Not quite a year after the founding of the American Bar Association, some Baltimore attorneys gathered on June 7, 1879 to propose that a bar association be founded in this city. Virtually nothing is known of the circumstances of that meeting, neither the number who attended, nor where it was held nor upon whose urging it was called. It apparently merited no general notice as word of its occurrence is not to be found in the pages of the contemporary press, until the following story appeared on the front page of the Baltimore Sun on December 27, 1879.
“At a meeting of a number of members of the bar of Baltimore City, held June 7, of this year, it was resolved to undertake the formation of a bar association. Messrs. E.J.D. Cross, Skipwith Wilmer, William A. Fisher, R.J. Gittings and John C. King were appointed a committee to prepare a constitution and call a meeting for the purpose of organizing such an association. A meeting was held last night in the rooms of the Maryland Historical Society for this purpose. Nearly one hundred members of the bar of this city were present. Mr. S. Teackle Wallis was made temporary chairman, and Mr. Skipwith Wilmer secretary pro tem. The committee reported a constitution, setting forth the object of the association to be to maintain the honor and dignity of the profession of law, and to encourage legal science and the proper administration of justice. It further provides that any member of the association found guilty of malfeasance shall be expelled, and members of the association or not, found guilty of malfeasance shall be prosecuted by a committee of grievances, appointed by the president, counsel to employed for the purpose. The fee for admission to the association was fixed at $5.00 and the annual dues at $2.00. The constitution was read and adopted. Messrs. William F. Frick. Charles Marshall and L.L. Conrad were appointed to a committee to nominate officers for the ensuing year. They reported the following, who were unanimously elected: President, S. Teackle Wallis; Vice-presidents, Archibald Stirling, Jr., William A. Fisher; Secretary, Skipwith Wilmer; Treasurer, Daniel M. Thomas; Executive Committee, Edward Duffy, John P. Poe, John K. Cowen; Committee on Admission, E. Otis Hinckley, Bernard Carter, R.D. Morrison, George C. Maund, T.W. Hall, Jr., John J. Donaldson, Arthur George Brown, John C. King, Jacob I. Cohen. After some further business of minor importance the association adjourned.”
The meeting was convened in the old Athenaeum, located on the northwest corner of St. Paul and Saratoga Streets. This was a famous building, built in 1848 to house the Maryland Historical Society, the Library Company of Baltimore and the Mercantile Library. It was designed by Robert Carey Long, Jr., the same architect who designed the Franklin Street Presbyterian Church, the Greenmount Cemetery gate and many other important structures. After the Historical Society moved out in 1918, it was leased by the State for offices of the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles and the Board of Labor Statistics before it was torn down in 1929 to make way for a parking garage.