Journal-News, Sunday, Sept. 1, 1991
Cannon fire started 1891 centennial celebration
(This is the second of eight columns on Hamilton's 1891 centennial celebration.)
By Jim Blount
Hamilton's three-day centennial celebration in September 1891 opened with a bang -- 13 eye-opening bangs, to be exact.
"From the western hilltop, just at the first stroke of the courthouse clock at six Captain Moses Klein's gun squad broke loose and made the valley echo with their sounding volleys," said the Hamilton Daily Democrat report on the centennial's opening day, Thursday, Sept. 17, 1891.
The 13 shots "were fired in commemoration of the number of states in the Union at the time of the location of Fort Hamilton by General Arthur St. Clair," the newspaper explained.
After the early morning cannon wake-up call, "immediately followed a noise sufficient to wake the dead," said the news account.
"Such a clatter was never heard before in Hamilton. To usher in the glad New Year, our bells and whistles often exert themselves, but the noise is nothing compared with that of 6 this morning.
"Every bell in the city was swinging to and fro, as if vying with its neighbor to make the largest sound," the newspaper said.
"The steam whistles were also in it to a great extent. They screeched and howled, some were melodious, some were heart rending, but they all worked toward one end, noise, and noise there was. It was a fitting opening of Hamilton's centennial," declared the Hamilton Daily Democrat.
Klein's gunners went into action again Friday morning, Sept. 18, the second day of the celebration. But it was delayed until 8 a.m. instead of 6 o'clock. This time Klein's gunners fired 44 rounds from the signal cannon, one for each of the states in the Union in 1891.
The third morning, Saturday, Sept. 19, the gun squad aroused the city with 100 shots, starting at 6 o'clock.
In accordance with military tradition, Klein, a veteran of the Civil War, submitted a written report of his centennial duties. It was titled "To The General Centennial Committee, Hamilton, Ohio: Report of Captain Moses Klein, of shooting the cannon."
Klein reported that on the first day, after firing 13 shots, "we were ordered away from the hill, and we moved our cannon to the west bank of the river.
"At 10 o'clock p.m. on Sept. 17, 1791, we were ordered away from the west bank of the river, but being unable to obtain conveyance until morning of the 18th, were delayed shooting on Sept. 18 from 6 o'clock to 8 o'clock a.m. when we fired 44 shots from the east bank of the Miami River," said Klein, explaining the two-hour difference from opening day.
On the third day, "from said east bank of the Miami River we fired (at 6 o'clock, quitting at 8 o'clock) 100 shots. Being a total of 157 shots fired," Klein reported.
"We used nine kegs of powder," said the report, which was signed "Moses Klein, captain of artillery, centennial cannoneers."
Among bills found in the centennial safe when it was opened and inspected this year was an accounting of Klein's expenses. It included $22 for firing the cannon (powder) and $2 for transporting it.
In contrast to the noisy cannon opening was the first centennial activity -- a parade Thursday evening, Sept. 17.
It was described in the printed program as "a grand dress parade on High Street by the Hamilton Battalion, comprising all the uniformed military and civic organizations of the city."
The parade was followed by The Feast of Flowers and Youth, described as a "beautiful spectacle" featuring "the youth of Hamilton, in marches, music and songs by all the school children of Hamilton, under the direction of Prof. John Gottschalk."
In reviewing that event, the Hamilton Daily Democrat said "its grandeur and magnificence was beyond description."
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Journal-News, Sunday, Sept. 8, 1991
Military was big part of centennial parade
(This is the third of eight columns on Hamilton's 1891 centennial celebration.)
By Jim Blount
Prussian-born William Margedant — who had answered President Abraham Lincoln's call for volunteers during the first week of the Civil War in April 1861 — directed the Hamilton centennial parade in 1891 with military precision.
Captain Margedant's instructions to parade leaders — labeled Order No. 4 — were printed in a four-page pamphlet. It reflected the grand marshal's seriousness.
"The time for active service has arrived, and it will be our duty to make all necessary preparations for the coming celebration," said Margedant, who was president of the United German Societies in Hamilton.
"There should be no misunderstandings, no slowness or indifference; we strive for success in its full scope, there must be no failure in the least, every one of us must understand the situation, and do his duty and do it well," said Margedant.
"We have not been appointed by the people to ride at the head of a procession, as carriers of a uniform," he said in urging his lieutenants to "guide a well planned and organized procession, without a break or an accident" to people or horses or parade spectators.
"We want a regular moving procession in one unbroken line - no interruption, no stoppage, no mistake — everything must move with the precision of clock work, prompt and positive," ordered Margedant, whose Civil War service had started as a captain in the all-German Ninth Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
Members of the grand staff of the bicentennial marched in uniforms, most of which they specially ordered for the occasion. The uniform included a black Prince Albert suit; white satin horse cover with gold band; white satin sash with gold fringe; white gloves; slouch hat; gold hat cord; boot tops; and a whip.
Except for the suit, the complete outfit — purchased from William Beck & Sons, Cincinnati — cost each participant $5.75.
The centennial planning committee — dominated by veterans of the Civil War and members of the Ohio National Guard — was intent on having U. S. Army participation in the parade Saturday afternoon, Sept. 19,1891.
When it was discovered that such city events didn't qualify under existing Army policy, political help was sought from a former Hamilton businessman who had moved to Washington, D. C., to take a patronage position within the administration of President Benjamin Harrison.
Estes G. Rathbone was an assistant postmaster general. His wife, Josephine, was a daughter of the late Lewis D. Campbell, a Hamilton lawyer and newspaper publisher who also had been a congressman and U.S. minister to Mexico.
Through Rathbone's influence — and agreement by centennial planners to pay railroad fare and provide food — 130 troops stationed less than 30 miles away, at Fort Thomas and Newport Barracks in Northern Kentucky, were authorized to participate.
With the addition of National Guard units, the committee entertained 300 soldiers in Hamilton at a cost of $153.
According to an accounting in the centennial safe, this included $75 to feed 300 men two meals (an average of 12.5 cents a meal) and $24 for dinner for 24 officers (an average of $1). The tab also included $21 for cigars for officers and their soldiers, $9 for wine for the officers and $10 for beer for the soldiers.
Captain Margedant's grand parade started at 2 p.m. from the intersection of Main, Millville and Eaton avenues.
The circuitous line of march — almost five miles in length — was east of Main Street across the bridge to High Street, south on Third Street, southeast on Central, east on Walnut, north on Fourth, east on Ludlow, north on East Avenue and 10th Street, west on Heaton, south on Second, east on Dayton, south on Seventh and west on High Street to Water Street (now Monument Avenue), where the parade disbanded.
Among those reviewing the parade was Gov. James E, Campbell, a former Hamilton lawyer who had been elected in 1889.
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Journal-News, Sunday, Sept. 15, 1991
Centennial planners favored 'new' metal
(This is the fourth of eight columns on Hamilton's 1891 centennial celebration.)
By Jim Blount
Surprise is a normal reaction to first contact with the commemorative medal of Hamilton's centennial. Instead of solid or plated gold or bronze, the lightweight memento was cast in a "new and wonderful metal," according to centennial planners.
Aluminum had become cheaper and more readily available because of a discovery in 1886 that aluminum oxide could be dissolved and reduced through electrolysis to yield aluminum. The first commercial aluminum had been produced in Pittsburgh in 1888, three years before the Hamilton centennial.
The centennial committee decided that its medal would "be made of aluminum, that new and wonderful metal, typical of the world's progress" in the late 19th century.
An 1891 newspaper advertisement said "the general committee has determined to furnish a memorial medal, commemorative of our city's first hundred years and its centennial celebration."
"Other cheap medals and devices of various kinds may be offered by private persons for their own profit. But the committee's medal is the only authorized and official emblem of this great celebration."
"Citizens of Hamilton," the ad urged, "purchase only the medal furnished by your own committee and thereby aid the undertaking. This is no private scheme for individual benefit, but a public, patriotic plan to assist in paying the expenses of the celebration,"
The centennial medals and badges were purchased from James Murdock Jr., a Cincinnati wholesale and retail dealer in roll and sheet brass, copper and German silver.
"I will make 5,000 aluminum medals 1 3⁄8 inches diameter with old Fort Hamilton on one side and the courthouse on the other with lettering for $55 per 1,000," Murdock offered in an Aug. 27, 1891, letter to the committee.
Murdock also promised to punch a hole in each medal "without any extra cost." He said ribbons could be added for $3 per 1,000.
The centennial committee had appointed George T. Reiss, one of its members, "to attend to the purchasing of the centennial medals." Reiss reported at the Sept. 1 meeting that he had placed the contract for 5,000 medals with Murdock.
The committee authorized Reiss "to make the best possible arrangements for the sale of the medals on commission and to endeavor to have them sold as high as 15 cents each."
After the celebration, Reiss reported that the remaining medals would be on sale at the Butler County Fair and at stores in Hamilton. He said the committee could expect to clear about $200 on its medal investment.
The centennial committee also ordered badges in the following colors: red, white and blue for the general arrangement committee; white for the ward committees; old gold for the finance committee; and blue for the singers. It also set the price of the badges at 50 cents each for the committees and 30 cents each for the singers.
When opened this year, the 1891 centennial safe contained more than 100 centennial medals or badges attached to ribbons of various colors.
At the top of the ribbon is a clasp of heavier metal with "Centennial" in raised lettering. On one side of the medal is an illustration of the fort, inscribed "Old Fort Hamilton 1791" and in smaller lettering "copyright 1891 Thomas Millikin." The other side has an illustration of the Butler County courthouse with the inscription "Hamilton centennial 1891."
A Sept. 11, 1891, note to the centennial committee -- on the letterhead of the Niles Tool Works -- said "as I made the design for Mr. Reiss for the centennial medal and have gotten no credit for it, I think that I am at least entitled to a few medals." The note — signed by J. Dale Steuble (or Stewble) — is among records stored in the centennial safe.
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Journal-News, Sunday, Sept. 22, 1991
Fireworks finale for city centennial
(This is the fifth of eight columns on Hamilton's 1891 centennial celebration.)
By Jim Blount
Hamilton's 1891 centennial celebration featured patriotic displays, parades, music, singing, oratory and, of course, a fireworks Finale.
Planners rejected suggestions which would have given the 100th anniversary a carnival atmosphere — as evidenced by the documents preserved in the centennial safe.
For example, the centennial committee refused to respond to a letter from "Professor Little's Great Attractions."
The busy letterhead — which listed Professor Little's address as 355 Vine St., Cincinnati — promoted "the most daring aerial artist in the world, under the management of Prof. Chas. Little."
It boasted of "the aerial king, Master Franki Levoy, in his marvelous cold flights and thrilling and daring parachute leaps" who also could "give his wonderful bicycle and trapeze performance on the high rope."
"In regard to a balloon ascension at your centennial," Little said in the handwritten letter, "I will make you three ascensions and three parachute drops by either lady or gent for $125. This is cheap for this attraction. I will also send up a dog in a parachute by himself. I make two parachute drops with each ascension.
"I guarantee good work and satisfaction to all. I just closed a three-month engagement here at Coney Island." The professor said "I make the highest ascensions they ever saw. I have the largest balloons in the country I do first-class work."
The flashiest event of the centennial weekend obviously was the closing fireworks show, which was arranged by a committee headed by William C. Margedant, who also chaired the parade planning.
"No grander or more gorgeous display of fireworks ever took place in any city," said the Hamilton Democrat in describing what it called "the pyrotechnic specialties" of Saturday night, Sept. 19, 1891.
The show included 50 exhibits produced by the A. L. Due Fireworks Company of Reading, which was paid $1,300 for its services.
The 49th fireworks display, according to the printed program and newspaper accounts, was "dedicated to our forefathers of the past centennial, the present and coming generations of the second century of our existence. The design is a tribunal arch in colored lance-work with 'Hamilton Centennial' in double colored letters, with 1791-1891 on the sides. Large revolving globes and side wings of brilliant fires, magnesium and sodium wheels, abundance of shells and profuse flight of colored batteries and sancissions, finishing with a flight of 300 rockets of golden rain and colors."
The 50th feature was dedicated by the centennial general committee to the audience. The program said it flashed "Good Night" in a 28 by 28-foot display, "shown in letters of double lance-work 24 inches in height with yarbs firing from all sides and a display of colored stars in brilliant flight."
The fireworks climaxed the three-day centennial, which was blessed with excellent weather. Local newspapers reported afternoon and evening temperatures in the 80s with no rain to dampen the events. r_,
Had the celebration been held a week later, nature could- have added something extra to the Saturday night fireworks show.
"At exactly 10:55 Saturday night (Sept. 26) all Hamilton trembled with the earth. It was a well defined earthquake, and lasted fully 10 seconds," noted the Hamilton Democrat.
"Telegraphic messages say that the tremor was perceptible at Springfield, this state, at Knoxville, Tenn., and as far west as Keokuk, Iowa," but no damage was reported in Hamilton.
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Journal-News, Sunday, Sept. 29, 1991
Hamilton 'centered' as city celebrated its 100th year
(This is the sixth of eight columns on Hamilton's 1891 centennial celebration.)
By Jim Blount
Hamilton enjoyed the benefits of being near the population center of the nation and its citizens and former residents held leadership positions in the State House and White House in 1891 as the city celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding.
An editorial in the Hamilton Daily Democrat said "within 100 years, Hamilton has grown from a military camp to one of the most prosperous, pretty, healthy and thriving cities in the state."
The 1890 census recorded 48,597 people in Butler County, an increase of 2,667 or 14.1 percent over the previous decade.
Hamilton's population was 17,565, an increase of 5,443 or 44.9 percent in only 10 years. Middletown had 7,681 inhabitants in 1890, a 69.2 percent (3,143) increase during the same period. Village totals reported in 1890 were Oxford 1,922, Somerville 330, Seven Mile 288 and Jacksonburg 79.
The most populous township was Oxford with 3,689 people (including 1,922 in the village). Other township totals were Fairfield 2,445, Lemon 2,371, Madison 2,181, Union (West Chester) 1,926, Milford 1,649, Morgan 1,519, Wayne 1,453, Ross 1,450, Reily 1,244, Liberty 1,167, Hanover 1,160, and St. Clair 1,097.
There were 3,672,316 Ohioans in 1890, marking, a 14.8 percent increase since the 1880 census. The population of the United States was 62,947,000 — up dramatically from the 3.9 million counted in the first federal census authorized 100 years earlier.
Six states had joined the Union during the two years preceding the Hamilton centennial — North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Washington in 1889 and Idaho and Wyoming as the 43rd and 44th states in 1890.
Hamilton was located within 100 miles of the nation's population center during the last third of the 19th century. After the 1890 census the center shifted to 20 miles east of Columbus, Ind.
The population center had been 20 miles southeast of Chillicothe in 1860; 48 miles northeast of Cincinnati in 1870; and eight miles southwest of Cincinnati in Kentucky in 1880. In 1900 it had shifted to six miles southeast of Columbus, Ind., and in 1910 lay within Bloomington, Ind.
By the 1980 census, the population center had moved across the Mississippi River into Missouri. In 1990 it was 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.
Benjamin Harrison, an Ohio native with ties to Butler County, occupied the White House as Hamilton marked 100 years. Harrison — born Aug. 20, 1833, in North Bend, about 25 miles south of Hamilton — was the grandson of William Henry Harrison, the ninth president (1841), whose early military career included brief stints at Fort Hamilton as part of the armies of Generals St. Clair and Wayne.
Benjamin Harrison graduated from Miami University in Oxford in 1852 and a year later married Caroline Scott of Oxford. The first of their two children, Russell Benjamin Harrison, was born in Oxford in 1854.
The Harrison White House was directed by Elijah Walker Halford, who spent his boyhood in Hamilton after immigrating from England. His journalism career had started in Hamilton at age 13.
Lige Halford, as he was known, left Hamilton to become a reporter in Indianapolis. Eventually, he became the editor of newspapers in Chicago and Indianapolis.
Harrison's first official act after his election in 1888 was appointing Halford as his private secretary. Halford directed a White House staff of 24 people and controlled visitors and information coming before the president's attention. The comparable position today is the White House chief of staff, a post now held by John Sununu.
James E. Campbell was Ohio's governor during the Hamilton centennial celebration. Campbell was born in Middletown, but after service in the Civil War, he resided in Hamilton and started a law practice which soon led to a successful political career.
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