Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fast Times at Big Mac Bridge

want fries with that?
The Daniel Carter Beard I-471 bridge built in the early 1970s crosses the Ohio River and connects Eastern Cincinnati with Newport KY. No one calls it by its official name. It has been called the “Big Mac Bridge” right from the start because the shape and yellow color reminded the people of OH and KY of the McDonald’s Golden Arches, one of the most iconic American symbols recognized worldwide. McDonald’s even planned to build a floating diabetes and heart attack center they call a “restaurant” at the base of the bridge in the 1980s but it never coagulated. In case you didn't know, Cincinnati is listed as one of the fattest cities in the US according to the Centers for Disease Control. One in three Cincinnatians are overweight. No wonder the bridge looks like wonderful fast food arches to its citizens.

We all know what McDonald's is, but who the $%&# is Daniel Beard? 

Uncle Daniel Carter Beard
Beard founded the Sons of Daniel Boone in 1905, a precursor to the Boy Scouts. The club honored American frontiersman such as Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, Kit Carson, James Audubon, Johnny Appleseed, Davey Crocket and George Catlin. He started the boys club to teach city boys about pioneer living skills which encouraged the children to stay fit via outdoor recreation such as swimming, camping, hunting, and fishing. Uncle Dan's handbook even taught boys how to build their own gym. There were other activities in the book that simulated aspects of frontier life such as Running the Gauntlet and Defending a Snow Fort Against Indians. Not really practical skills but I suppose it was fun in 1905 to engage in mock torture and simulated encroachment rather than toil in a factory or a mine. This was a time in the US when child labor was a fact of life for the poor, and most kids never finished school beyond 8th grade. It was probably good for these kids to spend some time in the outdoors. Some things never change.

Aloha. My name is Mr. Hand
Beard, a ringer for History Teacher Mr. Hand in Fast Times at Ridgemont High if I ever saw one, was born in Cincinnati on this day on June 21st, 1850. He lived in Covington KY where his boyhood home is on the National Register of Historic Places. Dan was a land surveyor and also illustrated many books including Mark Twain's “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court”.
Beard left the area in 1878 and moved to move to New York City where he lived out his days until the age of 90, an age that frequent eaters of Big Macs will likely never see.

I don't think Beard would be "Lovin' It™" to learn that the bridge honoring his legacy derives its nickname from a company that is responsible for the fast food industry as we know it. An industry that peddles a steady diet of fat, corn syrup, and sodium to kids worldwide. However, I'll bet Beard WOULD approve of that stern Mr. Hand who did not allow Spicoli access to that pizza delivered to his classroom.

In conclusion, read "Fast Food Nation" but skip the movie version.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Happy 246th Birthday Edward Tiffin*

Ohio's First Governor
Most Ohioans have no idea who Dr. Edward Tiffin is. I wouldn't either except that I visited Tiffin OH for one of my kids gymnastic meets and as usual I got to do a little geocaching and studied up on the history as well.

The small NW Ohio college town of Tiffin was named after the English born man who served as the first Governor of the Buckeye State from 1803-1807 and was one of the biggest players in early Ohio politics. Ed also did something pretty important in the War of 1812 but not as a soldier. You wouldn't know any of this if you walked around Tiffin OH. I didn't see one statue of this man or anything informational about him at all. I did see a buttery looking statue of Josiah Hedges (below) who founded the town in 1820. Maybe they have a statue or a sign hidden somewhere for Edward Tiffin but I didn't see any. Don't get me wrong, Tiffin OH has some other nice history that is featured but I would have thought they would have honored their namesake a little more prominently.

Edward Tiffin was born in England on June 19th, 1766. His family emigrated to Virginia in 1789 where he then married Mary Worthington, the sister of Thomas Worthington who another future Governor of OH and known as the Father of Ohio Statehood.

I Can't Believe It's Not Tiffin!
Tiffin's family eventually moved to the Northwest Territory in 1798 and settled in Chillicothe OH where Edward Tiffin, a trained medical doctor also became involved in the Democratic-Republican Party along with his brother-in-law Thomas Worthington.  The Democratic-Republican Party was at odds with the Federalist Party of whom Arthur St. Clair, the Governor of the NW Territory, was a member. St. Clair opposed Ohio Statehood on the grounds that his own party would lose power in the US Senate if this was allowed to occur. President Thomas Jefferson, another Democratic-Republican Party member dismissed St. Clair which cleared OH for Statehood thus tipping the balance of power. Tiffin was elected without opposition. He was later elected to the US Senate representing his adopted home state and also served in other various political positions for the State of Ohio. Tiffin was also responsible for removing important Federal records from Washington DC prior to it being burned and sacked by the British in 1814 during the War of 1812.

Tiffin served out his final years as the US Surveyor General until his death in 1829 at the age of 63 never stepping foot in the town that bears his name.

You may be wondering, why does Ohio's 6th Governor, Thomas Worthington a peer of Tiffin's, get to be known as "the Father of Ohio Statehood" and Tiffin gets squat?
*Why is Tiffin just an asterisk in Ohio history?
Location, location, location. It seems that Tiffin's home in Chillicothe no longer exists while Worthington's Adena Mansion stands to this day as an historic tourist attraction that happens to be where the first mound of a previously unknown culture of Native Americans was discovered in 1901. This 800 BC to AD 100 AD period was named the Adena Culture after the name of Worthington's estate. I guess if you are going to be remembered, have a nice house in a good part of town and name it something memorable. It will help if you build it on something undiscovered too.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The War to End All Indian Wars

say hello to Kelsey's little friend at Ft Meigs
The US officially declared war on Great Britain on this day in 1812 launching the two and half year War of 1812. I don't think many people understand the effect this war had on our nation's history. It generally gets only a brief mention in history class mainly for inspiring the lyrics to what would become the US National Anthem.
But it wasn't just a conflict between two nations with a grudge. Tecumseh's Indian Confederacy allied itself with the British in this war and fought alongside British soldiers in battles such as the two 1813 sieges of Fort Meigs near Toledo OH. Tecumseh was even supposedly offered a commission as a Brigadier General in the British army which despite the alliance he refused. Tecumseh's death at the Battle of the Thames in 1813 effectively killed his demoralized coalition. The final US victory in early 1815 resulted in Native Americans without a foreign ally for the first time in over 200 years. There were Indian tribes such as the Cherokee that sided with the Americans in this conflict. For this, they were at first tolerated as landowners in Georgia but we know how that turned out.

War of 1812 vet Pvt Sam Deneen in Reilly OH
I couldn't possibly go into all the details of this forgotten war in a blog post. That would be silly. There are many great books on the subject such as this one.  If you want to watch a shockingly bad and misleading account of the War of 1812, watch the History Channel documentary which focuses a lot on the naval war with the British and hardly mentions the Native American involvement at all. However if you want to see a great account of the War of 1812, watch this great PBS documentary instead.

Now of course, of course, d not "end all Indian Wars" any more than WWI ended further European conflicts. It just changed the game dramatically since the Native Americans were now on their own. The next 80 something years after the War of 1812 would see hundreds of smaller US-Indian conflicts. Rapid American expansion and land grabs beyond the Mississippi River aided by a policies of massacres, forced treaties, removal acts and the reservation system would continue, slowed only somewhat and briefly by the US Civil War. The last major confrontation between the US and American Indians in what be known as the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 part of which was dramatized in HBO's great movie adaptation of the book Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Happy Birthday to Harriet Beecher Stowe

Happy 201st Birthday to Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) whose 1852 book Uncle Tom's Cabin was a catalyst for the anti-slavery movement in the US.
President Lincoln met her in 1862 and supposedly greeted her with "so you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war?" 
The Harriet Beecher Stowe House in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Walnut Hills was owned by her abolitionist Father and is where she lived from 1833-1836.
The home is now a museum focusing on Harriet Beecher Stowe, the Underground Railroad, and African-American history.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

SOS or Plastic?

not Charles Stilwell

Grocery paper bags are not as popular these days as they once were. Most folks choose plastic or their own reusable sacks, but the next time you visit Kroger or "the Krogers" as we Ohioans say, and decide to choose paper over plastic you can thank a Buckeye for the modern paper bag. It would also be hard to imagine the Unknown Comic or crafty pre-school puppets without this great contribution from a Union Civil War veteran.

On June 12, 1883, Charles Stilwell from Fremont OH was granted his patent for the Self-Opening Sack or SOS for short.

also not Charles Stilwell
 This was a great leap forward in paper bag technology that had been stalled for over a century. Stilwell actually didn't invent the paper bag. Prior to the SOS, the paper bag was simply a paper tube sealed at one end to form a V shape which was unable to stand without some assistance. This inconvenience made folks very unhappy. Stilwell listened to the people and invented a folded, pleated sack that could easily be opened with one swooping motion and its hi-tech flat bottom placed steadily on the counter ready to be filled with items. The next time you go Krogering, remember Charles Stilwell. Or don't.

Another great moment in Ohio history brought to you by Gehio.