Maryland likes to think it punches above its weight. It may be small, boosters say — only the 42nd biggest state in the United States — but it is nothing less than “America in miniature.”
That, at least, is the sobriquet that has long attached itself to the Old Line State, a.k.a. the Free State, the Crab State, the Good Charlotte State or whatever else you want to call it. Last week in this space, Answer Man wrote about an America-in-Miniature that never was — the scaled-down model of the United States planned in 1964 for Gaithersburg, Md. Today, he’s interested in the America in miniature that actually is.
The description of Maryland as America in miniature dates to at least 1927, when it was used in an article in National Geographic, said Liz Fitzsimmons, managing director of Maryland’s Department of Commerce Office of Tourism and Film. The author, Gilbert Grosvenor, was speaking topographically.
Wrote Grosvenor: “The visitor to Maryland, motoring upon the thousands of miles of her splendid highways, soon discovers that the Old Line State is a delightful geographic miniature of America.”
The Eastern Shore, he wrote, was as level as the prairies, and just as fertile. The rolling green fields and forested hills of Montgomery and Frederick counties were reminiscent of Kentucky’s bluegrass country.
To the east was an ocean shore. And driving up Savage Mountain in Garrett County, Grosvenor wrote, “made many a Western motorist feel that they were as high as the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada.”
That might be a stretch, but the sobriquet must have stuck in the mind of Cumberland, Md., native Paul E. Welsh, a proud and die-hard Marylander.
In his long career, Welsh was a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, the public relations director for the Baltimore Orioles, the chair of a committee to restore Babe Ruth’s Baltimore birthplace and the public affairs manager of McCormick & Co., the spice giant that perfumes the Inner Harbor.
Cut him, and he’d probably bleed Old Bay.
In 1939, Welsh was working for the Maryland Publicity Commission. State leaders noticed that although Maryland had a vast volume of tourist traffic — third-highest in the nation — those visitors weren’t opening their wallets. That year in Virginia, 13 million visitors spent $106 million. Maryland also had roughly 13 million visitors. They spent only $41 million.
Welsh came up with the slogan “Maryland — America in Miniature,” and the Publicity Commission created two tools bearing the catchphrase: a 48-page booklet and an 18-by-31-inch map designed by Baltimore artist James R. Howard Jr.
The booklet had an introduction from Gov. Herbert R. O’Conor and was heavy on photographs. The map divided the state into five sections, each of which could be explored on a one-day driving tour: Southern Maryland’s Tidewater; the Eastern Shore and Lower Chesapeake; the Upper Chesapeake; Central Maryland’s “fertile foothills,” and Western Maryland’s mountain region.
Ads were placed in national magazines inviting readers to ask for a copy. The map and booklet each had first printings of 20,000. State officials hoped to capitalize on the release of Twentieth Century Fox’s Technicolor horse-racing drama “Maryland.”
The current Maryland tourism office wasn’t founded until 1959, and since then, “America in Miniature” has never been an official state slogan, Fitzsimmons said.
There was a move in 1963 to put the slogan on Maryland’s license plates. The Sun newspaper editorialized against it, unconvinced that any out-of-state motorist would actually be moved to visit Maryland by the slogan.
“The America-in-miniature idea, in fact, has the hollow smack of a bogus commercial come-on,” wrote the paper. “Instead of winning friends for Maryland it’s just as likely to put a hex on any potential visitors by confusing their own grasp of the natural (and unadvertised) attractions which actually exist here.”
The tag slogan was approved by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, but Answer Man found no evidence that it ever actually graced state license plates.
It must be hard to come up with a state slogan that is catchy and has staying power. For every “I love New York” or “Virginia is for lovers,” there are plenty of “Memories are made in Maryland” or “Maryland: Ooh, the state I’m in.”
When the latter replaced the former in 1981, the Baltimore Sun weighed in again, opining that “Maryland: The Slogan State” might be more appropriate.
Maryland’s current ad campaign — launched two years ago — riffs on the concept of “Open,” aligning with the state’s “We’re open for business” marketing statement that was emblazoned on welcome signs after Gov. Larry Hogan took office in 2015.
The concept began with “Maryland: Open for It!” That “it,” the tourism office’s Fitzsimmons said, means open for anything, basically.
John Kelly writes John Kelly’s Washington, a daily look at Washington’s less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section.