Skip to main content

Baltimore Sewerage and State Roads Commission photograph collection

Identifier: PP 0165


This collection contains photographs of new construction or the conditions of existing infrastructure in Baltimore City. The photographs contain records of numerous city streets and transportation in the city. Also included are images of pedestrians and workers, including African Americans. The dates of the collection span 1908-1924.


  • 1908-1924


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Biographical / Historical

With the population of Baltimore approaching 500,000 at the end of the 19th century, the city still had no public sewers. Instead, a combination of wells, private sewers, and gutters carried waste away, most of it destined for the Patapsco Basin. In 1906, the state of Maryland finally prohibited Baltimore from discharging sewage into the Chesapeake Bay or any of its tributaries, and provided $10,000,000 for a sewerage system, with a matching amount for the project coming from the city on a bond issue. Under Mayor Edwin Clay Timanus, the city began construction of the sewer system, and the project was continued by Mayors J. Barry Mahool and James Harry Preston. By 1911, the Back River disposal plant opened on the eastern edge of the city, and by fifteen years later the city had constructed 1200 miles of sewer leading to the plant.

Meanwhile, above the ground, development of Baltimore's infrastructure of streets and railroads was continuing, with the creation of the Paving Commission in 1911, directed by R. Keith Compton. The commission's primary mission was to resurface the streets of Baltimore with sheet asphalt. One of its first contracts awarded was for paving Preston Street behind the Fifth Regiment Armory in time for the Democratic National Convention to be held there in 1912.


0.42 Linear Feet (1 full Hollinger box)

Language of Materials



The photographs are arranged according to PP catalog numbers. Many of the photographs have a number written on the front side, which may represent the original order of the photographs as placed in an album.

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of one box with 15 folders containing 245 photoprints made in 1908-1924. The set of photoprints was originally a photo album, but has been disassembled; the images remain mounted onto cloth sheets. Some photographs were made by J.W. Schaefer, Edgar Schaefer, J.F. Reed, or Eckman and Brown. Most photographs are captioned as to location and dated.

While the focus of the photographers as evidenced by caption text was on new construction or the conditions of existing infrastructure (tracks, tunnels, pavement and sidewalks), the collection forms an excellent record of numerous city streets, including residential, commercial and industrial districts, as well as transportation in the city, especially street railroads of the United Railways and Electric Company of Baltimore. Many photographs show pedestrians and construction workers, including African Americans.

There are a few images of street railroad infrastructure from other states: Minnesota and Louisiana.

Guide to the Baltimore Sewerage and State Roads Commission photograph collection
Under Revision
Katherine Cowan
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2020-02-08: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Mallory Herberger.

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States