Looky what I found!

Ad from the back of the 1889-1890 Baltimore Society Visiting List, or Blue Book.

I found this advertisement in the inaugural issue of the Society Visiting List—or, as it is more commonly known, the Baltimore Blue Book—which first came out in 1889, and is still being published today.

The Blue Book was one example of what are known as social registers, lists of those who are known, and worth knowing—i.e., the social elite. According to the all-knowing (though not always fully informed) Wikipedia, the social register is a distinctly American phenomenon, and the first one was published in Cleveland in 1880.

The social registers were subscription publications, like a cross between a book and a periodical, and distributed to a very small, closed readership. You had to be part of the crowd to be in the know, if you know what I mean. My neighbor John Hurd, who gave the Aperio group a tour of his fantastic Victorian-era house a couple of weeks ago, furnished in period style, told me that only 14 copies of the latest edition were actually distributed.

The Baltimore Society Visiting List– better known (for reasons easily divined) as the Baltimore Blue Book.

The edition of the Blue Book that I was looking at was digitized by the Society Visiting List, who graciously provide a link to it from their website. I was actually looking up some members of the Women’s Literary Club of Baltimore, trying to see who actually was from the elite classes, and who might not have made the cut. Mrs. Uhler, yes. Miss Crane and Miss Reese, no. (For more on the Blue Book, issues of which are held at the MDHS, see this recent Baltimore Sun article, which even includes a video featuring our friend Francis the reference librarian.)

The ad was included with lots of others for clothiers, tailors, jewelers, florists, music lessons and instruments, elocutionists, schools, caterers, druggists, doctors—and theaters and other places of amusement. Pretty much all the sorts of things the crème de la crème might need. Of course, regular Baltimoreans would have patronized many of the same businesses too.

As Ellen said in her post, one puzzling aspect of Lehmann’s was the various street numbers used. This ad gives the address as 852, 854, and 856 Howard St. The address that’s given throughout the minutes (the name “Lehmann’s Hall” only appears two or three times throughout the year or so when the club used it as their primary meeting place) is 861 Garden St. So what gives?

Some historical maps of Baltimore provide the answer. First, a glance at the 1901-1902 Sanborn fire insurance map of Baltimore shows that Lehmann’s Hall actually faced both N. Howard and Linden Ave.

Sanborn map
Detail of 1901 Sanborn Fire Insurance map, area east of Eutaw and west of Park, just north of Madison St.

If you squint, you can see that the street number given for the northwest corner of the hall is 861 Linden, and on Howard the street numbers jump from 850 for the building next door to the south of Lehmann’s, to 860 for the building just north of the hall. So Lehmann’s would have occupied 852, 854, and 856—and 858, for that matter! Howard St. Since Howard would have been the more “commercial” side, that’s probably why they listed these addresses in the Blue Book.

But the WLCB minutes say, repeatedly, that they met at 861 Garden St. The map gives the address as 861 Linden. Well, another map I found solves this answer. (I found the same street name on the 1890 Sanborn map also, but was unable to get an image that would reproduce online.)

Garden St.
Detail of map showing Linden St. named Garden St.

So that’s one problem solved. But a question I had about this hall was why they didn’t continue meeting there after their first season. The minutes from 1890-1891 indicate that the Club does not want to keep meeting there, but don’t say why. (And eventually they arrange to meet at halls provided by the Academy of Sciences, which would host them for years afterward.)

This ad provides some answers, but also raises more questions.

The ad states that they have “restored these Halls to their former neat and attractive appearance.” So clearly the halls had not been neat and attractive, even by admission of the halls’ proprietor, Edward G. Lehmann, in recent memory. Perhaps the ladies of the Club felt that though the halls were sufficiently decent in 1890 when the Club started meeting there, they lacked the caché of a more dignified space. Or perhaps they worried that their activities would be seen as outré or somehow disreputable, given other activities that had previously gone on at this address.

The ad also lists the sorts of events they hope to attract: “Germans, balls, soirées, weddings, and other Social Entertainments.” Now what, exactly, are Germans?

A close look at the map shows that across the street from Lehmann’s was “Deichman College.” A little digging shows that Deichmann College Prep School was one of several German-language high schools located in Baltimore at the time (that’s a subject for another post!). So perhaps the “Germans” had something to do with, well, Germans? And maybe this association with a particular ethnic group made the halls less appealing to the blue-blooded members of the Club?

Further searching indicates that “Germans” did and did not have to do with actual Germans. They were not an event for Germans, but rather a kind of social event originating in Germany. Short for German cotillion, they were events involving dancing and other games. So it would be a sort of ball or soirée geared at the social set that made up the Blue Book’s audience.

Certainly the minutes reveal that the meetings of the WLBC could be considered “Social Entertainments.” But perhaps the Club didn’t want to make that aspect of their activities so obvious.