Landowners (Ridgely Family)
The American Revolution brought numerous economic opportunities for the elite/ upper levels of society in Colonial America, at least for those who supported the war. Even businesses that did not directly produce war materials benefited from the promise of an economic windfall.
Many landowners and businesses profited from the war by selling supplies. These supplies included the food, munitions, clothing, and camp kettles that were needed for combat operations. The Continental Army bought these items in large quantities.
Also, soldiers needed to be paid. Since the Continental Congress did not have a lot of ready cash, soldiers were often paid in land. Quite often, the lands granted to soldiers were located in inconvenient places for the recipients, plus soldiers wanted cash. Soldiers often sold their land grants to already-wealthy landowners for cash. These wealthy landowners were in a position to buy land grants for pennies on the dollar, thereby increasing their wealth substantially.
Captain Charles Ridgely, the builder of Hampton, was one of this elite class of landowners. With his huge iron works, Northampton Furnace, Ridgely provided ammunition, cannon, and other iron supplies to the Continental Army. He expanded his farming operations to sell surplus food. Ridgely also bought land grants from veterans and fleeing loyalists, essentially doubling his land holdings by the end of the war.
The American Revolution helped Charles Ridgely and others businessmen to amass large fortunes. Due to the wartime economy, Ridgely became one of the wealthiest men in Maryland. The Ridgely family continued to be influential in Maryland politics and business through the nineteenth century.
- Field Trip Flip Books – prepared by students before the trip
- A tri-fold display board, which is housed at the Hampton National Historic Site
- A copy of a land grant document (located with display board)
- Pencils for students
- Spend a few minutes restating the focus question: "How did the Revolution impact the people living at Hampton"? Review information they have already collected in their flip books at the other stations.
- Have students use the map on the back of their flip book to identify the mansion.
- Direct the students’ attention to their surroundings. Ask: “How did Charles Ridgely accumulate all of this wealth?”
- Discuss the iron works operation. Why would an iron works company be profitable during a war? (cannons, kettles for cooking, ammunition)
- Show the land grant document. Explain that soldiers were paid in land but they wanted to be paid in cash. People like Charles Ridgely were able to buy this land from soldiers for a fraction of its value because they could offer the soldiers cash.
- Explain that armies needed large amounts food for the soldiers. Farming was just as important as manufacturing weapons when fighting the Revolution. Ridgely, with all of his land, was able to grow surplus of food, which he sold to the army for a profit.
- Lead the students through some of the first floor portions of the mansion.
- Tea Room – Show the portraits of Charles Ridgely and his wife Rachel. Explain that Rachel came from another prominent family, the Dorseys. Many of these families - the Howard, Carroll, Dorsey, and Ridgely families – tended to stick together and inter-marry. Point out the differences between Rachel and Charles Ridgely. Rachel was a devout Methodist, who was opposed to gambling, drinking, and other pleasures. She often held prayer meetings in the mansion. Charles Ridgely loved gambling and hunting. Charles would often play cards with his buddies while the prayer meetings were in session.
- Move to the foot of the stairs. Show the portrait of Baltimore as it was in the 1700s. Compare it to today’s Baltimore. Show the house construction by directing attention to the cut-away of the mansion which shows the construction of the walls.
- Move to hall. Explain that parties were usually held here. Show the fake floor boards painted to look like marble. Show the chandeliers. Show the locks for the windows/doors (kept the slaves from coming in at night).
- Bring students back together to review what they added to their flip books to insure that they gathered what they needed to answer the focus question.
- Encourage the students to add to their books as needed.