For over two hundred years Baltimore has been called “The Monumental City.” Since the 1970s it has been believed that this moniker was dubbed by President John Quincy Adams when he visited Baltimore in 1827, and toasted the city with the name. New scholarship reveals that Adams did not coin the term but, in fact, used one that had been in circulation for several years. Scholar Dr. Lance Humphries discovered that the phrase was apparently first used in print in 1823 by Joseph Gales, the editor of the National Intelligencer in nearby Washington, DC.
The nickname emerged out of regional jealousies between Washington and Baltimore. While the former was the new capital of the country, it was in shambles after the War of 1812, out of which Baltimore not only emerged unscathed—but within several years began construction on the first Monument dedicated to George Washington, and by extension, American national independence. While Gales’ use of the phrase was ironic, within months it became an honorific title—deemed appropriate for the first city to erect a monumental memorial to the founding of the United States.