The first people to live in what’s now Maryland arrived at least 13,000 years ago, though humans may have been in the area as many as 21,000 years ago. Archaeologists know this because they’ve found arrowheads, beads, and other ancient items in and around Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Centuries layer Native American tribes lived in the region, including the Lenape, Nanticoke, Powhatan, Susquehannock, and Shawnee tribes.
In 1608 Captain John Smith became one of the first Europeans to arrive in the area. Then in 1632 Englishman George Calvert was given permission by the king of England to establish the colony of Maryland (though George died before settling the colony; his son Cecilius organized the expedition of colonists instead.) Yet British rule wouldn’t last: Maryland signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. After the United States won the Revolutionary War in 1783, Annapolis, Maryland, became the new country’s capital—but for less than a year. Maryland was made the seventh U.S. state in 1788, and gave up part of its land two years later to help create Washington, D.C.
In 1850 Maryland would become an important part of the Underground Railroad thanks to Harriet Tubman, a Maryland native who fled the state to escape slavery but returned to rescue and lead others to freedom.
Eleven years later, tensions between northern and southern states, particularly over slavery, led to the Civil War. Although Maryland was just south of the Mason-Dixon Line—the name for the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland, which was considered the line dividing the North and South—it sided with the Union in the North. The war’s bloodiest battle, Antietam, took place in Sharpsburg, Maryland. In 1864 slavery was finally abolished in Maryland.
WHY’S IT CALLED THAT?
Maryland was named after Queen Henrietta Maria of England. She was married to King Charles I, who granted permission for Maryland to become a colony.
Legend has it that Maryland’s nicknamed the Old Line State in honor of 400 Revolutionary War soldiers who faced off against 10,000 British soldiers in a battle in 1776. These soldiers, which were called the “Maryland Line,” held off the British just long enough to allow the rest of the American army—lead by George Washington—to escape.
GEOGRAPHY AND LANDFORMS
Maryland is bordered by Pennsylvania in the north, Delaware and the Atlantic Ocean in the east, the Atlantic Ocean and Virginia in the south, and West Virginia in the west. The state can be divided into five geographical regions.
The Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain spreads across the south and east of the state. It’s a low area with marshes along the eastern shoreline and fertile farmland along the western shore. This region contains the Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, a forested wetland.
The Piedmont crosses northeastern Maryland, and has low hills, ridges, valleys, and streams.
The Blue Ridge region is a narrow, mountainous region west of the Piedmont. It was named for its trees, which have a bluish haze when seen from a distance.
The Appalachian Ridge and Valley is a slim strip of land in the north. It’s mostly forested and contains farmland and steep ridges.
The Appalachian Plateau covers the northwestern corner of the state. It’s home to the Allegheny Mountains and Maryland’s highest point, Backbone Mountain.
Black bears, bobcats, and Appalachian cottontails are a few of the mammals that live in Maryland. Ospreys, gyrfalcons (the biggest type of falcon), and Baltimore orioles are some local birds. The state’s amphibians include Allegheny Mountain dusky salamanders and barking tree frogs. And reptiles such as bog turtles, Coastal Plain milk snakes, and eastern fence lizards live here.
Bald cypress, loblolly pine, juniper, walnut, and white oak (the state tree) are among Maryland’s native trees. The state’s wildflowers include Maryland golden-aster, Maryland meadow beauty, and ladies’ tresses—an orchid that resembles a spiraling lock of hair.
Maryland is known for fishing, and it produces the most blue crabs in the United States. The state is also known for mining coal, clays, natural gas, and limestone.
—Go fish! Visitors to the National Aquarium can check out jellyfish, a living reef, dolphins, and sharks.
—Famous Marylanders include Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star Spangled Banner; baseball player Babe Ruth; Jazz musician Billie Holiday; and civil rights activist Thurgood Marshall, who became the first African-American Supreme Court justice (or judge) in the United States.
—Visitors to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Park can explore the same land that Tubman crossed while guiding almost 70 people to freedom during the 1800s.