Friday, February 5, 2016

Ohio - Birthplace of Motion Picture

Today we celebrate the great Ohioan who invented motion picture on this date in history 1861! Thomas Alva Edison of Milan OH...right?
Sorry. Nope. Edison was 14 in 1861. Tom did his thing 30 years later. 

Samuel D. Goodale
I'm talking about Samuel D. Goodale of Cincinnati OH! 

Most folks tend to think of inventions as having a sole inventor. We envision an eccentric man with crazy hair doing experiments who finally has the "eureka" moment. He unveils it to the world. Fame and fortune result! Conventional wisdom states that the Wright Brothers invented the airplane. Edison invented the light bulb. Marconi invented the radio. Doc Brown invented time travel. Right? OK, maybe that last one is a movie stereotype and partly why we believe these things.

As usual the story is not so simple. Typically what happens is the world hits a technological zeitgeist. Let's take a quick look at the development of the airplane as an example. The invention and popularity of the safety bicycle was instrumental in funding the bicycle shop owning Wright Brothers research. It furthered their ability to control their glider too. If a light enough internal combustion engine had not been invented, the Wrights never could have powered that glider. Ergo, no controlled powered flight by the Wrights. Dayton Ohio would have had to come up with different people to name everything after. The fact is the person who gets the credit is usually the one who patents the invention and makes it commercially viable. People didn't even believe the Wright Brothers claims at first. The Dayton news didn't report on it in 1903. After more tinkering Orville and Wilbur patented their "flying machine" in 1906 three years after KItty Hawk. This resulted in a patent war with competitors and there were many lawsuits. Someone even joked that if a person jumped in the air and waved his arms, the Wrights would sue. 
Goodale's 1861 Stereoscope patent

If you Google "who invented motion picture", you will get various results. Thomas Edison, Louis Lumiere, or Eadweard Muybridge, all top out the list from the late 19th century. These men certainly made their contributions but they built on the work of now forgotten pioneers.
Decades earlier, as the US Civil War was beginning and as photography was being perfected and optics were getting better, several different inventors experimented with viewers or scopes that provided an individual photographic "peep show" of simulated motion.
The first patent, US #31,310, for one of these "moving picture" devices was granted on February 5th 1861 to a Cincinnati inventor named Samuel D. Goodale. He called his invention a Stereoscope, a crank-driven machine that used flickering photographic cards to simulate motion to a single viewer. This was just one of many similar devices patented around that time. I suppose there was a patent war going on here too because Coleman Sellers' device, called the Kinematoscope, was patented 47 numbers later the very same day as US #31,357. Sellers, who tends to get more credit in this history, also lived in Cincinnati in the 1850s before moving to Philadelphia. Sellers and Goodale had to of known of each others work right? Hmm. Was this perhaps the VHS vs Betamax War of the era?

Edison's 1895 Kinetoscope
looks like Goodale's
Stereoscope and named
similar to Sellers'
Kinematoscope. Hmm.
Nine years later, in 1870 on...February 5th (remember Goodale and Sellers?) in Philadelphia (remember Sellers, again?), inventor Henry Heyl demonstrated his Phasmatrope (what a great name). 1,500 theatergoers were treated to the sight of Heyl and his niece dancing on a big screen as a 40-piece orchestra accompanied the moving images with a waltz. I'd like to think the February 5th date was planned as a nod to Goodale and/or Sellers but it's likely happenstance. Inventors generally don't like to share credit.

Now granted, it varies on what one might consider a "motion picture". Magic lanterns and novelty toys that gave the illusion of motion to the viewer were in use as early as the 17th century but it was photography that kicked things into gear. The point here is to illustrate that no single person invented the "motion picture". It was a process and some inventors simply got left out of the narrative altogether. So, let's settle the timeline a bit:

1861 - Goodale's Stereoscope (& Sellers' Kinematoscope) is patented.
1870 - Heyl's Phasmatrope debuts to the public (patented in 1867).
1878 - Muybridge's famous "A Horse in Motion" is shown with his Zoopraxiscope.
1891 - Edison's Kinetoscope is demonstrated (not patented until 1897).
1895 - Lumiere's Cinematographe is patented and shows a film to the public.

Did you notice that a generation and a half separate Goodale from Edison? One thing is true. The names of those things are just awesome. Phasmatrope? Zoopraxiscope? That's good stuff. Edison is known to have begun working on motion pictures after seeing a lecture by Eadweard Muybridge who no doubt knew of the others. Like the Wright's, Thomas Edison filed many infringement lawsuits against his competitors in the late 19th century. The courts ruled he had an unfair monopoly. By 1918 Edison abandoned his involvement with motion picture. 

And what of Samuel D. Goodale? I can't even find a photo of him or his invention, just the patent drawing. He barely gets a mention, or he is left out entirely of the history of cinema altogether. He doesn't get a Wikipedia entry. 
1876 toy pistol patent
But I believe I cracked the Goodale case just a little. 
I found a reference to a "Samuel Dexter Goodale" born in Massachusetts on May 11th 1817. Samuel Dexter Goodale was also granted a toy pistol patent in February 1876 while living in Du Quoin IL. He is listed as "Samuel D.Goodale" in another patent publication for the toy pistol.
According to the OCR text of the Sunday, April 6, 1884 Cincinnati Enquirer a "Samuel D. Goodale" died in Du Quoin IL in 1884. The obituary mentions an event in Texas (which seceded Feb 1 1861): "during the early part of the war he had a personal encounter with a Texan, growing out of a political discussion, which resulted in his receiving a wound in the leg. As soon as he was able to walk he returned to Cincinnati, and engaged in business here as an optician until he retired a few years ago from active pursuits, and went to Du Quoin to live. The paralysis which caused his death was ascribed to the wound in his leg." This S.D.G. was moved to Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati by his family in 1918. Records there confirm his cause of death as "paralysis - effect of a gun shot wound"Are these two Samuel D. Goodale's one in the same? The name, age, years, locations, and occupations certainly seem to suggest this. Perhaps his injury and resulting paralysis in the early 1860s is why his legacy faded. Also noteworthy is that the infamous Cincinnati Courthouse Riots occurred in late March 1884, a week before Goodale's death. The Hamilton County Courthouse and all of its important records were burned in that event. Cincinnati lost a lot of history that day.

artist rendering of a wound up Texan
Nevertheless, we do know a Cincinnatian named Samuel D. Goodale is an unsung pioneer in the development of motion pictures. He just didn't get any of the glory thanks to Edison and possibly a wound up Texan with a real pistol.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Heart(land) of Glass

 Over the last several years I've collected various history related trinkets and ephemera. I think they gain an insight into the culture of the time and what folks in the past thought was important to emphasize. Sometimes they just look nice on a shelf.

I have three glass tumblers that were part of several series of US State drinking glass sets in the 1950s. Naturally, I am drawn to the ones that depict Ohio. I found these at Ohio Valley Antique Mall. Let me say that despite my interest in Ohio history, I never thought I'd be writing a blog post about drinking glasses. I've since discovered that these have a bigger connection to the Buckeye State than just the name on the tumbler. Did you know that Ohio was once a leader in the US glass industry and several museums are devoted to that fact? Before plastic was invented and in widespread use, glass was used for many items. Over 70 glass companies operated in Ohio between 1880 and 1920.

Hazel-Atlas marking
The first two glasses are from a major glass manufacturer called Hazel-Atlas based in Wheeling WV since 1885. The company operated under that name until 1964. Hazel-Atlas made everything from medicine bottles to food jars and lamps to dinnerware, and of course drinking glasses. By the 1920s most American homes had something made by Hazel-Atlas. By the 1930s they had 15 plants, one of which was in Zanesville OH. They were most famous for so-called Depression Glass items. This was low-cost Depression era glassware, much of which was made in the Ohio River Valley and is highly collectible now.

The the blue and mostly clear Ohio glass pictured on the left is 5 1/4" tall. A map of Ohio depicts the Columbus State House, Fort Meigs near Toledo, and the Cleveland Terminal Tower. The music and lyrics of "Down By The Ohio", composed in 1920 and popularized in 1940 by the Andrew Sisters are on the reverse.
These glasses sold as promotional items by Big Top Peanut Butter of Lexington KY. They were originally filled with delicious peanut butter and sold in grocery stores . Not a bad deal. Buy peanut butter for the kids, get a free highball glass for Dad! Big Top Peanut Butter was bought out by Proctor & Gamble of Cincinnati OH in 1955 and re-sold as Jif Peanut Butter. I am uncertain if the glass painting was outsourced or done by the glass company itself. I do know that a lot of Hazel-Atlas glassware was painted by Gay Fad Studios of Lancaster OH like the next item.

The yellow painted and frosted "Ohio The Buckeye State" glass tumbler was also made by Hazel-Atlas. This glass measures 5 inches tall. A large map depicts 20+ Ohio cities, the State Flag and a compass.
This was sold in roadside souvenir shops. During the post WWII boom, the turnpikes and Interstate Highways developed. The middle class grew and more Americans were now driving around the country on vacations. Collecting the glasses was a way to show your friends back home were you've been. Think of it like t-shirts, refrigerator magnets, and bumper stickers today.
The glass decorating itself was sometimes done by another company, which was the case here. Fran Taylor’s Gay Fad Studios in Lancaster OH was the most famous of the glass decorating companies.

The red painted and frosted "OHIO Buckeye State" glass tumbler was made by The Federal Glass Company of Columbus OH, and operated between 1900 and 1979.  The glass stands at 4 3/4" tall. Supposedly Federal Glass Co. items were faked over the years. In this case, the Federal Glass Co logo, a capital F inside a shield is on the bottom so it's the real deal. This was likely painted by an in-house decorating department.
This glass illustrates cities along an Ohio Turnpike map at the top. Also represented are Terminal Tower in Cleveland, Perry's Monument, Schoenbrunn Village, the State Bird, the State Flower, the Ohio River, the State Capitol, and Fountain Square/Carew Tower in Cincinnati.
The Federal Glass Co state glasses were also sold at souvenir shops across the nation during the 1940's through 1960's.

Federal Glass marking
All of these tumblers depict important Ohio connections to the past. Pioneer villages, War of 1812 sites, monuments and such. They also feature state symbols, maps, and city landmarks. Aside from the song, after 50 years, these references remain relevant. I wonder what song a modern glass-maker would choose? Several prominent "Ohio" songs in the rock era exist but highlight unfortunate turns in Ohio history such as "Ohio" by Crosby Stills and Nash or "My City Was Gone" by The Pretenders. Otherwise both fine songs, but I nominate O-H-I-O by the Ohio Players. The lyrics are also easy to remember if you can spell Ohio.

Now if this were Antiques Roadshow, here is where I would reveal my estimate at auction. If this were Pawn Stars maybe Rick would call an Ohio glass buddy he knows. The truth is, they aren't worth much money. On eBay, I've seen people try to sell these for inflated prices. Someone listed the yellow one for nearly $70 and described the paint as a decal. Needless to say it didn't sell.  The reality is, I don't think I've ever seen any of these types of glasses sell for more than $10. With shipping.
I only paid five bucks.

other sources:
Santa Fe Trading Post
- Hazel-Atlas Glass Database
- Federal Glass Company Database

Monday, December 21, 2015

Taft's Whale House*

Taft's birthplace decked out for Christmas

On a whim a few weeks ago I decided to hit some geocaches in the Mt Auburn area of Cincinnati. A newer one was near the September 15th 1857 birthplace of  William Howard Taft, where he also lived for his first 25 years.

There are all sorts of schools, museums, and roads around town named for the prominent Taft Family. Believe it or not, as a 36 year resident of Cincinnati and a self described local history nut, I have never been there. Or more correctly, I believe I was dragged here as a teenager with my parents and grandparents many years ago. I don't think that counts.
These days of course I love my local history and especially the 19th century oddball Ohio Presidents. I find the other 20th century Ohio POTUS' like the prematurely deceased Harding and McKinley interesting but for some reason, Bill Taft never clicked with me. I suppose with the others there is some sort of side show curiosity about them. They were either Generals, died in an unfortunate way, or just outright forgotten by most. Sometimes all of those things. Other than Taft's sizable girth (along with the related bathtub legend) and his spat with Teddy Roosevelt,  I suppose I just found Taft kind of...normal. The man himself remarked later in life, "I do not remember that I was ever President." So don't worry, this post isn't really about Taft. However, here is a list of enjoyable 15 Wonderful William Howard Taft Facts.

I wasn't sure if I was going to take the tour, so I parked in the empty lot behind the house thinking I'd just walk around the outside. As I was strolling through the property, staffed by the National Park Service, a Ranger (with the Ranger Smith hat and everything) came out and asked if I was going to take the free tour that was just starting. This seemed like fate to me. I said "yeah" and walked over to the house and caught up with the group which consisted of an older couple and probably their adult sons.
Mt Auburn was once an affluent neighborhood, but times change and that isn't so any longer. In fact the property of one of Cincinnati's most prominent families is flanked by the Hamilton County Juvenile Court complex and William Howard Taft Elementary. As our Ranger tour guide led us through each of the period furnished rooms and talked about the Taft family legacy and the only Cincinnati born POTUS, she locked the door behind as we left. The Ranger clearly loved her job but I felt like deep down she drew the short straw and was just making the best of her assignment. I suppose everyone can't be a Ranger at Yosemite or Ford's Theater. The guided tour wasn't long. Maybe 20 minutes. After that we were free to roam about the unlocked areas where they had timeline information and other items on display (in sealed and locked cases of course) on the life of our 27th President and 10th Chief Supreme Court Chief Justice.

One take away I had was the fact that they don't know exactly when the 19th century Greek revival house was built (probably 1842). All the records were lost when the Hamilton County Courthouse burned down in the 1884 Cincinnati riots. That particular event comes up a lot when researching Cincinnati history.

Of course no visit to a museum is complete with a stop at the gift shop! In this case it was next door in the Taft Education Center where I was greeted by a young lady who asked if I wanted to see the film that was playing. She seemed excited to see another human being. I politely declined and perused the offering of Taft swag instead. They tempted me with t-shirts and Ranger hats but I opted for the understated fridge magnet and lapel pin. Afterward I scooted off to claim the geocaches that brought me to the area. At any rate, I'm glad I took the tour. It was somewhat spontaneous and I enjoy visiting Ohio Presidential sites anyway. Not a bad way to spend a dreary late November afternoon.

*You may be thinking, "What's with the post title, "Taft's Whale House"? I get it that Taft was fat and but that was later." There is a newish Cincinnati microbrewery and restaurant in Over-The-Rhine called Taft's Ale House in honor of our portly President. So it's a play on that. I had to get one fat joke in, right? I've never been to Taft's Ale House myself but I hear it is good. Tell them Gehio sent you! Be prepared for a blank stare.

I should pick up a book on Taft. I guess. As far as Presidential spots go, Rutherford B. Hayes, you are (probably) next!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Indiana Giver

Toth working on one of his creations
I was in Vincennes IN recently checking out the gubernatorial home of frontier General and brief 9th US President William Henry Harrison. I was aware of a nearby 23' wood carving of  Shawnee War Chief Tecumseh, Harrison's adversary in the beginning of the 19th century, and planned to stop by. It was a nice bonus that geocache had been placed near the statue since it was a Tecumseh historical sign early in my geocaching life that sparked my interest in this era of history.

It was pretty impressive seeing it up close but I had WHH on my mind and really hadn't thought much more about it since that visit. I figured it was a one off thing by a local artist, which in itself would still be pretty cool. The real story is more impressive though. It turns out that this was made by a guy named Peter Wolf  Toth. Nope he's not the guy in the J. Geils Band either.

Since 1974, Toth has created a series of 74 sculptures across North America called the Trail of the Whispering Giants to honor Native Americans. It's to honor his own heritage right? Nope. He's not even Indian. He wasn't even born in North America. He's from Hungary. His dirt poor family fled during the 1956 Soviet takeover and settled in Akron OH at a young age. He later developed an interest in Native American culture and history in his new country. Paul saw in their story a parallel to the violent repression he had experienced in Hungary. In fact his only non Indian statue is #73 of St. Stephan, King of Hungary c.1000AD. Toth completed that one in 2008 in his native country.
my view of Chief Tecumseh in Vincennes IN
He has one on his adopted home town of Akron called Rotayna he sculpted in 1985.
Chief Tecumseh in Vincennes IN is the most recent statue #74 completed in 2009. It is made of oak and stands 23' tall.

Unfortunately some of the other statues have been destroyed by rot, termites, lightning, disease or other natural forces over the years, including his first one in CA made of stone. He is trying to replace the ones that he can. Toth accepts no money for his sculptures and works odd jobs in between projects.

For more about Peter Wolf Toth and his work, use the links above. His bio even mentions that geocachers have used the sites of his statues for geocaches.

Also, I mean no disrespect with the blog post title. It's a slight play on the title of his 1983 book, Indian Giver: Gifts Of Statues For All 50 States To Honor The Indian

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Darke County Poorhouse Cemetery

The original infirmary c.1868
when Annie Oakley was a resident

The Darke County Infirmary opened in 1854. It was one of the many 19th century Ohio  poorhouses that took care of the destitute (or just their children), mentally ill, and elderly. Residents were referred to as "paupers" in the register. Sometimes parents under financial burdens would send their children to places like this. Eight year old Ohioan Annie Oakley was sent to this infirmary by her widowed Mother and lived there for 2 years in the 1860's until she was hired out by a family to do chores. Annie never got paid by the abusive family and ran away. She returned to the home and was eventually reunited with her Mother by age 12. It's hard to imagine a life like that.

the second infirmary, from a 1915 postcard
The original infirmary building was struck by lightning on June 2, 1897. It burned to the ground and another one was built. It also was hit by lightning and burned. Since 1978 another Darke County Home still operates as a modern nursing facility. To my knowledge it has not been struck by lightning.

The county home also had it's own cemetery located to the east of the intersection of US-127 and OH-49 outside Greenville OH.

Most of the marble markers in the infirmary cemetery have no names, just numbers. I guess that cost extra and this was the poorhouse after all. There are records online that list the names and dates of the deceased although several are still listed as "unknown". Many of the markers with names seem to have been military veterans or recent burials. There are at least eight Civil War veterans and one WWII veteran interred in the cemetery. It's kind of sad knowing that some of our nations veterans ended up in a place like this, alone or too ill to care for themselves.

When I was in the area geocaching on October 22, 2011, grave No. 26 happened to catch my eye since it was also marked with a name. James Perry was a Private in the 7th Independent Company, Ohio Sharpshooters mustered in January 27, 1863 at Camp Cleveland, OH in the US Civil War. Records show he likely fought in the Battle of Atlanta, Peachtree Creek and Kennesaw Mountain. Perry was buried here in 1917 at the age of 75.

But wait, there's more!

This post was originally going to end there. Then I learned of a few sad stories as I looked through the online records.

George Henry Davis has several alias' listed. He was killed in 1936 during his attempted poolroom holdup in Greenville. His occupation is listed as "robber" and cause of death, "justifiable homicide". He was identified by fingerprints and was buried under marker number 104 which is now gone. It's almost as if he never existed.

unmarked, numbered gravestone
Katie Melissa McNutt was born at the home in 1911 and died 22 days later. Several members of the McNutt family are buried here.

Grave no. 139 is listed as "unknown". This was a child found in a ditch east of Castine OH in 1947.

Partheria Mullen lived at the home for 6 years. She died in 1909 at age 46 due to "softening of the brain". I had to Google that one. I think it is an archaic term they used for senile dementia caused by a cerebral hemorrhage. She was just left and forgotten. The records state that no one ever visited her during her stay.

But possibly the most tragic of all is the story of the Jane Doe buried here.
A nude body was discovered on October 11, 1970 in a cornfield in nearby Arcanum OH. The condition of the body was so bad that  photos or fingerprints could not make a match to anyone. The identity of this young woman remained unsolved for 39 years. In 2009 DNA testing revealed this to be Jeanne Marie Melville, an 18 year old missing person from Green Bay WI. Sadly, Jeanne's mother died the year before, never knowing what happened to her daughter. The murder case itself is still unsolved. Use the links for more info. It breaks my heart to look at this young woman's photo.

I'm not sure if this place is haunted, but it should be.

other sources:
- Records of the Darke County Infirmary
- Annie Oakley: Darke county’s favorite daughter
- Darke County Home Cemetery (more photos)
- This Dark County

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The 180 Pound Gorilla

beardless lanky Ape-raham in Lytle Park, Cincinnati
We have notions that our beloved leaders from the past were always admired. We tend to think that gentleman in ye olde days were more civil and less obnoxious than we are now with all the screaming and yelling on cable news shows. It's kind of always been that way.

In 1855 a young patent lawyer was hired to hear an infringement case in Illinois on a new reaper that was about to revolutionize farming. The trial was moved to Cincinnati so the young lawyer and former Congressman traveled there to meet with the new team. On this day in 1855 he was met by one of the most prominent attorneys of the day named Edwin Stanton. As you may have guessed by now, the visiting lawyer was Abraham Lincoln. He was treated rudely and dismissively by members of his own team. Stanton was unimpressed and regarded Lincoln as an ill-schooled rube and called him a "long-armed ape". He went on to remark that Lincoln was a “long, lank creature from Illinois, wearing a dirty linen duster for a coat and the back of which perspiration had splotched with wide stains that resembled a map of the continent.” At least the insults then were more eloquent. Lincoln was shut out of the proceedings. They wouldn't even read his brief. With nothing to do,  Abraham Lincoln spent most of his time touring Cincinnati. His team won the case and he was paid but he tried to return the fee since he hadn't really done anything.  He ended up accepting half of the fee which he then split with his partner in Illinois. Lincoln admitted he did not enjoy his stay in Cincinnati.

a long way in 10 years
Lincoln of course went on to become the 16th President of the United States overseeing a critical point in US history. Who did he choose for Secretary of War as the Civil War got under way? The man who snubbed and insulted him seven years prior but who Lincoln felt was best suited for the job, Edwin Stanton. They sometimes remained at odds but Stanton eventually became one of Lincoln's closest friends and advisors. Upon Lincoln’s death in 1865, it was Stanton who tearfully said the famous words “Now he belongs to the ages.” 

Lincoln’s lousy week in Cincinnati
Lincoln in Ohio

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Mount Molehill

Mountain shaped McKinley Tomb in Canton OH
On August 30th 2015 President Obama changed the name of Mt. McKinley, the 20,237-foot mountain and the tallest in North America to Denali.
What is a lover of Ohio history and a Native American sympathizer like myself to do?
Ohio politicians are fit to be tied. Some are saying it's an example of the President circumventing Congress. Others say it's a slight against Ohio's martyred native son. A meme going around had racist overtones. Former Ohio Congressman Rep. Ralph Regula (R) went so far as to call Obama a dictator. Hyperbole much?

After some soul searching (in the form of Google), I uncovered some things known as "facts".

Obama himself didn't really change or "decree anything". The headlines you see are mostly clickbait. More on that in a bit.

1896 adoption certificate
The mountain was known as Denali or Deenaalee, an Koyukon Native American word meaning “the high one” or “great one", for centuries. The first documented non-native sighting was by a Russian named Andrei Glazunov in 1834 who used a variant of the name "Tenada" in his 1839 map. Then along came a gold prospector in 1896 named William Dickey (not from OH but just gaga for gold and McKinley) who decided to call Denali, Mt. McKinley since he had just been named the Republican nominee for President. That's pretty good PR. McKinley was elected, served a full term, started the Spanish-American War, annexed Hawaii, got re-elected. But his main legacy is being assassinated in his second term by an anarchist in 1901. For that he got a whole mountain.

The first mapped depiction of Denali
in an 1839 expedition
In 1917, sixteen years after the President's death, the US officially recognized the name Mt. McKinley when the surrounding national park was created.
Here's the thing. Charles Sheldon, who promoted the idea of creating McKinley National Park, wanted Congress to call the mountain Denali. They ignored that request. Alaska just kept calling the mountain Denali and has had a standing petition for the Federal name to be changed back to Denali since 1975. Ohio politicians kept blocking the 1975 proposal and the name remained Denali in Federal records. McKinley National Park was later renamed Denali National Park in 1980 without much controversy. But Mt. McKinley stayed. I suppose if they had done what Charles Sheldon wanted in the first place, we wouldn't even be discussing this now.

In 2015, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, citing authority in a 1947 law passed by Congress, changed the mountain name back to Denali.. The 1947 law states that the  Interior Secretary can authorize name changes if the U.S. Board on Geographic Names does not act within a reasonable time. Alaska's entire Congressional delegation, Rep. Don Young (R-AK), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) praised the decision saying "Denali, the 'Great One' comes home" and "Today, the nation recognizes what Alaskans have known for generations". It's worth noting that Sen. Sullivan was born in OH just 70 miles from McKinley's birthplace.
McKinley was never here

The Obama administration isn't entirely innocent. The timing of the restored name came on the eve of a planned presidential visit with an emphasis on Alaska's connection to climate change. So there is some political maneuvering there. But it's not all rainbows and unicorns for Obama with the state of Alaska. Protesters are planning to greet the President. Not to protest the name change, but to urge him to reverse his decision to allow Shell Oil to drill in the Arctic.
Keep in mind that McKinley never visited Alaska and has absolutely no historical connection to the state of Alaska. None. Re-naming it Mt. McKinley in 1896 was the political stunt.

“With our own sense of reverence for this place, we are officially renaming the mountain Denali in recognition of the traditions of Alaska Natives and the strong support of the people of Alaska.”  - Interior Secretary Sally Jewell

The new 2015 GMC McKinley. Thanks Obama.
McKinley, a pretty mediocre POTUS in historical rankings, has lots of things named after him, schools, streets, a gun club(!), memorials, a great tomb.
Get over it Ohio. It's embarrassing. I love you lots but you don't get to name mountains in Alaska.

Bonus trivia: McKinley was the first president to ride in an automobile. The one that took him to the hospital after being shot. There is no car named after McKinley, but there is a GMC Denali. Go figure.

Another Gehio post on McKinley

Friday, August 21, 2015

Little Phil

Sheridan in his Civil War prime
History is full of great people who did wonderful things but were flawed in other ways. I sometimes wonder how Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, etc would fair in today's hyper critical sound bite world. The Founding Fathers kicked the slavery issue down the road, Lincoln was called a tyrant by half the country, FDR ordered internment camps for the Japanese-Americans. Imagine if they had Twitter or cable news then. Those were different times we always say. Future generations will no doubt say the same thing about us.

I never know what to think of guys like General Philip Henry Sheridan.  He certainly isn't a Jefferson or FDR but he was a major figure in preserving the Union during the Civil War which also ended the institution of slavery. That in itself is a noble thing. But he isn't really remembered for that so much. With the Union intact, the US looked again to the West. Sheridan and his peers resumed American expansionism with the exploitation and near genocide of the indigenous people of America. He is mostly remembered for an infamous (mis)quote "the only good Indian is a dead Indian."

Sheridan Monument in Somerset OH
March 6th 1831 is considered to be Philip Henry Sheridan's birthday and I meant to post something on that day. 2015 is also the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War. I had thought Sheridan was born in Ohio which is why I decided to write up something about him. In history even the simplest things can be quite murky.

It turns out Sheridan, who earned his "Little Phil" nickname from a his 5'5" stature, either didn't know where he was born or lied about it because he had early Presidential aspirations. He is on the record as saying Somerset OH at one point, Albany NY another time, and even Massachusetts. In all likelihood he was born in Ireland or possibly on the ship from Ireland to the US. The dates of his parents immigration seem to suggest this. The city of Somerset OH claimed him as early as 1888 and erected a statue of him in 1905. The memorial is the only Civil War equestrian statue in Ohio. His Mother is also on Team Somerset, but said his birth certificate was burned in a fire. Convenient. We do know he spent his early childhood there. For the record, Albany NY claims him as well. For more on all this check out this link with telegrams and articles from February 1888.

During the Plains Indian Wars in the last half of the 19th century they had a tough time determining a friendly or a "good" Indian vs a hostile or "bad" Indian. Some "good" Indians assisted Americans soldiers as scouts and provided intelligence on other Indians. It got complicated. Some bands or individuals within the same tribes had differing allegiances. To most Americans on the Plains, there was no distinction. "The only good Indian is a dead Indian."

The original "dead Indian" story has Comanche Chief Tosahwi identifying himself to Sheridan in 1869 at Fort Cobb in present day Oklahoma as a "good" Indian meaning he was cooperative and not hostile to US goals. Sheridan supposedly replied  "The only good Indians I ever saw were dead." Sheridan denies he ever said such a thing.

Post Civil War diplomacy in the 1860s and 1870s seemed to be shoot first and...who the hell cares about asking any questions, just shoot! Entire villages, women and children too, could be easily mowed down by the new automatic Hotchkiss guns. Keep in mind, many whites at that time considered Indians as an inferior savage race. Even good old George Washington stated  a hundred years prior “Indians and wolves are both beasts of prey, tho’ they differ in shape". Dee Brown's "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" tells the 1867 account of Colonel Maynadier and a local "good" Indian named Spotted Tail. He was shocked to see Spotted Tail cry upon hearing the news of his daughters death. The Colonel was raised to believe Indians didn't really have human emotions like whites.

Little Big Phil Sheridan in 1876
Several witnesses claim Sheridan did made his remark in some form. If true, given the climate of the time, I'm not sure why he would deny it. Some have argued that the "dead Indian" statement was a message of regret and not an insult. Supposedly opponents of the General changed it to the infamous quote to smear Phil politically. I don't know about that. While not as catchy as the dead Indian statement, he is known to have said, "If a village is attacked and women and children killed, the responsibility is not with the soldiers but with the people whose crimes necessitated the attack." In essence, "kill em all, let God sort em out."
So, if he denied the quote why wasn't he taking credit and bragging rights? Or for that matter, if it was a statement of regret, why not just say that? No one seems to know. The General died in August 1888 from heart failure at the age of 57. Ironic, right?  If he ever wrote about it we'll never know. His personal papers were burned in the 1871 Chicago Fire. I assume this was the same fire that destroyed his birth certificate.
I suppose it makes no difference if he said it or not. While the quote is apocryphal it certainly embodied the spirit of his attitude and the general American outlook in the late 19th century. At the end of the day, even though his name and image adorn towns, counties, tanks, mountains, stamps and old bank notes, the "quote" will always be his legacy.
Happy late belated birthday. I guess.

other sources:
Philip Henry Sheridan at
Philip Sheridan at
Colonial Williamsburg - The Indian War

Collection of 1888 articles & telegrams claiming and disputing Sheridans birthplace

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Fool and The Buckeye

Arthur St. Clair doodle
On this day in 1787 the Northwest Ordinance was enacted forming the Northwest Territory

People tend to think of history as some sort of concrete timeline where the occasional revisionist meddles with the facts. While that may be true at times, the fact is, some history just gets lost. Original sources like books, documents, paintings, etc turn up missing or get destroyed. Sometimes the original source is found to be wrong or subsequent authors didn't have access to good sources. Then folks use that as a source. You get the idea.

Back in the 18th century, seals were all the rage.. Not the adorable trick-performing fish-eating mammals but rather the circular emblem type with a Latin motto. It made things all official-ly looking. The Old Northwest Territory, which would give birth to six US States had its own official seal designed by my favorite terrible frontier General and Governor Arthur St. Clair himself. I hadn't really thought about the Seal of the Northwest Territory too much until I ran across a funny reference to it in a 1939 book called "Cincinnati: Story of the Queen City" by Clara Longworth de Chambrun.

Arthur St. Clair
The man who runs the Dust Jacket, a collectible bookstore in Mt Lookout in Cincinnati told me a little about the author. Clara was a Longworth, one of Cincinnati's first and richest families, related to Teddy Roosevelt and Marquis de Lafayette. That's pretty good breeding. She had lived just up the road and said the book had some "real gossipy stuff". I was intrigued. After reading it I understood more what what he meant. It wasn't scandalous like TMZ or something, it was full of unsourced and anecdotal historical stories. Don't get me wrong though, she meant well and it's still a very interesting and worthy book with lots of good local material and illustrations. Just don't take everything she says as the last word.

Clara Longworth de Chambrun
Clara Longworth de Chambrun states that the seal design by "Saint Clair" (her odd spelling) represents the planting of a buckeye among the stumps of the fallen forest. She says that the design was criticized by people insisting "the Fool had cut down a good apple tree and replaced it with a worthless buckeye" (her quotes). She goes on to say that many felt no seal was needed since statehood was in sight. This was accompanied by an image of the seal. Notice she also spells "St. Clair" as "Saint Clair". I guess she really was a blue-blood Francophile. I think she just took a shine to the original French spelling of this surname. While there were variations, Arthur definitely spelled it "St. Clair" in his signature and I've never seen spelled any other way. Most historians pronounce it "Sinclair" too.

At any rate, as funny as I thought that "worthless buckeye" comment was, something didn't quite sit right with her apocryphal statement. She makes it sound like the seal was only in use very briefly. While St Clair certainly made his mistakes, he was a scholarly and educated man. The Old Northwest Territory existed from 1787–1803. The seal's first recorded use was in a proclamation made on July 26, 1788 by Arthur St. Clair himself. Statehood certainly was not in sight in 1788. That wouldn't happen until 1803. So it it was in use for at least 15 years. In the image there also seems to be no way to tell what kind of tree that is in the design.

William Hayden English
In the late 19th century a man named William Hayden English (a one time 1880 VP Democratic candidate who lost to the Garfield team) did some research while serving as the President of the Indiana Historical Society. He found that no official record existed on the full description or on the symbolism of the seal. In fact it was difficult finding a copy of it that had all parts of it distinctly shown. Remember, these were nearly 100 year old papers and they weren't exactly stored in a sealed climate controlled room. English basically recreated it from six photographs of documents and a lead rubbing of an impression of the seal.

His research was published in the 1896 book, Conquest of the Country Northwest of the River Ohio, 1778-1783 and concluded:

The coiled snake in the foreground and the boats in the middle distance; the rising sun, the forest tree felled by the ax and cut into logs, succeeded, apparently, by an apple tree laden with fruit; the Latin inscription, "Meliorem lapsa locavit," "he has planted a better than the fallen," all combine forcibly to express the idea that a wild and savage condition is to be superseded by a higher and better civilization.

I think what English came up with reconciles with what someone like Arthur St Clair had in mind. White men civilizing nature and "savage" Indian country. Also, English's book was published over 60 years prior to de Chambrun's. Whatever image Clara was looking at was the one re-created by English's research. As amusing that remark is about the fool and the buckeye is, and as much as I wanted it to be true, I think have to go with English's more mundane interpretation. But where did Clara Longworth de Chambrun notion come from? I guess that's the story lost to time.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Whirlwind Weekend WHH History Tour

inside the 2nd gate at last!
Perhaps you've noticed that I have a zeal for our trivialized 9th President? My wife has. For my half century birthday she surprised me with a Whirlwind Weekend William Henry Harrison History Tour in Ohio and Indiana. How bout that? All the stops were presented to me in a sealed envelope along the way, so I didn't know what was next! She even packed my "got William Henry Harrison?" t-shirt for the occasion. Huzzah!

Stop #1 on Saturday June 13th was a short drive to the Harrison Memorial and Tomb in North Bend OH.
I've been here several times but my wife really went the extra mile on this one. You can usually only go into the 1st gate of the tomb and peer into the main area. The 2nd gate stays locked except on special occasions. I guess this was one those. Tricia got a hold of Terry Simpson who is in charge of the property. She arranged for him to meet us there at 7:30AM and let me in the 2nd gate to stand inches away from WHH himself!  I've spoken to Terry before over at the Harrison-Cleves Museum. It was fantastic of him to meet us there early on a Saturday morning. Oh and there appeared to be some empty spots in the tomb near William Henry and wife Anna Symmes. I called dibs on one of them. I just found out I'm related to WHH by marriage. My 4x Great Grandfather William Henry Smith was a cousin of the Symmes family.

Stop #2 was the main course, Harrison's home he had built in Vincennes IN, the Indiana Territorial capital in the early 19th century, population 700. He named his home Grouseland, for the many game birds on this 300-acre tract of land in this former French trading post. Harrison arrived in Vincennes in 1801 as Governor and once completed lived at Grouseland from 1804 - 1812. This has been on my "local" history bucket list for a while.
view of Grouseland from the historic walnut grove

William Henry Harrison moved from North Bend OH to Vincennes with his wife Anna Symmes after he was appointed Governor by President Jefferson. Tricia and I had the luxury of a modern highway that took a pleasant 4 hours. By contrast, land routes were rare, rugged and dangerous in 1801 so the Harrison family took the 4 week trip by boat down the Ohio River to Louisville KY and then to southern Indiana where they continued upriver by keelboat on the Wabash. By all accounts they had good weather or it would have taken much longer. I'm glad we live in 2015!

Our drive along Rt 50 was beautiful and highly recommended vs the somewhat faster but more boring I-74 to I-70 route. We passed through and by Hoosier National Forest Martin State Forest, a couple of wildlife refuges and many small historic towns. I would like to come back to that area and explore it a bit more. Indiana aint just corn fields. One would think it would all be flat (like the Interstate) but it was hilly and forested in many spots and reminded me of driving through parts of rural Kentucky. Of course if you enjoy billboards and chain restaurants take Interstate. Your call.
My friend and fellow geocacher Mark also helped Tricia  pre-plan some geocaches for me to find on the way so I didn't have to do that on the fly. Huzzah!
Harrison and Tecumseh met here!
Once we got to Grouseland we took the guided tour of the Virginian plantation styled brick home and its 17 rooms, including an attached one and a half story dependency.. The friendly staff there was great and rather than just be a good sport, my wife actually enjoyed it herself. Because it was a private collection, no photos were allowed in the home. There were signs everywhere about that. Did I cheat? Maybe once. This site and the official site have some pretty good interior photos and descriptions as well as some history of the home after Harrison moved back to Ohio during the War of 1812.
Some interesting tidbits I took away from the visit - The house was built to withstand attacks by hostile Indians, British or any general melee. The windows were shuttered inside and out as a defensive measure. There was in fact a bullet hole in the dining room shutter, an alleged attempt on Harrison's life by a rogue frontier ruffian. The basement windows also had bars with a clear view to the Wabash River so that any incoming river traffic could be observed and defended if necessary. Exterior and interior walls were three bricks thick and the basement had a water well, munitions storage and a French drain toilet in the case of any long siege. As I understood it reading elsewhere, Harrison started the first Indiana Public Library in this basement too.
It's worth noting that Vincennes University, across the street from Grouseland, was Indiana's first college and, you guessed it, founded by WHH in 1801.
gift shop stop
The home was quite spacious for his large family (I think five of his ten children were born here). We learned that the good Governor had an open door policy whereby any citizen that felt unsafe in this hostile frontier could find refuge at the mansion. It was common for one to find regular citizens and travelers sleeping in the upstairs hallways.
We could also see some minor structural damage from the powerful 1811-12 New Madrid Earthquakes. These were the quakes that caused the Mississippi River to run backwards in one section and the rumble was felt as far away as Boston. This is one strong house and it's clear that Harrison cared for the people he governed based on his protective policies and promotion of education. Huzzah!
One of the highlights for me was seeing the hat and sword that Harrison wore at Tippecanoe along with a remnant of the flag from his regiment in that battle. It was also great sitting in the walnut grove where the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh and Governor Harrison had their parleys in 1810. One of those meetings almost ended in bloodshed but cooler heads prevailed. If that had turned out differently we may never had heard much of Tecumseh or Harrison, if at all. Lewis and Clark, whom Harrison knew from the 1795 Treaty of Greenville, also stopped here on the way back from their famous expedition.

Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Indy
I was unsuccessful in playing matchmaker to my teenage daughter (unbeknownst to her back in Cincinnati) with the teenage docent who really seemed to enjoy his volunteer work and knew his stuff. He was taken, so I'll have to look for another future son-in-law. Because of my yakity yak with the wonderful like minded staff and my dawdling in the gift shop (where I picked up some great trinkets for my collection), we blew Tricia's timeline a bit for the next stop. That just meant we had to eat lunch on the run.

Stop #3 was an overnight stay at the Hilton in Downtown Indianapolis a block away from the mighty impressive 19th century Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Monument Circle which includes accolades to local early history including of course WHH. They were doing repairs so it was all covered in scaffolding. We had a nice dinner downtown that evening.

Stop #4 on Sunday was also near the hotel. It was the grandiose Indiana War Memorial which was dedicated by General Pershing in 1927. It had well done displays on Indiana's contributions to the various war efforts from the Revolutionary War to WHH's War of 1812 service up to the present day and ended with the 110' tall Shrine Room with its massive 24 marble pillar. You can see it in a virtual tour here. It is quite overwhelming to stand in that quiet and massive room.

Pez Prez WHH overlooks Downtown Indy
Alas, all good things must come to an end and we had to head home on Sunday afternoon. What a great way to spend a weekend for a WHH and local history fan like me!

Maybe for the 60th, Tricia will take me to Harrison's birthplace, Berkeley Plantation in Virginia? Fingers crossed!

Other Gehio related WHH posts you may find interesting: