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127. Feb. 3, 1991 - Coal shortage worsened winter
Journal News, Sunday, Feb. 3, 1991
Coal shortage worsened winter of 1917-18
(This is the third of six columns on World War I and the winter of 1917-18.)
By Jim Blount
Coal problems were anticipated in Hamilton and other communities several weeks before the winter of 1917-1918. In an effort to avert a crisis, local, state and national governments started in the fall of 1917 to inventory supplies and compile information on normal winter coal demands.
But they couldn't know that the Midwest wouldn't experience a normal winter. Instead, the region was about to struggle through what is regarded as the harshest winter in history, complicating plans for sharing the nation's scarce mined coal.
Also under estimated was the impact of wartime changes on the economy. The United States — which had declared war on Germany in April 1917 — was readying for the fight that fall and winter.
War-related industries placed new strains on fuel supplies and transportation systems. Productivity and labor forces were severely disrupted by the shift of so many men from peace time employment into the armed services and supportive jobs.
The coal situation was worsened by federal measures aimed at assuring a constant flow of men and materials to eastern U. S. ports for shipment to European war zones.
In September, Hamilton Mayor John A. Holzberger told state officials that Hamilton coal merchants had only 3,500 tons in their yards, with an additional 65,000 tons required to meet the usual local demand through April 1.
Sept. 27 interurban cars on the Ohio Electric Company lines experienced a power failure, bringing traffic to a halt.
J. P. Davis, chief engineer of the Lindenwald power station in Hamilton, said the stoppage was because the company had been unable to buy "the proper kind of coal to generate the steam."
Two days later, because of coal problems at the Lindenwald power station, the interurban system cut back to a two-hour schedule on runs between Cincinnati and Dayton through Hamilton.
A newspaper reported several causes for the expected shortage, including transportation problems, consumers holding back for lower prices and that mines were operating only at about 70 percent of their capacity.
By Oct. 1, all but one local coal dealer had stopped taking orders. The exception had some coal in his yard and two car loads on a siding. Most dealers were not expecting more coal for four to six weeks.
Meanwhile, the city of Hamilton reported a boom in requests for gas service. H. Riley Carver, the city's director of public service, hired new meter readers and installers because the coal situation had prompted about 200 new gas orders.
But coal remained the principal source of fuel for heating Hamilton houses and powering industry, and Friday, Oct. 12, Mayor Holzberger reported the local "coal situation desperate".
The same day, an overly-optimistic report from Washington said "the threatened coal shortage in Ohio will be averted by an order directing that coal moving toward lake ports for shipment to the northwest be diverted to Ohio." That would prove to be easier said than done.
Monday, Oct. 15, the city's electric-generating plant and waterworks had coal, but "of a very inferior quality and very disappointing for getting up steam enough to operate the machinery and dynamos at the plants," a newspaper reported.
Because of the problem, the city said "street lighting was cut out on Saturday night until a late hour and many of those shopping had to wander home in the darkness of night."
Farmers in rural areas were reported bringing wood-burning stoves out of storage and many were "busy cutting cord wood in stove lengths and burning it in place of coal."
In November, the Butler County Advisory Committee of the National Fuel Administration voted to fix the maximum gross profits which local dealers could add to coal at $1.85 a ton for loads delivered to the consumer.
But nothing prepared Hamiltonians for the hardships they would encounter, starting Dec. 6, 1917. By the end of January 1918, more than 46 inches of snow was measured here and daily lows were below zero days while coal remained scarce.
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128. Feb. 10, 1991 - Coal shortage acute in county
Journal News, Sunday, Feb. 10, 1991
Coal shortage acute in county in 1917-18
(This is the fourth of six columns on World War I and the winter of 1917-18.)
By Jim Blount
Local men were being drafted and sent away for combat training, but the arrival of railroad coal cars in Hamilton often captured the headlines in the winter of 1917-1918.
Hamilton officials said about 250 to 300 hoppers of coal were passing through here daily over the Baltimore & Ohio and Pennsylvania railroads as fall turned into winter.
The industrial city was in high gear for World War I production when a coal famine hit amid piles of snow and sub-zero temperatures of Hamilton's worst winter.
A scattering of local churches and county schools had already closed or curtailed activities because of coal shortages before the severe weather began with an inch of snow and a low of seven degrees below zero the morning of Thursday, Dec. 6.
By Monday, Dec. 10, 1917, between 400 and 500 Hamilton families were without coal to heat their homes and dealers had none to deliver.
With a low of 18 below and eight to 10 inches of snow on the ground, local newspapers began publishing daily counts of coal cars on Hamilton sidings and hoppers in transit. The snow and cold hampered rail operations and the Journal said "what freight is being moved consists of very little coal."
Adding to local railroad problems was a fire Sunday night, Dec. 9, in the B&O shops in Cincinnati that destroyed 12 switch engines. Because of the loss, the B&O was unable to move coal that had reached its Ivorydale yards in Cincinnati.
In addition, a newspaper said, "there was also a tieup in the Hamilton yards of the B&O Monday morning when it was found 10 switch engines had frozen up and it was late in the day before these were finally gotten into operation."
Only two coal cars -- at 50 to 65 tons each -- arrived in Hamilton Tuesday, Dec. 11, as the low again dipped to 18 below.
Wednesday, Dec. 12, another sub-zero day, 475 tons of coal was available with arrival of seven rail cars during the night. But it wasn't expected to last long because 700 families were without coal. Hamilton street lights were turned off at 9 p.m. to conserve coal.
To assure even distribution, the county fuel committee started a coal exchange in the offices of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce in the Rentschler Building with L. N. Forbes in charge, assisted by Helen Milders.
By noon the next day, 1,200 applications for help had been filed with the coal exchange, but only one coal car arrived.
The situation brightened Saturday, Dec. 15, as four cars arrived in the city and 70 cars of coking coal belonging to the Hamilton Otto Coke Co. were on tracks at Cokeotto (now New Miami) some of which was shared with local industries and dealers.
The same day, the state fuel administrator ordered that electric signs be turned off Sunday and Thursday nights until further notice to conserve coal. The next week, the local fuel committee said theaters were considered luxuries and wouldn't be given additional coal until families were supplied.
Friday, Dec. 21, a 30-car coal train was at Russell, Ky., bound for Hamilton over the Chesapeake & Ohio and B&O railroad, a trip expected to take 20 hours.
That train arrived Sunday, Dec. 23, but the Butler County Coal Advisory Committee had only 17 cars to divide in the county instead of 30 because equipment failures forced 13 cars to be left in Russell and Silver Grove, Ky., and in Cincinnati.
A week later, the Hamilton shortage was again called "very acute" as dealers reported no coal on hand.
The weather here worsened in Jan. 1918, but rail shipments improved, starting Jan. 3 when 42 cars arrived through the efforts of Congressman Warren Card.
Coal remained scarce, but the worst of the shortage was over in Hamilton by Jan. 18 when the federal government took drastic steps to alleviate the national coal crisis.
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129. Feb. 17, 1991 - War effort sparked fuel crisis
Journal News, Sunday, Feb. 17, 1991
War efforts sparked fuel crisis in 1917-18
(This is the fifth of six columns on World War I and the winter of 1917-18.)
By Jim Blount
Railroads received most of the blame for the coal shortage that crippled Hamilton in December and January 1917-18 when some fuel-starved residents resorted to stealing coal.
The crisis was caused by a combination of factors, but a major culprit was the federal government as it geared for war. The United States planned to have a million-man army overseas by May 1918, expanding to three million later. They were to be trained at 32 American camps and installations.
Obviously, such a movement of men and materials placed a strain on the nation's rail system.
Leaders of 635 railroads in April 1917 — when the U. S. declared war on Germany — had agreed to reduce or eliminate some passenger train service to divert equipment and manpower for war-related shipments.
In 1917, American railroads had 2.5 million freight cars, 56,000 passenger cars and more than 66,000 locomotives operated by about 1.75 million employees.
Efficient use of men and equipment was difficult because most freight shipments were headed in one direction — toward eastern seaports.
German submarine action had reduced cargo space, causing rail sidings to become clogged with goods waiting to be loaded on ships. When the national freight car shortage was 158,000, about 180,000 loaded cars were waiting at or near eastern ports.
The situation was complicated by constant labor turnover as railroad employees enlisted or were drafted, or took higher-paying jobs in war plants.
Meanwhile, the government had also directed rail lines to give priority to coal ordered for warships and merchant vessels hauling supplies to allies and U. S. forces.
As early as October 1917, vigilante action was mentioned as a means of securing coal to heat Hamilton households and businesses.
"The governor hints every city must take care of itself and that the officials of a city need not be overly nice about how they get their people coal," noted the Journal Oct. 13 in commenting on remarks by Gov. James M. Cox. "This is simply a polite way of telling public officials to get coal for their own cities the best way they can."
Mayor John A. Holzberger — after the governor's statement — said the city may seize some of the 250 to 300 coal cars entering the city daily if needs couldn't be met in other ways.
The mayor didn't take such action, but that didn't stop some Hamilton residents from raiding railroad yards for coal.
Oct. 17 local dealers reported thieves already active with about three tons of coal stolen from each hopper car placed on a rail siding in Hamilton. 
At the end of November -- before onset of the worst weather — the Butler County Fuel Advisory Committee condemned the Baltimore & Railroad for not stationing guards around coal cars on stopped trains or placed on sidings in the city.
The committee said as much as 19 tons of coal had been stolen from railroad cars within Hamilton in recent weeks.
In mid December — a string of below-zero lows about 12 inches of snow -- a newspaper said "a good many people who could get near a car of coal on a railroad track helped themselves.
"Any man who happened to be looking turned his back so as not to see. The swiping of coal is perhaps not entirely ethical, but under the circumstances, it is not to be condemned very strongly," the newspaper observed.
Dec. 26, President Woodrow Wilson, exercising wartime powers, announced that the federal government would take operation of the nation's railroads Dec. 28.
Secretary of the Treasury William G. McAdoo — who was the added duty of director of railroads — ordered 100,000 new freight cars and 1,930 locomotives, and by the spring of 1918. the nation's freight car shortage was considered history.
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130. Feb. 24, 1991 - War time of less meat and wheat
Journal-News, Sunday, Feb. 24, 1991
World War I time of less meat and wheat
(This is the last of six columns on World War I and the winter of 1917-18.)
By Jim Blount
Less was a familiar word in Hamilton during the World War I winter of 1917-1918. After enduring unusual cold and snow and a coal famine through mid January, the home front faced heatless, meatless and wheatless days in the remaining winter weeks.
Local coal supplies were more reliable for a Jan. 12 edict from Harry A. Garfield, the federal fuel administrator. He ordered mines in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia to ship all of their coal for the next 10 days to areas in Ohio and Michigan suffering the greatest shortages.
A few days later, Garfield mandated a five-day shutdown of industries east of the Mississippi River from Friday, Jan. 18, through Tuesday, Jan. 22, 1918. Exempted were railroads, hospitals, public utilities, charitable institutions and industries requiring continuous operation.
Purpose of the closing was to conserve coal on hand and to allow mines and railroads to build domestic stockpiles. It also prohibited coal deliveries during the industrial recess.
In addition to the five-day shutdown, the fuel order decreed 10 consecutive "Heatless Mondays" from Jan, 21 through March 25, 1918.
Stores, schools, saloons, theaters and office buildings were to be closed. Even streetcar lines were to operate on "a Sunday basis" and daily newspapers were limited to one Monday edition.
Merchants selling food were permitted to operate until noon while drug stores were allowed to remain open as usual on each "Heatless Monday," Hamilton druggists agreed to close at 6 p.m.
In Hamilton, the five-day industrial closing was expected to save 20,000 tons of coal. But it also would cost more than 5,000 workers at least $225,000 in wages while their employers would lose an additional $300,000.
At the Champion Coated Paper Company's Hamilton plant, the shutdown idled 1,500 people. The mill used about 350 tons of coal a day, but only 200 tons would be saved because it required about 150 tons daily to warm the plant and protect plumbing and sprinkler systems from freezing.
Friday, Jan. 18, the first day, only two Hamilton plants were operating — the Hooven, Owen and Rentschler Co., employing 600, which produced parts for marine engines for the U. S. merchant fleet, and the American Can Company, whose product was essential to the food industry. The next day, the Niles Tool Works also was permitted to operate.
Jan. 28 — the second "Heatless Monday" — President Woodrow Wilson issued a food conservation order aimed at reducing wheat consumption by 30 percent.
Bakers, cereal makers and others were ordered to reduce their wheat consumption by 70 to 80 percent over 1917 totals. Consumers were to cut purchases of wheat products for home baking to 70 percent and to buy mixed cereal breads.
Also, Mondays and Wednesdays were to be "Wheatless Days" and on other days, one meal each day was to be a wheatless meal.
The president said Tuesday should be a "Meatless Day" and one meal each of the other days should be meatless. He said Saturday should be a "Porkless Day."
Feb. 13 the government canceled "Heatless Monday" after four observances of the coal-saving days. But it was unrelenting in its efforts to reduce wheat consumption.
Effective Sunday, Feb. 24, was a 50-50 wheat substitute plan, requiring that for every pound of wheat flour bought, the consumer also must buy an equal amount of wheat substitutes. The federally-approved substitutes included corn meal, corn starch, hominy, rice, oatmeal and Hours made from corn, barley, soybeans, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
The wheat program was necessary, according to federal food authorities, because of "adverse transportation conditions and the unpreparedness of food distributing trades."
A plentiful item was gasoline for the 3,330 automobiles registered in Butler County. "There is no danger, whatever, of gasoline shortage," proclaimed a Jan. 1918 news article.
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