Maryland Day is a legal holiday in the U.S. state of Maryland observed on the anniversary of the March 25, 1634, landing of the first European settlers in the Province of Maryland, the third English colony to be settled in British North America. On this day, settlers from the Ark and the smaller Dove first stepped foot onto Maryland soil, at St. Clement’s Island (also known as Blakistone Island) on the north shore of the Potomac River, across from Virginia’s northern border. They had sailed from Cowes on the Isle of Wight in England four months earlier. The island was a convenient, temporary base of operations as the settlers negotiated with the Yaocomico Native Americans for land for a permanent settlement.
George Calvert, 1st Baron Baltimore, applied to King Charles I of England for a royal charter for what was to become the Province of Maryland. After Calvert died in April 1632, the charter for Maryland Colony (Terra Mariae in Latin) was granted to his son, Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore, on June 20, 1632. This was a proprietary colony of about twelve million acres (49,000 km²). Some historians view this grant as a form of compensation for Calvert’s father’s having been stripped of his title of Secretary of State upon announcing his Roman Catholicism in 1625. The charter offered no guidelines on religion, although it was assumed that Catholics would not be molested in the new colony.
Whatever the reason for granting the colony specifically to Baltimore, the King had practical reasons to create a colony north of the Potomac in 1632. The colony of New Netherland begun by England’s great imperial rival in this era, the United Provinces, specifically claimed the Delaware River valley and was vague about its border with Virginia. Charles rejected all the Dutch claims on the Atlantic seaboard, but was anxious to bolster English claims by formally occupying the territory.
Officially the colony is said to be named in honor of the devoutly Catholic Henrietta Maria of France, the Queen Consort, by an agreement between George Calvert and King Charles I. Some Catholic scholars believe that George Calvert named the province after Mary, the mother of Jesus. The name in the charter was phrased Terra Mariae, anglice, Maryland. The English name was preferred due to the undesired associations of Mariae with the Spanish Jesuit Juan de Mariana, linked to the Inquisition.
Colonial Maryland was considerably larger than the later State of Maryland. The original charter granted the Calverts a province with a boundary line that started “from the promontory or headland, called Watkin’s Point, situate upon the bay aforesaid near the river Wighco on the West, unto the main ocean on the east; and between that boundary on the south, unto that part of the bay of Delaware on the north, which lyeth under the 40th degree of north latitude from the aequinoctial, where New England is terminated.” The boundary line would then continue westward along the fortieth parallel “unto the true meridian of the first fountain of the river Pattowmack”. From there, the boundary continued south to the southern bank of the Potomac River, continue along the southern river bank to the Chesapeake Bay, and “thence by the shortest line unto the aforesaid promontory, or place, called Watkin’s Point.” Based on this deceptively imprecise description of the boundary, the land may have comprised up to 18,750 square miles (48,600 km²).
In Maryland, Calvert sought to create a haven for English Catholics and to demonstrate that Catholics and Protestants could live together peacefully, even issuing the Act Concerning Religion in matters of religion. Cecil Calvert was himself a convert to Catholicism, a considerable political setback for a nobleman in 17th century England, where Roman Catholics could easily be considered enemies of the crown and potential traitors to their country. Like other aristocratic proprietors, he also hoped to turn a profit on the new colony.
The Calvert family recruited Catholic aristocrats and Protestant settlers for Maryland, luring them with generous land grants and a policy of religious toleration. To try to gain settlers, Maryland used what is known as the headright system, which originated in Jamestown. Settlers were given 50 acres (20 ha) of land for each person they brought into the colony, whether as settler, indentured servant, or slave. Led by Leonard Calvert, Cecil Calvert’s younger brother, the first settlers departed from England in late 1633 aboard two small ships.
The Ark was a 400-ton English merchant ship launched around 1630 and hired by Cecil Calvert for the voyage to Maryland. The three-masted ship had a length of approximately 132 feet on deck, a beam of 32 feet and a draft of 14-15 feet. She carried a complement of approximately 40 seamen. The Dove was much smaller. Actual dimensions of the original vessel are unknown but a recreation/replica was designed by the naval architect and naval historian William A. Baker. Launched in 1978, Maryland Dove is 56 feet in length on deck, and 76 feet overall with a displacement of 42 tons. She was built by James B. Richardson in a shipyard near Cambridge, Maryland in Dorchester County. Her home port is St. Mary’s City, Maryland. The Maryland Dove was used extensively to represent the Mayflower in the 1979 made for TV film Mayflower: The Pilgrims Adventure starring Anthony Hopkins as Captain Jones as well as Richard Crenna and Jenny Aguttar.
The Ark and the Dove departed Gravesend, in Kent downstream from London, with 128 settlers on board and, after being chased down and brought back by the British Royal Navy so that the departing settlers could take an oath of allegiance to the King of England as required by law, sailed in October 1633 for Cowes on the Isle of Wight to pick up more settlers.
At the Isle of Wight, the two ships embarked again with two Jesuit (Society of Jesus) priests/chaplains and nearly two hundred more settlers before setting out across the Atlantic. Since he could not lead the expedition himself, Baltimore sent detailed instructions for the governance of the Colony, including commands that his brothers seek any information about those who had earlier tried to thwart the granting of the colony and make contact with William Claiborne (previously settled from Province of Virginia on Kent Island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay) to determine his intentions for the trading station on Kent Island. The instructions also emphasized the importance of religious toleration among the colonists, who were nearly equal parts Catholic and Protestant. With these last instructions, the expedition sailed for the Americas on November 22, 1633.
Three days later, a storm in the English Channel separated Ark from Dove. When Dove disappeared from view, she was flying distress lanterns, and those aboard Ark assumed she had sunk in the storm. A second more violent storm hit the Ark on November 29 and lasted three days, finally subsiding on December 1. In the midst of the storm, the mainsail was split in half and the crew was forced to tie down the tiller and whipstaff so the ship lay ahull’, keeping her bow to the wind and waves as she drifted. This was the last bad weather Ark encountered on the trans-Atlantic voyage.
On the December 25, wine was passed out to celebrate Christmas. The following day, 30 colonists fell ill with a fever brought on by excessive drinking and 12 died, including two of the Roman Catholic colonists. These were the only losses suffered on the voyage. On January 3, 1634, Ark arrived at the island of Barbados in the West Indies after a voyage of 42 days from England. About two weeks later, Dove arrived. As it later developed, the Dove had been able to reach the shelter of Plymouth harbor where she rode out the storm.
On January 24, 1634, the ships departed Barbados. An earlier departure was intended, but was delayed because Richard Orchard, master of the Dove had departed inland to collect some debts and could not be found on the intended sailing date. After making a few other stops in the Caribbean Sea, on February 24, the ships arrived at Point Comfort at the mouths of the James, Nansemond, and Elizabeth rivers, which formed the great harbor of Hampton Roads in Virginia. This ended their ocean voyage which had lasted slightly over three months, of which 66 days were actually spent at sea. The two ships briefly stopped in Jamestown, Virginia, up the James River.
After a week’s stay, the Calvert colonists then sailed northward up the large expanse of the Bay, landing on an on the north shore of the Potomac River, across from Virginia’s northern border, on March 25, 1634, thereafter celebrated annually in the colony and free State as Maryland Day. A large cross was planted, claiming the land in the name of Charles I, King of England. They named the island in honor of Pope Saint Clement I, patron of mariners. The first group of colonists consisted of 17 gentlemen and their wives, and about two hundred others, mostly indentured servants. In thanksgiving for the safe landing, Jesuit Father Andrew White led the first Roman Catholic Mass celebrated in the British-American colonies. The landing coincided with the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a major festival day in the liturgical calendar. Until 1752, when England finally adopted the Gregorian Calendar as opposed to the older, now inaccurate Julian Calendar, March 25 was the start of the civil new year hence the practice of writing dates from January 1 to March 25 as 1633/34).
The Native Americans in Maryland were a peaceful people who welcomed the English. At the time of the founding of the Maryland colony, approximately forty tribes consisting of 8,000 to 10,000 people lived in the area. They were fearful of the colonists’ guns, but welcomed trade for metal tools. The colonists gave the local Yaocomico Indians cloth, hatchets, and hoes in exchange for the right to settle on the land. The Yaocomico allowed the English settlers to live in their houses, a type of longhouse called a witchott. They also taught the colonists how to plant corn, beans, and squash, as well as where to find food such as clams and oysters.
The island measured “not above 400 acres” at the time of the settlers’ landing, according to Father White’s A Briefe Relation of the Voyage Unto Maryland. Although too small for the intended settlement, St. Clement’s Island provided a relatively secure base from which Leonard Calvert, first Governor of Maryland and younger brother of Cecilius, could explore the area and negotiate the purchase of land for the new colony. After a brief three-week stay on the island, the new Marylanders chose to settle on a bluff overlooking the St. George’s (later the St. Mary’s) River, a relatively calm, tidal tributary several miles southeast from St. Clement’s and about 12 miles northwest from Point Lookout, where the Potomac River enters the Chesapeake Bay. The site was already a Native American village when they arrived, occupied by members of the Yaocomico branch of the Piscataway Indian Nation, but the settlers had with them a former Virginia colonist who was fluent in their language and they met quickly with the paramount chief of the region. The Tayac Kittamaquund, paramount chief of the Piscataway Indian Nation, ordered the village cleared and sold 30 acres of land to the English newcomers. He wanted to develop them as allies and trading partners (especially because of their advanced technology — farming implements, metal-working, gunpowder and weapons, types of food and liquor, etc.). For some time, the Piscataway, their tributary tribes, and the English Marylanders coexisted peacefully.
St. Mary’s City was officially named and founded on the site of the new settlement on March 27, 1634. There is not complete agreement on the etymology of the name, but a larger percentage of historians believe that the name of the settlement was supposed to be in honor of the Virgin Mary. The original group of settlers numbered 300, mostly English and also some Irish. There may also have been at least one mixed race (African and European heritage) indentured servant who had been picked up on the way over in Barbados. There were also other indentured servants from England and Ireland. The group was a mix of Catholics and Protestants during a time of religious persecution of Catholics in the British Isles. Leonard Calvert, himself a Roman Catholic, became the governor of the new colony and continued to lead the settlers. St. Mary’s City became the capital of the new Maryland colony, and remained so for sixty-one years until 1694.
Maryland soon became one of the few predominantly Catholic regions among the English colonies in North America. Maryland was also one of the key destinations where the government sent tens of thousands of English convicts punished by sentences of transportation. Such punishment persisted until the Revolutionary War. The Maryland Toleration Act, issued in 1649, was one of the first laws that explicitly defined tolerance of varieties of Christianity.
In the early summer of 1634, the Ark returned to England. The Dove, which had been also purchased by Calvert and the gentry investors in the new colony, remained for the settlers’ use in and around the Bay and coasts of Maryland. In August 1635, the Dove sailed for England carrying timber and beaver pelts, but she never arrived home and was presumed lost in a storm.
St. Clement’s Manor was granted by the Second Lord Baltimore to Dr. Thomas Gerard in 1639 and included St. Clement’s Island. Gerard subsequently became a major landholder and political figure in Maryland and Virginia. After the island became the property of Gerard’s daughter Elizabeth, the wife of Nehemiah Blackistone, it became known as Blackistone Island. After the Blackistone family took ownership in 1669, the island remained in the family for 162 years. It was taken over by the U.S. Navy in 1919, at which time a landing strip and piers were built while the island’s buildings and trees were removed. In 1962, the property was designated as a state park when it was leased from the Federal government and its name reverted to St. Clement’s Island. The name change was made official by the Board of Geographic Names in 1965.
The island’s 40-foot stone cross was erected in 1934 in celebration of Maryland’s 300th anniversary, recognizing the location as one of the foundation sites of religious toleration in the United States. A replica of the Blakistone Island Light was completed in 2008 through the efforts of the St. Clement’s Hundred community organization. The original lighthouse occupied the island from 1851 until 1956 when it was destroyed by fire.
St. Clement’s Island State Park encompasses the island lying one-half mile southeast of Colton’s Point, St. Mary’s County, Maryland. It is the central feature of the St. Clement’s Island Historic District that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The island is only accessible by private boat or via a water taxi that operates seasonally from the St. Clement’s Island Museum in Colton’s Point. Activities on the island include hiking, picnicking, fishing, and hunting. Camping facilities are available, though camping on the island is forbidden without a permit.
Maryland Day on March 25 began its official observance in 1903, the date chosen by the State’s Board of Education to honor Maryland history and to increase the teaching of state and local histories in the public schools. In 1916, the General Assembly (state legislature) authorized Maryland Day as a legal holiday (Chapter 633, Acts of 1916).
Ceremonies, activities, historical pageants and other commemorative events are held annually in Historic St. Mary’s City, the site of several reconstructed provincial and colonial structures including the first State House with a tourism/historical agency which runs operations and provides interpretative information. This was where the first sessions of the General Assembly of Maryland were held, over 375 years ago. An annual ceremony is held at the base of the 1908 statue of Cecilius Calvert on the steps of the west front of the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse facing St. Paul Street with the ceremony continuing further inside in a ceremonial courtroom.
On April 11, 1929, the General Assembly of Maryland approved the appointment of a Maryland Tercentenary Commission. Within a month, prominent Baltimore stamp collector Michael L. Miller had been appointed as Stamp Consultant to the commission and prepared a few preliminary designs. A formal request for a stamp to mark Maryland’s 300th anniversary was made in April 1933 to Postmaster General James A. Farley but little came of it. Miller continued his efforts and on February 2, 1934, received an approval letter from fellow stamp collector and President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
On February 6, 1934, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was ordered to design a Maryland Tercentenary stamp. The details were announced by Postmaster General Farley on February 28 and an official press release was issued on March 2:
The stamp is of the same size and shape as the regular issue, 0.75 inch by 0.87 inch in dimension, arranged horizontally. It is enclosed in a narrow double-line border. Within a narrow panel across the top of the stamp is the wording “Maryland Tercentenary” in white roman, on a solid background. In the widened ends of the panel are the dates “”1634” at the left and “1934” at the right in white gothic. The panel is supported by ornamental brackets at either end. The color of this stamp will be announced later.
The central design is a representation of the two sailing vessels on which the first Maryland colony came to America. On a curved ribbon at the left of the central design is the inscription “The Ark and the Dove” in dark Old English lettering. In a corresponding position at the right is the Maryland coat of arms. Within circular panels with white borders and solid background in both lower corners is the large denomination numeral “3“. Between the circles along the bottom of the stamp in a narrow panel with white edges and solid background and arranged in two lines is the wording “U.S. Postage” and “Three Cents.”
The Maryland Tercentenary stamp will be first placed on sale at the post office in St. Marys City, Md., on Mar. 23, 1934, where the first settlement was located. The new stamp will be placed on sale at other post offices beginning March 24, or as soon thereafter as production will permit.
Among the designs prepared by Michael L. Miller and presented with the original petition for the Maryland stamp included one portraying a portrait of Cecil Calvert and another illustrating the Maryland State House. Others included various colonial seals. Also submitted with the petition was a woodcut prepared by Edwin Tunis picturing the Ark and the Dove. Bureau designer Victor S. McCloskey prepared a design based on C.Y. Turner’s mural, Barter with the Indians but this, too, was rejected.
The design used was created by A.R. Meissner from a half-tone print of a drawing by Edwin Tunis that had been used on the cover of a pamphlet published by the Maryland Tercentenary Commission. The model was submitted on February 21, 1934, and the die proof was approved by Acting Postmaster General W.W. Howes on March 10. The vignette was engraved by J.C. Benzing and the frame and lettering engraved by E.M. Hall of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
It wasn’t until March 12 that the United States Post Office Department announced that the color for Scott #736 would be “red on a white background.” The stamps were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing on flat bed presses in sheets of 400 subjects each, divided into panes of 100 by horizontal and vertical guide lines terminated by arrows. For issuance to post offices, the full sheets were cut along these guide lines into panes of 100. The initial printing took place on March 14, 1934, reported by the Associated Press as having included a ceremony in which the first sheet was presented to David C. Winebrenner III, Maryland’s Secretary of State, by Postmaster General Farley:
“Because of laws prohibiting the distribution of stamps except by sale through regular channels, Winebrenner was compelled to return the first sheet from the press to the bureau.”
Printing of these stamps was started with only plates #21188-21191 being ready. Two other plates were added to the press on March 15 with the last four being sent to press on March 20. The first stamps were delivered to the St. Mary’s City post office on March 16 and placed on public sale on March 23. A total of 447,500 stamps were sold on the first day with a total of 148,785 covers cancelled. In all, 46,258,300 stamps were issued out of the initial 50,000,000 ordered to be printed. Due to the poor perforations and the speed with which the stamps disappeared from post office stocks, it became immediately apparent that well-centered copies would command considerable premium. In spite of the speed in which plates were made, only significant varieties were discovered, a double transfer and a misplaced entry.
The fact that the stamps were printed in red instead of the purple usually used for the 3-cent denomination at that time caused considerable confusion. In the rapid handling of mail, the stamp was often mistaken for a 2-cent value and many addressees received their mail with a 1-cent postage due stamp affixed. Criticism was levied at the Post Office Department and it was believed that the stamp would soon be withdrawn and replaced by another color. This was not done and the stamps remained on sale until the supply was exhausted.