Transportation Tuesday – B&O Centenary Pageant, 1927

Ladies in nymph-like attire twirling and leaping through fields – sounds like the turn of the century pageantry movement to me. The Centenary Pageant in 1927 for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad is a rather late occurrence of this type of display of civic and industrial pride. Part artistic endeavor and part technological exhibition, Baltimore and Ohio set up a location for the festival at Halethorpe near Baltimore.

The pageant, staged each afternoon of the festival, melded historical displays and demonstrations of historic equipment. Company musical groups made up the cast of the pageant, including the Women’s Music Club, the Men’s Glee Club, and the Mount Clare Band, with the addition of some outside performers. The Baltimore Sun captured women wearing vintage clothing from the 1830s and members of the Blackfeet tribe that camped on the festival grounds.

Interestingly, the B & O intended the buildings in Halethorpe to house and display their historic collections. In 1935, an intense storm toppled the buildings. Eventually, the B & O Museum opened on the Mount Clare site in Baltimore. The collapse of the B&O Museum roundhouse roof in 2001 in an ice storm likely means some of their collections have weathered more than one disaster. Restoration of the damaged works continues today.

See a fascinating short film by Eastman Kodak of the Pageant here. The first half, showing men and women in historic clothing riding on stage coaches and scrambling down from the first locomotives is followed by a timeline of rail equipment.

For more reading, see David Shackleford’s The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in Maryland and David Vrooman’s Daniel Willard and Progressive Management on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

The Baltimore Sun, Sept. 20, 1927. Is the woman on the right wearing 1830s dress? Her gigot sleeves and higher waistline with inverted box pleats and her large brimmed bonnet may point to great-grandmother’s wardrobe as the source (check out the hem detail though).

Event site at Halethorpe along B&O’s Main Line. Photo: Baltimore Sun. Sept 14, 1927.