...one of the men who make the solid fabric of a community's life. --Baltimore Sun

William Origen AtwoodWilliam Origen Atwood (1862-1931), a native of Chester County, Pennsylvania, was educated at Girard College, Philadelphia, and came to Baltimore in 1880. He was one of the principal assistants who purchased the assets of the firm from Martenet's widow in 1892 and continued the business.

Active in political and religious affairs, he was twice elected to the office of City Surveyor. He was heavily lobbied by prominent Republicans in 1915 to run for Mayor, the Baltimore Sun reporting "...if nominated, he will be a vote getter in the general election. They point to his rather remarkable triumph over Raleigh C. Thomas for the surveyorship some years ago as evidence of his general popularity and say that he would get staunch party support because each of the factions knows that he would not be controlled by the other." [Baltimore Sun, Feburary 25, 1915] Ultimately, Atwood decided against it. He ran for State Comptroller in 1917 (losing by a scant 0.5 percent of the vote) and was the Republican candidate for Maryland's Fourth Congressional District seat in 1920 and 1930. Later he headed the Municipal Bureau of Plans and Surveys and served as a Commissioner for Opening Streets.

He was for many years President of the Peabody Heights Improvement Association, where he resided.

The cheeky H.L. Mencken wrote of him in the 1920 Congressional race, "In my Congressional district, the number of which I forget, the candidates are the Hon. J. Charles Linthicum, Hon. William O. Atwood and Dr. med. Knickman. The Hon. Mr. Atwood I have known for many years and hold in high esteem. He is honest and intelligent and full of the milk of human kindness. Unluckily, he is dry, and so I am forced to hatchet him, and even speak against him. Remember this Mr. Atwood. If you are dry, vote for him; if you are wet, pass auf! He is no pussyfooter. This leaves Charlie and the doctor. Charlie I have nothing against, save that I am tired of voting for him. I shall cast my ballot for the doctor. He is as wet as the Hon. Mr. Atwood is dry. My agents tell me, indeed, that he is the wettest candidate ever heard of; compared to him, even Sam Appleby is dry. It seems impossible, but I simply tell you what I hear."* [For you youngsters, being "dry" meant you were in favor of Prohibition; being "wet" meant you were against it. Mencken, of course, was very much "wet."]

The Baltimore Sun ran the following editorial upon his death:

"The death of William O. Atwood will be felt keenly by a large number of friends and will be sincerely regretted by a very much larger number who had only occasional association with him. He was one of the men who make the solid fabric of a community's life. He worked at his appointed tasks, and in the hours when he was not at his tasks he was giving himself to efforts for the common good. Very often many of those with whom he came into contact disagreed with his ideas and the object of his activities, but those disagreements seldom left anger or pain. Mr. Atwood was not the man to suspect the motives or to condemn the purposes of others. He had a very clearly defined path of his own, but that never left him intolerant of the many others about him who followed many other different paths. He was a gentle Puritan—much more concerned with the discipline of himself in all matters than with the discipline of others—and he spread wide the great and healing gift of simple kindness. He will be missed." [Baltimore Sun, November 12, 1931]

[*Mencken, H.L, On Politics: A Carnival of Buncombe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1956) 35-36.]

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