Journal-News, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2000
Dr. Charles Francis Richter created scale to measure earthquake magnitude
By Jim Blount
For 65 years, when news of earthquakes is reported, the name of a Butler County native is invoked in relating the magnitude of the tremors. Dr. Charles Francis Richter, who was born 100 years ago, developed the Richter Scale that measures the earthquakes.
In a small triangular plot bounded by Trenton Road, Riverside Drive and Busenbark Road in St. Clair Township, an Ohio historical marker describes Richter's local connections and professional accomplishments.
Although his birthplace usually is listed as Hamilton, he was born April 26, 1900, near Overpeck. He said his birth site was known as Sunnyside Farm, whose acreage straddled the railroad (now CSX). The "house had been built round a log cabin of old date (possibly 1820) . . . the logs being apparent in the dining room and parlor," he told the Journal-News in 1982.
He had several Hamilton connections during his boyhood. He was baptized in a Presbyterian church in Hamilton. He was raised by a grandfather, Charles Otto Richter, an employee of the Hooven-Owens-Rentschler Co. in Hamilton. His mother resumed her maiden name, Lillian A. Richter, after a divorce. Her famous son had his name legally changed to Richter in 1926.
In 1909, the family moved to California. Richter attended the University of Southern California before earning a bachelor degree in physics at Stanford University in 1920 and a doctorate in theoretical physics at California Institute of Technology in 1928. He married Lillian Brand of Los Angeles in 1928. They had no children. She died in 1972.
A geophysicist and seismologist, Richter worked at the seismological laboratory of the Carnegie Institute, based at Pasadena, from 1927 to 1936. He was a distinguished professor of seismology at Cal Tech from 1937 until 1970. He also was the author of textbooks and references in his field of expertise. His other interests included literature and foreign languages.
He had a colleague in devising the Richter Magnitude Scale. Working with Beno Gutenberg (1889-1960), they published their system in 1935. It was based on ideas that originated in Japan four years earlier.
The measurement has been described as an open-ended scale that shows the energy released by an earthquake. "As a general rule, an increase of one magnitude unit corresponds to 10 times greater ground motion, an increase of two magnitude units corresponds to 100 times greater ground motion," explains the U. S. Geological Service.
Earlier scales had been based on such elements as ground shaking and damage to structures, factors that varied according to development and population density of areas hit by earthquakes.
"Magnitude numbers simply represent measurement from a seismograph record," Richter explained. He said those who ask to see the scale are surprised to find it is "tables and charts that are used for applying the scale to readings taken from the seismograms."
The scale "was originally envisaged as a rather rough-and-ready procedure by which we could grade earthquakes," he said. "It actually turned out to be quite a finely tuned scale."
In his later years, Richter specialized in earthquake risk reduction and earthquake-resistant construction.
Richter developed an interest in earthquakes before moving to California. In 1982 he recalled that "the news of the disaster by earthquake and fire at San Francisco in 1906 made a special impression because my mother had traveled to California about two years earlier."
About the family move to Los Angeles, Richter said "those were the years of California boosters -- businessmen's organizations, particularly, were steadily at work to encourage easterners to move there. My grandfather was always receiving enthusiastic notes from acquaintances who had made the move," he explained.
Richter died Sept. 30, 1985, in Pasadena, Calif., where he resided from 1936 until displaced by highway construction in 1969. He and his wife moved a short distance to Altadena, where he is buried.
"He was totally dedicated (to geology) and absent-minded about things outside his scientific field," said a geologist who had worked for Richter. "He once showed up at a black-tie dinner with a shoestring for a tie because he forgot his tie," said Frank Press, who was president of the National Academy of Sciences, when his mentor died.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2000
County freeways proposed in 1971
By Jim Blount
Imagine the new Michael A. Fox Highway extending west from Erie Boulevard (Ohio 4) through downtown Hamilton and Rossville, then curving southwest along Millville Avenue (Ohio 129) to U. S. 27 at or near Millville. Such a roadway -- running between I-71 at Kings Island, I-75 near Mason and Millville -- was part of a regional highway plan unveiled in 1971.
The Travel Projections and Recommended Transportation Plan was developed by the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments and a consulting firm, Wilbur Smith & Associates.
Cincinnati-based OKI -- formed in 1965 to coordinate planning in nine counties in three states -- described the TP&RTP as a document "which delineates highway needs for the region until the year 1990."
It detailed three major freeways in Butler County. Nearly 30 years later, only one of the three projects has been built. That's the Fox Highway (Ohio 129), which opened in December 1999. At 10.7 miles, the I-75⁄Hamilton connection through Fairfield and Liberty townships is about half the distance proposed in the 1971 OKI plan.
Known as the Hamilton Freeway in 1971, it would have been about 22 miles of interstate-type highway -- including the High Street railroad underpass that was completed in 1985. OKI, anticipating work to begin 1971 and 1975, estimated the entire project would have cost $67.4 million in 1971 dollars. Allowing for inflation, that would be about $276.7 million now.
Other Butler County roads envisioned in the OKI study were the Riverside Freeway, from downtown Hamilton through Fairfield along the Great Miami River; and a northwest extension of the Colerain Freeway, terminating north of Oxford.
If fully implemented, the 1971 plan would have built 367 miles of new high-speed highways and 98 miles of arterial streets, plus improving 338 miles of existing roadway, for about $1.7 billion in the 2,700-square-mile area in the Tri-State region.
The Riverside Freeway, the 1971 proposal said, "would extend (south) from the Hamilton Freeway near the Hamilton central business district to the Colerain Freeway at the Hamilton-Butler county line."
The OKI plan said it would require a minimum of four lanes that "would utilize the existing right-of-way and alignment of Neilan Boulevard in the City of Hamilton, and would parallel the lower end of the Great Miami River Valley in the remaining portion of its north-south route through Butler County."
Planners expected construction to start in the 1976-80 period on the 7.8-mile Riverside Freeway.
The Colerain Freeway would have been an interstate-type U. S. 27 from Cincinnati to a point near the Indiana line. "Serving the northwest corridor between I-75 and I-74, the facility would begin with an interchange at I-74 in the Millcreek Valley and extend northward through Hamilton and Butler counties to a point north of the City of Oxford," planners explained.
In Hamilton County, with daily traffic averages of 36,000 vehicles projected, the freeway would have been a minimum of six lanes. In Butler County, with a 25,000 average, the Colerain Freeway would have opened as four lanes.
When revealed in 1971, the OKI recommendations seemed achievable, provided funding could be arranged. But in the 1970s, several developments dashed optimistic hopes of building a network of roads to handle 1990s traffic in the three-state area.
Roadblocks included passage of environmental laws that radically complicated and increased the paperwork and cost of highway projects, a reduction in federal road funds and the oil shortages of 1973 and 1979.
"Transportation planning," the 1971 OKI study said, "is a continuous modification and updating to take into account unanticipated changes within the region." In a report issued a few years later, the agency noted that "political, social, economic and environmental pressures can expedite a proposed improvement or extend it indefinitely."
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2000
UFOs sighted over Butler County
By Jim Blount
The night of Nov. 16, 1999, sparked memories of periods in the 1950s through the 1970s when some Butler County residents reported seeing strange things in the sky that came to be known as UFOs, unidentified flying objects.
The recent sighting -- two days before the predicted peak of the Leonid meteor shower -- caused a flood of calls throughout the Midwest to police, airports, military bases and the media. The frenzy was reminiscent of the mid 1950s when there were several UFO incidents in Butler County, some isolated in a neighborhood, others extending throughout the three-state region.
The first local waves came in the mid 1950s, when the unexplained viewings were popularly known as flying saucers.
Among those witnessing something unusual in the night sky in May 1957 was a Journal-News reporter, the late Bill McDulin. A caller said he saw a strange object and McDulin went to the Edison Avenue address. As he talked to four people, the reporter said "a bright object came zooming out of the northwest" and "all of us were a little shaken."
McDulin recalled the incident 16 years later, noting that "I was almost laughed out of town" after writing a story about his experience. "People openly laughed at me; kidded me, and the telephone rang all hours of the day and night," he said. "We had to take the phone off the hook to get some sleep."
In an 1968 outbreak, callers to local law enforcement agencies agreed upon what they saw -- two white objects in front and two objects to the rear trailing sparks about a mile long.
A year later, workers leaving the Fisher Body plant in Fairfield about 11 p.m. saw "something out of the ordinary" in the sky. It was described in news reports as "having a red blinking light on top and a row of lights or windows" that "made no noise and was moving too slowly and was too low to have been an airplane."
In 1973, several people reported sightings, including a Hamilton police officer and the governor of Ohio. Local observers agreed it was "a bright oval-shaped object." Some added that it had "three white lights and one blue one" as it moved from north to south in the eastern sky. One person said he saw four separate vehicles matching that description. Gov. John J. Gilligan said he saw the phenomena while driving on U. S. 23 near Ann Arbor, Mich.
There's disagreement when UFOs were first reported. Some date it in 1947; others to the 1800s and earlier.
The UFO name became official, applied by the U. S. Air Force because varied observations didn't always describe a saucer-shaped object.
Believers contend the mysterious craft carried creatures from outer space, possibly spying on earth. Many in this group charge that the government knew what was happening and conspired to withhold the truth from the public.
Another theory was that the government was tight-lipped because the objects were top-secret military flight tests or preliminary space probes.
Some argued that there were numerous Butler County reports because of the area's proximity to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton. The base was the headquarters for Air Force UFO investigations (Project Blue Book), which totaled more than 12,600 reports between 1947 and termination in 1969.
Others branded it self-generating news. Publishing and broadcasting UFO reports, they said, encouraged people --- not wanting to be left out, or enjoying media attention -- to see things in the night sky that, without the publicity, would have gone unnoticed.
Some scholars regard them as natural objects (meteors, etc.) or intentional fraud, discounting the claim that they were of extra-terrestrial origin.
Some of the mystery vanished in October 1973 when Sheriff Harold J. Carpenter displayed a hoax found in Union Township.
It was described as a "black, gas-filled balloon" with "an aluminum foil umbrella suspended about halfway down, to which is attached a clear plastic glass containing a candle. Surrounding the candle are pennies. When the pennies become hot, they give off a reddish glow and sputtering light as it moves across the sky."
The discovery followed a series of reported 1973 sightings in Butler County.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2000
Lack of law enforcement factor in move to Hamilton City Charter
By Jim Blount
Increasing concern about lawlessness in Hamilton sparked sweeping changes in city government in the 1920s. The driving forces were the Woman’s City Club and local labor unions. They took the lead in the search to replace the highly politicized state statute form of local government in 1925.
The catalyst was law enforcement -- or the lack of it. In 1925, Hamilton police protection was at its lowest level, a result of several years of political maneuvering and irresponsible management.
Beginning in 1920, Hamilton suffered annual financial problems, most related to political finagling. As the books approached red ink, a favorite stopgap action by city leaders was to cut expenses by reducing police and fire protection.
Complicating the problem was a tangled political situation. Candidates for city offices ran on party tickets. In the 1920s, besides Republicans and Democrats, the competition included candidates endorsed by the Socialist Party and the Ku Klux Klan.
At stake every two years in local elections were dozens of patronage jobs -- city positions dependent on how the employee, or potential employee, voted and contributed to the party or an officeholder. Qualifications, training and experience didn’t count very much under this system. As a result, city financial affairs were in constant turmoil, especially municipal utility accounts.
To the citizenry, the most glaring sign of trouble was law enforcement.
Ohio prohibition began in May 1919 and within six years Hamilton had earned its infamous nickname, "Little Chicago." That was because disregard for the dry laws rivaled, on a smaller scale, the crime and corruption rampant in the larger city in Illinois.
In January 1922, for example, the new city council’s spending cuts reduced the police force to only five men during daylight hours in a city of more than 40,000 people. Two were on patrol and three were on call at the police station. There was no police radio system. The only communications between headquarters were call-in boxes scattered around the city.
In order to cut expenses, council also permitted police officers to be on duty without uniforms.
A month later, police and fire salaries were slashed, saving the city $21,460 on an annual basis. The pay of detectives and fire marshals was chopped from $137.50 a month to $115, and wages for patrolmen and firemen were trimmed from $126.50 a month to $110.
On a voluntary basis, firemen had been working full time, but receiving only half pay while police worked two weeks followed by two weeks off without pay.
In March 1924, the police force -- once more than 40 men -- numbered only 16 people. By June, there were no more than two men on patrol at any time. Because of illness, injury and other personal reasons, it was more likely only one or none on patrol.. To ease the shortages, some concerned industrialists donated money to pay police salaries.
It got worse in January 1925, when the police department was stripped to nine men -- a maximum of three officers for each of the three eight-hour shifts. Patrols were eliminated and men on duty reported to headquarters. In an emergency, one or two could respond, but one officer had to remain to answer the phone and monitor the city jail.
One night two of the three officers answered an east side call that a drunk was causing trouble. A few minutes later, a caller reported a burglar in a house on the west side. The remaining officer couldn’t do anything about it. He couldn’t communicate with the other two, and he couldn’t leave the police station and jail unattended.
That incident seemed to be the final straw. That’s when some citizens of Hamilton decided that the government system had to be changed. The result was the city charter that went into effect Jan. 1, 1928. More on how that happened will be covered in a future column.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2000 -- 2000 Progress Edition
War emergency boosted natural gas
By Jim Blount
Progress isn’t always planned, nor must it be a dreadfully slow process. An example is the pipelines that carry natural gas from southwestern states through Butler County, a delivery system making that source of energy available and affordable in the Midwest and the East. It took less than 15 months to build the first of a pair of transmission lines extending more than 1,400 miles from Eastern Texas to the Philadelphia-New York area.
Consumers -- residential, business and industrial -- have benefited from the pipelines for nearly 53 years. But they weren’t designed to transport natural gas, or to encourage replacement of coal as fuel for heating and cooking in our homes, offices and factories.
The pipelines were a product of World War II -- conceived in the desperate months of early 1942 when the buildup of U. S. arms and men was threatened by a severe oil shortage.
Unknown to most Americans because of censorship, German submarines were exacting a crippling toll as they prowled the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. The torpedo assault began about four weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.
Five U-boats in Germany’s Operation Drumbeat sank their first targets Jan. 11-12, 1942, off Cape Hatteras, N. C. By Feb. 6, when the mission ended, the Drumbeat wolfpack had destroyed 25 ships, totaling more than 156,000 tons.
That was just the beginning. Within the first six months of the war, U-boats sank 492 Allied ships in U. S. waters. "The losses by submarines off our Atlantic seaboard and in the Caribbean now threatens our entire war effort," wrote Gen. George C. Marshall, U. S. chief of staff, in June 1942.
The U-boat assaults went almost unchallenged. In 1942 the U. S. had only 103 aircraft and 20 vessels, the largest a 165-foot Coast Guard cutter, to patrol 1,500 miles of Atlantic coast.
To negate the submarine menace, the government authorized financing April 21, 1942, for the Big Inch Pipeline to be operated by a cooperative formed by U. S. oil companies. Later, it was paralleled by a second line, the Little Inch, so called because it had pipes 20 inches in diameter while the original system was built with 24-inch pipe.
The War Emergency Pipelines Inc. began preliminary work on the Big Inch in Butler County in November 1942. The completed Butler County segment was dedicated July 19, 1943.
The route entered the county west of Okeana and ran north of Millville and Hamilton through Trenton and south of Middletown into Warren County. (Today it enters Hamilton north of the Main Street-Washington Blvd. intersection before crossing Eaton Avenue and Gordon Smith Blvd.)
It continued east through Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania to Phoenixville (near Norristown), where it split -- one branch reaching Bayonne, N. J., opposite New York City; the other to Philadelphia, 1,408 miles from its source at Longview, Texas.
The entire Big Inch was completed within 15 months. It involved 15 crews, each with 328 men. Under favorable conditions, a crew could lay a mile of pipe a day.
The system delivered 300,000 barrels of crude oil daily. Oil in the Big Inch took about 20 days to reach Pennsylvania, moving at four feet a second, or three miles an hour. There were about 3,000 barrels in a mile of pipeline. That was the equivalent of 70 seagoing tankers of the World War II era passing through Butler County each day.
But what had been a lifesaving emergency project in the heat of war quickly became surplus government property when the fighting ended in 1945.
Feb. 14, 1947, about 18 months after the war ended, the War Assets Administration sold both the Big Inch and Little Inch pipelines to Texas Eastern Transmission Corp. for $143 million. Texas Eastern -- one of 13 bidders for the lines -- began operating the system May 1, 1947. Instead of oil for war purposes, the pipelines were converted to transporting natural gas for residential, business and industrial use.
Artificial gas of questionable quality had been available to Hamilton residents since 1855, supplemented in 1910 by some natural gas.
Natural gas -- once regarded as a useless waste product of oil processing -- gained increasing acceptance in the late 1940s. When new residences, businesses and factories were built after World War II, many were designed for gas heating and appliances. Coal chutes, coal bins and coal furnaces gradually became extinct.
In 1944, the last full year of the war, Hamilton utility customers used 747.6 million cubic feet of gas. In 1974, city consumption reached 7.3 billion cubic feet, or an increase of about 479 percent in 20 years in which Hamilton’s population declined.
Because of legal challenges from utility competitors, Hamilton’s municipal gas system didn’t connect to the Texas Eastern pipelines until January 1968.
Now the Hamilton system -- which is linked to the Little Inch at a station on North Gilmore Road -- gets about half its natural gas from that pipeline, completed in November 1943.
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