Coal Barons and Oyster Pirates: When Cities Made Police

Stephanie Saxton, Johns Hopkins University

This article asks, under what conditions did sub-national governments make police in the nineteenth century? In order to answer this question, I identify a pattern of police growth within Maryland, and look at three cases in depth. I argue that police departments are introduced by government actors: 1) when there is a local economic boom and, 2) economic elites are divided. Three areas of Maryland experienced an economic boom in the nineteenth century: Baltimore, the Chesapeake Bay, and Cumberland. Baltimore created a police department immediately after the arrival of the railroad in 1853. Similarly, Maryland created a state police agency to patrol the Chesapeake Bay at the onset of the oyster boom. However, Cumberland does not create a police department despite experiencing a coal boom in 1851 because economic elites in Cumberland were unified under an umbrella organization that coordinated private security. I ultimately argue that municipal governments introduce police departments when there is a local economic boom and economic elites are divided, driving the government to intervene.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 28. Money, Politics, and the State