The Maryland Historical Society launched a blog this past September called underbelly. With its vast collection of photographs, maps, recordings and other historical documents, the blog culls through and explores important, and often forgotten items from Maryland’s rich history. Occasionally, as its name suggests, the blog discusses less-than-flattering past events, which continue to reverberate with Marylanders of today. One such entry recently got our attention entitled “Masked Mystery.” In the article, the author introduces a sinister-looking photograph from their archives that has perplexed them for some time.
Attempts to zoom in on the negative and pinpoint the date of a wayward newspaper only resulted in an approximate timeframe based on one identifiable advertisement. Many more clues and speculations surfaced throughout their research but it wasn’t until underbelly published this article and brought the mystery to the internet masses that the real story began to unfold. Take a moment to read through the initial article in its entirety and then breeze down through the comments to the one by Bill Lefurgy, which is what ultimately caught our attention.
Jump over to underbelly’s “Masked Mystery.”
Following the “Masked Mystery” photograph above are several archived Baltimore Sun pages and clippings that were tracked down, thanks to our newsroom librarian Paul McCardell, and the specific page referenced in Mr. LeFurgy’s comment on the underbelly blog. After reaching out to Joe Tropea at the MdHS for permission to use the “Masked Mystery” photograph, he informed us that Mr. LeFurgy was actually the second person to make the connection between the photograph and masking program. A former Sun editor emailed in links to several related articles from 1908-1910 shortly after the photo was released online.
As you flip through the news clippings, click each one to zoom in and read about the Baltimore Police Department’s detective masking program, which was known at the time in New York as “facing the masks” and brought back to Charm City by Colonel Sherlock Swann, grandson of a former Maryland Governor.