Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Gehio Gehio

Gehio Gehio? Is that some kind of 80s band?

The other day I meant to go to my blog and ended up searching Google instead. I saw a few of my posts in the results, some of my Instagram info (follow me, one of my pics even won an award!), as well as a GEICO insurance ad.

Speaking of bands, there does appear to be a foreign (to me) language band called Bat Gehio.
I thought I made that word up! RememberGeocaching+History+Ohio = Gehio.
I should know better by now from all the history I read that there is nothing new under the sun.
It turns out "gehio" (a variant of gehiago) means "more" in Basque.

Ummm, so what's Basque? Dad joke warning...I know bisque is a kind of delicious creamy soup! <rimshot>
To be honest I only had a vague notion of what Basque is. I thought it was just a part of Spain. It is. But it isn't. "Basque" itself is a language spoken by over a half a million indigenous ethnic people in the so-called Basque Country, which is, per Wikipedia:

...a region at the north of Spain, bordering the Atlantic Ocean and France. It is defined formally as an autonomous community of three provinces within Spain, and culturally including a fourth province and a small portion of France.
Make sense? OK I don't quite get it either. Maybe it's like Norwood. A autonomous area of Cincinnati, entirely within the boundaries of the city of Cincinnati. An enclave. People in Norwood kind of speak their own language right? Sure. I'll just go with that.

By the way, if you aren't at work or school, you should accidentally do a Google Image Search for "Basque". Preliminary results indicate that "basque" is also an article of meant-to-be-seen women's undergarment. Apparently the French popularized it after adopting it from Basque tradition. This may require more (gehio?) research're welcome! Reminder: NSFW-ish.

June 27th 2016 marks the 5th anniversary of Gehio. This is post 118. Thanks for reading and look forward to gehio Gehio soon!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Ohio History on a Stick

moth and flame in Xenia OH
#3-29 (alleged) Birthplace of Tecumseh
I am drawn to the prominent brown and gold Ohio Historical Markers like a moth to flame. In fact, I almost called this blog "History on a Stick" instead of Gehio. My kids have even pointed out the prominent signs from the car which can cause me to make a wild u-turn to go back and gawk and get my photo op like a victorious safari hunter. Sometimes they have interesting stories. Other times, I must admit they seem a bit inane. I am sort of surprised they are not vandalized more often. In fact, the only time I can recall any real damage was one blasted by the sun and decorated with bullet holes.

a simpler time, when history was blue and white
The Ohio Historical Society is in charge of the markers program. It began in 1953 with the blue and white Ohio shaped markers. You still see those around. They were brief at 13 words and erected at the corporate limits of towns and villages. By 1957 the modern marker program began with a new design that was able to contain more information, sometimes with maps and images. This is the familiar brown and gold type you see today throughout Ohio.

The new-fangled markers have a number series in the lower right corner such as "14-31".  The second number represents one of the alphabetical 88 Ohio counties.  The first number is the order of the signs unveiling. If you see a marker that says "2-1", this is the 2nd marker erected in Adams County. "4-88" would be the 4th marker in Wyandot County.
If you are in the Cincinnati area, you are in Hamilton County which is 31st alphabetically. So when you come across a marker that has "14-31", this is the 14th marker erected in Hamilton County. Easy.
Speaking of Hamilton County... did you know that it was Ohio's 2nd county created on January 2, 1790 and named by Governor Arthur St. Clair for Alexander Hamilton? He was a fellow Federalist and 1st Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington. You've seen him on the $10 bill and is also the guy that Vice President Aaron Burr shot to death in a duel. Secretary Hamilton also the subject of a hit Broadway musical. Maybe that should be on a sign!

new and improved, double-sided with graphics!
#4-19 Treaty of Greenville
There are currently about 1500 Ohio Historical Markers across Ohio's 88 counties.
The first of these Ohio markers placed was in 1957 in Summit Co, Akron OH. #1-77 "Portage Path" denotes the significance of the route between the Cuyahoga and Tuscarawas rivers. This path was important to the Indians and French and English traders in the 18th century.

One of the more recent markers is #15-83 General Charles Clark, Confederate States of America, placed in November 2014 in Lebanon OH. Clark was a Yankee born Kentucky lawyer who decided to go with the South in the Civil War.

More Ohio county trivia: Washington County was the first Ohio county on July 27, 1788 also named by Arthur St. Clair after President Washington. As you can tell, the Governor of the Northwest Territory adored the Father of the Country. St. Clair also belonged to an organization called the Society of the Cincinnati. This was a club for Revolutionary War Veterans, a tribute to George Washington, farmer turned leader turned farmer just like the Roman statesman Cincinnatus. St. Clair renamed Losantiville to Cincinnati after this group.

fun for the kids!
#23-31 Cincinnati Observatory
(John Quincy Adams spoke here)
Washington Co. is the location of Marietta, Ohio's first organized permanent settlement by Europeans. It seems fitting that Ohio's markers get made here. Constructed of cast aluminum by Sewah Studios, who also make markers for 25 other states. They cost an average of $2000 to produce. A sponsor is required and there is a grant program to help defray costs. If you have an idea for a marker, here is more information about the process and program. All in all this is an excellent state historical sign program, probably the best I've seen in my history and geocaching travels in 13 US States. I do have a couple of ideas for new Ohio signs but I'm keeping them to myself for the time being.

Monday, April 4, 2016

William Henry Stemwinder

March 4th 1841
William Henry Harrison gets a bad rap. Conventional wisdom states that our 9th President must have been a blustery egotistical old fool to give a speech that lasted nearly two hours in the cold rain. Maybe he was but while it's true that his inaugural speech was twice as long as any of his eight predecessors, it was common to give lengthy speeches in those days. In our modern sound bite world, the thought of a speech like that generates gasps and ridicule. Most movies aren't even that long. But this was 1841 not 2016.

Oratory skills in the 19th century were highly prized. They especially came in handy for Harrison during his old frontier Governor days. He became a seasoned negotiator with Native American tribes who relied on verbal tradition and valued such speaking skills. WHH was also well read and idolized Plato and Cicero so much so that he emulated and referenced them in his public speeches. In the 1800s a term was coined for a long rousing speech, a stem-winder. This was slang for speeches so long that listeners had to rewind their watches during its course. And it was a compliment! Lincoln is famous for his short two minute address at Gettysburg but the speech that preceded it by former Secretary of State Edward Everett was two hours. People thought that was too short. American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once exclaimed "The highest bribes of society are all at the feet of the successful orator. All other fame must hush before his. He is the true potentate."
Practicing oratory skills with Tecumseh in 1810
The bottom line is, while still a tad bit lengthy, it was shorter than Harrison's original. Future Harrison/Tyler US Secretary of State Daniel Webster (a contemporary of Emerson) had edited down the President elect's speech in February 1841 killing "seventeen Roman proconsuls", Webster boasted. Still, none of this had any bearing on his cause of death. Harrison probably died from a deadly combo of typhoid and early 19th century medical treatment, not just the pneumonia that is often cited. A cold can irritate the lungs creating an environment where the bacteria that cause pneumonia can thrive, but one doesn't catch a cold from dressing poorly in the cold. That's common knowledge now. Also, Harrison complained of no symptoms until March 27th. That was 23 days after the speech. 

I doubt his cause of death will ever be corrected (or fully known) in the history books. It's repeated so much so that it is now the "truth" much like other moments in history that make great stories. Daniel Boone wore a coonskin cap (only on TV). Paul Revere yelled "the British are coming" (he didn't). Al Gore claimed he invented the internet (he didn't really say that). 
April 4th 1841
Could Harrison have given a 20 minute speech and survived?  Maybe. But his death certainly wasn't caused by ego driven fashion choices on a cold and damp March day. 
It seems to me that given his age of 68 and environmental factors he would have contracted some sort of malady. Bacteria infested water caused by open sewage was literally everywhere in DC. If he had gotten sick, Harrison would have likely died anyway given the state of medicine in 1841. 
Harrison's doctors did what they thought was best in their day for their high profile patient. Yet...they did have another option. Instead of leeching, cupping and enemas along with cocktails of mercury, opiates, and brandy, they could have just done nothing and let whatever was ailing him run its course. Oddly, had he not been the President, this is what a doctor may have prescribed for a mere citizen. Non-treatment was even prescribed for gunshot victims in those days. As long as the shrapnel wasn't endangering an organ or bleeding someone out, leave them be. The crude medical treatments here were in fact weakening the 68 year old President even further. Harrison died a week later on April 4th 1841 at 12:30 AM. The official cause of death was listed as pneumonia.

Hey it sure has been good fodder for one and a half centuries. Let's stop now.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

President Mangum

We almost had a President Willie Person Mangum.
You can hear the theme song can't you?
No, this is not some far fetched probability. 
It almost happened. 
Not once, not twice, but three times.
OK really once. Maybe twice. And one is really far fetched.

In 1836, North Carolinian Democratic Senator turned Whig Willie Person Mangum ran as one of the four regional Whigs opposing  Democrat Vice President Martin Van Buren. With 148 electoral votes needed to win in a Jacksonian world, the Whig strategy was to deny Van Buren an Electoral College victory and throw the selection to the House to decide...if their collective candidates received a majority. They didn't. Little Van won the election with 170 electoral votes to the Whigs 124. Mangum (and "John Tyler too!" as VP nominee) got 11 electoral votes. But let's face it. Willie didn't stand a chance. He didn't even appear on a ballot. The South Carolina legislature gave Senator Willie Person Mangum those 11 votes. A better chance for the highest office was coming five years later.

The Whigs eventually defeated Little Van with William Henry Harrison in 1841. We know how that went. He died 31 days after his inauguration. Harrison's VP (and Mangum's 1836 running mate), John Tyler then assumed Harrison's term after a brief Constitutional crisis regarding Presidential succession. The Vice Presidency was then vacant from 1841-1845.

"His Accidency" John Tyler was having all sorts of problems. As a result there was a failed impeachment attempt in 1842. Had it succeeded and the President removed from office with no VP,  the Presidency would have gone to President pro tempore of the Senate. This was now Willie Person Mangum. More likely than what happened in '41 but the real chance came two years later.

Three times for Willie.
On February 28th 1844, President Tyler and members of his cabinet were on the Potomac aboard the USS Princeton. She was a brand new state of the art steam powered prop driven warship with big new shiny weapons. Many other dignitaries such as former first lady Dolley Madison and Tyler's young fiance Julia Gardiner were also on board for this grand social event with much food and drink. The President's entourage included the Secretaries of State and Navy. Part of the entertainment was a demonstration of the Princeton's giant experimental long gun dubbed the "Peacemaker", the largest naval gun in the world. As the men (no girls allowed) went topside for the big show Tyler, as one story goes, stayed behind for one more drink.  During its firing, the Peacemaker's barrel exploded sending iron shrapnel everywhere. It even tore apart a section of the hull. This instantly killed six people including both Secretaries and his fiances father Senator David Gardiner. Many more were injured. If Tyler had been above deck, he no doubt would have been killed with his party. Having no VP, Presidential succession would have again gone to President pro tempore of the Senate, Willie Person Mangum.
The beer that denied us
President Mangum

And what of the deadly incident on the USS Princeton? Who was held accountable? No one. Apparently a whole scandal arose with Robert Stockton who used his political connections to escape punishment for his poor design. Some things don't change. Even though it was the gun that failed, a stigma was attached to the ship itself. The Princeton saw admirable service in the Mexican-American War but what was supposed to have been the pride of the US Navy was decommissioned and scrapped just 5 years later in 1849.

And what of Willie Mangum? His name was floated around as a possible Presidential or VP candidate in the next couple of elections. He finished his Senate term and retired to his home in North Carolina where he died in 1861 at age 69.

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