Founders of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, 1891 by Francis Blackwell Mayer. Oil on canvas.
B&O Railroad Museum Collection. Gift of the CSX Corporation.
1. Philip E. Thomas (1776-1861)
2. Charles Carroll (1737-1832)
3. George Brown (1787-1859)
4. Benjamin C. Howard (1791-1872)
5. William Patterson (1752-1835)
6. Alexander R. Brown (1764-1834)
7. Robert Oliver (1757-1834)
8. Alex B. Fridge (1766-1839)
9. Talbot Jones (1770-1834)
10. John V.L. McMahon (1800-1871)
11. Charles F. Mayer, Sr. (1791-1864)
12. Samuel F.P. Morse (1791-1872)
13. Isacc McKim (1775-1838
14. Fielding Lucas (1782-1854)
15. Benjamin H. Latrobe (1809-1878)
16. Peter Cooper (1791-1883)
17. Louis McLane (1784-1857)
18. W.G. McNeil (1800-1853)
19. Joseph W. Patterson (1786-1866)
20. John B. Morris (1785-1874)
21. Thomas Swann (1809-1883)
22. Believed to be painter Francis B. Mayer
23. Chaucey Brooks (1794-1880)
24. William G. Harrison (1802-1855)
25. John W. Garrett (1820-1884)
26. Thomas C. Jenkins (1802-1881)
27. Johns Hopkins (1795-1873)
28. John H.B. Latrobe (1803-1891)
29. Albert Schumacker (1802-1871)
The Founding Fathers
A handful of the wealthiest men in America meeting for drinks over 200 years ago may not seem relevant today, but it was at this very gathering that these men, a group of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists from Baltimore, decided to invest in a recent British technological innovation. This new invention would drastically reshape humanity’s concept of time, travel, transport, and communication. For in 1827, these men would become the founders of America’s first public commercial railroad – the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad. Their company soon initiated a transformation in society that would continue for centuries to come.
The oil painting above, commissioned by Francis Blackwell Meyer in 1891, portrays this original group of Baltimore businessmen, as well as many of the other major leaders and innovators from the first half-century of the B&O’s history. While these people have long since passed, their impact – often derived from the profits of their investment in the B&O Railroad – continue to shape the city of Baltimore and the entire country.
Drawing of Thomas Viaduct (Built 1833)
Spanning the Patapsco River outside of Baltimore, this bridge was the first major engineering hurdle for the new
railroad company. It was built so strongly, that continued to
be used by freight trains well into the 21st Century.
Tom Thumb (Built 1830)
Designed by Peter Cooper, the Tom Thumb was built for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1830, becoming the first American-made locomotive. See the 1927 Tom Thumb full-sized replica on display at the B&O Railroad Museum.
FOR BALTIMORE &
A Railroad is Born
On February 12, 1827, a group of 25 influential Baltimore businessmen, led by Charles Carol of Carrollton, met at the house of financier George Brown to discuss business over drinks. There was a problem growing in Baltimore. New canal projects in other cities, such as the Erie Canal and C&O Canal, were quickly beginning to threaten Baltimore's dominance in the shipping industry. The city, at the time the third largest in the United States, relied heavily on commerce through the harbor and would have to innovate in order to face this increased competition from other coastal cities.
Portrait of Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737-1832)
Baltimore needed to increase connectivity with the interior regions of the nation in order to support the trade of goods throughout Appalachia, American seaports, and international ports throughout Europe and the Americas.
Instead of financing the construction of another canal, these men had the foresight to instead invest in a new innovation developed in Great Britain – the railroad. This risky and ambitious decision brought considerable wealth not only to Baltimore, but to the entire state of Maryland for many years to come. What follows are examples of the ongoing impact that these men, as well as the great wealth generated from the B&O, has had on our society to this day.
While the B&O had a profound impact nationally and globally, it also greatly shaped its home city of Baltimore, Maryland – both through railroad infrastructure as well as the considerable wealth generated through the company. The legacy of America's first commercial railroad is still visible across the city today
Interactive Map of Baltimore
Explore the map below to click and see some of the ways the B&O's legacy remains visible today across Baltimore.
A transformational technological innovation in itself, the railroad industry pioneered a boom in science and technology beginning in the mid-1800s. This is similar to how the advent of computers and the internet triggered the dot com boom of the 1990s, and how it continues to reshape humanity today.
Scroll through each innovation below and click each image to learn more.
Click on the letters to hear it in Morse Code!
Make sure you have
your sound on.
With emails, texting, tablets, and phone calls, it's hard to imagine using Morse Code on a telegraph to communicate.
Despite its simplicity, telegrams were the first telecommunications system and completely transformed global communications.
This keyboard produces International Morse Code, standardized in 1865. Morse's originally designed code was known as American Morse Code - or railroad code. American railroad companies used American Morse Code, but it is now seldom used except in historical re-enactments. To try out American Morse code, click here
The B&O Railroad Museum sits on 40 acres of land at the original location of the B&O's Mt. Clare Station and Shops. Join us to explore over 200 locomotives and train cars, ride the first mile of commercial track in the United States, explore multiple historic buildings including the site of the first telegraph message, and discover our collection of historic railroad objects.