My Winning Poster

Yesterday, I presented a poster in the College of Earth and Mineral Science’s 2nd Annual Undergraduate Poster Contest. Today, I found out that my poster was selected for the Freshman Award! I was very surprised, and figured that this would be an excellent topic to blog about.

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Figure 1: A Picture of my poster

The poster was entitled Streetcars: The Start of the Suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland. In the poster I argue that the streetcar system of Baltimore started the beginning of suburbanization in Baltimore. For years, I had thought that the suburbs had only developed after the Second World War. But I couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Streetcar lines originally began as horse-drawn wagons with lots of seats on them for passengers in the 1870’s. By the 1890’s electrified line were in place, extending to the edge of the city. It was at this point that suburban development began. Homes were built in some of the first “planned communities” in the US, and they were connected to the city by streetcars. As time when on, more lines were built along with more suburbs. By 1923, Baltimore’s streetcar system was of the oldest and most comprehensive in the nation.

What I did was help prove that the suburbs were started with the expansion of the Streetcar system by mapping it. I took Figure 2 and Figure 3 to create Map 1 in Adobe Illustrator.

Figure 2

 Figure 2: Map of the Streetcar lines in Baltimore, 1923


Figure 3: Map of Development in Baltimore from 1818-1918

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Map 1: Map of the streetcar lines of Baltimore overlaid with extent of development in 1918.

As you can see from Map 1, it is clear that suburban development was tied to the rise of the streetcars in Baltimore. After 1874, the amount of development in the city more than doubles, and additionally there are now parts of the city that are discontinuous from the main area of development. These areas, once independent towns, became suburban bedroom communities because of these streetcar lines. Thus, it is clear that the suburbs grew long before it automobile was introduced. It was the streetcar system started the suburbs, automobiles became a major player in the 1910’s picking up where the streetcar lines ended.


Arnold, J. (1978). Suburban growth and municipal annexation in Baltimore, 1745-1918. Maryland Historical Magazine, 73(2).

Baltimore Sun. (1952, November 25). Annex more area, Baltimore urged: Or merge with county to ease congestion, Flynn proposes. The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved from ProQuest Historical Newspapers

Collection of Pinto, Anthony F. Photograph. Ca 1940’s. Roland Park, Maryland.

Collection of Goldsmith, Leslie. “Car #5388. Route 24 to Lakeside.” Photograph. Ca 1940’s. Roland Park, Maryland.

Harwood, H. (2003). Baltimore streetcars: the postwar years. (Revised Edition ed., Front Cover). Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Holcomb, Eric L, Kotarba, Kathleen G. 2005. The city as a suburb: A history of northeast Baltimore since 1660. Staunton, VA: Center for American Places

Watson, M. (1932, July 31). The street car’s troublesome plight: Our lines are not alone. The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved from ProQuest Historical Newspapers Database

Whittle, C. (1973). Who made all our streetcars go? The story of rail transit in Baltimore. (p. Front Cover). Baltimore, Maryland: Baltimore National Railway Historical Society Publications.


  1. Neel Thakur says:

    Congratulations on winning your competition! After having seen your poster, I can definitely understand why they chose you. For my Engineering Design class, I too have had to design a lot of posters. I know there is a lot of stuff that you have to take into consideration such as the font used, the size of the text, the colors, the placement of pictures and making everything easy to understand. And your poster seems to do all of the exceptionally well. And the topic you picked seems pretty interesting too. It doesn’t surprise me too much that streetcars would lead to urbanization, but it would not have the first thing I would have guessed. And it’s really cool to see how you used maps to prove your point.

  2. Bronson Ford says:

    Congratulations on winning the Freshman Award for your poster! I found this to be quite interesting for a number of reasons. First, I am wowed once again by the power of maps. Whether we readily realize it or not, maps can highlight and explain common phenomena very easily, and this is just another example of that trend. Second, the idea of your poster, that suburban develop actually began long before the post World War II era, also surprised me with the fact that suburban development trends like those actually began before what is most commonly believed to be the beginning era. In addition to amazing trends like those, what other peculiarities can maps explain?

  3. Congratulations! You definitely earned that award! How did you come up with your poster’s topic? It was really interesting, and I don’t think most people usually think about the beginnings of suburbanization at all. I was surprised by the amount of correlation between the streetcar lines and development, but it does make sense that the two would be highly interrelated. Are there any other cities whose suburban development might have followed a course similar to Baltimore’s? Do you plan to keep creating posters and maps like this one?

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