Readers might conclude that they were well served by The Sun editorial page's 1971 endorsement of City Council President William Donald Schaefer for mayor. Perhaps less so by its lament that he was "not an inspiring leader" or its prediction that the city would soon "yearn for charisma" from the mayor's office.
The Sun has published editorials, usually several a day, throughout almost its entire 175-year history. That adds up to a lot of opinions about the day's news, some of which look prophetic when viewed through the prism of history, others profoundly lamentable. Here are a few highlights and lowlights of 175 years of snap judgments:
•The Civil War. In terms of the moral consequences of the paper's editorial positions, it would be difficult to do worse than The Sun's opinions leading up to the Civil War. The paper never openly advocated for Maryland to join the Confederacy, but it flirted with the idea. Once the federal government started throwing Baltimore newspaper editors in jail for pro-Confederate writings, though, The Sun began keeping its opinions to itself. (On the plus side, The Sun was, a century later, a strong proponent of the Civil Rights Act.)
•The New Deal. The Sun had things right in 1932 when it endorsed New York Gov.Franklin D. Roosevelt for president. But as it became clear what the New Deal meant — a vastly expanded role for the government in the economy — The Sun balked, eventually splitting with the president altogether. Its support (despite the lack of a formal endorsement) was no help to Kansas Gov. Alfred Landon, who lost the 1936 presidential race by the biggest electoral college landslide in history: 523-8.
•The winds of war. The Sun recognized that the 1938 Munich Agreement between Nazi Germany and the European powers would soon lead to German aggression to the east, which occurred with the 1939 invasion of Poland. The Sun was not so wise, however, as to recognize that this might ever involve the United States. The Sun did get it right in June 1939 when a ship carrying nearly 1,000 Jewish refugees was denied entry in Cuba and the U.S. An editorial called America's refusal to help them evidence that a "moral sickness" had overcome the nation.
•Harborplace. The Sun called it a "big day for the Baltimore region" when new pavilions opened at Pratt and Light streets in 1980 so that natives and tourists alike could avail themselves of "Chesapeake Bay seafood, Eastern Shore poultry ... vegetables from Western Maryland and all kinds of native craftsmanship." Or maybe Hooters and the Cheesecake Factory.
•The Orioles. The 1993 purchase of Baltimore's beloved baseball team by a group that Baltimore lawyer Peter G. Angelos headed was, The Sun opined, "a reason for great joy." That's because Mr. Angelos "promised to field a contender," and, the editorial averred, he "can deliver on his pledges." Oops.
An earlier version of this story misstated the year when Harborplace opened. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.