Thursday, October 19, 2017


On October 7, 2017 the B&O Railroad Museum was presented with two prestigious achievement awards at the Fall Conference of the Heritage Rail Alliance in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The first award, the 2017 Significant Achievement Award, was accepted by Travis Harry, Director of Operations, on behalf of the B&O Railroad Museum's restoration staff for the outstanding restoration work of Civil War locomotive, B&O #25 the "William Mason".

B&O #25 "William Mason" 
The restoration of B&O #25 represents one of the highest achievements of the Museum's restoration program. The Museum's restoration staff, George Harwood, Justin Simmons, and skilled volunteers, worked diligently over a three year period to restore this beloved locomotive back to its 1856 livery.

The second award accepted by Mr. Harry on behalf of the B&O Railroad Museum was presented by Rail Events, franchise owner of the very popular holiday family event, THE POLAR EXPRESS train ride. This award was granted to the Museum for producing the largest growth in guest attendance and revenue in 2016 in its second consecutive year in hosting the event.
Staff of the B&O are very excited about receiving these awards but know that without the support of Museum members and supporters, these awards would not have been possible. THANK YOU!

Friday, August 4, 2017

The B&O Railroad Goes to War
Part II: June - August 1917

The nation's railroads were mobilized and working together to send men and supplies to Europe. In June 1917, the first Americans set foot on French soil. Troops and supplies were being sent en masse to the east coast of the United States. In the month of June alone, the B&O transported 91 troop trains, carrying soldiers headed for France. From July 1916 - July 1917 the B&O transported thousands of soldiers on 644 troop trains.
In this image soldiers stand next to a B&O Railroad Troop Train. On the second and third car, soldier's heads can be seen hanging out all while waving. Scenes like this were common all along the B&O during World War I. On June 29, 1917, in a speech by Daniel Willard to upper management: "While we have troop trains to move, they are to have the right of way over everything except a train carrying the President of the United States. We will stop everything - freight trains, passenger trains - everything will give way to the steady and comfortable movement of the troops."  Image is from the collection of the B&O Railroad Museum, ca. 1916-1918.

Also in June, the B&O continued in its efforts to encourage their employees to support the war effort. In the United States Liberty Loan of 1917, bonds were issued on June 15th. President Daniel Willard and B&O management heavily pushed the purchase of these bonds by employees:

"I feel confident that all employees of the Baltimore and Ohio Company will desire to do their part in this great emergency and will welcome the opportunity to subscribe for these bonds, thus showing their patriotism by lending part of their savings to the Government at the same time securing for themselves a good investment. Daniel Willard, President"
Image is from the collection of the B&O Railroad Museum, ca. July 1917

 From June - August there were three different national registration days for the military draft - a result of the Selective Service Act of 1917. B&O draftees and volunteers were continuously going into the service. In May, women workers known as "The First Hundred" began to fill the spots left by men. Throughout the summer, women filled these roles in increasing numbers. Here are some of the trailblazers that entered the workforce for the B&O:
Image is from the collection of the B&O Railroad Museum, ca. June 1917
Image is from the collection of the B&O Railroad Museum, ca. June 1917
Image is from the collection of the B&O Railroad Museum, ca. June 1917
Image is from the collection of the B&O Railroad Museum, ca. June 1917
Possibly the most important event of the summer for the B&O Railroad was the Officers' Meeting of June 29-30th. This annual meeting of management was held at the Deer Park Hotel. Various sessions were held by different departments, working on internal improvements, with special attention paid to the war effort. One of the major focuses was addressing the traffic problems that were continuing to get worse throughout 1917. Part of the problem was the government placing "preference tags" on freight cars. Another area of concern that was discussed was ways to improve waste of resources, such as: water, coal, and even electricity. 

Dan Willard gave his President's Address, which lasted more than thirty minutes. In this speech, he covered the present challenges, the triumphs, and above all else, how to use the company to make the United States successful. The text was printed in the Employee Magazine and read by hundreds if not thousands of employees. Willard's address set the tone and focus of the company going forward for the rest of the war.
The annual officers meeting for the B&O Railroad took place on June 29-30, 1917. The passionate address delivered by President Willard set the tone for the company throughout World War I. Image is from the collection of the B&O Railroad Museum, ca. July 1917.
Image is from the collection of the B&O Railroad Museum, ca. August 1917

By Harrison Van Waes
B&O Railroad Museum

The B&O Railroad Goes to War is a multi-part blog series commemorating the centennial of American involvement in World War I. Follow along with this series through November 2018.

B&O Railroad Museum Archives.
Baltimore & Ohio Employee Magazine: June - August 1917

Hungerford, Edward. The Story of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad: 1827-1927. New York: Putnam, 1928.
Leach, Jack Franklin. Conscription in the United States: Historical Background. Vermont: C.E. Tuttle, 1952.

Stover, John F. History of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Indiana: Purdue University Press, 1987.

Friday, July 28, 2017

B&O Railroad Museum Mourns Loss of Two Transitional Leaders

This year saw the loss of two individuals who made real and material differences in the growth and maturity of the B&O Railroad Museum.

Richard Leatherwood (1939-2017)

Richard Leatherwood served as the museum's first Chairman of the Board after CSX created the B&O Railroad Museum, Inc. as a 501(C)(3) nonprofit corporation and donated the collection and real estate to encompass what the museum is today. Richard hired the museum's first professional museum director in 1989 and oversaw the transition of the B&O from a dusty, dark, little visited corporate collection to a nationally significant railroad museum. He was Chairman when I was hired in 1997 and turned over the reins of the museum to his successor James T. Brady in 1999. I remember him as an astute leader with an affable nature who care deeply about the museum's success and prosperity. He never lost his love for the B&O.

Bill Withuhn (1941-2017)
Bill Withuhn immediately became a close and valued colleague upon my arrival at the B&O in 1997. Serving for almost 30 years as the Senior Curator of Transportation for the Smithsonian, he personally introduced me to the railroad museum world and the movers and shakers within. He had a deep and abiding love for the museum's collection and its historic campus often remarking that he considered the B&O one of the world's greatest heritage railroad treasures. In 1999 he used his influence to bring the B&O Railroad Museum into the embryonic Smithsonian Affiliations Program which has made an enormous difference on the status and profile of the B&O worldwide for the past 18 years. In 2003 when the roundhouse roof collapsed he organized teams of curators from America's most mature railroad museums to respond to Baltimore and help assess the damage to our world class collections. We stayed in touch during his retirement and his influence on the B&O Railroad Museum will never be forgotten. 

Their obituaries are printed below.

Courtney B. Wilson
Executive Director
August 1, 2017

Richard L. Leatherwood, 1939-2017, of Boca Grande and Walland, Tenn., died at his mountain home on June 25th.

He is survived by his wife Mary Ann; his daughter and son-in-law, Katherine and Eric Brakman; beloved granddaughters Stella and Nora Brakman, all of Richmond, Virginia; and a loving extended family.

Richard grew up in the Fairview community and graduated from Maryville High School, The University of Tennessee and Rutgers University, and he earned a Ph.D. from Georgia Institute of Technology.

In his management career, Richard worked for American Freight, Texas Gas Transmission and CSX Transportation. He served on the board of directors of several organizations, including Maryville College, CACI International, CSX Transportation, Maryland National Bank, The Baltimore Opera, The University of Tennessee College of Business Advisory Board, and Dominion Resources.

For several years he chaired the boards of the B&O Railroad Museum and the Baltimore City Life Museum. Richard was an officer in the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam. Memorial contributions may be made to the Richard L. Leatherwood Scholarship Fund at Maryville College in Tennessee. Funeral services were held on Wednesday, June 28. A private interment will be at Grandview Cemetery. 
Courtesy of Boca Beacon

William Lawrence (Bill Withuhn, 1941-2017
Bill, whose name for his occasional opinion pieces in the Ca-laveras Enterprise was "Old Sky Warrior", has taken his last flight, passing away on June 29, 2017, at his home in Burson, surrounded by his family. A memorial service for Bill took place on July 2, 2017, at the First Congregational Church in Murphys, and his ashes will be placed in the Columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery.

Bill led a full life in his 75 years, entering the U.S. Air Force as a commissioned officer after graduating from UC Berkeley in 1963 and serving nine years on active duty. Too tall to be a pilot, he opted to become a navigator in MAC (the transport service) in the days before GPS. In 1969-1970, he served his tour in Vietnam as a navigator on C-119 "Shadow" gunships, which supported ground troops needing aerial support. For saving his crew when a flare became entangled in the plane's automatic flare launcher, he received a Distinguished Flying Cross.

After leaving the Air Force and after graduate school at Cornell, deeply loving trains and particularly the history of the steam locomotive (as well as automotive history), Bill in 1983 became the Curator of Transportation at The National Museum of American History, one of the 11 Smithsonian museums on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Serving almost 30 years, he focused his energies on enlarging the scope of the museum's influence. He created alliances with regional rail museums and with groups working to restore notable steam locomotives. Realizing that expertise to maintain steam engines at tourist railways was declining rapidly, he assembled a committee that worked with the Federal Rail Administration to write and publish in the Federal Register regulations to maintain safely those aging engines. He added to the automobile collection not only one of Richard Petty's race cars but also a Low Rider from the Hispanic Community in New Mexico, an EV-1 electric and a Sun Racer. Re-doing the railroad and automotive exhibits, he titled the new exhibit, "America On the Move" and focused on how the train, automobile and motorcycle changed Americans' lives. After retiring in 2010, he became the lead consultant for the new Museum of African American History and Culture in its acquisition and restoration of a Jim Crow railroad car. 

Living in Calaveras County, Bill was thrilled to write opinion pieces for the Calaveras Enterprise. The frequency, length, and depth of those columns decreased after a stroke in 2013, but Bill never stopped dreaming of more columns to write. Good-bye and God-speed. Your loving family, Gail, Harold, Tom, Kat, and Harper.
Courtesy of The Calaveras Enterprise

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The B&O Railroad Goes to War
Part 1: April - May 1917

On April 6, 1917 the United States declared war on Germany and entered the First World War. The prospect of going to war had been very real since the war first broke out in 1914. While the United States had remained "neutral" for nearly three years, the nation was mobilizing - sending material overseas, building ships, and building up the military. This mobilization was extremely beneficial to the B&O Railroad. The total revenue increased with each year that the war went on.

Total Gross Earnings of the B&O Railroad: 
1914 - 1918






No sooner had the Declaration of War been signed by President Woodrow Wilson that American Railroaders began to mobilize for the war effort. The performance of railroads was critical to the success of the United States. In the following weeks the "Railroad War Board" was formed as a collective agency in which the nation's railroads could effectively operate. B&O President Daniel Willard began sending hundreds of telegrams to fellow railroad presidents across the country. On April 11, nearly seventy executives met for the first time as a part of this "War Board" at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C .

"Resolved, That the railroads of the United States, acting through their chief executive officers here and now assembled and stirred by a high sense of their opportunity to be of the greatest service to their country in the present national crisis do hereby pledge themselves, with the government of the United States, with the governments of the several States, and one with another, that during the present war they will coordinate all their operations in a continental railway system, merging during such period all their merely individual and competitive activities end they hereby agree to create an organization which shall have general authority to formulate in detail and from time to time a policy of operation of all or any of the railroads, which policy, when and as announced by such temporary organization, shall be accepted and earnestly made effective by the several managements of the individual railroad companies here represented."
In the first months of the war, no American industry gave more support to the war effort than the Railroads of the United States. Within two weeks of the declaration of war, 635 railroads gave over control to the Railroad War Board, uniting 260,000 miles of rail.

In those early weeks of the war the B&O ran dozens of troop trains. Many of these shuttled new recruits to newly created army camps. Several of these army "cantonments", as they were called, were directly serviced by the B&O Railroad, including the newly created Camp Meade in May 1917, as well as Camp Taylor, and Camp Sherman. Among the thousands of new recruits pouring into these camps in the first weeks of the war were several hundred B&O employees. In some cases, entire offices enlisted or were drafted.
American "Doughboys" stand on either side of the tracks at the railroad station at Camp Meade, circa 1917. In the background appears to be a row of box cars on a separate track. The newly constructed station is little more than a small shed. During World War I, around 400,000 soldiers trained at Camp Meade. The training facility also processed more than 20,000 horses and mules. This cantonment was directly served by the B&O Railroad.
 In addition to the B&O employees who joined the military, workers who remained in their positions at home signed up to have parts of their salary go towards the buying of war bonds. Others maintained "Victory Gardens" at home and along the B&O right-of-way in many instances. This was directly promoted by President Daniel Willard. As became fairly common during the war, the more women took up the jobs that men left behind. In just under four weeks, one hundred women filled positions for the B&O Railroad. At first these were mostly clerical and cleaning positions. Within a few months, however, women were working drill presses, assisted in the blacksmith shop and much more.
These are some of the first B&O women to fill jobs left by men following the Declaration of War. This group worked at the B&O shops in Lorain, Ohio.

On April 2, four days prior to the declaration of war, the workers at the Mount Clare Shops gathered to raise the American Flag. Several speeches were given and a large band played a series of well-known patriotic tunes. This "rally" was the first of many at the Mount Clare Shops in spring-summer 1917.

In the May Employee Magazine issue, the editor called a run from Washington to Chicago "perhaps the most important train movement, in point of public interest, made in the last fifty years over the Baltimore and Ohio was that of the special train carrying the French Mission..." In late April, both the British and the French traveled to the United States with the goal of visiting various historical sites, politicians, and military commanders to raise support for the war effort. The French Mission, traveled up and down the east coast, before heading west, ultimately meeting with General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force.

In the first two months of America's entry into World War I, the B&O Railroad performed as a leading railroad under the leadership of President Daniel Willard.

By Harrison Van Waes
B&O Railroad Museum

The B&O Railroad Goes to War is a multi-part blog series commemorating the centennial of American involvement in World War I. Follow along with this series through November 2018.


B&O Railroad Museum Archives.

Baltimore & Ohio Employee Magazine: February - June 1917.

Hungerford, Edward. The Story of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Indiana: Purdue University Press, 1987.

U.S. Army. "Fort Meade History." Accessed May 27, 2017.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Steel Giants dvd

We had the idea for this documentary one morning over breakfast and with six screaming kids. Actually, the idea was to make movies about things people loved and how they enjoyed spending their time. We wondered if hobbies were a dying pastime.

We quickly discovered that they were not, particularly in the railroading world where enthusiasts come from just about every age, race, class, and ethnicity demographic. The railroad is a unifying force, in more ways than one.
This project began where the first 13 miles of railroad in America ended - right across the street from the oldest surviving railroad station in America. There, at a coffee shop, we met with Courtney Wilson, executive director of the B&O Railroad Museum, to pitch the idea. With so much history and power and influence, there were a number of directions we could take with this film. But we all agreed that there were stories worth telling and details worth showing. The details would come.

Courtney Wilson, Executive Director of the B&O Railroad Museum
When people heard we were making a documentary about trains - rather, locomotives - they would often respond with a personal story to tell: the time one woman rode a train in the mid-1950's from New York to Minnesota with her twelve siblings and ate candy bars all along the way; or the gentlemen who recalled the EM-1 that ran through his Maryland backyard most afternoons in the late 1940's. There was the young woman who talked of sitting on her grandparents' porch in the summer, barefoot and hot, watching as the trains roared and rattled by. And still today, children stop and take captive notice at the sound of a train whistle when it blows. Mr. Wilson, who also narrates the documentary, liked to tell us, "Every kid has a train gene." This film gives everyone that chance to be a kid again.

And while it evokes stories, the first American railroad has its own stories to tell, too. In this documentary, we highlight six locomotives considered central to the evolution of railroading in America. We detail why the locomotives were built and how, what problems they solved and others they might have created, and how they impacted our country and the world on a human, civic, economic, and industrial scale. The railroad was, in many ways, America's first internet - connecting people and communities, commerce and collaborations, ideas and opportunities in ways that were unimaginable prior to its existence. That becomes very apparent through these stories and their visual depiction.

Filming began on a hot July morning in 2016 and continued for seven sessions (and through three seasons) until December 2016. We arrived at each session by 7:30 a.m. and wrapped up by 10:00 a.m., ending before the museum opened to the public. With such a short window of time we had to be extremely efficient in our focus and in our filming. Mr. Wilson made this difficult circumstance very easy, even revealing a hidden talent in film narration. He will forever be referred to as One-take Courtney.

Steel Giants dvd

Whether you love trains or know someone who does, we are certain this film will be time well spent. Terrific pacing, visually beautiful, exceptional narration, and music come together to tell the emotional, powerful, and technical story of one of America's greatest innovations.

We'd love to hear your stories so be sure to find us on Facebook at ( or send us an email

Here's to being a kid again,

The Lark Media Group - Maureen & Pete Mirabito and Karin & Dan Hack

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

B&O Railroad Honors Simply Amish

Royalties from licensed collection benefit B&O Railroad Museum

Amish case goods manufacturer Simply Amish has been recognized by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore for its licensing initiatives that have brought both attention and royalties to the famed railroad operation.
This dining set is part of the B&O Railroad collection by Simply Amish.

B&O Railroad Museum Executive Director presented Simply Amish owner and executive Kevin Kauffman with an award for its B&O collection of bedroom, dining room and occasional pieces whose forms incorporate themes and design elements mirror elements of the iconic railroad. These include railroad spikes and arches that mimic early railroad bridges. Proceeds from the licensing agreement, including royalties received from Simply Amish support early childhood education programs at the railroad museum. These include the railroad's STEAM initiative (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math).

"Our award-winning Early Childhood programs consistently provide exceptional children's exhibits and experiences so that the community around us can engage and learn more in a unique setting," said Courtney Wilson, railroad museum executive director in a letter to Kauffman. "Last year alone, our programs touched more than 40,000 early learners." Wilson went on to say that the museum has an extensive collection of nearly 500 prints and paintings and more than 250,000 photos and tens of thousands of architectural and engineering drawings, historical maps and media materials.

"By using these historically relevant pieces in connection with our STEAM educational efforts, we are building, engaging and stimulating creative learning for young minds", Wilson said adding that the "royalites received through our licensing program with Simply Amish have been invaluable."

As part of the recognition, Kauffman received a wooden pen, whose wood was reclaimed from a steam locomotive that was destroyed in a roof collapse at the museum.

"Many of our Amish craftsman travel longer distances by rail," Kauffman noted. "We're all rail fans who marvel at the Western expansion of America, which was greatly aided by 19th century railroads."

Article by Thomas Russell, Associate Editor of Furniture Today

Thursday, February 23, 2017


What is a Mutual Benefit Association?

A simple definition of a "Mutual Benefit Association" is "a social organization which provides insurance to its members on an assessment basis"(1). A more complete definition reads: 

"A mutual benefit association means 'a corporation, society, order or association which has no capital stock, which issues certificates of membership providing for payment of benefits in case of sickness, disability or death of its members and which accumulates funds by the collection of fees or dues from its members, at either stated or irregular intervals, with which to discharge its liabilities on its membership certificates and with which to pay the administrative expenses."(2)

Mutual Benefit Associations in the United States

In 1930 the National Conference on Mutual Benefit Associations conducted a survey of all companies (some 1500) in the United States which were thought to have employees' organizations for sickness insurance. As shown in the following table from the report on the findings of that survey, among the 312 responding companies, eight reported Associations having been established more than 50 years earlier (i.e., prior to 1880). The largest group of respondents reported establishment during the preceding 10 - 14 years, i.e., between 1916 and 1930. (3)
An October 1991 article in the Monthly Labor Review commented

"The first of these associations were formed by employees of the mining and railroad industries. The hazardous nature of the jobs in these industries often made it impossible for individual employees to obtain life insurance coverage at affordable rates. As the mutual benefit associations in these industries succeeded in providing affordable coverage to their members, employees in other industries began to see the merits of organized efforts." (4)

The reason that employees in these industries would have to themselves seek to purchase life insurance was that virtually no employers of that era provided mechanisms that might assist their employees secure insurance protection. The prevailing ethic was that an employee was responsible for evaluating the risks in any job and to then make a decision to accept or reject the work knowing the risks.

Mutual Benefit Associations in the Railroad Industry

Within the American railroad industry, development and growth of mutual benefit associations can be traced back to at least 1864, as reported in a principal railroad newspaper, The Railroad Gazette. The oldest appears to be the Railway Passenger and Freight Conductors' Mutual Aid and Benefit Association (1864) followed by the Railway Employees' Mutual Benefit Association of the Northwest, Railroad Employees' Mutual Benefit Association, Railway Employes' Mutual Benefit Association of the West and the Boston and Albany Mutual Benefit Association, all in 1870.(5)

These extracts from The Railroad Gazette describe the origins of one of that early group:


To understand the mutual benefit association history within the railroad industry, it is important to recognize the economic and social history in which it occurred. Several key factors:
  1. The earliest associations were established by groups of employees of a particular railroad or of several geographically related railroads because most employers did not offer assistance in response to illness, injury or death.
  2. The memberships of the earliest associations were relatively small. For example, the largest membership in 1880 of the five associations noted above was 1,250.(8)
  3. The 1870's, when many of the pioneer mutual associations were being formed, were an extended period of economic depression in the United States. Wage reductions, very high rates of unemployment and vast reductions in industrial activity were prevalent. The railroad industry, having grown rapidly and expansively following the Civil War, was strongly impacted. Although the country was celebrating its Centennial year in 1876 with the grand Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the depression wore on relentlessly. The situation in the country and for many railroads (including the Baltimore & Ohio) is described by Robert V. Bruce in his book, 1877: Year of Violence, with these words:  "People had hoped, for no good reason, that the Centennial Year would be a turning point of the depression. It was not. In July 1877 Secretary of the Treasury John Sherman took some comfort form the sound position of the Treasury. But 'in regard to wages, rents, transportation, prices, and all questions of political economy which enter into the commonweal of the people' he wrote a friend, 'you can judge as well as I'". (9)
  4. What followed was the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, beginning on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad on July 16, 1877 and lasting through the first days of August (see photo of cover of Frank Leslies's Illustrated for August 11, 1877 scenes depicting strike activity). The outcome - railroad workers returned to their jobs at the reduced rates of pay that led to the start of the strike.
 Establishment of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Employees' Relief Association

Despite the prevailing view at the time that employers were not responsible for the dangers and the resulting illnesses, injuries and deaths faced by their employees, exceptions did occur. The minutes of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Board of Directors meetings, as early as 1834, recorded instances of employer recognition of such employee problems and recorded situations where payments were made to families of injured and killed employees. (10) These early informal practices under which the Board considered each individual claim later led to establishment of more formal structures. The Invalid Fund (1844) and the Committee on Accidents (1853) were charged with handling claims for compensation as the result of accidents and deaths experienced by employees. (11, 12)

Much later, and following the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, the minutes of a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Board meeting in 1880 reflect the next action:

"The President (John Garrett) also stated that he was desirous of instituting a system of Life Insurance, with special advantages for the employes of the Company. The Third Vice President (Robert Garrett), having been sometime past engaged in preparing for an organization, based to some extent upon the plans of those of the Railroad Companies of Great Britain, France and Germany, hoped to be able to present the form at an early meeting of the Board." (13)

One month later:

The President (John Garrett) stated to the Board that the plan for the establishment of a Relief Association for the benefit of the employees of the Baltimore and Ohio Company, to which he had heretofore referred, had been so far prepared by the Third Vice President (Robert Garrett) as to be ready for submission.

After full reflection on the subject, President (John Garrett) stated that he had determined to recommend to the Board that an appropriation of $6,000 per year (being the equivalent to six percent on $100,000) should be made by the Company as part of the basis and capital of the fund.

He suggested that the proposition and plan be referred to the Committee on Finance, with power, so that, as soon as the details would be properly perfected, the Association should be organized and placed in operation.

On motion of Mr. Nicholas, seconded by Mr. Chancellor, the recommendation and suggestion of the President were adopted, and the entire subject referred by unanimous vote to the Finance Committee with power. (14)

The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Relief Department was inaugurated on May 1, 1880 with Dr. W. T. Barnard serving as Secretary (Director). The initial page of the original Constitution is show below. (15) Subsequently, the Maryland General Assembly granted a charter to the Association on May 3, 1882 (however, this charter was rescinded by the General Assembly effective April 1, 1889 in response to employee objections to the fact that they were required to participate in the relief program and pay assessments.) (16) In response, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad established the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Relief Department as successor to the Relief Association that same year. (17)
Growth and Change within the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Relief Program

The first annual report of the B&O Relief Association, in 1881, reported membership of 14,439. (18) By 1890, although required membership had been eliminated in 1889, membership had grown to almost 22,000. (19) This result may be explained in part through growth in Baltimore & Ohio Railroad employment and, in part, by general satisfaction with the program among most employees.

In addition to the growth in membership, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad program rapidly expanded the services offered to members. The original benefits offered included: (20)
  • Surgical attendance when injured by accidents while in service to the railroad. The first Annual Report to the Relief Association included the list of hospitals (shown below) available to Baltimore & Ohio Railroad employees requiring surgical care. (21)
  • Cash benefit while unable to work because of injury due to accidents while in service to the railroad
  • Cash benefit due to injury or sickness arising from causes other than accidents occurring while in service to the railroad
  • Cash benefit to a designated beneficiary or legal representative when death occurred in service to the railroad or within six months of an accident occurring while in service to the railroad
  • Cash benefit to a designated beneficiary or legal representative upon death (excluding suicide, capital punishment) not associated with an accident or service to the railroad
In addition to the accident, sickness and death benefit program, the Relief Department offered an Annuity Fund to provide a future retirement benefit at age 65. Employees were permitted to contribute as much as they desired. If a member died before age 65, payment of accumulated contributions plus one-half more were paid to a beneficiary or designated representative.

The 2nd Annual Report of the Relief Association, issued October 1, 1882, reported the addition of two features effective July 1, 1881, the Savings Fund and the Building Association, with this explanation:

"the objects for which these new features were established were briefly defined in the prospectus to be 'the encouragement of habits of prudence, economy and thrift, by placing within the reach of every employee of the Railroad Company, upon the simplest and most advantageous terms compatible with proper security all the benefits derivable from the safest and most liberal savings institutions of the country, and from the best conducted building societies. To this end each officer or employee of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, who has been a subscriber to the relief features of the Association for the immediately preceding three months, or his wife, may deposit in the Savings Fund, in the manner and under the regulations set forth in the by-laws, any sum not less than one dollar nor more than one hundred dollars in any one day. The money thus accumulated will be invested and managed for the benefit of depositors'. (22)

Issues of the Baltimore & Ohio employee magazine contained advertisements encouraging employees to make use of the Savings Fund feature for buying a home or other purposes. (23)
The Fourth Annual Report of the Relief Association, issued on October 1, 1884, reported the addition of a Superannuation or Pension Feature, effective October 1, 1884. Under this feature, an employee with at least ten years' service with the Railroad who was experiencing total disability preventing continued employment on reaching the age of sixty may be relieved from duty or having reached sixty-five may elect to retire. The cost of this benefit was totally underwritten by the Railroad.

The Annual Report of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad for 1926 states:

"While heretofore your Company has shared in the expense of the administration of the Relief and Savings Features, under resolution of the Board of Directors, effective October 1, 1926, your Company assumes the entire operating expense of these features, so that the employees will, directly and indirectly, receive full benefits of all contributions and earnings without any deduction for expense of operation." (24)

Was the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Relief Department a First?

The action of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Board of Directors to create the Relief Association (later the Relief Department) is generally recognized as the first such action by an American railroad by reliable sources. Emory R. Johnson, Professor, University of Pennsylvania and Haverford College, in an 1890 paper presented to the American Academy of Political and Social Science, wrote:

"The first railroad company in the United States to established an organization for the administration of an employee's relief fund was the Baltimore & Ohio, whose organized relief work dates from May 1, 1880. The man to whose instrumentality the establishment of the association was chiefly due was Dr. W. T. Barnard, of Baltimore, a man actuated by a strong desire to bring about a better relationship between the railroad companies and their employes....The idea of a relief association antedated 1880. According to Mr. J. A. Anderson, Superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad Relief Department, the employes of that road had as early as 1876 expressed a desire that the company should provide some plan of this kind. Thereafter, the matter was taken up from time to time by that company, although without success until 1886. In England, indeed, the railroad companies had been organizing relief associations since 1850. In Canada, the Grand Trunk Railway organized an employee's Accident Insurance Association in 1873, and the plan adopted by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was worked out by Dr. Barnard after he made a thorough examination of benevolent railway organizations in Continental Europe, Great Britain and Canada." (25)

This view was corroborated by W. H. Baldwin, Jr., President of the Long Island Railroad Company, in an 1899 paper with the title "Railroad Relief and Beneficiary Associations", presented to the Twelfth Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association, stated:

"The first formal recognition by the railroads of the need of providing means of relief for accident, death, and sickness for employees in all departments was made by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company in the formation of the Baltimore & Ohio Employes Relief Association in May 1880. A similar organization was formed by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company on February 15, 1886; by the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad on March 15, 1889 and by various other companies at divers times, so that today about fifteen per cent of the employees of the railroad in the United States are provided for, through relief associations as departments of railroad organizations." (26)

However, it has been suggested that the action of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad emulated that of the Pullman Company, a manufacturer of railroad cars in Chicago. (27) Another historian, writing a history of the Pullman Company, states:

In May 1873, he (George Pullman) had his brother Albert charter the Pullman Mutual Benefit Association. Employees who joined paid an initiation fee of two dollars and were taxed a dollar upon the death of a member with the funds providing for the family of the deceased. Two months earlier, Pullman had announced plans for the construction of a company building which included unusual facilities for employees. A restaurant would furnish a 'cheap and convenient place for the working get their dinner and to cultivate a society...of harmony and good feeling.' In addition there were to be bathing facilities, a library, and family rooms. 

Actually the building was not constructed until ten years later. (28)

Differences between the Earlier Employee Associations and those Established by Railroads  

Despite the differences in membership size between the early employee organized mutual benefit associations and those later organized by companies, the ultimate goal of both was to provide financial support for the families of railroad employees injured or killed in service through forms of social insurance. The employee efforts were initiated because employers would not do so at that time. These associations, though employment based, were somewhat akin to the benevolent aid societies created in American communities during similar periods of time by virtually every immigrant group arriving in the United States.

The railroad sponsored and supported programs, on the other hand, were motivated by multiple goals:
  • Desire to resist and counter unionization of employees and reduce the danger of additional major railroad strikes
  • Desire to avoid the full cost of payments to families for in-service injuries and deaths
  • Belief that employees should themselves contribute to injury and death benefits
  • Beginning acceptance of the view that that employers had at least a minimal responsibility for the needs of the families of their employees because many of the jobs were dirty and dangerous
  • Perhaps a slight beginning of recognition that employees, as human beings, were entitled to help and support from their employer because they represented more than just cogs in the industrial machine
John Geist, Archives Volunteer, B&O Railroad Museum, Baltimore MD, July 2016

1-Google, USLegal, Law and Legal Definition,, April 2015
2-State of Delaware, 18 Del. C 5502
3-Brundage, Dean K, September 4, 1931 "A Survey of the Work of Employee's Mutual Benefit Associations", United States Public Health Service
4-Bucci, Michael, October 1991, "Growth of Employer-Sponsored Group Life Insurance", Monthly Labor Review, 25
5-The Railroad Gazette, beginning in issues from 1871, B&O Railroad Museum archives
6-Ibid, March 11, 1871, 561
7-Ibid, March 18, 1871, 585
8-Ibid, beginning in issues from 1871
9-Bruce, Robert V., 1959, 1877: Year of Violence, Indianapolis, The Bobbs-Merrill Company
10-B&O Railroad Board of Directors, Minutes, Volume C, July 17, 1834, 238, B&O Railroad Museum
11-Ibid, Volume E, June 5, 1884, 171
12-Ibid, Volume G, December 14, 1853, 298
13-Ibid, Volume J, February 11, 1880, 379
14-Ibid, Volume j, March 10, 1880, 393
15-B&O Railroad Relief Association, April 30, 1881, First Annual Report, 76
16-Baltimore Sun, March 29, 1888, 5
17-B&O Railroad Company, September 30, 1889, 63rd Annual Report, 8
18-B&O Railroad Relief Association, April 30, 1881, First Annual Report, 8
19-B&O Railroad Relief Department, October 1, 1890, Second Annual Report, 4
20-B&O Employees Relief Association, April 30, 1881, First Annual Report
21-Ibid, 75
22-B&O Relief Department, October 1, 1881, Second Annual Report, 16
23-Baltimore & Ohio Employes Magazine, March 1916, 4
24-Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, 1926, Annual Report, 10
25-Johnson, Emory R., November 1895, Railway Departments for the Relief and Insurance of Employes, 59-70
26-Baldwin, Jr., W. H., December 1899, Railroad Relief and Beneficiary Associations, 216
27-Barry, Bill, 2014, The 1877 Railroad Strike in Baltimore, CreateSpace Publishing, Baltimore, 174
28-Buder, Stanley, 1967, Pullman, Oxford University Press, 32