Like Bluefins from the Bay, Nobles of the Hardshells Survive

By Jackie Nickel (10/28/1982)

The day was hot, the was cold, and the steamed crabs were large and well-seasoned on an August afternoon in 1935 when the first gathering of the Ancient and Honorable Nobles of the Hardshells took place at a shorefront home in Rockaway Beach at the end of Turkey Point peninsula.

Now, almost 50 years later, despite the passing of most original members, the group survives as one of Baltimore’s oldest independent social clubs. Composed today almost entirely of tavern owners, and and liquor salesmen, the organization was born from an idea originating in a bar in the Waverly section of Baltimore City, according to Richard K. Coggins, one of the oldest members.

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“Gus Rauh had his tavern at 29th and Greenmount. On that hot day in August, Gus took a small group of his customers down to his home on Rockaway Beach in Middle River. He prepared crab cakes, crab soup, jumbo hard crabs, corn on the cob, sliced tomatoes, and cold beer. When the group arrived at Rockaway Beach, they proceeded to enjoy the food and in a nice breeze on his front lawn. Gus had a beautiful home on the beach right across from the Baltimore Yacht Club,” Coggins relates in a short history of the group.

The group of guests was so pleased with the excellent food, cold beer, and lovely scenery that they could not express their appreciation enough. However, one of the guests, Million B. Crandall, was a top public relations man who had handled promotional work for many of Hollywood’s stars and studios. With his promotional experience and trigger mind, he quickly organized the group into an organization. He called it “The Hardshells,” named after the big jumbo crab Gus had served. He started out by having the president called “The Imperial Jumbo” and Gus Rauh was elected to that office. The group elected someone to the office of “Back Fin” and someone else to the office of “Claw”. They then formed a line, took a live crab, and paraded down Gus’ pier and threw the crab overboard, announcing that they hoped it would produce bigger and better crabs for a future party.

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This entry was posted in 1930s, 1940s, Baltimore Babylon, Baltimorons, Beer, Crabs, Essex / Middle River, Gayety and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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