- from Maryland
The 20th century began, as the previous one had, with war. This time it was a war in Europe.
“World War I” people called it, because this was an international conflict, the world’s first. A second such conflict, World War II, took place less than 25 years later. In between, the United States and the world suffered a Great Depression. (A depression is a time of tremendous economic decline.) People lost their jobs and their savings. Banks failed. Businesses closed. The depression lasted until the beginning of U.S. involvement in World War II. When that war ended, suburbs – towns on the borders of large cities – grew. And the country looked inward. Many saw great injustices being done on the basis of race. The struggle to right those wrongs through the civil rights movement grew in strength through the end of the century and beyond.
▲ Maryland jumped in to support World War I (1914–1918) in a big way. The state sent 62,000 soldiers to serve, including 11,000 African American soldiers. It saw Fort McHenry transformed from a military base to a 3,000-bed hospital for wounded soldiers. And it saw Camp Meade being built as a training ground for new soldiers. Shown above are men who have just arrived at the camp for training.
The civilian population contributed, too. (Civilian means “non-military.”) People planted their own fruit and vegetable gardens so that much of the nation’s food supply was available to soldiers. They volunteered to work in charities like the Red Cross. And they bought war bonds. Buying war bonds was a way of lending money to the government for the war effort. ▶
▲ The Great Depression (1929–1939) was a terrible time everywhere in the United States, including Maryland. Banks closed and people lost their money. One out of four workers in Baltimore was unemployed. One out of seventeen people in the rural areas was getting help from the government. Newspapers in several Maryland cities had advice columns on how to save money. One column had information on which cuts of meat cooked fastest, to save money on electricity. Shown above are unemployed men lining up to receive a free breakfast.
It was December 8, 1941, the day the United States entered World War II (1939–1945). This was an all-out effort. Over 200,000 Marylanders served in the armed forces to fight the war. The government built the National Naval Medical Center (right) in Bethesda to treat wounded sailors. And Johns Hopkins Hospital organized military hospital units that went to combat zones in the South Pacific. The University of Maryland School of Medicine took part in a similar effort, opening a hospital in England to treat the wounded. ▶
▲ Civilians also supported the war. Maryland’s women worked at the Glenn L. Martin Plant in Middle River, Maryland, to manufacture bombers. People raised fruits and vegetables in “Victory Gardens,” as they had done during World War I. Ration books were given out. These contained stamps that were good for specific items, such as sugar, canned goods, meat, and cooking oil. The whole country conserved so the war effort could have all the resources it needed.
▲ Maryland went through a transportation growth spurt after World War II. One part of it was the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. The bridge-tunnel is 17.6 miles long. That’s the same as the driving distance from Baltimore to Carney, Maryland. The bridge-tunnel includes four human-made islands, built from 6 million tons of sand. Not to mention the 825 tons of concrete and 55,000 tons of steel required to complete the whole project. It’s not surprising that many describe the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel as an engineering “wonder.” Because of the bridge-tunnel, seafood producers on the coast can get their products to Baltimore and Washington, D.C., quickly. It helps farmers in the same way and it increases tourist traffic. In fact, about 3.5 million vehicles use the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel every year.
▲ The civil rights movement was reborn in the second half of the 20th century. There were protests, demonstrations, and important court cases. Maryland lawyer Thurgood Marshall was very much involved. In 1954, he argued against segregation in education before the Supreme Court . . . and won. The case was Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. Years later, Marshall was appointed as the first African American justice on the Supreme Court. Baltimorean Elijah Cummings was also a fierce fighter for civil rights. Cummings was a congressman from Maryland in the House of Representative from 1996–2019.