On April 11, 1814, Samuel Blodget, a man who symbolized the growth and ambition of celebrated in early America, died penniless at a Baltimore hospital. Born in New Hampshire in 1757, Blodget served as a Captain in the state militia during the American Revolution then became a successful merchant in Boston. He moved to Philadelphia in 1789 where he founded the Insurance Company of North America and pursued a amateur passion for architecture with a design for the First Bank of the United States (1795). Both the insurance business and the bank building have survived up through the present.
Blodget soon moved again to the new capital in Washington, DC where he successfully lobbied to win the position of superintendent of buildings and founded the city’s first bank. His once secure career began to fall apart when his mounting debts landed him in a debtor’s prison in 1802. His circumstances may have helped inspire his 1806 publication of Economica: A Statistical Manual for the United Statesnow considered the first American book on economics. The book did little to reverse his fortunes, however, and Blodget died in poverty at the age of 57.
On February 5, 1814, the trustees of the Baltimore City and County Almshouse wrote to overseer John Morton, calling on him:
“to be more circumspect in his purchase of provision for the poor taking care not to have so large a proportion of bone in their meat, to have their bread attended to and well baked (particularly the indian) and to have vegetables mixed with their soup.”
While modest in some ways, the diet at the Baltimore City and County Almhouse offered greater variety and nutrition than many working people in Baltimore ate at home. Dinner included soup with an eight-ounce share of beef on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Sunday inmates ate salt pork and vegetables, Tuesdays they ate mush and molasses and on Friday they ate herring with hominy or rice. Each inmate received a pound of bread daily along with a molasses-sweetened beverage of coffee and rye served for breakfast.
During warmer months than January, the almhouse menu was supplemented by produce from the almshouse farm. An 1825 harvest included cabbage, tomatoes, turnips, carrots, string beans, and onions. That same year, the almshouse cows gave 4,000 gallons of milk and cream enough for 1,735 pounds of butter.
Source: Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore (2006), Seth Rockman, p.204.