New exhibit showcases history and culture of historic Bladensburg, Maryland
Timed to coincide with festivities celebrating the bicentennial of the War of
1812, Hornbake Library at the University of Maryland will offer a sneak peek of
its new exhibit that highlights the history and culture of Bladensburg, once the
busiest seaport in the state of Maryland.
Just a few miles from the
center of the College Park campus, Bladensburg was the site of an embarrassing
defeat on August 24, 1814, that led to the capture by the British of Washington,
D.C., and the burning of the White House and other federal buildings.
A defeat of the British three weeks later in Baltimore inspired Francis
Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner.
The exhibition features rare books and documents from the collections of
the University of Maryland Libraries, including an historic map of the
Chesapeake region created in part by Thomas Jefferson’s father. A pair of
pistols on loan from the U.S. Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis underscores
Bladensburg’s reputation as “dueling ground,” where politicians settled
disagreements with bullets.
Once a thriving tobacco port, Bladensburg was
a center of industry and commerce. After the battle, the town’s reputation
soured because of its associations with military defeat and illegal dueling.
Bladensburg was close to Washington, D.C., but beyond the reach of
federal authorities, and that made it a prime site to wage a duel, explains
curator Douglas McElrath. About 50 duels occurred there before about 1850. The
duels also contributed to the town’s sordid reputation as a haven for drunkards
and gamblers. “Bladensburg was the place to go to get in trouble,” McElrath
Weekend festivities in Bladensburg include tours of historic
buildings, the dedication of a monument at Monument Park, and reenactments by
living history performers. Free shuttles and parking at the University of
Maryland College Park (Lot 1/Campus Drive) and Landover Metro Station (Bus Bay
B) will be available.
Hornbake Library, home to special collections and
the University Archives at the University of Maryland, is open weekdays from 10
a.m. to 5 p.m. See