MICA History

New Education for a New Era

1824-1835: The Beginning - Expanding Education in Baltimore

By the 1820s Baltimore was the fastest growing city in the young nation, third largest overall. It was a-buzz with the triumphant visit of the Marquis de Lafayette in 1824 and the completion of a 170-foot monument honoring George Washington the following year (the first city in the nation to do so). Merchants and manufacturers flocked to its harbor—lined with sailing vessels, steamboats and new factories signaling the arrival of the industrial revolution in America.

A handful of visionary Baltimoreans grasped the opportunity that lay before them and moved to educate people for the new age.

Historical Milestones (1824-1835)


The first mechanics’ institutes founded in London and Philadelphia—a movement sparked by the Industrial Revolution “to provide instruction…in the principles of science…[and raise] artisans to their proper place in a democratic society.”


First meeting held proposing the formation of a “Maryland Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts” in Baltimore. A key leader was the prominent lawyer and inventor, John H. B. Latrobe (1803-1891), son of celebrated architect Benjamin H. Latrobe, and an accomplished artist himself.


Maryland Institute charter granted on January 10, to: “encourage and promote the Manufactures and the Mechanic and useful Arts, by the establishment of popular lectures…a library and cabinets of models and minerals; by offering premiums for excellence in those branches of National Industry deemed worthy of encouragement; by examining new inventions…and by such other means as experience may suggest.” Athenaeum Institute begins in The Athenaeum, southwest corner of Lexington and St. Paul streets, which included a lecture hall, library, reading rooms, instructional space. Annual membership fee of $3 entitled “bearer and one lady” to lectures, library and industrial exhibitions. The Maryland Institute’s first lectures focused on chemistry, mineralogy, architecture, history, music, and the arts. School of Drawing established; fine arts classes open to women.


Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad established. Maryland Institute and the B&O shared leadership; students worked for the B&O and other railroads as draftsmen and engineers.


Maryland Institute establishes a High School to educate young mechanics under the direction of William Barton Rogers, one of its most popular science lecturers; he later founds M.I.T. in Boston.


Athenaeum destroyed by fire on February 7, during civil unrest brought about by national economic collapse. Maryland Institute’s programs are discontinued for 12 years.