Behind the Book: Maryland Blood

Maryland Blood is a stirring, true-life adventure story spanning four centuries of American history. Seen through the unique lens of one Maryland family’s eyes, the adventures unfold through Hambleton letters preserved in archives across the United States. These illustrate how Hambleton after Hambleton contributed to the future of our nation. Never individuals to take life easy, the Hambletons exemplify the words of America’s Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones: “I do intend to go in harm’s way.”

Hambletons either forged America’s newest horizon, or participated in our country’s latest developments on land, sea, and finally air. How they lived in peacetime, and in war, how they died, and how they advanced America’s history serves as testament to the American spirit, and its demands. Throughout America’s history, the Maryland Hambletons engaged in every conflict from the founding of Maryland and its rocky colonial period, to the Revolutionary War, the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie, the California Gold Rush, the War in Nicaragua, the opening of Japan to trade in 1853, and all three theaters of America’s Civil War. Indeed, Rowena Hambleton Auld and her husband, Thomas Auld, owned Frederick Douglass, who based his abolitionist campaign on the Auld’s cruelty, but later was forgiven by Thomas Auld, who said if he had been Douglass he, Thomas would have done the same thing. Maryland Hambletons also served in both world wars, had the initial vision for Pan-American Airways, pioneered the Off-Broadway theater movement despite attacks by HUAC, and flew jets and helicopters first used in the Korean and Vietnam wars. The Maryland Hambletons even opened the first trans-polar route to Europe from new York to Moscow during the Cold War, trained for the first flight to the moon, and through Orbis, a flying eye hospital that visited underdeveloped nations, annually trained one-thousand eye surgeons while treating two-hundred and fifty-thousand patients.

In our deeply troubled world, we are all called to do our utmost for America. Surely we can bridge the divide in race relations as Thomas Auld and Frederick Douglass did in their own time. Although Hambletons never died of Malaria, the threat was there in their pirate-hunting and diplomatic journeys through the Caribbean, so we must solve the new mosquito-born disease, the Zika virus, find a cure, and research its effect on fetuses and adults. And we must also offer mental health treatment for psychological disorders caused by war, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and expand rehabilitation for those who have lost limbs, eyesight, or have been paralyzed.

If you are interested in writing a family biography or memoir, start now. During the eleven years of researching and writing Maryland Blood, most of my elders, the Hambleton memory keepers, died. I was lucky to have interviewed them. So if you want to write your family story interview people who carry the family memory as soon as possible. Follow every lead in your research, no matter how mundane it may seem. The Internet is an important, extensive resource. But do go to historic sites, walk their walk, and read the original historic documents in archives you visit. Don’t mind dead ends. Instead eagerly examine unmarked files and those marked miscellaneous. Very often the best information is found in the least obvious place. For instance, I found Eddy Hambleton’s 1930 suicide note in the Hambleton records at the Maryland Historical Society. It was in folder labeled miscellaneous. The best information often turns up in unsuspected places.

Most of all enjoy Maryland Blood. Through and through it is a true American adventure.


Martha Frick Symington Sanger is an eleventh-generation descendant of pioneer William Hambleton and a great-granddaughter of Henry Clay Frick. She is the author of Henry Clay Frick: An Intimate Portrait, The Henry Clay Frick Houses, and Helen Clay Frick: Bittersweet Heiress, although her most recent book is Maryland Blood: An American Family in War and Peace, the Hambletons 1657 to the Present.

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