Saturday, December 10, 2016

Shuller's Wigwam

Shuller's Wigwam (originally called Shuller's Restaurant) was on the NE corner of Hamilton Avenue and North Bend Road in Cincinnati for 78 years from 1922-2000. Max Shuller, a Russian immigrant started the place in 1922 after a few years of selling food from a cart in Downtown Cincinnati.

People from the area have fond memories of the popular College Hill eatery and I found many articles but I was hard-pressed to find many good photos of Shuller's online.

I have a couple of memories of my own.
inside the Wigwam

I was very late to the scene but I remember bringing a date here in the mid-1980s as it was the fanciest place I could afford. I kind of wonder now how I even found the place as it was a pretty good distance from West Chester. At age 20 I wasn't hip to nice restaurants so I recall when they brought out the dessert tray, I picked something different than my date because I thought we were limited to the ones on the tray. We had a good laugh about that one. I don't recall thinking of this as an old place at the time.
In the late 1990s, I moved to the area and came here again a couple of times with family toward the end of Shuller's run. This time, 14 years later, I thought of it as very old-timey with dim lighting, dark wood, and Naugahyde seats. Almost museum-like. Something you just didn't see anymore. They had photos and newspaper clippings on the lobby walls from its golden era. At that point, it really seemed like a relic but the food was still pretty good. I was sad when I learned it was closing. One of my cousins visited again a few years later and asked if we could go back but it was closed by then.
Max's son Leo Shuller at the table in the 1960s lounge
Unfortunately, no one from the Shuller family wanted to take over the business in part due to dwindling crowds, aging clientèle, and new competition. The restaurant closed in 2000 and the building was razed in 2006. Mixed-use development of the property was promised then but fell through but brand new re-development is underway once again by the College Hill Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation. By this time next year, there should be new mixed-use buildings at this intersection. It's nice to see this area start to spring back after a period of decline.

1920s pre-wigwam original
So back to the Wigwam...and what's with the "wigwam" anyway?
The original 1922 building was added on to in 1932. The addition was shaped like a tee-pee and customers thought it looked like a wigwam, so it became Shuller's Wigwam and they just ran with the pseudo-American Indian theme. I wasn't able to locate any pictures of the tee-pee shaped building. There was another Shuller's Restaurant (and motel) on Reading Road in Roselawn in the 1940s. It's possible folks started calling the one on Hamilton Avenue "wigwam" to differentiate between the two. As I understand it,  the owners were cousins but the businesses were unaffiliated. If anyone has more info on that, please contact me.

1954 un-wigwam like remodel
The tee-pee shaped addition and the original building was torn down in 1954 and a larger more modern looking restaurant was built which looked nothing like a wigwam but the name stayed put. Up until the 1970s, the sign out front had a wigwam shape, but again, I couldn't find any photos online.
Inside, from 1954 to 1980 there were several Indian Village murals on the walls that were painted by a woman named Ruth Listerman. It's too bad these weren't preserved somehow. I was able to locate one photo with one in the background.

interior view with one of
Listerman's Indian murals visible
In keeping with the theme, the menu at one point featured items such as the Mohican French-fried Seafood Platter Deluxe and the 12-ounce Squaw Steak Special. On the kid's menu, there was PB&J on Toast called a Pocahontas. Oh, and there is a Fire Water cocktail menu for the grownups. The names of these items would certainly raise an eyebrow these days.
I wish I had a better photo of the menu, but you get the idea
History must be viewed in context. This, as they say, was a different time...and times change. I'm sure they considered it as an homage in the by-gone days of radio, movie and TV Westerns.
1940s Bailey-Walker China, made in Bedford, OH
Other menu choices from days of old rarely seen today included liver and onions, turkey croquettes, herring salad and hot slaw with bacon. Aside from eating liver as a kid, I've never eaten any of those things but I must say that the hot slaw with bacon sounds pretty good. Here is the real deal recipe straight from Leo Shuller himself if you want to try it out.
Reagan and a fan at Shuller's
Many celebrities such as Perry Como, William Holden, Woody Hayes, Doris Day, Edie Adams, and Foster Brooks came to dine at Shuller's during its glory days. Actor and future US President Ronald Reagan visited when he was in town with the General Electric Theatre.

Jean Shepard broadcasting from Shuller's
From 1950-1954 Jean Shepard, co-author and "adult Ralphie" narrator of the 1983 movie A Christmas Story, was a WSAI disc jockey and did shows from the restaurant.

matchbooks through the ages
Jer-ry, Jer-ry!
(Bob Shreve to his left & #13 on the podium)
Now here is the oddball stuff I like...
Every January beginning in 1980 and lasting for about seven years, a shindig was held by The Chopped Liver and Wine Society in celebration of the mediocrity of 13th President Millard Fillmore. They called themselves Fillmorons. Fillmore was from Buffalo, New York. The only President from Cincinnati was mediocre William Howard Taft but I guess they didn't want to offend the prominent Taft family. Also, you don't get to have that funny nickname. The first event was emceed by former Cincinnati Mayor, Channel 5 anchor, and future tabloid talk show host Jerry Springer. It figures.

If anyone has a photo of the actual namesake wigwam building or the sign outside, I'd love to see them! I've already scoured the internet. eBay seems to always have some nice matchbooks from the restaurant's different eras. Also, if you are a geocacher, I placed a cache on the property in September 2016.

UPDATE 6/26/2017: Ken Shuller contacted me and provide a couple of old photos. One is the "wigwam" building and another is the neon sign from the 70s.

newspaper ad from 1950

A Little Piece of Paradise - College Hill, Ohio by Betty Ann Smiddy
College Hill - Images of America By Gail Deibler Finke
Historic Restaurants of Cincinnati: The Queen City's Tasty History By Dann Woellert
- Old Photos of Cincinnati
Cincinnati Enquirer January 2, 1982
Cincinnati Magazine July 1990
Cincinnati Magazine May 1987
Cincinnati Magazine March 1980

Friday, November 4, 2016

Review: The Victory with No Name: The Native American Defeat of the First American Army

I've decided to post some of my short Goodreads reviews of 4 or 5-star history books I've read over the last several years. I finished this book in November 2014. This seemed like a good one to start with as you will see why...

The Victory with No Name: The Native American Defeat of the First American Army The Victory with No Name: The Native American Defeat of the First American Army by Colin G. Calloway
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was excited to see a new book on one of my favorite periods of US history. I've read many accounts of this battle and events which were included in other books, as well as "Wabash 1791: St Clair's defeat" by John Winkler that came out in 2012. Both are fantastic and worthy reads on this overlooked era of American expansionism but I feel that Colin G. Calloway's book captures a better understanding of the political and societal background issues in the US at that time while Winkler's 2012 book delves more into the details of the military campaign itself which in my opinion is correctly identified by Calloway as an "American Invasion".

On a personal note, I thought it was interesting that I decided to read and then finish this book exactly 223 years to the day of St. Clair's Defeat on November 4th, 1791. I also just now realized the first book I read on the Shawnee was Calloway's "The Shawnees and the War for America" four years ago. I guess I will be checking out more of his books!

View all my reviews

Saturday, October 1, 2016

19th Century Booze News You Can Use

WHH never slept here
In the election of 1840, Democrat incumbent President Martin Van Buren and his re-election team attempted to smear his Whig opponent William Henry Harrison by portraying him as a hard cider drunk and a hayseed. It didn't matter that WHH was once a US Ambassador, US Congressman (both kinds), Governor of the Indiana Territory, Secretary of Northwest Territory, a US Army General and a celebrated war hero. He had an impressive resume, was college educated, and came from a wealthy family just like Van Buren and most politicians of that era.  I'm not entirely sure what Harrison’s drinking habits were as a younger man. Most men back then drank quite a bit. Supposedly he was a teetotaler later in life.

What Would WHH Do?

1840 campaign medal
Harrison's team embraced the attempted slander and adopted a log cabin as his campaign symbol, the symbol of frontier rustic-ness, and portrayed himself as a regular "Jebidiah the Blacksmith" every-man who enjoyed his Bud Light, I mean hard cider. This tactic was no different than politicians now that put on those plaid shirts for the camera and walk around a farm with their family or don a hard hat and shake hands with factory workers to connect with the common man. It's all political spin and 1840 was no different. Ironically this populist strategy is also what got former War of 1812 General and war hero Andrew Jackson elected as the 7th US President when he ran against incumbent John Quincy Adams. It was Henry Clay's Democratic-Republicans opposition to Jackson and his policies that gave birth to the Whig party in 1833.
The truth is, Harrison never once lived in a log cabin. His campaign team, again taking a page from Jackson, accented the old General's War of 1812 war hero status by coming up with the very first presidential campaign slogan and song "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" emphasizing his win at the Battle of Tippecanoe. The Log Cabin and Hard Cider Campaign was on, complete with cups, plates, flags, and sewing boxes made with his image on them.

Booz...but not from the 1840s

Back to the booze...

Now it is known that there were variants of the word “booze” associated with drunkenness going back to the 14th-century Dutch word “búsen” and even in early America, adjectives such as “boosy” meant "drunk". It has been said that Harrison's Presidential campaign popularized the term again in 1840. It's serendipitous to note that Martin Van Buren was of Dutch ancestry and spoke Dutch as his first language. He later learned English in school.

As the legend goes on to say, WHH commissioned the E.G. Booz Distillery (erroneously listed as E.C. Booz at times) in Philadelphia to make log cabin shaped whiskey bottles with the “Booz” surname featured prominently. Harrison allegedly gave away this free booz(e) at campaign stops to potential voters. I've seen this mentioned in an antique glass bottle book from 1920. It's even in the 1941 biography William Henry Harrison, His Life and Times by James A. Green and repeated in many other publications. I myself believed the boozy tale and even wrote about it here*.

Not so fast...

It would be interesting to find the earliest mention of the booze story. I know for example that the Harrison speech/hat and coat/pneumonia story doesn't appear in print until 1939 in the Freeman Cleaves biography "Old Tippecanoe", long considered the go-to book on WHH which incidentally doesn't mention the "booz" story at all, whereas Green's 1941 book does. Hmmm.

Edmund G. Booz was born in 1824, which would make him only 16 years old in 1840. As it turns out, Edmund didn't start selling log cabin shaped whiskey bottles embossed with his family name until 1858. This was at a time when the brand new Republican Party, founded by former Whigs, was gaining popularity with another up and coming log cabin guy named Abraham Lincoln. Since Harrison, the first Whig President, had the famous Log Cabin campaign with lots of other swag, Mr. Booz likely stamped one of them with the 1840 year as a tribute...or possibly as a deception. Either way, this allusion apparently led folks to believe the bottle was from 1840 election and the tale developed from there. I've also learned that Clevenger Brothers Glass made reproductions of the bottles in the 1930s. Sometimes these are sold mistakenly as 19th-century originals. This leads me to believe that the story originated not in the 1850s but in the 1930s, which is around the time Green wrote his book.
So while it is feasible Harrison gave out free booze or hard cider (in regular type bottles with no "booz") in 1840 to lubricate thirsty voters and E. G. Booz, with his convenient, name re-popularized an old term for alcohol in the 1860s, it’s just not possible that William Henry Harrison or his campaign had anything to do with it in 1840.


*Note: This is a rewrite of a post from December 2011 that originally credited the 1840 Harrison campaign with popularizing the term "booze". As explained above, new information had come to my attention that indicates this wasn't true. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Ohio History Harvest

September is rich and abundant in Ohio Presidential trivia goodness. Here is a crop of nine savory nuggets from our ninth month. Let's start with the early adventures of our 9th President.

General Harrison statue
in Cincinnati
1812 - The Siege of Fort Wayne began in the Indiana Territory on September 5th led by Potawatomi and Miami Indians. Future 9th President General William Henry Harrison's Kentucky militia from Newport Barracks (across the Ohio River from Cincinnati) joined Ohio militia on September 8th and arrived at the fort September 12th. Known in advance of the approaching superior force the Indians led by Chief Winimac abandoned their attack.
Although born in Virginia and Governor of the Indiana Territory, Harrison would adopt Ohio as his home state, serving in various Ohio political offices and residing in North Bend OH when he became President. I've probably written more blog posts about Harrison than any sane person ever would. Here is a short one to match his brief Presidency.

1812 - Hey what do you know, another WHH entry!...On September 17th William Henry Harrison is made Major General of the US Regular Army by President Madison. Harrison would later defend Ohio from Indian and British advances by building Fort Meigs near Toledo in the War of 1812.

Hendricks is the only VP on US money
1819 - One of three Ohio born US Vice Presidents, Thomas A. Hendricks, 1st VP under Grover Cleveland was born on September 7th in Muskingum County OH. Having spent most of his life as a Hoosier and served as its 16th Governor, he ran with Indiana as his home state in the 1884 election. Hendricks is the only VP whose portrait appears on US paper currency, the $10 silver certificate of 1886. Hendricks died unexpectedly in his sleep just 8 months after being sworn in as Vice President in 1885.

grade school book
about Woodhull
1838 - Suffragette Victoria Woodhull is born September 23rd in Homer OH. Who? In 1872 she was the first woman to run for President and she couldn't even vote for herself. It wasn't just because she was a woman, but she was also in jail on election day. Oh, and black abolitionist Frederick Douglass was named as her running mate by her Equal Rights Party. One problem. Douglass was, in fact, supporting Grant. There’s also no record of how many votes the Woodhull/Douglass ticket received because they apparently weren't even counted. As you can deduce, this Presidential run was more of a protest.

I have to admit I didn't know much about Hendricks or Woodhull before researching for this post. I definitely would like to read more about Woodhull. Notorious Victoria by Mary Gabriel is on my Goodreads to do list.

I have several blog posts about the next four items which are linked in the text.

1855 - Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln Rudely was rudely greeted in Cincinnati on September 20th. One of the impolite greeters was Steubenville OH born Edwin Stanton who would later become Secretary of War seven years later under President Lincoln during the Civil War. Politics makes strange bedfellows they say. Upon Lincoln’s death in 1865, it was Stanton who tearfully said the famous words “Now he belongs to the ages.” 

Taft birthplace in Cincinnati
1857 - Speaking of Cincinnati, 27th  President William Howard Taft was born September 15th in the suburb Mt Auburn. Taft would finish his term unlike many Ohio Presidents, but not get re-elected to a second one mainly due to a public dispute with Teddy Roosevelt. He was the only former POTUS to become a member of the SCOTUS.
Random thought: If Hillary Clinton becomes President in 2016, she will have become the first FLOTUS to become POTUS. Bill would become the first...FGOTUS? Anyway...

Garfield Tomb in Cleveland
1880 - Arriving in San Francisco by train on September 8th, 19th US President Rutherford B. Hayes became the first US President to visit the West Coast while in office. I never had a whole post about Hayes but he gets a mention here. This is the only Ohio President who I've never visited the birthplace or grave site. I understand his Delaware OH birthplace is now the site of a BP gas station. At least there is a plaque. The more substantial Hayes Presidential Center and grave is on my Ohio bucket list. Hayes was also Ohio's 29th and 32nd Governor.

1881 - On September 19th, Moreland Hills OH born 20th President James Garfield succumbed to his bad doctors one excruciating month after an attempted assassination. I recommend reading the riveting Destiny of the Republic by Candace Millard which is all about that. It's a great book and one of my favorites. I've read it twice!

McKinley Tomb in Canton

1901 - Well we made it to the 20th century! Just 20 years after Garfield, on September 14th, 25th US President William McKinley died after being shot by an assassin eight days earlier in Buffalo NY while headed to Cleveland. McKinley was born in Niles OH and spent most of his life in Canton where his tomb is. He was the 39th governor of Ohio from 1892 to 1896. Rutherford B Hayes was McKinley's commanding officer during the Civil War in the 23rd Ohio Regiment and were both at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. For more on McKinley's assassination, I recommend The President and the Assassin by Scott Miller.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Prison Cemetery Blues

an appropriately dreary day
Geocaching sometimes takes me to interesting places. One of my favorite caching locations is cemeteries. I've been to all kinds. Some of them I've written about here. Pioneer cemeteries, potter's fields, US veteran graves, Confederate gravesAmerican Indian gravesPresidential tombs, rural family plots, African-American cemeteries, abandoned cemeteriesbizarre graveyards, and even an elephant resting place. One day geocaching brought me to the Chillicothe Correctional Institute Cemetery. A prison cemetery.

I like cemeteries. They are historical records and the last word on the person. Some gravestones are quite beautiful and ornate. Others may have a likeness of the deceased. They may have a remark about the persons legacy or their wishes for the afterlife. However, nothing seems bleaker or more desolate than a prison cemetery. Don't get me wrong, many of the people buried in them were the worst of society. Other times they were a lost soul who had a hard life that ended here. Either way, you certainly won't find any epitaphs that read "husband, father, mass murderer" or "beloved son, in the wrong place at the wrong time". It's a pretty inauspicious place to spend eternity.

As I wandered around the unadorned wooden crosses and plain stones with simple names and dates, I wondered how one marker with the words "Unknown US" could be here. Even if a person goes to prison under an alias, one would think they would at least have the name used while incarcerated. As it turns out, Chillicothe Correctional Institute Cemetery is on the site of Camp Sherman, a WWI training camp, named after William Tecumseh Sherman. This is likely a stone from that era, although no records seem to exist to explain any further. Apparently, a similar stone was found under the CCI Administration building basement. I guess that still doesn't explain it fully. Maybe it was a newly arrived as yet unknown recruit, one of the nearly 2,000 soldiers that died of an influenza outbreak in 1918. Life was hard and cruel 100 years ago.

Of the inmates buried here, there are the usual types of offenders you would expect. Then there are the notorious and truly despicable. Looking through records on led me to the following people buried here:

Stephen Allen Vrable shot and murdered his girlfriend and their 3-year-old daughter in 1989. He put their bodies in a refrigerator and lived in the apartment for a month before leaving. The bodies were discovered several weeks later. He was executed in 2004.

plain wooden crosses among simple gravestones
Jeffrey Don Lundgren was failed Mormon minister and self-proclaimed prophet who started a religious cult in Kirtland Ohio. He murdered a family of five with help from some followers in 1989 and got ratted out by one of them. He was executed in 2006.

Then there is Frank Spisak, a neo-Nazi who even sported a Hitler mustache. He killed three people and injured several others in a racially charged 1982 shooting spree on the campus of Cleveland State University. Spisak was executed in 2011 and expressed no remorse when given the chance in his final words. Instead he read from the Book of German. Like many here, no one claimed his body afterward.

Although this post is more about the cemetery rather than the prison, there have been some noteworthy folks that passed through the corrections facility itself. Cincinnati born 17-year-old Charles Manson was housed here from 1952-1954 before his notorious 1969 Family murders. Country singer Johnny Paycheck did 22 months at CCI for shooting a man in a Hillsboro OH bar in 1985. His friend Merle Haggard performed for the inmates in 1989.

Anyway back to the cemetery.
I only intended to research the unknown grave. I do wish I could find some information on the "regular" folks that are buried in this stark cemetery, the ones that just made terrible mistakes or were in the wrong place at the wrong time, paid their price and ended up dying here. They were still sons, fathers, brothers...Now they lie here almost as if they never existed. For some of them like Vrable, Lundgren, and Spisak, that's fine by me.

other sources and further reading:
-Grave Addiction on CCI
-Gehio cemetery posts

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ohio's Mint Condition

Did you know Ohio is home to America's oldest private mint? It's also only 6 miles from my house.
Here's the story.
A few months ago I ran across an item on eBay and ended up purchasing it for about $12.
It's a mint condition 62mm (2 ½ inch), 16-gram (.5 ounce) 1953 brushed aluminum medal commemorating the sesquicentennial of Ohio statehood.
The obverse features the Ohio State Seal surrounded by busts of the eight Ohio US Presidents:
William Henry Harrison (9th), Ulysses S. Grant (18th), Rutherford B. Hayes (19th), James Garfield (20th), Benjamin Harrison (23rd), William McKinley (25th), William Howard Taft (27th), and Warren G. Harding (29th).
The reverse notes the company and location "Osborne Coinage Co. Cin. 25, O." At first, I didn't know what the "25" signified. I discovered that it references the zip code of the company location which would be "Cincinnati Ohio, 45225" in the Camp Washington area.

The medal was struck by the Osborne Coinage Company of Cincinnati, OH which happens to be the oldest private mint in the US and still in operation today. I checked with them but unfortunately, they didn't have any further information on the history of this item, such as how many were made or who specifically it was created for. The early 1950s produced many Ohio Statehood promotional items to gear up for the 150th anniversary. As far as this coin goes, it doesn't show up on eBay much. Another site, which I lost the link to, was selling one and said they'd only seen two of these in twenty years. I don't think it's valuable or anything but I am happy with the price I paid.

Osborne traces its beginning back to 1835 as the Z. Bisbee Co. originally located on 5th Street in downtown Cincinnati a few miles from Osborne's present location in Camp Washington.
During its 181 year history, Osborne produced everything from campaign coins for eight presidents including Lincoln and FDR, food ration tokens in WWII, subway tokens, Alcoholic Anonymous sobriety coins, casino coins, commemorative sports coins, and Chuck E. Cheese tokens. In other words, pretty much anything that was coin-like and wasn't legal tender.

If you need a custom coin, head over to Osborne and tell then Gehio sent you.

related Gehio posts:
Happy 58th Birthday to our 49th State...Ohio!
Ohio Statehood Day!
Ohio History on a Stick

other sources:
1997 LA Times article on the Osborne Coinage Co.

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. An 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 a 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 sign's 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, a 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. In fact, the idea that the weather and the length of the speech is what killed him didn't appear until the 1939 Harrison bio "Old Tippecanoe". Yes, NINETEEN thirty-nine.
It seems to me that at the age of 68 and environmental factors he would have contracted some sort of malady. Bacteria-infested drinking water caused by open sewage was literally everywhere in DC. No matter what he got sick from, 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 "bilious pleurisy", known now as pneumonia, which was really a secondary diagnosis from a few days earlier.

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 fiance's father Senator David Gardiner. Many more were injured. If Tyler had been above deck, he would have no doubt 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, the 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.