Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 1997
Horses were key to local economy in 1900; hitching posts and watering troughs common
By Jim Blount
Horses were the key to Hamilton's economy in 1900, a year when only 13,824 automobiles were registered in the entire United States. Evidence of the four-legged animals was everywhere in the city of 23,914 inhabitants.
Stores, shops, saloons, churches and some residences had hitching posts or hitching rails and carriage blocks, also called mounting blocks.
Several institutions and businesses -- including most of the city's 118 saloons and 25 churches and one synagogue -- had water troughs for thirsty horses. Drivers and riders also could secure water for their horses from the town pump at the courthouse.
At least 75 businesses provided services or products related to the equine economy. As reported in previous columns on this topic, there were 16 blacksmith or horse shoe shops and 12 livery stables within the city in 1900.
There also were 11 feed stores, seven saddle and harness shops, nine businesses manufacturing and selling carriages, five building wagons, nine freight or express companies, two hub and spoke factories, and one carriage painting firm.
The reliance on horses also meant jobs for many Hamiltonians.
In the 1900-1901 city directory, 136 people listed their occupation as blacksmith and eight as horse shoers. There were 153 people reported as drivers, hackmen or coachmen, and 64 as teamsters or draymen, a total of 220 who earned a living guiding horse-drawn vehicles.
Nineteen people were either horse dealers, horse trainers or stable employees. Eleven made harnesses or saddles.
A total of 72 were employed in some phase of carriage building and eight said they were wagon makers. In addition, 14 people were listed as involved in the production of springs, spokes and wheels.
The directory listed veterinary surgeons, Lorenzo Hancock, William H. Harper and J. P. Wilson -- a small number for a city that had well over 1,000 horses.
In addition to the 488 people listed above, there undoubtedly were dozens of other Hamiltonians holding horse-industry jobs. They include those who merely reported their employment to the directory publisher as carpenter, wood worker, painter, polisher, varnisher, draftsman, clerk, laborer, helper and watchman.
In 1900, Hamilton had four firehouses. Two or three horses were required to pull each pumper or ladder truck. Because of frequent falls or accidents, the department owned some extra horses, or secured them from livery stables, to replace those injured or crippled when answering alarms. Older fire horses, if healthy, were sold. Disabled animals were destroyed. The police department also had at least one horse-drawn wagon.
Doctors, lawyers and proprietors and employees of other businesses periodically required horses, usually relying on the services of the city's dozen livery stables.
"Most people walked to work or used public transit (streetcar and interurban lines). Generally, city people didn't ride horseback to their jobs," said Frederick Lewis Allen in The Big Change, a book focusing on changes during the 1900-1950 period.
"Nobody rode horseback to the office," Allen wrote. "Who would want to arrive smelly in an age that feared the 'great unwashed'?" He added that "owners could not park horses in the street, because they might run away, be stolen, or kick passers-by."
On the negative side, by 1900 Americans were concerned about horse pollution. "Each horse within a city daily dropped between 10 and 20 pounds of manure, mostly on city streets," Allen noted. "Frequent urination added to the mess and stench."
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 1997
City horsemen relied on livery stables; few Hamiltonians owned their own stable
By Jim Blount
The dependence on horses at the end of the 19th century didn't mean every Hamiltonian owned a steed. Most city families couldn't afford a horse, or lacked the necessary space.
Only the most affluent families could bear the expense of stocking straw, hay, grain and other essentials, in addition to hiring people to provide daily horse care and drive and maintain carriages. A stable or carriage house behind the residence also was required.
Maintaining and stabling horses at an office or factory also consumed expensive urban real estate, and required a stable hand to feed, groom and cleanup after the animal.
Instead, most prosperous citizens in the 1890s relied on local livery stables to shelter and care for their privately-owned equines, and storage for infrequently used buggies, carriages and sleighs.
Livery stables also served another purpose. Horses weren't interchangeable. The trim breed which pulled two or three people in a carriage yielded to stronger, bulkier equines in front of freight wagons.
When the affluent family required a work horse instead of its sleek carriage horse, it rented the creature from the livery stable. Likewise, when a brewery needed horses for show instead of strength, it went to the livery stable.
Unfortunately, the best glimpse of the livery business in Hamilton is in news reports of fires, always a threat when combustible materials, oil-fueled lamps and smokers are present.
May 10, 1903, a blaze swept through the Shollenbarger Brothers' stable at 330-332 Court Street. Albert Y. Shollenbarger and Harry W. Shollenbarger -- both born and raised on a farm near Collinsville -- had formed the livery partnership June 1, 1899.
The 1903 disaster killed 48 horses, destroyed about 75 carriages and wiped out their equipment and inventories of feed and other merchandise. Although uninsured, they reopened five days later at 122 South Second Street.
July 20, 1911, the Ross & Company Livery Barn burned, possibly the work of an arsonist.
Seventeen horses perished, five wagons, 45 buggies and a hundred sets of harness and blankets were destroyed when flames leveled the stable on the east side of Front Street between Dayton and Buckeye streets.
Only five of the horses lost had been owned by Ollie Ross, a proprietor of the firm. According to a newspaper, among the remaining 12, four were owned by businesses (Singer Sewing Machine Co.; John L. Walker Co.; Creighton & Hooven; and the Hamilton Supply Co.) and seven by individuals (John S. Kriegenhofer, C. Z. Mikesell, Nellie Shroder, Newton Hagan, John Wood, Henry Lego and Mrs. Roy Latimer).
Saved from the fire -- which started in a pile of straw -- were horses owned by Judge Warren Gard, Judge Edgar A. Belden, Dr. George C. Skinner, Miss Cora Frechtling, Mrs. John L. Walker, S. M. Goodman and O. M. Bake, and five belonging to the W. C. Frechtling Grocery Co.
The loss -- including building and contents -- was estimated at $30,000. That total didn't include $3,000 to $3,500 damage to the adjacent Immanuel Lutheran Church and damage to other surrounding structures.
The Ross fire was one of six which struck Hamilton liveries and private stables within a 24-hour period. The other five -- most of which involved only moderate damage -- were at the stables of Ed Bruck, Schmidt Brothers, the Park Exchange and William O. Schlosser, and the stable of an unidentified owner at 128 Wilson Street.
The Ross fire, the Journal observed, "brings to mind the fact that Front Street north from High to the street's terminal has experienced more fires since the city was laid out than any thoroughfare in the city." Most of those blazes had been in livery stables.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 1997
Bicycle craze evident in Hamilton in 1897
By Jim Blount
"Hamilton has in her midst a bicycle rider who is bound to come to the front sooner or later with his feats of skill and daring," proclaimed a Hamilton newspaper in 1897.
"The person," said the Daily News, "is William Ely, who . . . rode down the courthouse steps before the wondering gaze of many people. The feat was accomplished a week or more ago by 'Racycle Lawrence,' but Mr. Ely was the first Hamiltonian to undertake and successfully accomplish it."
"The steps facing Front Street were first ridden down successfully, after which the High Street steps were tried and ridden down three times successfully," the newspaper said.
Racycle Lawrence -- obviously a sobriquet -- was a barnstormer for a bike manufacturer. He had descended the steps of the Butler County Courthouse as part of an advertising campaign for the Factory & Office Supplies Company, 147 N. Third Street. The store's newspaper ads boasted that it had "the largest stock of wheels ever displayed in Hamilton."
The fascination with riding down the courthouse steps was part of the bicycle craze that gripped Hamilton, Butler County and the nation in the 1890s.
The pages of local newspapers in the spring and summer of 1897 reflected the popularity of cycling. Activities ranged from competitive sport and social events to exhibitions -- such as the courthouse steps feat, a test of both rider and bicycle.
Bicycles with large front wheels, small back wheels and hard tires had been around for half a century before the 1890s.
"What launched the bicycling fad of the '90s was the 1884 safety bicycle, with its pneumatic tires, medium-sized wheels of equal diameter, chain linkage, adjustable handlebars, cushioned seat, coaster brakes and comfort and ease of riding," said Charles Panati in his book on fads.
An 1896-97 state directory listed 34 bicycle manufacturers in Ohio, including the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, in Dayton.
A column called "Wheel Notes" was a regular feature in the Hamilton Daily News in the summer of 1897.
It reported such news as "Will Duersch and Jake Schwab rode a tandem (bicycle) to Oxford Sunday," and "Harry Semler, George and Charles Duersch wheeled to Miamisburg Sunday on Semler's triplet." A June edition gave details of the Butler County Cycle Club's Sunday run to the Cincinnati zoo.
Among the races and competitive events in the summer of 1897 was the July 3 field day sponsored by the Middletown YMCA, highlighted by a 15-mile road race with a $125 Racycle as first prize. Among the dozen events were a half-mile contest and a one-mile tandem bike race.
Hamilton entrants finished 11th and 15th in the 15-mile dash to Blue Ball and back, won by a Sidney bicyclist in 52 minutes and 36 seconds.
In Hamilton, the season climaxed with the Butler County Cycle Club's annual Labor Day competition at the Butler County Fairgrounds.
Panati reported the number of safety bikes in the U. S. rose from 20,000 in 1884 to 10 million by 1895 -- "a truly remarkable figure considering that bikes were never cheap," ranging from $50 to $150 in the mid 1890s.
Cycling was so firmly established in the U. S. in 1900 that the editors of The Literary Digest predicted that the automobile would "never, of course, come into as common use as the bicycle."
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 1997
Hamilton women joined 1890s bicycle fad
By Jim Blount
"Campbell Avenue is the place to see the pretty girls gliding along gracefully on their wheels," reported the Hamilton Daily News. "Some of them look especially pretty in their new costumes."
The newspaper also urged that "the residents on the avenue should, early in the evening, sprinkle the street to lay the dust" and "make the pleasure more delightful."
Those 1897 comments mirrored the rising interest and investment in bicycling a century ago. Newspapers reflected the trend, including the Daily News, whose columns in 1897 included fashion suggestions for female "bicycle costumes for elegant occasions."
The fad is credited with revolutionizing women's clothing, including encouragement of shorter skirts.
The 1890s cycling craze is regarded as the first sporting activity to include female as well as male participants.
It also was a social event. Bicycle activities were reported in the society columns of local newspapers.
For example, an article headlined "Bicycle picnic" said: "A number of young ladies met this afternoon at the home of Miss Luella Parrish and from there left on a bicycle picnic. Well-filled lunch baskets were strapped to the wheels, and after a 10-mile ride, supper was partaken in the woods. "Among the party," the report said, "were Misses Nell Laurie, Luella Parrish, Josephine Slater, Neil Schroeder, Grace Black, Mary Curtis, Bessie Roll and Pearl Woods."
Campbell Avenue -- mostly developed in the 1880s -- attracted social riders in Hamilton in the 1890s. With a park dividing its lanes from North Seventh Street to beyond North 10th Street, it provided an ideal promenade for bikers interested in meeting members of the opposite sex.
In Hamilton and across the nation, campaigns for street and road paving were promoted by bicyclists, not motorists. In 1897, when the Daily News suggested that Campbell Avenue residents "sprinkle the street to lay the dust," there were no paved streets in Hamilton or paved roads in Butler County. The paving of High Street from the river to Fourth Street started that year.
The Butler County Cycle Club and local members of the League of American Wheelmen joined forces in 1897 in promoting a 10-foot cinder path as a bike course. It began at Fourth and High streets, extend east along High to Seventh, then north to Campbell Avenue. An extension south along East Avenue also was proposed.
With about 3,000 bicyclists in the city, a $1 annual license was suggested. Proponents advocated using "the money for keeping the streets in repair, or laying a cinder path on many of the streets."
The military also joined the bicycle craze. In April 1897, the Hamilton Rifles -- a local state militia group, comparable to today's National Guard -- voted to establish a bicycle corps among its members. Three months later, the group demonstrated for the public.
"The Hamilton Rifles, 30 men in rank and file, gave a very fine drill while mounted on bicycles on High Street," the Hamilton Democrat reported July 7, 1897.
From April through September, there were varied weekend events for bikers. One of the most ambitious was a sojourn planned by the Butler County Cycle Club. It was a two-day round trip on Memorial Day weekend from Hamilton to Columbus, Ind., over graveled and mud roads.
Earlier in 1897, members of the Chicago Cycling Club arrived on a Sunday morning on the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad to join local counterparts on a ride from Hamilton to Cincinnati.
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