Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Happy Birthday Tecumseh!

in Old Town, North of Xenia OH
I've written a few things about the Shawnee War Chief Tecumseh, the Pan-Indian Confederacy leader and William Henry Harrison's adversary in the 18th and 19th centuries. There are some links at the end of this post or you can use the search box to your right. This post will just focus on his date and place of birth, both of which are somewhat speculative.
Since American Indians of this time period had no written records, historians have to rely on statements and observations by whites who interacted with them and deduce from there.
It is generally agreed upon that Tecumseh was born in the Spring of 1768. The month of March is derived from Stephen Ruddell, a captured white who was an adopted brother of Tecumseh for 17 years that had the Shawnee name Big Fish. Ruddell was born on September 18th, 1768. In later years Stephen told his son that Tecumseh was 6 months his senior which would be about March 1768. This is also backed up by a letter that Ruddell wrote where he refers to Tecumseh being the same age as he when they met at age 12 in 1779. Putting all this together let's just call it March 18th, 1768.

possible Tecumseh birth locations in 1768
There is also a question of the specific location of his birthplace in Ohio. I have read several books and articles on Tecumseh and historians don't all agree on this. Many agree that it was probably a Shawnee town called Chalahgawtha. The problem is, this band of Shawnee called their "principal village" Chalahgawtha and the town was relocated at least six times and the same name was used each time. Incidentally, modern-day Chillicothe OH derives its name from the Shawnee town so that adds to the confusion. This means his place of birth could have been in present-day Springfield, Piqua, Xenia or Chillicothe. It turns out that the Ohio Historical Society thinks his place of birth is in Old Town just north of Xenia OH. The Absentee Shawnee of Oklahoma agrees and have placed their own marker there too. That works for me.
So Happy Birthday to Tecumseh or perhaps in Shawnee/Algonquin, Minowaazon Tibishkaman Tecumtha!

Additional Gehio posts about Tecumseh:
The death of Tecumseh
Tecumseh! - the play
The War to End All Indian Wars
How It All Began

Saturday, March 1, 2014

It's Ohio Statehood Day! Now about that flag...

weirdo Ohio flag
I have to be honest. I used to hate the Ohio flag because it tried to be different than the other flags. Now I love it for its uniqueness.

The pennant shaped Ohio flag is called a burgee, also known as a guidon. Ohio is the only US state to have a silly flag like this. Because of its odd shape, there is also a specific procedure for folding the Ohio flag and since 2002 even has its own pledge:
“I salute the flag of the state of Ohio and pledge to the Buckeye State respect and loyalty”
Never in my life have I heard anyone recite that.

Now, on with the obligatory symbolism explanation...
15 star US flag
Sorry Ohio, you have to wait 15 years for a star

The 5 stripes for the 5 states that came from the NW Territory as well as the roads and waterways.

The 17 stars are for the fact that Ohio was the 17th state. It is interesting to note that while Ohio was the 17th state in 1803, there was never a 17 star US flag. Or 18 and 19. Or 16 for that matter. The 15 star US flag (the one that inspired the Star Spangled Banner) was used from 1795-1818 until the 20-star flag was created. What a ripoff!
at the McKinley Library in Canton OH

The blue field represents Ohio's hills and valleys. Um, sure!

The O seems obvious to most sane people, however, when Barack Obama ran for President and was doing a photo op in front of the Ohio flag, an ignorant radio host was outraged and alarmed that Obama had his own flag.
The white circle with red in the center is for the "O" in Ohio and symbolizes the "Buckeye", Ohio's nickname. It's not an Obama flag. It's not a Puerto Rican flag either.

I wondered what flag designs were used before the "official" one but it turns out from 1803 - 1902 there was no official Ohio flag. I thought this was strange at first but it turns out that most States adopted their first official flags in the period between 1890 and 1925. Why? The same reason Ohio did it, to promote their State at various Expositions that occurred in those days. It was for PR to encourage new business which turned into jobs and taxes.
You see, the Ohio flag was created by John Eisenmann, a Cleveland architect, to fly over the Ohio Building at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo NY where it was flown for the first time. Ironically at this very event is where Ohio born US President William McKinley was assassinated on September 6th 1901.
The Ohio General Assembly officially adopted it as the state flag of Ohio on May 9th, 1902, known statewide as "Ohio Flag Day". No, not really, I highly doubt anyone observes this except people that have read this far.

For more about Ohio Statehood Day and how it's really not, read this excellent blog post.

ORC 5.224 Ohio Statehood Day.
The first day of March is designated as "Ohio statehood day," in recognition of the date in 1803 when Ohio became a state. In addition to those duties imposed on the Ohio historical society under section 149.30 of the Revised Code, and those duties imposed on the superintendent of public instruction under section 3301.12 of the Revised Code, the society shall, throughout the state, and the superintendent shall, in all school districts, encourage and promote the celebration of "Ohio statehood day."
Effective Date: 05-31-1988