Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


Social networks undeniably build more cohesive ideologies between its members. Historians can better understand the path that urban reform took at the end of the nineteenth by focusing on the social networks that participated in many different reform efforts. In Baltimore, a group of elite businessmen began a variety of association and societies to aid the poor in their midst. The Charity Organization Society best combined this group of men. The Charity Organization Society of Baltimore sought to uplift the poor through advice rather than monetary aid. The group’s campaign to remove alms distribution from the police department in the mid-1880s inspired other societies and associations to call for reform in policing and punishment. This work untangles how the Charity Organization Society’s activities inspired groups like the Society for the Suppression of Vice, the Maryland Prisoners’ Aid Association, and Women’s Christian Temperance Union to force changes in methods of policing, criminal sentencing, and punishing. Most importantly is that each organization was controlled by one or more of the elite Baltimoreans that began the COS. Using annual reports from each organization, the city jail, city legislation, and newspapers, this narrative adds a new perspective on early, urban progressive reform. It especially emphasizes how Baltimore’s social network of elite reformers transformed city government structure before widespread calls for government intervention began.

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