  The Chesapeake is very shallow – most of it is under 20 feet!

Commercial fishing is a big deal in Maryland – thousands of pounds of blue crab, clams and oysters are caught in the Chesapeake Bay each year.  In fact, more crab are caught in Maryland than any other state!  The crabbers and oystermen are called “watermen.” Have you eaten a Maryland crab before? It is a tricky activity – you have to use a mallet to crack the hard shell and reach the delicious meat inside.  It is probably the only time you can use a hammer at the dinner table!

If You Visited

If you visited Maryland, you might visit the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis.  The whole campus is a National Historic Landmark and was founded in 1845 to educate officers of the Navy.  If you want to attend, you need a Congressman or the President to nominate you!   After, you may eat some of Maryland’s famous seafood – steamed blue crabs, crab cakes, or crab soup!  Or, you may watch one of the many sailing regattas on the Chesapeake Bay.

You might participate in the US Lighthouse Society’s annual Maryland Lighthouse Challenge in September.  The challenge is to visit nine historic lighthouses along Maryland’s coast as well as the lightship “Chesapeake,” which is docked in Baltimore.  A lightship, you may ask?  Yes!  Before beacons were placed in the open water to direct boats, the Coast Guard used lightships to perform that function.  The lightships would be anchored in areas that were too shallow for boats.  They would have a light on the tallest mast to alert ships of the dangerous waters.  Lightships were used on the Atlantic coast for over 150 years (the last lightship off Nantucket was decommissioned in 1983).

Want to Know More? 

Do you live in Maryland? Have you visited Maryland recently?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • Where is your favorite thing about your state?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?


Do you have any photos of Maryland to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Maryland.  Visit these websites to learn more: