15 Things You Might Not Know About Maryland
1. Maryland was tired of Randy Newman well before his music filled the soundtracks of every other Pixar movie. In 1978, a bill was introduced to outlaw the radio broadcast of Newman’s Little Criminals song “Short People.” The satirical number, which appropriates the absurdity of racism by voicing a distaste for the vertically challenged, left a sour taste in the mouths of some Marylanders who took Newman’s ironic lyrics sincerely. Nonetheless, the bill never made it to law.
2. The townsfolk of St. Michaels, Maryland, have always been a crafty bunch. According to local legend, in order to deflect attack during the War of 1812, the citizens of the waterside town hung lanterns high in the treetops to create the illusion of high-rise residences. When the British opened fire on the town one night in 1813, soldiers aimed for the specks of illumination, missing the village below altogether. In fact, only one home suffered damages. Today, this Mulberry Street luxury home is still affectionately called the "Cannonball House."
3. A good two centuries before Colorado’s great “balloon boy hoax,” Maryland played host to the real thing: 13-year-old Baltimorean Edward Warren supposedly set off for the wild blue yonder on June 23, 1784, making history with the first successfully manned hot air balloon launch in the United States. The first in the world had occurred less than a year earlier—November of 1783—piloted by French science teacher Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier.
4. Washington D.C. lawyer Francis Scott Key penned our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” after watching Britain’s navy attack Fort McHenry at Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812.
5. While we still haven’t figured out a failsafe method for hiding our Facebook passwords from vengeful exes, Maryland at least managed to safeguard our social media reputations from a different community: our bosses. In 2012, the country saw a trend of supervisors demanding access to employees’ Facebook and Twitter pages, hoping to keep all content “appropriate.” Shortly after this pattern hit the public eye, Maryland became the first state to ban companies from requesting passwords from their workers.
6. Garrett Park, Maryland, has long been a proponent of peaceful living. In the late 1800s, the town illegalized the hunting or harming of any songbirds within city limits. All other birds, rabbits, and squirrels were later added to its league of protected creatures. An extension of this nonviolent mindset came into being in 1982, when Garrett Park became one of the first American cities to declare itself a “nuclear-free zone”—an area in which nuclear weapons and power plants are prohibited. Maryland’s Sykesville and Takoma Park followed suit soon afterward.
7. You can thank Maryland for that impossibly catchy Rihanna song, Mary Poppins’ principal means of transport, and a colorful How I Met Your Mother plot device … oh, and for keeping you dry in the rain. Umbrellas were first produced in America thanks to German artisan and entrepreneur Francis T. Beehler, whose Beehler Umbrella House (also known as the Beehler Umbrella Factory and Beehler Umbrella Company) opened its doors in Baltimore in the 1880s.
8. On the subject of rain, Maryland actually takes a pretty unique course of action when stormy weather hits: they tax it. In 2012, Maryland became the first state to institute a tax related to rainfall. Citizens in nine counties throughout Maryland, plus the city of Baltimore, are charged annually for roofs, sidewalks, and other surfaces on their property, all in an effort to render the state more environmentally sound.
9. The official state sport of Maryland? Jousting.
10. As if there was any doubt, Maryland is responsible for the largest crab cake ever witnessed by human eyes. In 2012, the Salisbury-based seafood company Handy International brought a 300-pound crab cake (consisting of about 200 pounds of crab meat, which equates roughly to 1,600 crabs) to the Maryland State Fair, earning a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
11. Following the release of The Blair Witch Project in 1999, horror fans the nation over would travel in droves to the film’s setting of Burkittsville, Maryland (the movie was actually shot in the nearby Seneca Creek State Park), hoping to investigate the site of the film’s inspiration. Little did they know, there was no true story, no urban legend, and no precedent whatsoever for the Blair Witch conceit. Writer/producer Greg Hale, writer Eduardo Sanchez, and producer Robin Cowie weren’t even from Maryland (but Alabama, Cuba, and Georgia, respectively).
12. Only a single fleet of commercial sailing vessels—ships ordained to transport goods or passengers (recreational cruises not included)—remains in all of North America: the skipjacks of Chesapeake Bay’s Tilghman Island. Their main operative is oyster dredging.
13. Egg consumption aside, Easter season is a dangerous time of year for baby birds. Families are often inspired to take in the cute little critters as pets, only to neglect them once their Easter baskets are found and egg hunts are complete. Maryland takes this transgression seriously, outlawing the sale of chicks or changing their natural color.
14. In 1902, Maryland led the charge in statewide worker’s compensation, becoming the first in the nation to institute the practice. Four years later, the U.S. passed its first federal law recognizing the program. By 1949, every state in America had adopted some variation of worker’s comp.
15. Thistle, cute and seemingly innocuous though it may be, is apparently a big problem in Maryland. In 1987, the state’s Department of Agriculture outlawed the growth of thistle on domestic property, fearing the parasitic relationship that the plant seems to have with other fauna. Maryland has employed six types of insects, two diseases, and herbicides in an attempt to keep the weed at bay.