| Image by From the Kelmscott Book Shop As far as I (and a search of the Pratt's online catalog) know, a trip to the Enoch Pratt's Maryland room was previously the easiest way for Baltimore history geeks to look at a copy of J. Thomas Scharf's exhaustive—and, OK, at around 1,000 pages, depending on whether you count illustrations and appendices, slightly exhausting—1881 book History of Baltimore City and County, from the Earliest Period to the Present Day: Including Biographical Sketches of Their Representative Men. For some reason the librarians don't let it out of the room, though, so if you wanted to take the thing home to read it in the tub, you'd have to shell out $375 bucks for the one that's currently on Ebay.
Well, fans of dense 19th-century historical tomes of minor interest to urban historians can rejoice. Scharf's book has been digitized by Google Books, and is available for download. Also online is his earlier work Chronicles of Baltimore: Being a Complete History of "Baltimore Town" and Baltimore City from the Earliest Period to the Present Time — the present time in that title is 1874. Curiously, his history of Maryland is available only in excerpts.
So, who were all of the Baltimore City government officials between 1797 and 1878? The list begins on p. 187!
What were the names of all the privateer vessels? And what do we know of the character of the men who commanded them? Chapter 13!
Which came first—the Liberty Fire Company or the Fells Point Hose and Suction Co? And did the two ever fight? Please see Chapter 22!
Scharf brings the bygone streets of Baltimore to life in excruciating detail. Here he discusses the founding of Lexington Market:
"The committee appointed to consider the petition of Samuel Chase to have Hanover Market removed recommended its removal farther west, but reported that they were unable to fix on a suitable locality, and for the latter purpose they recommended the appointment of a committee . . ."Seriously, it's like you're standing right there.