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Canton Improvement Association photograph collection

Identifier: PP 0118


This collection consists of photographs of the residential and industrial area of the Canton neighborhood in Baltimore. Also included are photographs of neighborhood events, as well as images of homes and churches.


  • 1973-1985


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

The Canton region of Baltimore city is along the harbor in the southeastern part of the city. The land between Fells Point and Lazaretto Point, originally the plantation of merchant seaman John O'Donnell, began to see industrial use in the mid 1800s, facilitated by the presence of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. At the same time, Canton developed as a residential area, with row homes for workers settled by European immigrants in the early 1900's, especially Welsh, Irish, German and later Pole.

Canton underwent increasing industrial and commercial development, becoming a deepwater marine terminal handling shipping of various cargo. Over the years, industry in the area included mills, distilleries, ship building, smelting, refineries, and manufacturing. Tradition says the area was named for Canton, China, the origin of cargo coming through the docks located there.

The Canton Improvement Association was incorporated in 1970, initially formed in opposition to the extension of I-70 through the community. In the 1970s and 1980s the group promoted quality of life for Canton residents, providing leadership for activism on many issues: curtailing vandalism and other crime, maintaining and improving the neighborhood, seeking zoning to regulate the impact on residents of industrial activity, developing properties for park and recreational use, and improving schools. The association also represented the Canton neighborhood at local and city-wide events like the Fells Point Fun Festival and the City Fair. The organization was successful in having Canton placed on the National Register as a historic district, enlisting volunteers to survey and classify area properties, and prevented the closing of the Canton branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.


1.0 Linear Feet (1 flat box)

Language of Materials



The photographs have not been numbered or arranged by subject; inventory not available.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Thomas Canoles, 1987.

Related Materials

MS 2722, the Canton Improvement Association papers, 1971-1985

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of one box with seven folders containing 100 photoprints and 12 negatives, which are undated or dated 1973-1985. The photoprints include color and polaroid snapshots and larger format b/w photoprints mounted on boards. Subjects are mostly unidentified, but include residential and industrial views in the Canton area.

There are images of neighborhood events (some apparently sponsored by the Canton Improvement Association), including a 1978 Canton Day Parade attended by Barbara Mikulski, a 1979 event attended by Mayor William Donald Schaefer, a demonstration in support of the Lemko Towers senior citizen residence, and the development of a park space at the corner of O'Donnell Street and South Decker Avenue. Specific structures include Canton Methodist Church, Saint Brigid's Second Church, Canton Evangelical, and the Enoch Pratt Free Library branch at Ellwood and O'Donnell Streets. Other images include Canton homes and businesses, recreation facilities, industrial apparatus, and decrepit sites and structures. Canton residents are sometimes identified, usually by first name only; those identified include Tom Canole, Ken Moore, and Tom Hopes. There are a few images of streets in Georgetown (Washington, D.C.).

Collection also includes two folders of printed ephemera, including maps, invitations, programs, and brochures pertaining to organizations and community events in Baltimore in the 1970s and 1980s.

Guide to the Canton Improvement Association 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

  • 2020-01-31: 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