Answers about Aberdeen history found in saved family records

How often do we pass one of our Aberdeen public buildings with dates or messages stamped upon their exteriors? Do you wonder how, or why, they are part of the structure?

Probably the most obvious stamping is on the First National Bank building, built in 1919, on the corner of West Bel Air Avenue and Howard Street. It appears on the northeast side of the brick building at eye level.

The answer to our question came into the Aberdeen Room Archives and Museum with boxes of family records brought by Wiley Mitchell. Among the family treasures is a letter from the U.S. Department of the Interior Geological Survey, in Washington, D.C., to Mr. Ryland Lee Mitchell at the First National Bank in Aberdeen.

The letter was in reply to Mr. Mitchell's letter in November of 1937, "500 feet northwest of the Pennsylvania Railroad Station, on the ledge below the east window on the front of the First National Bank about 3.5 feet above the sidewalk, standard tablet, altitude above sea level 82.815 feet." This was the answer to Mr. Mitchell's request. The letter explained that steel dies were sent under separate cover for numbers 8 and 3, in order that the figure of altitude, 83 feet above sea level, may be stamped upon the particular tablet.

The Department of the Interior Geological Survey explained that they did not have anyone available to do the work, but requested that the bank do a rubbing of the finished process, and send it to them for their permanent records.

All was completed by Mr. Mitchell and the First National Bank in 1937. Now, when we pass that familiar historic structure in the middle of the city, we know why and how we know our altitude.

Remember the years of food and gasoline rationing? Included are ration books sent to Ryland and Elizabeth Mitchell from the Office of War Price Rationing Board in March 1945, in the Colonial Motors Building in Aberdeen.

There are also photos of the flooded fields of corn on the Mitchell farm after a very heavy summer storm in July 1935. The fields in the photos were on the main road to Aberdeen Proving Ground. There is also a postcard of the Bata Shoe Company.

Among the records is a program from the Thirteenth Annual Banquet of the Aberdeen Fire Department in April 1941. The president was John G. Tarring, vice president was Frank E. Baker, secretary-treasurer was Charles Spang. Raymond Budnick was chief and assistant was Jesse Burkentine. The menu consisted of roast turkey and all the trimmings.

Again, advertisements of businesses were very interesting. There were Kroh's Laundry in Bel Air, City Tailors on Howard Street in Aberdeen, Frank Maxa and Son Sand and Gravel in Aberdeen, Bata Shoe Company in Belcamp, Lee's Buick Garage in Perryman, Academy Restaurant and Recreational Center on North Philadelphia Boulevard, Grier's Esso Service Station, D.F. Rowe and Son Chevrolet.

There is a certificate to Annabel Mitchell for completing the American Red Cross Home Nursing Course in June 1942.

There is a letter from E. Wilson Aarronson, Clerk of the Town of Aberdeen, confirming R. Lee Mitchell's candidate for commissioner of Aberdeen, March 1944. There is also a copy of the May, 1944 Aberdeen Town Commissioner official ballot. Names on it were Frank Baker, Craig Bouzarth, J. Wilmer Cronin, R. Lee Mitchell, C. Curtis Morgan, D. Walter Rowe, Earl Schmechel, Cris Smith and Frank Standiford.

There is a letter announcing that on June 24, 1944 the Ford Motor Agency would be conducted under the name of John H. Smith Motor Company and operated by Emily Smith, G. Walter Smith and Walter J. Toal.

Susan Osborn completes walking tours in many areas of the United States, and she brings in the latest Aberdeen Tours conducted by the walking groups in Aberdeen, Maryland YRE 1894 6 & 7 KM Walking Trail and map. Files are kept in the Aberdeen Room of the Aberdeen Walking Tours.

Among our own records we found photos of the Aberdeen Room's first location in 1987 in the basement of the old Aberdeen Elementary School basement. They were carefully placed in the binder of events of 1987 in the museum library.

Plans are being made to include another open day for the Aberdeen Room in the near future. Anyone interested in volunteering, please call 410-273-6325, visit at 19 Howard St. or e mail at

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