Monday, August 1, 2011

Baltimore in the 1840s: America's Second-Largest City

In 1848, the year in which THE ROAD TO DESTINY takes place, Baltimore, Maryland was the second-biggest city in the United States. As these period photos show, it was a bustling, busy city. It was also rather grimy and ramshackle.

A city like Baltimore was a great place to be--as long as you didn't mind polluted air, the risk of catching diseases from the water, from refuse in the streets or from one of the many passers-by. It wasn't necessarily the best place to raise a family.

This was the decision of John Weston, the father of the family in our graphic novel. He has two children. One of them (Rebecca) is hardy and healthy. The youngest Weston, Charlie, is sickly, and the atmosphere of hectic Baltimore isn't doing him any good.

Charlie's health is one of the reasons John decides to pack up the life he and his family have known, and to head westward.

We didn't intend to "dis" Baltimore in our graphic novel. It seemed a practical place to launch the journey of the Weston family. To be fair, these unsanitary and health-threatening conditions plagued all large cities in the United States in the mid-19th century.

Things have gotten better since then, but pollution, pollen, and other particulate matter still cause urban sinuses to go out of whack. And it's still just as easy to catch a cold, via some careless soul sneezing on a bus, or in line at a grocery store.

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