An old Bel Air Christmas

In searching for something special for the holiday season, I came across this poem, provided by Jim Chrismer, taken from The Aegis and Intelligencer. There was no date and the author is only listed by initials, but I thought it would be fun to share this "Christmas card" with you. Enjoy and have a wonderful holiday season as you walk through 19th century Bel Air.

– Carol Deibel

Bel Air Business Directory

By W. T. S.

Ye strangers who may come to town

We're glad to see your faces,

Please notice our directory

Ere you visit business places.


For all your wants, these 'Christmas times,'

We've made provision ample,

Call round and see, (and bring your dimes,)

We're pleased to show a sample.


And when with business you've got through

Or before you have begun, sir,

You may have an inclination to

Regale the "inner man" sir.


So if your "whistle dry" should feel,

Stop on Courtland Street and wet it,

And if you want a good, square meal,

Down at Hanna's you can get it.


The Hotels on the other street

All set out tempting diet,

If you want something good to eat,

Just call around and try it.


Next yet you want a good segar,

Made of tobacco ripe sir,

Go to Archer's - that's not far:

Or will you get a pipe sir?


At his place you will also find

An assortment of hardware,

And Mr. Ames is inclined

To deal with you "snug and fair."


Your list next calls for "shoes and boots;"

At Mr. Knoller's look around

If you find nothing there that suits

There are other shops "up town."


To do your sewing all the year,

With expedition rarely seen,

Go to Robinson and Barton here,

And buy a "Weed" Machine.


Norris & Bro. have a full stock

In woolens and in cotton

If you want a watch-key or a clock

Call in next door on Watten.


Yes, Watten, he can furnish time,

So visit all the places;

Just call in at the bonnet stores

For ribbons and for laces.


And if you want an overcoat

Try Armstrong, he makes rousers,

Nolan can fit you on a vest,

And Groome will make your trousers.


If, you've not found the thing you want

Be easy, never mind it,

But quietly just wend your way

To Herman's, there you'll find it.


Find him at his old business stand

(He has to pay not rent,)

And take your greenbacks in your hand,

He'll knock off "five per cent."


You next will call on Tommy Kerr,

For butter pans and paddles,

Mr. Fulton keeps nice carriage gear,

And also makes good saddles.


If your carriage will no longer stand,

And you wish to get another

Just call around with cash in hand

On John Hanna and his brother.


And if you want to advertise

Call on Rutledge or on Baker,

Of Martin get your Christmas Pies

Down by Dean's the undertaker.


Garrison sells paint, plain or gay,

Wall paper, bright or pale,

And Mr. Spicer o'er the way

Will hand you out your mail.


Now you can read the foreign news,

Of shipwreck or of battle;

Friend Jeffrey will mend your shoes

And Joe Coale buys your cattle.


Bouldin will sell your bread or flour,

And yeast to make it rise.

Cohen or Prigg sell "seasoning"

For pudding and mince pies.


At Del Haven's shops they'll shoe your mule,

Make a horse-cart or a harrow,

And if you'd like to wheel around

They'll make you a wheel-barrow.


You now for some time have been out

Seen the stores and their possessions

Let's have a "little talk" about

Our men of the professions.


If you want a powder or a pill,

Just call in on Doctor Lee.

Or there are Doctors Hall and Will;

Take your choice of the three.


Our town dentist is expert

With forceps or with lance,

But if you don't want your feelings hurt

Keep aloof from Doctor Dance.


And if you wish advice in law

To a lawyer's office go, sir,

They're the smartest fellows ere you saw,

Tell all you wish to know, sir.


We've a little fellow here, folks say,

Is a literary dabster,

For talent he'd scarcely yield to Clay,

And he stands square up to Webster.


Another who through legal lore,

Is a live, progressive marcher;

He's no marksman of a common school,

But a "crack shot," as an Archer.


There are other members of the bar,

Whose tactics all admire

Mr. Snowden is our clergyman,

His son Thomas is the squire.


And at the M. P. parsonage

You'll find a clever preacher.

And down at the Academy

P.C. Taylor is the teacher.


If on lotteries your mind should dwell

Try Hymen's happy bands, sir;

Ned Sawyer will a "ticket" sell,

And Parson Flaney "tie your hands," sir.


You see in making rhymes we fly

From one thing to another.

Regard next verse, I'll bid "good bye"

Nor give your further bother.


So now I've given you all "a card,"

Keep your conscience clear this winter,

And leave a Christmas present for the bard,

With F.W. Baker, printer.

Editor's note: Carol Deibel, author of "Bel Air Chronicles," a history of the town of Bel Air, guesses the poem was likely published sometime in the 1870s or 1880s based on some of the names she is familiar with. In addition, she notes that the references to carriages, saddlery, mules and horse-carts pre-dates the arrival of the first automobiles in Bel Air in the early 1900s. F.W. Baker, whose name is mentioned in the final stanza, was owner, publisher and editor of The Aegis & Intelligencer – later to be shortened to The Aegis – from 1864 to 1904.

Our thanks also to The Historical Society of Harford County and its executive director, Maryanna Skowronski, for furnishing this wonderful look, in photo and verse, at a Bel Air Christmas from more than a century ago.

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