Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Special Thanksgiving Edition of Gehio

As we gather with family and friends and slip into our food-induced comas, we should also reflect on the greatest event in Thanksgiving Day history that took place in 1978 in Cincinnati OH.

Today marks the first ever Turkey Drop orchestrated by WKRP radio station manager Arthur Carlson.
33 years ago, live turkeys were dropped from a helicopter at two thousand feet before a curious but well-behaved crowd at Pinedale Shopping Mall.  Things got pretty strange after that as witnessed by news commentator Les Nessman on this momentous occasion in local history. Not since the Hindenberg tragedy had there been anything like this.

Let's have a closer look at the events as they unfolded in this documentary footage...

Friday, November 18, 2011

WKRP in Losantiville

the first settlement happened right here 11/18/1788
Cincinnati folks learn that their city was founded in 1788. There are signs around the perimeter of the city on the different highways that seem to confirm this.
There was actually no such thing as a community called "Cincinnati" until 1790. It also wasn't incorporated as a village until 1802 and not incorporated as a city until 1819. Let me explain.

After the Revolutionary War formally ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the US Congress established 260,000 square miles called the Northwest Territory in July 1787 which was previously under British rule. This paved the way to establish the modern states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota in the 19th century.

John Cleves Symmes came along and purchased a chunk of this land between the two Miami rivers, had it surveyed, and began reselling it to potential settlers. Out of these land sales, 3 settlements along the Ohio River were established:

Stites has a nice grave marker in Columbia
Columbia was the first settlement by a man named Benjamin Stites and 26 settlers on November 18th, 1788.
Columbia was a Romanesque term widely used then to refer to America and American things in the early days and was, of course, derived from the name of Christopher Columbus. Stites had been to the area previously while pursuing Indian raiders who had stolen horses in Kentucky. He decided to purchase land from Symmes when it became available. This settlement was on the Ohio River at the mouth of the Little Miami River near where present-day Lunken Airport is located. This original settlement was destroyed by flooding and the subject of frequent Indian attacks. Today, the "East End" is one of modern Cincinnati's oldest neighborhoods called Columbia-Tusculum with 3000 people. Benjamin, along with many of the other original settlers is buried near the original landing in a cemetery across from Lunken.

Cincinnatus gets a statue at Yeatman's Cove
The second settlement, Losantiville, was about a month later on December 28th, 1788. Colonel Robert Patterson and Israel Ludlow and their party arrived at a spot a few miles up from the Little Miami on the Ohio River at the mouth of the Licking River. This is near present-day Yeatman’s Cove in downtown Cincinnati. The expedition was financed by Mathias Denman. This is the date and place that is credited with the founding of modern Cincinnati.
John Filson, who surveyed this area earlier in 1788, created the name Losantiville which meant "the city opposite the mouth of the Licking River" from the following:
"L" for the Licking River in KY on the other side of the Ohio.
"os" from the Latin for mouth.
"anti" from the Greek for opposite.
"ville" which was French for city.
Filson actually disappeared earlier in 1788 near Losantiville during a survey. No one really knows what happened to him and his body was never found. He may have been captured by Shawnee or he may have gotten lost and died in the wilderness. Either is plausible since Filson really wasn't much of a frontiersman and more of an historian and bureaucrat.

Now for some Cincinnati related Daniel Boone trivia!...It was Filson's mostly factual 1784 "Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boone" that made Boone one of America's best known legendary folk heroes and made him famous worldwide. It was also Daniel Carter Beard's 1905 "Sons of Daniel Boone", founded in Cincinnati, that became the modern-day Boy Scouts. The I-471 yellow "Big Mac Bridge" bridge that crosses the Ohio near Yeatman's Cove is officially named for Beard.

Symmes got a nice sign near his grave

The third settlement, North Bend, was February 2nd, 1789 a few miles East of present-day Cincinnati near the mouth of the Great Miami on the Ohio River and was the town that John Cleves Symmes himself started.
It was named so because it was the most northern bend in the Ohio River. This was the settlement that Symmes thought would become the most successful but it turned out that the area, like Columbia, was prone to constant flooding and not sustainable. This area did later became the home of future President William Henry Harrison who married Symmes daughter Anna but this area did not grow as much as Symmes had hoped. Harrison's Tomb is here as well. The grave of father-in-law John Cleves Symmes is adjacent to the tomb. North Bend remains today as a small 1.2 sq mi village of about 600 residents.

Ft Washington Marker near Lytle Park
Besides the flooding, what really made the second settlement of Losantiville take off was the 1789 addition of Fort Washington  by Northwest Territory Governor Gen. Arthur St. Clair near present-day 3rd & Broadway. This certainly made would be settlers feel a bit safer.
St. Clair wanted to make that area the seat of the territorial government but he didn't like the name Losantiville and renamed the new city to Cincinnati in 1790. There really wasn't much objection to this as it was the now dead Filson who came up with Losantiville anyway.
It is an often repeated falsity that Cincinnati was named directly for the Roman farmer turned leader turned farmer Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus. St. Clair actually named the city after the club of Revolutionary War veterans he was president of called the Society of the Cincinnati that honored George Washington. The members saw Washington as a modern day Cincinnatus. This, of course, pleased his friends and his boss George Washington, very very much. In 1791, after St Clair lost a major battle to the Indians at St Clairs Defeat, Washington fired him from the Army but let him remain as Governor of the Northwest Territory. Several years later, over political differences about the territory, after 15 years as Governor, President Jefferson fired him in 1802 and Ohio became our 17th State in 1803 or the 49th in 1953. I find it ironic that a man who presided over a club nobly named for a farmer turned leader turned farmer had no intention of doing so himself. Politicians always have like the "do as I say not as I do" motto.

St Clair got a rock at a busy intersection
So, while the area which grew to become known as Cincinnati was formally settled in 1788 there were actually earlier settlements in the area (such as the 1785 Fort Finney near North Bend) but it was not officially called Cincinnati for 2 more years until 1790 when a gouty fat cat governor by the name of Arthur St. Clair tried to impress his boss and his friends. That's probably too much to fit on a sign on I-75.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Oh My Stars, John Quincy Adams visits Cincinnati

version 2 of the Cincinnati Observatory
On November 9th, 1843, a 77-year-old John Quincy Adams helped lay the cornerstone for the new Cincinnati Observatory in Mt Ida OH and the following day November 10thdelivered what would be his last public speech to 3,000 citizens. The 6th US President was a bit of an astronomy buff and came to the area for the dedication despite his ailing health. Adams was the first US President to visit Cincinnati. The observatory was one of the best astronomical research centers in its time and is still in use today. It is the oldest professional observatory in the United States, a National Historic Landmark, and considered the Birthplace of American Astronomy.

But there is more to the story....

If you live in Cincinnati, you might be thinking, "Where the heck is Mt. Ida?" 
Mt. Ida was renamed to Mt. Adams to honor the former President following this event. Land was donated by Nicholas Longworth, a prominent banker, winemaker and general rich guy. The man responsible for raising the funds for the observatory was Astronomer Ormsby MacKnight Mitchela professor of mathematics and philosophy at Cincinnati College, which later became the University of Cincinnati. Mitchel later served as a Major General for the Union during the Civil War. Nearby Ft Mitchell KY gets its name from the fort he built to defend Cincinnati against the Confederate Army. An extra L was added to the end of the city name due to an oversight. (It is Kentucky after all and <obligatory Kentucky hillbilly joke goes here>). Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel died in South Carolina of yellow fever in 1862 during the war.

You might be thinking, "But there is no observatory in Mt. Adams!" You are correct. Cincinnati was really on the rise at this time. So was the pollution and smoke from the local industries that ruined the view in the Mt. Adams area by the 1860's. This made it nearly impossible to view the heavens from this location.

John Quincy Adams touched this stone
So, in 1873 the equipment at the original observatory (the present day site of Holy Cross Monastery and Church) was moved to a new observatory building built on a different nearby hill on land donated by a local businessman, John Kilgour. The old cornerstone was re-laid for the new building.This area near Ault Park, then known as Delta, was then renamed to Mt. Lookout. The Cincinnati Observatory has been owned and operated by the University of Cincinnati since that time. 
In 1904 a second smaller building was built on the property for another telescope.
In 1935, an asteroid was discovered by Edwin Hubble and named, 1373 Cincinnati after the observatory staff who did the orbit calculations on Hubble's discovery. 
One of the telescopes housed here is the oldest continually used telescope in the world but more importantly, there is a really nice multi-level geocache here that takes you on a tour of the property and the Planet Walk which my kids and I did in July 2010.
my kids are standing on Uranus on the planet walk

John Quincy Adams died 5 years later on February 23rd, 1848, two days after suffering a massive stroke on the House floor.

The Cincinnati Observatory Center is open to the public where you can tour the facility and use the two 19th and early 20th-century refractor telescopes. 
For more information and the calendar of events, visit their website:

Monday, November 7, 2011

Straight Outta Tippecanoe

The November 7th, 1811 loss at the Battle of Tippecanoe near Lafayette IN was a devastating blow to Tecumseh's Pan-Indian Confederation but it wasn't just the military skills of William Henry Harrison that won the battle. Not to disparage Harrison or anything. He showed great leadership rallying his troops when under fire. Most observers say that if it were not for Harrison's boldness and courage, many of his troops would have cut and run. He was an impressive military leader overall and had a great resume but fair is fair. The "win" by the American's can be attributed mostly to the rise of Shawnee religious fundamentalism by Tecumseh's brother, Tenskwatawa or "The Prophet" rather than any brilliant strategy by Harrison. From what I understand, much of Tenskwatawa's "prophecies" were based on natural phenomena that Tecumseh had read about in almanacs that he had access too. I suppose with any prophet there will also be a large degree of luck before and much interpretation after the fact. For a while, this strategy worked but it would ultimately be their undoing.

Prophet's Rock where Tenskwatawa rallied his troops
Up until this point, much of Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa's plan in building the confederation of Indians involved returning to the old ways to please the Moneto, their supreme being. The Prophet taught that Indians were suffering and losing ground to the "Shemanese" (AKA Americans) because they had lost their way and had succumbed to the influence of the whites and their lifestyle. He taught that they should refrain from the use of alcohol, trading for European foods and goods, marrying whites, practicing Christianity, etc. There were exceptions to this. In this case, it was the use and trade of European weapons which they received from their British allies.

While encouraging abstinence from alcohol was a noble cause, as it had an especially devastating effect on Native American culture, the other items came with quite a heavy price. For example, in the autobiographical captivity story of Chippewa adoptee John Tanner, he writes of encountering Shawnee parties who were quite literally starving to death because of this lack of trade goods that the Native Americans had come to rely on.

The Prophet also taught that the Moneto, the Shawnee Supreme Being, would protect them in battle. Literally. As in bullets would not harm them. Up until this time The Prophet had been on a pretty good run of prophecies that seemed to have come true. There was much faith in this man at this time. In fact, Tenskwatawa, had so much faith in himself at this point he felt he could make his own decisions without his brother who had already been instructed him not to engage the enemy at Prophetstown and wait for his return. The Prophet had other ideas and decided to strike first as Harrison's army moved in to quell what Harrison rightfully perceived as an Indian uprising in the making.

at Tippecanoe battlefield
In keeping with the assurance and words of The Prophet at about 4am on November 7th, the Indians uncharacteristically attacked and fought openly and did not seek cover. When they saw that their warriors were easily being cut down by the soldiers this shook their faith and saw it as a bad sign and withdrew their attack. They had no way of knowing that they were actually winning the battle at that point. They likely would have overrun the advancing soldiers in this surprise preemptive attack if their ammunition held out. Harrison meanwhile, rode alongside his troops boosting their morale and encouraging them. In the number casualties at the battle, the Indians were technically winning when they withdrew. Their number of fatalities was 50 to Harrison's 62 and an even lower number of wounded to Harrison's men and after 2 hours of fighting that was the end of the Battle of Tippecanoe.

After this loss, many Indians retreated back to their villages and Tecumseh, upon learning what had happened nearly killed his own brother but instead chose to strip him of all rank and prestige. Not much is known of Tenskwatawa's life after this event. He died 25 years later in 1836 near Kansas City, Kansas in relative obscurity.

Tecumseh died two years after Tippecanoe in the War of 1812 at the Battle of Thames in Canada fighting with the British against General Harrison.

1840 Yard Sign
In 1841 after 30 years, William Henry Harrison who after his military career served as the Governor of Indiana, US Representative for Ohio and a US Senator from Ohio was inaugurated as the 9th US President. His campaign was based heavily on his military career, most notably this battle, using the slogan Tippecanoe and Tyler Too. People seem to think that modern politics invented political spin to get elected but opponents of Harrison characterized him an out of touch drunkard of an old man. Harrison's people touted him as a common man who grew up in a log cabin. He was anything but a common man and gave speeches that would rival Roman emperors. Harrison was certainly wealthy and privileged by the standards of his day. As usual, the truth is in the middle somewhere.

the tomb of #9 in North Bend OH
What Harrison is mostly known for now will help you win at Trivial Pursuit. He caught pneumonia and died 30 days after his lengthy inauguration speech and became the first President to die in office with the shortest Presidency. His death was supposedly the beginning of "Tecumseh's Revenge" that killed 7 US President elected every 20 years from 1840 - 1960. In 1980 Reagan broke the supposed curse, but just barely. As for the origins of the "curse", there is no record of one until someone noticed the pattern and published it in 1934s Ripley's Believe it Or Not.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

the baddest US President is from Ohio!

Warren "sex and booze" Harding
I actually knew very little about Warren G Harding, the 29th US President when I saw that it was his birthday today. So I learned some fun facts about him that I will share with you.

He was born in Blooming Grove OH in 1865 and was President from 1921-1923. Now that the boring stuff kids learn in history textbooks is out of the way...

When I say "baddest" I mean the worst. Harding was a bastard.

Most historians rank Harding as one of the worst US Presidents. One historian even said he was "a bumbling fool who stumbled into the presidency".

He spent several weeks in a sanitarium after a nervous breakdown when he was 24.

Harding was a drunk and had all night parties with bootleg liquor at the White House...during Prohibition. Apparently, he was a big believer in "do as I say...". Prohibition was for the poor and middle class as far as he was concerned.

Several women claimed extra-marital affairs with him resulting in at least one child. All things he denied. However, in the 1960's, about 100 intimate letters between him and one long-term lover, Carrie Phillips, were discovered but a court order sealed them until 2014. Someone who has viewed the letters said some were quite erotic. I know I've got my calendar set! UPDATE: The letters were made public on July 29th, 2014 and erotic they are. When he says "Wish I could take you to Mnt. Jerry. Wonderful spot" he is talking biology, not geography.

Oddly while at the same time being accused of being a secret member of the Ku Klux Klan (likely false), at a time when white supremacy was at an all-time high in the US, he was also accused of being black because of the one drop rule (likely true) in an effort to make people not like him. Remember, this was at a time when being Catholic could get you lynched as well. In fact, the one bright spot I know about Harding is, he urged Congress to pass an anti-lynching law during a Birmingham AL, so I'm not buying the Klan thing, that actually may have helped him in those days.

His administration was subject to many scandals, most notably the Teapot Dome bribery scandal which sent a member of a Presidential cabinet to prison for the first time in US history. Two other officials enveloped in the scandal committed suicide. Until Watergate, this was considered the worst US Presidential scandal.

Harding Tomb in Marion OH
Harding's sudden death in office on August 2nd, 1923 was officially listed as a heart attack but no autopsy was performed. There is evidence that he was poisoned by his wife or a political enemy. Seriously. Google it. This development probably saved him from being impeached in the growing Teapot Scandal closing in around him. The one that sent one guy to prison and two others committed suicide. That scandal.

After Harding died, his wife Florence, in an attempt to protect his legacy destroyed most of his papers. Presidents usually like to preserve them for posterity and Presidential libraries and such. She knew he was a bastard and as a result of this, we know very little about his personal life and thoughts while in office or how involved he was in the Teapot Dome scandal.

Despite this legacy, he has a very nice and elaborate tomb in Marion Ohio. He was the last US President to have such a grandiose resting place.

Happy Birthday, Warren! You make Ohio proud! They sure don't make presidents like you anymore!