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Lydia Howard de Roth collection

Identifier: MS 1906


This collection contains material pertaining to Lydia Howard de Roth’s career in civil service and as an air raid warden during World War II, as well as her passion for the arts, history, and Baltimore society.


  • 1904-1970


Language of Materials

Some of the correspondence related to de Roth's work in Brazil is written in Portuguese.

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 Note

Lydia Howard de Roth (1891-1971) dedicated her life to civil service, working as an air raid warden in London, teaching air raid safety in the United States, and eventually aiding in the start-up of a Civil Defense in Brazil.

De Roth, nee DeFord, was born and raised in Baltimore to a wealthy family, related to Francis Scott Key and John Eager Howard. An active society member, she and her sister, Nancy, garnered many articles in the society papers of Baltimore newspapers. She attended Bryn Mawr School, and her talent in sculpture allowed her to attend the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute, where she won several awards for her work.

Post-graduation, she worked as a clerk at two Baltimore companies before beginning at the monograph section of the Military Intelligence Department. Soon after starting there, she married Herbert C. de Roth, who worked for the First National Bank of Boston. His position took the de Roths across the globe.

While stationed abroad with her husband, she continued her civil defense work. During World War II, she worked as an air raid warden in the Chelsea neighborhood in London, England from 1939 to 1941, and experienced the blitz by the Luftwaffe first hand. She later wrote a training handbook for air raid wardens and was appointed to Civil Defense consultant to Mayor Fiorello La Guardia in 1941 upon her return to the United States. She taught seminars on air raid safety and precautions in New England and Maryland and advised local governments on what to do in the event of an attack. After some years of living in Boston and New York City, her husband was assigned to represent the bank in Brazil. There she found that no civil defense system was in place, so she worked with officials in Rio de Janeiro to build one.

She returned to New York City, where she died in 1971. She is buried in Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore.


1.25 Linear Feet (3 full Hollinger boxes; Oversize material)


The collection is divided into series based on content. Series I documents de Roth’s personal history and civil service work. Series II focuses on personal papers and ephemera collected by de Roth. Series III contains works of poetry by various authors, including her husband Herbert C. de Roth, her sister Nancy Venable, and family friend, William Force Stead. Series IV holds a large number of photocopied newspaper clippings on a variety of topics. Series V is oversized and holds two certificates.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Mr. Herbert C. de Roth, Estate of Lydia Howard de Roth, 1972.

Separated Materials

Photographic material was separated to form the Lydia Howard de Roth photograph collection (PP 0180).

Scope and Contents

The collection contains material pertaining to de Roth’s career in civil service, as well as her passion for the arts, history, and Baltimore society. Of particular interest may be her diary that she kept during her service as an air raid warden in London. She also wrote a manual on air raid warden training based on her experiences. Many poems from friends and family are included, especially many works written by her sister, Nancy Venable. The poetry ranges from religious subjects to reflections on World War II, and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It appears that de Roth attempted to create an anthology of poetry written about the London Blitz. She also kept an extensive record of newspaper clippings about her family, including events commemorating Francis Scott Key and members of the Howard family, Baltimore history and society, and general news. Some of the correspondence related to her work in Brazil is written in Portuguese.

Guide to the Lydia Howard de Roth collection
Under Revision
Lara Westwood
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2020-01-03: 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