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Rosewood Center
Entrance to the Rosewood Center in Owings Mills. (Courtesy of Sheep Not Goats/Wikimedia Commons)

The Baltimore lawyer who caused a scandal at Rosewood

Slate has a fascinating story about an early 20th century scandal at The Rosewood Center in Owings Mills caused by a hotshot Baltimore lawyer.

Harry B. Wolf is described by author Jesse Bering as a “prodigious” trial attorney handling around 1,000 cases a year who was also involved in real estate deals, hotel investments and even an Eastern Shore ferry service.

Starting in 1920, Wolf obtained writs of habeas corpus for dozens of Rosewood patients in order to seek their freedom. But Wolf was far from altruistic. According to Bering:

These girls, women, and a few boys had not only been legally snatched from Rosewood right under everyone’s noses, but they’d been bought by the rich as unpaid laborers and indentured servants. It was a well-oiled human trafficking operation.

Bering documents how famed child pyschiatrist Leo Kanner exposed the sad fate of many of these former Rosewood patients, many of whom suffered abuse and ended up in the street and/or the sex trade.

As for Wolf, the lawyer who started it all, he was fined and placed on probation in 1922 for obstructing justice in an unrelated murder trial. (The link Bering uses as a reference includes the definition of a “frump” story.)