Baltimore: The City That Innovates

Forbes recently called Baltimore one of America’s Smartest Cities, but the idea that innovators thrive here is nothing new. Shopping centers, bottle caps, and electric refrigerators are just a few things that were invented here, and this is also where the country’s first post office system got its start. Today, Baltimoreans continue to push the envelope in fields like health tech, med tech and information technology--or by starting their own ventures. Below are some examples of the ways in which Baltimore has been a hub for innovators and ideas, both in the past and in the present.

THEN: In 1816, Baltimore became the first city to illuminate streets with hydrogen gas.
NOW: Light City is the first large-scale, international light festival in the U.S. and provides the backdrop for the celebration of ideas, ingenuity and creativity through art, music and an innovation conference called Light City U. The most recent Light City event was held March 28 – April 3, 2017. Dates for 2018 haven't been announced yet.

THEN: In 1828, the B&O Railroad became the first railroad for commercial transportation of passengers and freight.
NOW: Baltimore industries are supported by a world-class transportation infrastructure; more than 10 million tons of cargo came through the Port of Baltimore in 2016 alone. Consider that Baltimore is within a day’s drive to more than one-third of the U.S. population, and it all makes sense.

THEN: In 1839, a Baltimore cannery starts tinning corn.
NOW: Baltimore startup OrderUp, a company that uses a mobile app and network of drivers to deliver restaurant food, was acquired by Groupon for $69 million.

THEN: In 1840, the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery became the first dental college in the world.
NOW: Breakthroughs happen every day at area hospitals, which rank among the top in the nation for 33 specialties according to the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore. The National Science Foundation reports Johns Hopkins has remained the No. 1 research university for 35 consecutive years.

THEN: In 1844, the first telegraph line in the world was established between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.
NOW: According to the Brookings Institution, Greater Baltimore has 283,000 STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs, which amounts to roughly one-fifth of the region’s workforce. It’s no wonder SmartAsset named Baltimore a Top City for Diversity in STEM, and Kiplinger calls Charm City a Great City for College Grads.

THEN: In 1879, the first synthetic sweetening agent--saccharine--was developed at Johns Hopkins.
NOW: Central Maryland is among the top five U.S. biotech hubs, thanks in part to Johns Hopkins’ Science + Technology Park and the University of Maryland BioPark. There are approximately 800 life sciences companies, 70 federal labs and 260,000 biohealth workers in the area, according to data from the Maryland Regional Biotech Forum and the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore.

THEN: In 1906, the first city magazine, Baltimore magazine, began circulation.
NOW: According to Atlantic’s CityLab, nearly 35 percent of Baltimore’s workforce is a member of the creative class--and growing. Artists, designers, entertainers, educators and other creators flock to the city because of it’s affordable and boasts a strong arts and culture scene.

THEN: In 1932, the Eastern Venetian Blind Company becomes the first producer of venetian blinds in the U.S.
NOW: Today, 1,700 manufacturers employ more than 57,000 workers, largely concentrated in the computer and electronic industry. 

THEN: In 1936, the first black newspaper chain, the Afro-American Newspaper, was founded.
NOW: Entrepreneurs continue turning their ideas into companies, creating jobs and bringing growth to the city. In fact, Forbes named Baltimore a Best City for Minority Entrepreneurs and calls us a Hot Startup City.

THEN: In 1946, the first photograph of earth from space was produced at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.
NOW: More information technology professionals live in the Baltimore area than in Silicon Valley, and there are more computer science graduates here than anywhere else in the country. Add to that Baltimore’s proximity to major federal institutions and military installations, and it becomes clear why Forbes has named Baltimore one of the Best Cities for Technology Jobs.

Find out more about Light City Baltimore, A Festival of Big Light and Big Ideas.