Monday, February 18, 2013

The Bad News Buckeyes

Happy President's Day from Gehio!

Ohio figures prominently in Presidential history. During Presidential elections, the focus is on Ohio since our voters have correctly picked the winning Presidential candidate in the last 12 election cycles. I suppose that Ohio represents the average middle of the road American.

Ohio could also be known as the Home of the (Worst and Most Trivial) Presidents. 19% of the 43 Presidents called Ohio home. That's eight if you count adopted Buckeye William Henry "King of Trivia" Harrison who was born in the Virginia Territory but spent most of his adult life and lived in Ohio when he was elected. 
The state of Virginia has the distinction of having the most Presidents born in their state as they include Harrison in their tally as well for a grand total of eight. I think we can at least call Ohio Harrison's stepmother. 

There was a high mortality rate among the eight Ohio Presidents. 50% of them died in office. In fact, only eight Presidents in total from all states have died in office. Of the Ohioans, two were shot (McKinley and Garfield) and the other two of natural causes (WH Harrison and Harding) although there are rumors that Harding's death was suspicious.

Harding and Grant are considered by many to be the most corrupt administrations of any US President although to be fair neither seemed to be directly involved in the scandals that occurred during their terms. They just surrounded themselves with despicable people I guess.

The four that managed to survive their terms, Grant, Hayes, B. Harrison, and Taft all finish in the bottom half when rankings are averaged by historians but Harding is considered the #1 worst overall. Finishing out the list, WH Harrison (5th), Grant (7th), B. Harrison (11th), Garfield (14th), Hayes (19th), Taft (21st) and McKinley (23rd). 

Go Ohio!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cary-ing On With Alice in NCH

Alice Cary (1820-1871)
There was a young gal from Ohio
She wrote poems that made folks sigh "oh!"
She moved to New York
and I have to report
She inspired this post in Gehio.*

Cincinnati area born poet Alice Cary died on this day February 12, 1871, at the age of 51.

Alice and her sister Phoebe were well known 19th-century poets and attracted quite a following of celebrities including Edgar Allan Poe, Horace Greeley, and PT Barnum. In fact, Barnum was one of her pallbearers (and PTB happens to be my 4th cousin 6x removed, not that it matters).

Alice was born on April 26, 1820, in the Mt. Healthy OH area but grew up with her sister on Clovernook Farm in Cary Cottage built in 1832 by Robert Cary. The tidy white cottage still stands to this day on the property of the Clovernook Center for the Blind and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973Clovernook Farm eventually became the city of North College Hill, OH, the place I call home. They give tours of the house by appointment only. I'm ashamed to say I have not done that yet.

Cary Cottage in NCH
The Cary's newfound literary stardom eventually took them away from NCH to NYC in 1850 where in addition to their poetry they wrote for periodicals such as Atlantic Monthly and Harper's. Their liberal Universalist reformist upbringing led them to become involved in the women's suffrage and abolitionist causes as well.

Poe called Alice Cary's 1855 Pictures of Memory"one of the most musically perfect lyrics in the English language".

In 1871 the sisters died only five months apart, Alice from tuberculosis and Phoebe from hepatitis. They are both buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn NY.

As a person who fell in love with local history because of my hobby of geocaching, I felt it was appropriate to create a geocache based on the history of Cary Cottage.

*My apologies to Alice Cary for the limerick

Click here for more info on the Cary sisters.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Tippecanoe and Trivia too!

WHH and the horse he rode in on in Cincinnati
Up until a few years ago, thanks to Trivial Pursuit and rushing from the Mayflower to the American Revolution and then on to the Civil War in history classes, (as if nothing really happened in between) I always thought William Henry Harrison was just some nobody who stumbled into the presidency, died 30 days later and that was pretty much it. End of story. I didn't even know he has a fantastic tomb just to the west of the city I call home, Cincinnati.

William Henry Harrison, Ohio's adopted son born February 9th, 1773 in the Virginia territory, the man I love to hate, the man I hate to love, one of Ohio's unsung founding fathers. He would have been 240 years old had he lived. The 9th President's life was cut short by a common ailment at the tender age of 68. The standard treatment of opium and leeches could not save him and he died of pneumonia 30 days later on April 4th, 1841.  In fact, the "cure" is probably what hastened his death and while he may have had pneumonia, typhoid is likely the real culprit.

1st photo of a sitting President
WHH's achievements tend to get overshadowed by the trivia surrounding his legacy but it is impressive trivia nonetheless:

  • first President to have a campaign slogan (Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!)
  • oldest elected President until Reagan (68 years, RR was 69)
  • the first sitting President to have his photograph taken
  • longest inauguration speech of any President (1 hr 45 min, 8,445 words)
  • first President to die in office
  • shortest term President (30 days, 12 hours, and 30 minutes)
  • last President born as a British subject before American Independence
  • only President to have a grandson follow him to the White House (Benjamin Harrison)
  • his Dad signed the Declaration of Independence (Benjamin Harrison V)
  • two states claim Harrison as their own. He was born in the Virginia colony before the American Revolution but he spent most of his life in the Ohio Valley as a military and political leader and had a home there.
  • supposedly he caused "Tecumseh's Curse" that caused the presidents elected or re-elected in years divisible by twenty to die in office...until Reagan broke the curse. The list of presidents who died includes 3 Ohio born presidents....hmmm. It should be noted that no mention of any curse appeared until 1931.
that's WHH at the Treaty of Greenville
But he was not a mere footnote in history as Trivial Pursuit and history class would lead you to believe. Prior to the Presidency, he had an impressive resume:
  • Present at the signing of the Treaty of Greenville in 1795 as an aide to Gen. Mad Anthony Wayne
  • Secretary of the Northwest Territory (modern OH, IN, IL, MI, WI, MN from 1798-1799)
  • Governor of the Indiana Territory (modern IN, IL, WI and parts of OH, MI and MN from 1801-1812)
  • Expanded US territory by 60 million acres*
  • Won the Battle of Tippecanoe against the Indian confederacy led by Tecumseh in 1811**
  • helped defeat the combined British and Indian forces in the War of 1812
  • Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio (1816-1819)
  • US Senator from Ohio (1825-1828)
  • Ambassador to Columbia (1828-1829) 
Harrison's tomb in North Bend OH
I realize that this list is not as fun as the trivia list but he seemed as suited, if not more than any other for the Presidency. He wasn't just some schmuck that fell off the turnip truck.
He did do some bad stuff too and some of the good stuff is dependent on how you look at it. For example, as Governor he played around with the wording of the law to keep slavery alive in the Indiana Territory as indentured servitude when slavery was supposed to be illegal there. *The thirteen land treaties with Native Americans were at best on shaky legal grounds. He knew full well that these treaties made him look very good so he obtained many of them on flimsy terms sometimes for personal gain. **The 1811 Tippecanoe battle that helped him get elected? This was considered a draw at best after it happened. In fact, it was originally considered a defeat for the US because of the number of casualties.

Much has been written about his engagements with Tecumseh. Tecumseh nearly killed him once at a meeting when Tecumseh uncharacteristically lost his temper out of frustration. That event certainly would have altered history. WHH  finally helped end the life of Tecumseh at the Battle of Thames during the War of 1812. I sometimes wonder if as Tecumseh laid there dying he regretted not killing Harrison when he had the chance.

Marysville OH (he never lived in a log cabin)
In life and in death he was portrayed as a simple man who was born in a log cabin. This, however, is not true. Harrison was born on a Virginia plantation to a wealthy prominent family and was well known for making long drawn out speeches that referenced and quoted Roman Emperors and military leaders. He really saw himself and wanted others to see him, in this light. Even the home he had built in the Indiana wilderness, Grouseland was a mansion for that time period. He was an American aristocrat who married Anna Symmes, the daughter of land speculator Judge John Cleves Symmes who at first was opposed to Harrison, whom he considered only a mere military man with no future. The myth of his humble beginnings was created to get him elected President. Ironically it was originally used as a slur by his political enemies, Harrison's team ran with it and transformed their man into a "real" man of the people. Sound familiar? Presidential candidates have been doing it ever since. Happy Birthday Mr. President.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

This is Ohio Idol - McKinley Out

Ohio Idol Bill McKinley
in bobblehead form
Did you know that Ohio's State Flower is the red carnation?
Did you know it had something to do with one of the US Presidents from Ohio who died in office?
If you said "who cares?", then you may stop reading now.
On February 3rd, 1903 the Ohio State Assembly named the red carnation the state flower for recently assassinated US President and former Ohio Governor William McKinley. "The Idol of Ohio" as he was called was known for picking fights with Spain and wearing a red carnation in his lapel.
The origin of his carnation love affair started with a man named Levi Lamborn, who was a horticulturist and brought some of the first carnations to the US from France. Lamborn was McKinley's rival for a US Congressional seat and before a debate, as a friendly gesture presented McKinley with one of his red carnations. McKinley went on to win that election and since that time took a fancy to the flower he considered good luck. Years later after he was elected the 25th President, Levi sent him more red carnations and McKinley always kept a vase of them on his desk. Now that I think about it, it seems odd that a grown man would give another grown man flowers, not once but at least twice. Not that there's anything wrong with it. Just sayin'.
In 1901 while at an expo in Buffalo NY, a 12-year-old girl was admiring the red carnation in the President's lapel. McKinley gave it to the young girl. Moments after that he was shot by an assassin and died eight days later from his wounds.
September 14th, the date of McKinley's death is known statewide as Red Carnation Day and is celebrated with much fanfare and jubilees. Ok, that's a lie, the day goes by pretty much unnoticed.