Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Review: A Child of the Revolution: William Henry Harrison and His World, 1773-1798

A short book review on a biography I read in 2014 of William Henry Harrison on the anniversary of his death in 1841.

A Child of the Revolution: William Henry Harrison and His World, 1773-1798 A Child of the Revolution: William Henry Harrison and His World, 1773-1798 by Hendrik Booraem
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book's subtitle makes it clear that this is not a full biography of William Henry Harrison. It just covers the first 25 of his 68 years. Most books about Harrison cover his better documented life after 1798 such as his second military career and/or his later political life through his Trivial Pursuit worthy death in 1841, so this is a nice addition. The author notes that there is scant primary source material on Harrison's early days. Therefore, much of what is in the book is somewhat speculative at times yet Booraem provides ample evidence to support those assumptions.

What little records there are of Harrison's life before 1798 are obtained form a variety of sources and then compared with Harrison's own accounts written decades later as he was ramping up for a Presidential run. Much like today, folks running for political office like to fluff up the old résumé a bit and cast a better light on some of their more youthful indiscretions. Harrison was no different so we must take his words from the 1830s with some caution as most autobiographical accounts should. For those early gaps, Booraem takes Harrison's words, known events, customs and other evidence of the period and constructs educated theories of some of Harrison's early life and whereabouts. He does a fine job at it.

Any student of William Henry Harrison's life or the early American Republic should consider this required reading to better understand how the son of a well off slave owning Anglican Virginian planter who signed the Declaration of Independence can be transformed into an abolitionist, a military man, and a politician.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Presidential Profile Wax

The Ohio Irish Five
Happy St. Patrick's Day! Did you know that 22 U.S. Presidents had Irish roots? Five of them were from Ohio! More than any other state. I know what you are thinking though. You see Ben Harrison to the left and are wondering why William Henry isn't there. Ben was Irish on his Mothers side.
This concludes the Irish portion of the post. Feel free to use this trivia at your St. Patrick's Day shindig tonight.

Last Summer I became aware of a collection of 35 “Presidential Profiles” 7” vinyl 33 1/3 RPM records from 1966 that were released with their very own coin! This was very exciting.
Each one commemorates President’s Washington through Lyndon Johnson. Johnson was POTUS #36 but non-consecutive Grover Cleveland was included once. As he should be.
Being a fan of oddball Presidential items, I managed to score a set (minus the original medallions) for the low low price of $22.49. That was a pretty good buy since a single record seemed to be selling anywhere from $5 to $25. The pricier ones were usually sealed and contained the 1.25 inch high relief
bronze medallion. Each coin has a profile of the President on the obverse and an eagle and the words “Presidential Commemorative Medallion” on the reverse. Still yearning for a sampling of the coins I found a lot of 12 being sold separately for $10.95. That would have to do. So $33 bucks overall and some change still wasn't bad.

For as many of these I found on eBay, there was very little information found online about them but I did manage to dig up some details.
William Henry Harrison reverse
These were given out to children as promotional items by savings and loan banks. I guess this was to get kids interested in opening savings accounts and making going to the bank with their parents exciting by studying Presidential history. It's hard to believe this didn't catch fire. "Get the new Beatles record or go to the bank with Mom?...hmmm"

The recently martyred Kennedy kicked off the series in April 1966 and then it's random batches, Jackson, B Harrison, Jefferson, JQ Adams, Grant, Tyler, etc. I suppose the release order was chosen to prevent a run on the "big" Presidents like Washington, Adams, Jefferson, etc. and then have a drop off for more obscure Presidents like Harrison, Tyler, Polk, etc. This went on until ending with the current LBJ in July 1966.

The records were released by a company named Kayson’s International Ltd. I can’t find much info on Kaysons but they seemed to be a Japanese based company that also sold china in the 1960s. This may have been the company's only foray into record distribution as I don’t see any other titles with their label other than this series.

The material itself was written by Walter C. Dallenbach (1937-2014) who later became the Southern California Press Secretary for Senator Eugene McCarthy in his '68 Presidential Campaign. He eventually broke into Hollywood and wrote scripts for hit shows such as Adam-12, Rockford Files, Law and Order. Based on the time-line, this stuff was probably some of Walter's first script writing.
bronze coins included with each record

The narration was done by the then well-known Art Baker (1898-1966) who appeared in over 40 films but was best remembered as the host of the 1950s television program "You Asked for It". It looks like Art died the year they were released making this his swan song.

The foldout sleeve includes important dates in the president’s life and while in office. Each record had an original color portrait of the President painted by Reynold Brown (1917-1991). Mr. Brown produced US Government posters during WWII and over 250 movie posters between1951 and 1970 such as Mutiny on the Bounty and Creature from the Black Lagoon. When you look at the portraits you can definitely see that influence and style. Have a look at them all here.

I had to borrow a turntable to listen to them so I went ahead and converted them to MP3s while I did that. Now you can listen to them too! I wish I kept better notes along the way but hearing them was like stepping back in time to those old grade school documentaries. Overall the audio style was very atypical of their period with the lordly narration and corny music. I didn't denote any political bias of any particular President. One thing I jotted down in a scribbled note was the complete lack of any mention of Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal policy. Not a word.
Each track follows the same pattern where we eventually hear, as the subtitle suggests, each president "speak". Other than Art's narration no one is credited for the other voice work and we don't hear the actual President's voice until Hoover. The first President to be recorded was in fact  Benjamin Harrison in 1889. I imagine there wasn't enough material or good quality material until the 1920s.
1975 Bicentennial LP re-issue
There are a few mistakes on the liner notes. Again with Jackson, he was "Old Hickory" not "Old Rough and Ready", which was Zachary Taylor. Andrew Johnson is listed as Republican. While Johnson was the VP for Republican Lincoln, Johnson was a Democrat. This was a choice to help ease tension with the South. That seemed like a pretty big mistake on both counts.

In researching I learned that the records were repackaged in 1975 as twelve LPs or cassettes (with no medallions) for the upcoming US 1776 Bicentennial with the tag-line "American Revolution Bicentennial 1776-1976". Featured prominently on the originals, there is no mention of Art Baker on the 1975 LPs. That made me kind of sad to discover but I suppose they didn't want these 10 year old records to seem so dated for a new generation. Kids must have wondered what happened to Nixon and Ford.
This was a fun little project. I always enjoy seeing how history was portrayed in other time periods. As I mentioned before, it was interesting that Jackson's Indian Removal policy was not mentioned in his legacy. This was 1966 after all. While some controversies were noted, these biographies do read, or rather listen, a bit like the safe naiveté of a pasteurized 1950s era text book.
In case you missed the links above, listen to the MP3s here and view the full gallery here.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Review: A History of Jonathan Alder: His Captivity and Life with the Indians

A History of Jonathan Alder: His Captivity and Life with the Indians A History of Jonathan Alder: His Captivity and Life with the Indians by Larry Nelson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can't believe I just got around to reading this book that I've seen sourced in other history books many times. I've read a few other captivity narratives but this one is right up my alley in that it mostly happened in Madison County Ohio near Columbus. In fact, when I was in the middle of reading it, I happened to be off work for Christmas break so I took advantage of that timing and combined my hobby of geocaching and made the 90 minute drive to visit some of the places mentioned, including Alder's 210 year old cabin and final resting place . It's always great when history becomes a hands on experience.

Alder's 1806 cabin in Madison County
Since Indians in that period had no written language we have to rely on what was told to Europeans and Americans regarding day to day life. Many times that is filtered through misinterpretation, misunderstandings, or prejudice. Alder was captured by Shawnee in Virginia and adopted by Mingo at eight years of age in 1781. He assimilated and was treated well so I think we get a pretty accurate look into his experiences, good and bad. Nelson's version denotes other versions and additions of the story by others in an italic font to what the author believes is the truest account of Alder's life. The actual story of Alder's story is a bit complicated and the author explains this in the introduction.

Alder voluntarily left his adopted Mingo family in 1805 as white settlers arrived after the Treaty of Greenville. He reunited with his birth family in Virginia and returned to Ohio with them and his new wife 1806. He served as a Captain in the War of 1812. After the war he became a farmer and befriended the famous pioneer Simon Kenton. Alder lived out his days in Madison County Ohio until his death in 1849.

We learn so much about regular life as an Indian in Ohio in the early 19th century from Alder's excellent narrative. Nelson also provides additional footnotes throughout the story that detail further what Alder was referring to at times or what he meant when in the vernacular. Definitely do not skip out on those notes if you get this version of the book.
Alder's grave in Madison County

All in all this is a very easy read and should be required reading for any student of history of the early United States and the old Northwest Territory.

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Review: Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero

As previously stated, I've decided to post some of my short Goodreads reviews of 4 or 5 star history books I've read over the last several years. Why? Well for one the work is half done and I don't have to edit them that much. Also, it's a good way to showcase how captivating history can be by praising great history authors and their books.

The first post of 2017 has nothing to do with Ohio history although Ohio played a vital role in the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement during the 19th century.

Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American HeroBound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero by Kate Clifford Larson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I decided to read this book in May 2016 when it was announced that Harriet Tubman's likeness would share the $20 bill with Andrew Jackson. I really didn't know much about her other than the typical abolition stories most of us get from a grade school history class.

Much of Harriet's story had only been told orally by Tubman and exaggerated by others over the years. Thus, the book is peppered with speculative adverbs such as maybe, possibly, perhaps, etc. I find this to be understandable since Tubman was illiterate, and Larson backs her assertions up with other writers words and letters along with other good source material to fill out the narrative.  The author also debunks some of the long held beliefs such as putting her number of trips at 13 and 70 slaves feed vs 19 trips and 300 slaves freed. An amazing feat nonetheless. I feel this is a truthful, captivating, and well written biography, but it's much more than that. It's a story told in context.
Kate Clifford Larson fills in some of the gaps in Harriet's story with an explanations of how the class and social system operated in 19th century America. This is crucial in order to understand how enslaved people were able to move about and operate on the Underground Railroad undetected. I think most of us envision the plantation system in the deep South, like Roots. But in Maryland, slaves could be hired out to work at other farms and were even allowed to visit extended family unsupervised for periods of time. Slaves were even permitted to marry free blacks. This wasn't done out of sheer kindness. The children of a slave/freeman marriage still belonged to the slave master. This act was more or less an investment. They knew that if a slave had a strong extended family, they were less likely to run away. If slaves caused trouble, they might be sold to a much crueler master in the deep South away from their family.
As if the moral problems of legal slavery were not bad enough, some slave owners cheated the system as they saw their livelihood slowly disappearing. As abolitionists made progress with Americans on the idea of emancipation, at a certain point selling your own slaves in Northern states became illegal. Instead of freeing or manumitting them at a certain age as the law dictated, some masters would simply sell them to illegal Southern slave dealers and claim they ran away. It was rare for a slave owner to be prosecuted for this.

It is unfortunate that despite Tubman's heroic accomplishments assisting slaves to freedom and later working for the Union Army, she was still quite poor and struggled in her final days and even dismissed by others after her death due to her race and social status. Tubman was a brave courageous woman who did much to help make this country truly "equal". One of America's greatest sins was kicking the can of slavery down the road until finally the lives 600,000 Americans would be sacrificed to end that system.

From what I've read about Jackson, he wouldn't like this one bit, but being famously anti-bank, one wonders how he made it on the $20 bill himself. In fact you likely would have to get into the second half of the 20th century before you would find a US President who would have been OK with this. Maybe Kennedy, but not with the Jim Crow South in the 1960s. Times and attitudes change and I'll be glad to see Tubman on the $20 bill, even if it is over 100 years after her death.
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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Shuller's Wigwam

Shuller's Wigwam (originally called Shuller's Restaurant) was on the NE corner of Hamilton Avenue and North Bend Road in Cincinnati for 78 years from 1922-2000. Max Shuller, a Russian immigrant started the place in 1922 after a few years of selling food from a cart in Downtown Cincinnati.

People from the area have fond memories of the popular College Hill eatery and I found many articles but I was hard pressed to find many good photos of Shuller's online.

I have a couple of memories of my own.
inside the Wigwam

I was very late to the scene but I remember bringing a date here in the mid 1980s as it was the fanciest place I could afford. I kind of wonder now how I even found the place as it was pretty good distance from West Chester. At age 20 I wasn't hip to nice restaurants so I recall when they brought out the dessert tray, I picked something different than my date because I thought we were limited the actual ones on the tray. We had a good laugh about that one. I don't recall thinking of this as an old place at the time.
In the late 1990s I moved to the area and came here again a couple of times with family toward the end of Shuller's run. This time, 14 years later, I thought of it as very old timey with dim lighting, dark wood and Naugahyde seats. Almost museum like. Something you just didn't see anymore. They had photos and newspaper clippings on the lobby walls from it's golden era. At that point it really seemed like a relic but the food was still pretty good. I was sad when I learned it was closing. One of my cousins visited again a few years later and asked if we could go back but it was closed by then.
Max's son Leo Shuller at the table in the 1960s lounge
Unfortunately no one from the Shuller family wanted to take over the business in part due to dwindling crowds, aging clientèle and new competition. The restaurant closed in 2000 and the building was razed in 2006. Mixed use development of the property was promised then but fell through but brand new re-development is underway once again by the College Hill Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation. By this time next year there should be new mixed use buildings at this intersection. It's nice to see this area start to spring back after a period of decline.

1920s pre-wigwam original
So back to the Wigwam...and what's with the "wigwam" anyway?
The original 1922 building was added on to in 1932. The addition was shaped like a tee-pee and customers thought it looked like a wigwam, so it became Shuller's Wigwam and they just ran with the pseudo American Indian theme. I wasn't able to to locate any pictures of the tee-pee shaped building. There was another Shuller's Restaurant (and motel) on Reading Road in Roselawn in the 1940s. It's possible folks started calling the one on Hamilton Avenue "wigwam" to differentiate between the two. As I understand it,  the owners were cousins but the businesses were unaffiliated. If anyone has more info on that, please contact me.

1954 un-wigwam like remodel
The tee-pee shaped addition and the original building was torn down in 1954 and a larger more modern looking restaurant was built which looked nothing like a wigwam but the name stayed put. Up until the 1970s, the sign out front had a wigwam shape, but again, I couldn't find any photos online.
Inside, from 1954 to 1980 there were several Indian Village murals on the walls that were painted by a woman named Ruth Listerman. It's too bad these weren't preserved somehow. I was able to locate one photo with one in the background.

interior view with one of
Listerman's Indian murals visible
In keeping with the theme, the menu at one point featured items such as the Mohican French-fried Seafood Platter Deluxe and the 12-ounce Squaw Steak Special. On the kids menu there was PB&J on Toast called a Pocahontas. Oh and there is a Fire Water cocktail menu for the grownups. The names of these items would certainly raise an eyebrow these days.
I wish I had a better photo of the menu, but you get the idea
History must be viewed in context. This, as they say, was a different time...and times change. I'm sure they considered it as an homage in the by-gone days of  radio, movie and TV Westerns.
1940s Bailey-Walker China, made in Bedford, OH
Other menu choices from days of old rarely seen today included liver and onions, turkey croquettes, herring salad and hot slaw with bacon. Aside from eating liver as a kid, I've never eaten any of those things but I must say that the hot slaw with bacon sounds pretty good. Here is the real deal recipe straight from Leo Shuller himself if you want to try it out.
Reagan and a fan at Shuller's
Many celebrities such as Perry Como, William Holden, Woody Hayes, Doris Day, Edie Adams, and Foster Brooks came to dine at Shuller's during its glory days. Actor and future US President Ronald Reagan visited when he was in town with the General Electric Theatre.

Jean Shepard broadcasting from Shuller's
From 1950-1954 Jean Shepard, co-author and "adult Ralphie" narrator of the 1983 movie A Christmas Story, was a WSAI disc jockey and did shows from the restaurant.

matchbooks through the ages
Jer-ry, Jer-ry!
(Bob Shreve to his left & #13 on the podium)
Now here is the oddball stuff I like...
Every January beginning in 1980 and lasting for about seven years, a shindig was held by The Chopped Liver and Wine Society in celebration of the mediocrity of 13th President Millard Fillmore. They called themselves Fillmorons. Fillmore was from Buffalo, New York. The only President from Cincinnati was mediocre William Howard Taft but I guess they didn't want to offend the prominent Taft family. Also, you don't get to have that funny nickname. The first event was emceed by former Cincinnati Mayor, Channel 5 anchor, and future tabloid talk show host Jerry Springer. It figures.

If anyone has a photo of the actual namesake wigwam building or the sign outside, I'd love to see them! I've already scoured the internet. eBay seems to always have some nice matchbooks from the restaurants different eras. Also, if you are a geocacher, I placed a cache on the property in September 2016.

newspaper ad from 1950
A Little Piece of Paradise - College Hill, Ohio by Betty Ann Smiddy

College Hill - Images of America By Gail Deibler Finke
Historic Restaurants of Cincinnati: The Queen City's Tasty History By Dann Woellert
- Old Photos of Cincinnati
Cincinnati Enquirer January 2, 1982
Cincinnati Magazine July 1990

Cincinnati Magazine May 1987
Cincinnati Magazine March 1980

Friday, November 4, 2016

Review: The Victory with No Name: The Native American Defeat of the First American Army

I've decided to post some of my short Goodreads reviews of 4 or 5 star history books I've read over the last several years. I finished this book in November 2014. This seemed like a good one to start with as you will see why...

The Victory with No Name: The Native American Defeat of the First American Army The Victory with No Name: The Native American Defeat of the First American Army by Colin G. Calloway
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was excited to see a new book on one of my favorite periods of US history. I've read many accounts of this battle and events which were included in other books, as well as "Wabash 1791: St Clair's defeat" by John Winkler that came out in 2012. Both are fantastic and worthy reads on this overlooked era of American expansionism but I feel that Colin G. Calloway's book captures a better understanding of the political and societal background issues in the US at that time while Winkler's 2012 book delves more into the details of the military campaign itself which in my opinion is correctly identified by Calloway as an "American Invasion".

On a personal note I thought it was interesting that I decided to read and then finish this book exactly 223 years to the day of St. Clair's Defeat on November 4th 1791. I also just now realized the first book I read on the Shawnee was Calloway's "The Shawnees and the War for America" four years ago. I guess I will be checking out more of his books!

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Saturday, October 1, 2016

19th Century Booze News You Can Use

WHH never slept here
In the election of 1840, Democrat incumbent President Martin Van Buren and his re-election team attempted to smear his Whig opponent William Henry Harrison by portraying him as a hard cider drunk and a hayseed. It didn't matter that WHH was once a US Ambassador, US Congressman (both kinds), Governor of the Indiana Territory, Secretary of Northwest Territory, a US Army General and a celebrated war hero. He had an impressive resume, was college educated, and came from a wealthy family just like Van Buren and most politicians of that era.  I'm not entirely sure what Harrison’s drinking habits were as a younger man. Most men back then drank quite a bit. Supposedly he was a teetotaler later in life.

What Would WHH Do?

1840 campaign medal
Harrison's team embraced the attempted slander and adopted a log cabin as his campaign symbol, the symbol of frontier rustic-ness, and portrayed himself as a regular "Jebidiah the Blacksmith" every-man who enjoyed his Bud Light, I mean hard cider. This tactic was no different than politicians now that put on those plaid shirts for the camera and walk around a farm with their family or don a hard hat and shake hands with factory workers to connect with the common man. It's all political spin and 1840 was no different. Ironically this populist strategy is also what got former War of 1812 General and war hero Andrew Jackson elected as the 7th US President when he ran against incumbent John Quincy Adams. It was Henry Clay's Democratic-Republicans opposition to Jackson and his policies that gave birth to the Whig party in 1833.
The truth is, Harrison never once lived in a log cabin. His campaign team, again taking a page from Jackson, accented the old General's War of 1812 war hero status by coming up with the very first presidential campaign slogan and song "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" emphasizing his win at the Battle of Tippecanoe. The Log Cabin and Hard Cider Campaign was on, complete with cups, plates, flags, and sewing boxes made with his image on them.

Booz...but not from the 1840s

Back to the booze...

Now it is known that there were variants of the word “booze” associated with drunkenness going back to the 14th century Dutch word “búsen” and even in early America, adjectives such as “boosy” meant "drunk". It has been said that Harrison's Presidential campaign popularized the term again in 1840. It's serendipitous to note that Martin Van Buren was of Dutch ancestry and spoke Dutch as his first language. He later learned English in school.

As the legend goes on to say, WHH commissioned the E.G. Booz Distillery (erroneously listed as E.C. Booz at times) in Philadelphia to make log cabin shaped whiskey bottles with the “Booz” surname featured prominently. Harrison allegedly gave away this free booz(e) at campaign stops to potential voters. I've seen this mentioned in an antique glass bottle book from 1920. It's even in the 1941 biography William Henry Harrison, His Life and Times by James A. Green and repeated in many other publications. I myself believed the boozy tale and even wrote about it here*.

Not so fast...

It would be interesting to find the earliest mention of the booze story. I know for example that the Harrison speech/hat and coat/pneumonia story doesn't appear in print until 1939 in the Freeman Cleaves biography "Old Tippecanoe", long considered the go-to book on WHH which incidentally doesn't mention the "booz" story at all, whereas Green's 1941 book does. Hmmm.

Edmund G. Booz was born in 1824, which would make him only 16 years old in 1840. As it turns out, Edmund didn't start selling log cabin shaped whiskey bottles embossed with his family name until 1858. This was at a time when the brand new Republican Party, founded by former Whigs, was gaining popularity with another up and coming log cabin guy named Abraham Lincoln. Since Harrison, the first Whig President, had the famous Log Cabin campaign with lots of other swag, Mr. Booz likely stamped one of them with the 1840 year as a tribute...or possibly as a deception. Either way, this allusion apparently led folks to believe the bottle was from 1840 election and the tale developed from there. I've also learned that Clevenger Brothers Glass made reproductions of the bottles in the 1930s. Sometimes these are sold mistakenly as 19th century originals. This leads me to believe that the story originated not in the 1850s but in the 1930s, which is around the time Green wrote his book.
So while it is feasible Harrison gave out free booze or hard cider (in regular type bottles with no "booz") in 1840 to lubricate thirsty voters and E. G. Booz, with his convenient, name re-popularized an old term for alcohol in the 1860s, it’s just not possible that William Henry Harrison or his campaign had anything to do with it in 1840.


*Note: This is a rewrite of a post from December 2011 that originally credited the 1840 Harrison campaign with popularizing the term "booze". As explained above, new information had come to my attention that indicates this wasn't true. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Ohio History Harvest

September is rich and abundant in Ohio Presidential trivia goodness. Here is a crop of nine savory nuggets from our ninth month. Let's start with the early adventures of our 9th President.

General Harrison statue
in Cincinnati
1812 - The Siege of Fort Wayne began in the Indiana Territory on September 5th led by Potawatomi and Miami Indians. Future 9th President General William Henry Harrison's Kentucky militia from Newport Barracks (across the Ohio River from Cincinnati) joined Ohio militia on September 8th and arrived at the fort September 12th. Known in advance of the approaching superior force the Indians led by Chief Winimac abandoned their attack.
Although born in Virginia and Governor of the Indiana Territory, Harrison would adopt Ohio as his home state, serving in various Ohio political offices and residing in North Bend OH when he became President. I've probably written more blog posts about Harrison than any sane person ever would. Here is a short one to match his brief Presidency.

1812 - Hey what do you know, another WHH entry!...On September 17th William Henry Harrison is made Major General of the US Regular Army by President Madison. Harrison would later defend Ohio from Indian and British advances by building Fort Meigs near Toledo in the War of 1812.

Hendricks is the only VP on US money
1819 - One of three Ohio born US Vice Presidents, Thomas A. Hendricks, 1st VP under Grover Cleveland was born on September 7th in Muskingum County OH. Having spent most of his life as a Hoosier and served as its 16th Governor, he ran with Indiana as his home state in the 1884 election. Hendricks is the only VP whose portrait appears on US paper currency, the $10 silver certificate of 1886. Hendricks died unexpectedly in his sleep just 8 months after being sworn in as Vice President in 1885.

grade school book
about Woodhull
1838 - Suffragette Victoria Woodhull is born September 23rd in Homer OH. Who? In 1872 she was the first woman to run for President and she couldn't even vote for herself. It wasn't just because she was a woman, but she was also in jail on election day. Oh and black abolitionist Frederick Douglass was named as her running mate by her Equal Rights Party. One problem. Douglass was in fact supporting Grant. There’s also no record of how many votes the Woodhull/Douglass ticket received because they apparently weren't even counted. As you can deduce, this Presidential run was more of a protest.

I have to admit I didn't know much about Hendricks or Woodhull before researching for this post. I definitely would like to read more about Woodhull. Notorious Victoria by Mary Gabriel is on my Goodreads to do list.

I have several blog posts about the next four items which are linked in the text.

1855 - Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln Rudely was rudely greeted in Cincinnati on September 20th. One of the impolite greeters was Steubenville OH born Edwin Stanton who would later become Secretary of War seven years later under President Lincoln during the Civil War. Politics makes strange bedfellows they say. Upon Lincoln’s death in 1865, it was Stanton who tearfully said the famous words “Now he belongs to the ages.” 

Taft birthplace in Cincinnati
1857 - Speaking of Cincinnati, 27th  President William Howard Taft was born September 15th in the suburb Mt Auburn. Taft would finish his term unlike many Ohio Presidents, but not get re-elected to a second one mainly due to a public dispute with Teddy Roosevelt. He was the only former POTUS to be come a member of the SCOTUS.
Random thought: If Hillary Clinton becomes President in 2016, she will have become the first FLOTUS to become POTUS. Bill would become the first...FGOTUS? Anyway...

Garfield Tomb in Cleveland
1880 - Arriving in San Francisco by train on September 8th, 19th US President Rutherford B. Hayes became the first US President to visit the West Coast while in office. I never had a whole post about Hayes but he gets a mention here. This is the only Ohio President who I've never visited the birthplace or grave site. I understand his Delaware OH birthplace is now the site of a BP gas station. At least there is a plaque. The more substantial Hayes Presidential Center and grave is on my Ohio bucket list. Hayes was also Ohio's 29th and 32nd Governor.

1881 - On September 19th, Moreland Hills OH born 20th President James Garfield succumbed to his bad doctors one excruciating month after an attempted assassination. I recommend reading the riveting Destiny of the Republic by Candace Millard which is all about that. It's a great book and one of my favorites. I've read it twice!

McKinley Tomb in Canton

1901 - Well we made it to the 20th century! Just 20 years after Garfield, on September 14th, 25th US President William McKinley died after being shot by an assassin eight days earlier in Buffalo NY while headed to Cleveland. McKinley was born in Niles OH and spent most of his life in Canton where his tomb is. He was the 39th governor of Ohio from 1892 to 1896. Rutherford B Hayes was McKinley's commanding officer during the Civil War in the 23rd Ohio Regiment and were both at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. For more on McKinley's assassination, I recommend The President and the Assassin by Scott Miller.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Prison Cemetery Blues

an appropriately dreary day
Geocaching sometimes takes me to interesting places. One of my favorite caching locations is cemeteries. I've been to all kinds. Some of them I've written about here. Pioneer cemeteries, potter's fields, US veteran graves, Confederate gravesAmerican Indian gravesPresidential tombs, rural family plots, African-American cemeteries, abandoned cemeteriesbizarre graveyards, and even an elephant resting place. One day geocaching brought me to the Chillicothe Correctional Institute Cemetery. A prison cemetery.

I like cemeteries. They are historical records and the last word on the person. Some gravestones are quite beautiful and ornate. Others may have a likeness of the deceased. They may have a remark about the persons legacy or their wishes for the afterlife. However, nothing seems bleaker or more desolate than a prison cemetery. Don't get me wrong, many of the people buried in them were the worst of society. Other times they were a lost soul who had a hard life that ended here. Either way you certainly won't find any epitaphs that read "husband, father, mass murderer" or "beloved son, in the wrong place at the wrong time". It's a pretty inauspicious place to spend eternity.

As I wandered around the unadorned wooden crosses and plain stones with simple names and dates, I wondered how one marker with the words "Unknown US" could be here. Even if a person goes to prison under an alias, one would think they would at least have the name used while incarcerated. As it turns out, Chillicothe Correctional Institute Cemetery is on the site of Camp Sherman, a WWI training camp, named after William Tecumseh Sherman. This is likely a stone from that era, although no records seem to exist to explain any further. Apparently a similar stone was found under the CCI Administration building basement. I guess that still doesn't explain it fully. Maybe it was a newly arrived as yet unknown recruit, one of the nearly 2,000 soldiers that died of an influenza outbreak in 1918. Life was hard and cruel 100 years ago.

Of the inmates buried here, there are the usual types of offenders you would expect. Then there are the notorious and truly despicable. Looking through records on findagrave.com led me to the following people buried here:

Stephen Allen Vrable shot and murdered his girlfriend and their 3 year old daughter in 1989. He put their bodies in a refrigerator and lived in the apartment for a month before leaving. The bodies were discovered several weeks later. He was executed in 2004.

plain wooden crosses among simple gravestones
Jeffrey Don Lundgren was failed Mormon minister and self proclaimed prophet who started a religious cult in Kirtland Ohio. He murdered a family of five with help from some followers in 1989 and got ratted out by one of of them. He was executed in 2006.

Then there is Frank Spisak, a neo-Nazi who even sported a Hitler mustache. He killed three people and injured several others in a racially charged 1982 shooting spree on the campus of Cleveland State University. Spisak was executed in 2011 and expressed no remorse when given the chance in his final words. Instead he read from the Book of Revelations...in German. Like many here, no one claimed his body afterward.

Although this post is more about the cemetery rather than the prison, there have been some noteworthy folks that passed through the corrections facility itself. Cincinnati born 17 year old Charles Manson was housed here from 1952-1954 before his notorious 1969 Family murders. Country singer Johnny Paycheck did 22 months at CCI for shooting a man in a Hillsboro OH bar in 1985. His friend Merle Haggard performed for the inmates in 1989.

Anyway back to the cemetery.
I only intended to research the unknown grave. I do wish I could find some information on the "regular" folks that are buried in this stark cemetery, the ones that just made terrible mistakes or were in the wrong place at the wrong time, paid their price and ended up dying here. They were still sons, fathers, brothers...Now they lie here almost as if they never existed. For some of them like Vrable, Lundgren, and Spisak, that's fine by me.

other sources and further reading:
-Grave Addiction on CCI
-Gehio cemetery posts

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ohio's Mint Condition

Did you know Ohio is home to America's oldest private mint? It's also only 6 miles from my house.
Here's the story.
A few months ago I ran across an item on eBay and ended up purchasing it for about $12.
It's a mint condition 62mm (2 ½ inch), 16-gram (.5 ounce) 1953 brushed aluminum medal commemorating the sesquicentennial of Ohio statehood.
The obverse features the Ohio State Seal surrounded by busts of the eight Ohio US Presidents:
William Henry Harrison (9th), Ulysses S. Grant (18th), Rutherford B. Hayes (19th), James Garfield (20th), Benjamin Harrison (23rd), William McKinley (25th), William Howard Taft (27th), and Warren G. Harding (29th).
The reverse notes the company and location "Osborne Coinage Co. Cin. 25, O." At first I didn't know what the "25" signified. I discovered that it references the zip code of the company location which would be "Cincinnati Ohio, 45225" in the Camp Washington area.

The medal was struck by the Osborne Coinage Company of Cincinnati, OH which happens to be the oldest private mint in the US and still in operation today. I checked with them but unfortunately they didn't have any further information on the history of this item, such as how many were made or who specifically it was created for. The early 1950s produced many Ohio Statehood promotional items to gear up for the 150th anniversary. As far as this coin goes, it doesn't show up on eBay much. Another site, which I lost the link to, was selling one and said they'd only seen two of these in twenty years. I don't think it's valuable or anything but I am happy with the price I paid.

Osborne traces its beginning back to to 1835 as the Z. Bisbee Co. originally located on 5th Street in downtown Cincinnati a few miles from Osborne's present location in Camp Washington.
During its 181 year history Osborne produced everything from campaign coins for eight presidents including Lincoln and FDR, food ration tokens in WWII, subway tokens, Alcoholic Anonymous sobriety coins, casino coins, commemorative sports coins, and Chuck E. Cheese tokens. In other words, pretty much anything that was coin-like and wasn't legal tender.

If you need a custom coin, head over to Osborne and tell then Gehio sent you.

related Gehio posts:
Happy 58th Birthday to our 49th State...Ohio!
Ohio Statehood Day!
Ohio History on a Stick

other sources:
1997 LA Times article on the Osborne Coinage Co.