Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2000
Conventions aren’t what they used to be when native son won nomination in 1920
By Jim Blount
Presidential nominating conventions aren’t as interesting as they used to be. In recent campaigns, they’ve been produced and scripted for television. Before TV’s dominance they weren’t as predictable. Instead, they were competitive events, complete with surprises and often suspense. There is no similarity between the 2000 conventions and the 1920 Democratic convocation that nominated a Butler County native.
James M. Cox won the nomination when voters had to rely on telegraphic reports and newspapers for information on the proceedings. Commercial radio stations were just beginning in 1920 and few people owned sets. TV coverage was three decades away.
Entering the 1920 convention, other leading contenders, besides Ohio’s Cox, were California’s William G. McAdoo, a son-in-law of President Woodrow Wilson, who didn’t seek re-election; and Pennsylvania’s A. Mitchell Palmer, attorney general in Wilson’s cabinet. Vice President Thomas R. Marshall of Indiana also had allowed his name to be placed in contention.
As the convention opened June 28 in San Francisco, Cox appeared to be fading and McAdoo seemed to be assured the nomination, despite his stated reluctance to be a candidate.
Some political reporters believed his non-candidacy was a ploy by McAdoo supporters. "Their idea is not to develop his full strength in early ballots, but to wait until the expected deadlock comes and then seek to press him upon the consideration of unfriendly or neutral state leaders as the most available man," the New York Times reported.
One of the key issues was Prohibition, which had been in effect since Jan. 20, 1920. Before the convention, Cox was described as favoring a "wet" plank in the party platform, a stand that had won him much support. When he failed to make a strong statement to that effect, his chances seemed to fade.
On the first ballot, McAdoo led with 266 votes, followed by Palmer with 256 and Cox with 134 -- far from the 729 required for nomination. On the first ballot, the 1,094 convention votes also were sprinkled among 20 other hopefuls.
Thirty-six votes had been completed when the July 5 session opened at 8:44 p.m. California time -- which was 12:44 a.m. in the Eastern time zone, well past the "prime time" of future television generations. The majority of Butler County voters were in bed before the action started.
After two votes that night (the 37th and 38th), Palmer, who had slipped to third place, released his delegates.
Finally, on the 44th ballot, the Cox comeback was complete. At about 5 a.m. Butler County time, Tuesday, July 6, the native son was nominated by acclamation.
At that early hour, a combination of church and fire bells, factory and locomotive whistles and a signal cannon awoke Hamiltonians to celebrate the Cox victory.
Cox had been born March 31, 1870, in Jacksonburg, later resided in Middletown and attended high school at Amanda, south of Middletown. He worked briefly as a teacher at Heno (West Middletown); Rockdale, between Hamilton and Middletown, west of Ohio 4; and in the Titus District , north of Middletown. He left teaching to become a full-time reporter for the Middletown Signal and a part-time correspondent for the Cincinnati Enquirer. At age 22, he joined the Enquirer as a full-time reporter.
In November 1894, when Paul J. Sorg, a Middletown businessman, won election to the U. S. House of Representatives, Cox became his private secretary in Washington. In 1897, with Sorg’s help, Cox purchased the Dayton Daily News. It was the start of a national media company which still bears the Cox name.
In 1909, Cox began two consecutive terms in Congress. In 1912 he was elected governor, lost the post in 1914, but won it back in 1916 and 1918, setting the stage for his 1920 presidential bid.
His 1920 opponent was another Ohioan, Warren G. Harding, who, like Cox, was a newspaper publisher. Both 1920 vice presidential contenders eventually became presidents. Cox's running mate was Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York. The Republican candidate was Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts, who became president when Harding died Aug. 3, 1923.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2000
Hamilton mail delivery began in 1887
By Jim Blount
In an age of increasing communications by e-mail and Fax, it’s difficult to image having to walk or ride a horse over dusty or muddy roads to a post office to obtain your mail. That’s what the earliest residents of Butler County had to do. In Hamilton, letters weren’t delivered to residences, businesses and shops until 1887.
Hamilton’s first post office opened in 1804. John Reily, Hamilton postmaster from 1804 until 1832, handled his other jobs in the same space. He was a land agent and Butler County clerk of courts at the same time.
The first post office was a log building at the south end of what had been Fort Hamilton from 1791 until 1796. That location would be south of the present intersection of South Monument Avenue and Court Street.
When authorized in 1804, the Hamilton site was called "the westernmost post office north of the Ohio River."
At first, mail arrived only once a week, delivered by a circuit rider on horseback whose route ranged from Cincinnati to Hamilton, Franklin, Dayton, Urbana, Yellow Springs and Lebanon before returning to Cincinnati. Later, the mail was hauled on stagecoach routes.
Other area post offices established before 1820 included Middletown, 1807; Princeton, 1816; Oxford, Millville and Huntsville, 1817; Jacksonburg and Monroe, 1818; and Ross, Rossville and Somerville, 1819.
For about 83 years, Hamilton residents had to secure their mail at the post office. Local weekly newspapers provided some assistance, publishing the names of people who had mail waiting to be collected.
In June 1887 the federal government determined that Hamilton met the criteria for free delivery. Standards included a population of 10,000 or more people and postal receipts of at least $10,000 annually. In 1887 Hamilton’s population topped 15,000 and postal income was reported as $17,885.
Hamilton joined six other Ohio cities -- Lima, Newark, Portsmouth, Steubenville, Wooster and Xenia -- in starting local mail delivery July 1, 1887.
Walking the first five Hamilton routes were William Thomas, Henry Schurfranz, Theodore H. Tabler, John Burns and George W. Rue, with George W. Wilson relieving Rue in mid-July. Postmaster John E. Lohman said they delivered 38,185 pieces and collected 17,281 items in that first month.
Coincidentally, nationwide postage rates on letters doubled in July 1887 -- from a penny to two cents. It didn’t change again for 45 years, jumping to three cents in July 1932.
Door-to-door mail delivery in Hamilton also required another change -- establishment of house numbers.
That transition started Sept. 2, 1884, when Hamilton City Council adopted an ordinance that created the position of city numberer. The successful bidder for the job was J. L. Schroeder, who agreed to create a city map for $35 and set house numbers for a fee of 35 cents per building.
Schroeder was instructed to use the Philadelphia Plan in the Hamilton layout. That system assigned 100 digits to each block.
The local ordinance ordered that streets be numbered east and west from the Great Miami River, and north and south from High and Main streets. Even numbers were to be assigned on the north and east side of streets, and odd numbers on the south and west sides.
A separate number was designated for each 16 feet of property. Schroeder used a 16-foot pole in designating numbers. When he completed the task, Hamilton was ready for the next step -- the inauguration of mail delivery.
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Journal-News, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2000 -- City of Sculpture dedication
Hamilton: It started as a fort in the wilderness
By Jim Blount
A handful of soldiers struggled to erect a crude log stockade at a ford on the Great Miami River in 1791, watching and listening for signs of hostile Indians as they worked. Their perilous task was completed Sept. 30, and Fort Hamilton welcomed a hastily-formed frontier army. General Arthur St. Clair -- also the territorial governor -- named the wilderness supply post in honor of Alexander Hamilton, the nation's first secretary of the treasury.
St. Clair’s poorly-trained army suffered defeat Oct. 4, 1791. Command of a new campaign was entrusted to General Anthony Wayne in 1792. He ordered Fort Hamilton enlarged -- to about the size of a football field -- as he meticulously primed his army. His thorough preparations paid off in victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers Aug. 20, 1794.
The next year, the Treaty of Greenville opened most of Ohio to settlement. Some of Wayne’s soldiers settled around abandoned Fort Hamilton as farmers and merchants.
In March 1803 -- when Ohio became the 17th state -- Hamilton was chosen as the county seat of newly-formed Butler County. The town also became an agricultural trading center, thanks to its position on the east bank of the Great Miami River. That status was enhanced after 1828 by the Miami-Erie Canal, which provided trade outlets to the Ohio River and Lake Erie.
Industrial growth accelerated in 1845 with the opening of the Hamilton Hydraulic, a water power system for mills and shops. It drew water from the river north of town and passed through man-made channels, dropping about 29 feet along its four-mile course.
Hamilton continued to keep pace with transportation improvements, starting in 1851 with completion of the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad. By the end of the decade, the city enjoyed rail connections with New York, Chicago, St. Louis and other major cities.
In 1855, Hamilton expanded across the Great Miami River, merging with Rossville -- a commercial center established in 1804 on the west side of the river.
Hamilton's manufacturing base continued to expand and diversify from the end of the Civil War (1861-1865) through World War II (1941-1945). During that period, the city grew from 7,223 inhabitants (1860) to 57,951 people (1950). Its dependable labor force was considered a perfect blend, dominated by two groups -- German immigrants and relocated Appalachians. That work ethic combined with favorable location, transportation advantages and adaptive management to maintain Hamilton’s industrial image.
In the mid 1950s, more than 125 factories employed in excess of 20,000 people before an industrial exodus eliminated at least 25 percent of the city’s industrial jobs. Several factors influenced the loss -- corporate mergers, old buildings, worn out equipment, product changes, new technology and government Cold War defense policies that encouraged a dispersal of industries concentrated in older cities.
In 1960, when I-75 opened, Hamilton was 10 miles east of the interstate system via rural roads -- too far away to benefit from its dramatic economic impact. Hamilton was skipped despite a 1956 federal pledge to include cities of 50,000 or more people on the national highway complex.
From the mid 1960s, community leaders battled to maintain and expand the city’s tax base without large industrial employers.
A turning point came in 1981 when work began on the High Street Underpass, an improvement proposed more than 60 years earlier. By the end of the decade, Hamilton had experienced several changes -- including a new hotel (the Hamiltonian) and a low-level dam that transformed the appearance of the Great Miami River.
In 1991 -- as the city observed its bicentennial -- its citizenry celebrated by contributing the money that built the Fitton Center for the Creative Arts. It was erected on land that had been within the southern part of Fort Hamilton 200 years earlier.
As the 1900s closed, Hamiltonians realized another dream -- a direct connection to the interstate system. Dec. 13, 1999, traffic began moving over the 10.7-mile Michael A. Fox Highway (also known as Ohio 129 and the Butler County Regional Highway) between Ohio 4 and I-75.
As with the canal of the 1820s, the hydraulic of the 1840s, the railroads of the 1850s and periodic industrial booms, much of Hamilton’s recent progress and improvements wasn’t the work of government alone. They required citizen initiative, participation and support -- elements that also have enabled the community to recover from periodic disasters -- the worst of which was the 1913 flood -- and the economic traumas of business and industrial closings.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2000
Airport failed security check in 1972
By Jim Blount
Numerous skyjackings directed attention to airport security in the early 1970s as airlines battled to regain the confidence of potential passengers scared away by frequent reports of planes forced off course and people’s lives endangered. At the suggestion of a representative of an airline serving the area, the Journal-News tested security devices at two airports in July 1972.
Regarded as the first airline hijacking within the United States is the May 1, 1961, diversion of a Miami-Key West flight to Cuba. That National Airlines Convair was the first of four planes skyjacked to Cuba in 1961, two years after Fidel Castro had established his communist dictatorship in the U. S. neighbor.
In the early 1970s, skyjacking proliferated around the world, motivated either by political objectives or simply someone’s desire to get rich by demanding a ransom as compensation for sparing passengers, crew and plane.
Airlines and airports cooperated in trying to stop the skyjacking epidemic by subjecting every passenger to a search before boarding a flight. The first anti-hijacking measures aimed at identifying passengers who could be carrying weapons. Airlines altered boarding procedures to force all passengers to walk through portals with electronic metal-detecting apparatus.
The concerned Cincinnati-based airline official told the newspaper that he believed screening devices recently installed at the Greater Cincinnati⁄Northern Kentucky International Airport were dummy units incapable of exposing the presence of a gun on a would-be hijacker.
Passengers believed otherwise, he said. They were developing a false sense of safety, convinced that it was safe to fly again, he explained, "and, in fact, almost nothing has changed."
After some preliminary checking and planning, the Journal-News sent a reporter to challenge the system. Of course, he was to act like a skyjacker. He was to pay cash for a one-way flight no more than half an hour before scheduled departure, and check no luggage at the ticket counter. Instead, he was to have one or more carryon items. Also, he was told to act a little nervous at the counter and in the boarding area.
Several precautions were taken. The reporter carried a letter from an informed local law enforcement official, verifying that he was a newsman and relating his mission. He also had a document from his editor explaining the purpose of the trip and who to notify if the reporter would have been questioned, detained or arrested.
The imitation skyjacker’s assignment was to fly on a one-way ticket from Cincinnati to Columbus, then test the situation there by going to an airline counter to buy another one-way ticket, this time from Columbus to Dayton.
His "weapon" -- carried in a pocket of a trench coat -- was a heavy-duty metal staple gun. It was chosen because (1) it wasn’t lethal, and (2) was so large and poorly concealed that it should have tripped any functional warning device.
After his journey, he wrote that "the ticket agent was certainly no challenge." The impersonator said the agent "never looked at my suspicious face once while he talked on the phone. He tore off the ticket and handed it to me without a hitch."
Ironically, during the flight to Columbus, the reporter noticed another passenger reading a newspaper. "Airline Officials Seeking New Measures to Curb Hijackings," declared a prominent headline.
After passing through the magnetometer at Dayton, the reporter was asked to open his briefcase and empty his pockets. He complied, except for the heavy object in his coat pocket.
After completing the trip, the reporter was curious why the magnetometer at Cincinnati hadn’t detected his staple gun. He was told that an air conditioning unit could have interfered with the safety device.
Gradually, airport security improved; magnetometers actually worked. In 1973, about a year after the reporter’s unusual journey, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered tightened airport security, including the screening of carryon luggage and possessions. Since the early 1970s -- thanks to increased airport surveillance procedures, refined detection devices and improved technology -- the frequency of air piracy and terrorism has been reduced.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2000
Squirrel Hunters answered alarm
By Jim Blount
"The time for playing war has passed. The enemy is now rapidly approaching our door," warned the Cincinnati Gazette Tuesday, Sept. 2, 1862. As Cincinnatians read those sentences, they already were under martial law and grimly preparing for the "Siege of Cincinnati."
The Civil War -- which only a few days earlier had seemed to be a relatively safe distance away in Mississippi, Alabama and the southeastern corner of Tennessee -- was suddenly threatening the Queen City. If Cincinnati was in danger, so was Butler County.
First, the war economy of Butler County -- including its traditional agricultural base and its increasing industry -- was closely tied to Cincinnati. The majority of produce and products from Hamilton, Oxford and Middletown were carried there by the canal and the railroads.
Second, it was possible that Confederate commanders would not risk a frontal attack on Cincinnati via the Northern Kentucky hills. Instead, their strategy could be to cross the Ohio River east or west of Cincinnati and approach it from behind -- perhaps even by way of southern Butler County.
What the Confederates would do -- and already had accomplished -- was subject to many rumors and conjecture. Their invasion of Kentucky had started with a well-concealed end run around Union armies in Tennessee.
Sept. 1 southern troops rode into Lexington, Ky., less than 100 miles south of Cincinnati. It wasn't until that afternoon that Cincinnati leaders -- both civilian and military -- realized that the city was in peril.
Cincinnati -- a city of 161,044 in the 1860 census, Ohio's largest and sixth largest in the U. S. -- was a major supply and communications center for the Union forces during the war. Despite its importance, it was loosely defended.
Not much attention had been paid to its defense since early in the war when Brigadier-General Ormsby M. Mitchel, a Cincinnati resident, had ordered artillery positions constructed on the Kentucky hills south of Covington and Newport.
Sept. 1, 1862, there were only two or three companies of soldiers at Newport Barracks, about three companies of untried troops in Cincinnati and an odd assortment of recruits and recuperating wounded men at nearby Camp Dennison -- not enough to stop a Confederate force whose ranks swelled with each new rumor.
Estimates of the invaders soared to as high as 100,00 when, in fact, they numbered no more than 5,000 under Brigadier-General Henry Heth. Unknown to alarmed Union leaders, Heth had been instructed not to attack Cincinnati.
Responsible for devising a plan to save Cincinnati was Major-General Horatio G. Wright, the 42-year-old commander of the Department of the Ohio. Wright's choice to head the city's defense was Major-General Lew Wallace, a native of nearby Brookville, Ind., who had gained battlefield experience at Fort Donelson and Shiloh in 1862.
One of the first acts by the 35-year-old Hoosier was to proclaim martial law in Cincinnati and its neighboring Kentucky communities of Covington and Newport. Wallace ordered all business suspended at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2, so that able-bodied men would be available for building fortifications in Kentucky.
The general -- best known after the war as the author of Ben Hur; A Tale of the Christ -- had to resort to desperate means to raise a defense force to protect Cincinnati.
"Our southern border is threatened with invasion," said Ohio Gov. David Tod in calling for short-term volunteers to join Wallace. The governor asked "that all loyal men . . . at once form themselves into military companies and regiments to beat back the enemy at any and all points he may attempt to invade our state."
The untrained volunteers -- who had to supply their own arms and ammunition -- began arriving in Cincinnati Sept. 3. Eventually, 15,766 men responded. A member of Wallace's staff said the minutemen -- who were of all ages, wore no uniform and carried a variety of weapons -- resembled squirrel hunters. The name stuck. They became known as Squirrel Hunters.
Next week this column will be devoted to Butler County Squirrel Hunters and the outcome of the 1862 "Siege of Cincinnati."
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2000
Oxford men among Squirrel Hunters
By Jim Blount
At least 116 Butler County men joined the ranks of the Squirrel Hunters when Cincinnati faced the threat of Confederate invasion in September 1862. That estimate is probably low considering the confusion that surrounded the quick, loosely-organized campaign to enlist the Civil War volunteers.
The untrained volunteers -- who were expected to bring their own arms and ammunition -- began arriving in Cincinnati Sept. 3. Within a few days, the response totaled at least 15,766 men of all ages.
They wore a variety of clothing, and there wasn’t time to issue them army uniforms. They brought an assortment of personal weapons, mostly guns they had used for hunting. They looked more like a collection of squirrel hunters than soldiers. The name stuck, and eventually they proudly accepted the designation and officially became the Squirrel Hunters.
They were called to defend Cincinnati after Confederates captured Lexington, Ky., Sept. 1, 1862. That placed Cincinnati, then a city of more than 161,000 people, in peril of invasion by as many as 5,000 southern troops.
There weren’t enough Union soldiers to defend the city -- only two or three companies of soldiers at Newport Barracks, about three companies of untried troops in Cincinnati and an assortment of recruits and recuperating wounded men at nearby Camp Dennison, Ohio.
To fill the void, federal and state officials asked men in nearby areas to leave their vital farm and factory chores to become temporary soldiers. Most were too young or too old to be in the Union army. Some had served and, because of injury or illness, had returned to civilian occupations.
The Butler County group included Miami University students led by Charles H. Fiske, a student from Newport, Ky. At least two students from Hamilton -- Oaken V. Parish and J. M. Houston -- joined Fiske's group. Oxford townsmen also enlisted in the unit.
The men arrived in Cincinnati within 24 hours of their organization with arms and equipment gathered from citizens of Oxford and the surrounding township. At first, they were housed in Smith & Nixon Hall on Vine Street near Sixth Street.
Any hopes that their service would be in the big city soon vanished. Instead, the Oxford contingent was among the Squirrel Hunters sent about 16 miles west to the village of North Bend to guard the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad, and to engage any Confederates trying to cross the Ohio River in that vicinity and approach Cincinnati from the west.
A small Confederates force got only as close as Florence in Northern Kentucky during the period, called the "Siege of Cincinnati" by leaders at that time.
So many Squirrel Hunters responded that by Friday, Sept. 5, military leaders asked Ohio Governor David Tod to stop the flow of eager volunteers to Cincinnati. It had been the governor who a few days earlier had appealed "that all loyal men . . . at once form themselves into military companies and regiments to beat back the enemy at any and all points he may attempt to invade our state."
By Saturday, Sept. 13, fears had subsided in and around Cincinnati. It appeared that the invaders had retreated. The "Siege of Cincinnati" had ended without a confrontation.
The retreat, according to Governor Tod, had been caused by the Squirrel Hunters. "The minutemen, or Squirrel Hunters, responded gloriously to the call for defense of Cincinnati," Tod informed Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.
"Thousands reached the city and thousands more were en route for it," said the governor in praising the volunteers. "The enemy having retreated, all have been ordered back. This uprising of the people is the cause of the retreat," he asserted.
Besides the Butler County volunteers, Squirrel Hunters enrolled from surrounding counties included 436 from Warren, 372 from Preble and 425 from Montgomery.
In March 1863, the Ohio General Assembly authorized "a sufficient sum to pay for printing and lithographing discharges for the patriotic men of the State, who responded to the call of the governor, and went to the southern border to repel the invader, and who will be known in history as the Squirrel Hunters."
Forty-five years later, the Ohio Squirrel Hunters were granted a one-time state pension of $13, equivalent of one month of a private's pay during the Civil War.
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