Why Is It Named Canton?

This is a pretty interesting story. Do you happen to know the history of Canton and how it received it’s name? It might not be what you think.

row houses in Canton
row houses in Canton

The area we now know as Canton was originally a plantation owned by local seaman, John O’Donnell. He participated in importing goods from overseas and some of those goods originated in Guangzhou, China. The city is just north of Hong Kong, and formerly was known as Canton. That region of China also speaks a different form of traditional Chinese called Cantonese (most Chinese speak Mandarin).

O’Donnell was the first to import Chinese goods into Baltimore, and he decided to name his plantation Canton, after the place from which he was getting his goods.

Now that’s some good trivia!

The bulk of homes in the area are late 19th and early 20th century homes, which were initially built to house ¬†blue-collar workers. The main industries in which they worked were canning, packing, and fertilizing. What’s also interesting to note, is that the Canton industries built a large number of the homes and provided for the social welfare of their workers.

Oh, and for some more trivia … the home of the National Football League’s Hall of Fame, Canton, Ohio, has the same origin for its name.

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.