Journal-News, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2001
McKinley's 1891 visit memorable one
By Jim Blount
Hamiltonians watched in amazement as the rival candidates for governor of Ohio -- William McKinley and James E. Campbell -- met in the middle of High Street Sept. 17, 1891. If they expected a bitter confrontation or spirited political debate, they were disappointed. Instead, they witnessed a cordial reunion of friends in the midst of an intense campaign.
That unscheduled meeting was recalled 10 years later -- in September 1901 -- when an assassin's bullet took the life of President William McKinley. What made the 1891 incident memorable was that it came during the observance of the city's centennial and was seen by hundreds of people who were crowded into downtown Hamilton for the festivities.
At about Journal Square, the Republican-News recalled, "the rival candidates for gubernatorial honors saw each other. Mr. McKinley's carriage was stopped and Gov. Campbell advanced to it and the two public men and courteous gentlemen shook hands warmly and complimented each other upon each one's good appearance."
At the time, Campbell -- a native of Middletown, and a Hamilton resident as an adult -- was seeking his second two-year term as governor. But McKinley -- a native of Niles, Ohio -- won the election and guided the state for two terms before winning presidential elections in 1896 and 1900.
The High Street meeting characterized the friendly 1891 Campbell-McKinley contest. "The campaign was notable because the two candidates for governor, personal friends, throughout maintained the policy of discussing issues, not personalties," noted Simeon D. Fess in a 1937 book, Ohio, The History of the Great State.
The 1891 centennial celebration brought McKinley to Hamilton for the first time. He returned three times as governor and once as president before his death during his second term in the White House.
From 1892 through 1895, Gov. McKinley came to Hamilton twice for political speeches and once as a speaker and participant in a state encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic (Civil War veterans). The governor was in familiar company at the GAR event. He had entered the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment as a private in 1861 and was mustered out as a captain in 1865.
After the war he studied law and was admitted to the bar in Canton in 1867. His political career started with election as prosecutor in Stark County. As a Republican, McKinley served in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1877 to 1884 and from 1885 to 1891, the year he challenged Campbell for the governor's office.
As a presidential candidate, McKinley didn't fare well in Butler County. In 1896 and 1900, his Democratic rival, William Jennings Bryan, carried the county by comfortable margins.
His only visit as president was Oct. 21, 1898 -- a few months after U. S. victory in the Spanish-American War and days before the off-year election. In his speech that day, he referred to both the warm welcomes of previous visits and his local rejection in the 1896 election.
"I recall with the pleasantest memories my former visits to your city, and whatever political differences there may have been among us then, you have always accorded me an attentive hearing and given me a cordial welcome."
McKinley -- nicknamed "The Idol of Ohio" -- was scheduled to open the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, N. Y., in the spring of 1901, but his wife's illness caused him to miss the event.
The 58-year-old president rescheduled his visit and was standing in a receiving line Sept. 6 when he was shot twice at point blank range by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist. McKinley died eight days later.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001
Village Green once site of Fairfield powerhouse
By Jim Blount
Fairfield's Village Green -- described as the city's 21st century downtown -- continues to take shape west of Pleasant Avenue at Wessel Drive. The 120-acre development -- including commercial, residential and service uses and featuring a new library -- is on land that had a different look a hundred years ago. Then it was decidedly rural, except for a power station.
In October 1898, the Cincinnati & Hamilton Electric Street Railway completed a powerhouse on the Fairfield Township site. The first electricity from the powerhouse went over wires the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 25.
In a few days, after technical and legal problems were overcome, interurban cars were operating south of Hamilton toward Cincinnati over the present U. S. 127 corridor. Previously, transportation through Fairfield Township (roads, canals and railroads) had favored eastern routes in the vicinity of present Dixie Highway (Ohio 4).
The interurban or traction company also built car barns next to the power plant at Symmes Corner near the southwestern corner of Pleasant Avenue and Nilles Road.
"Two 600 horsepower engines, built by the Hooven, Owens, Rentschler Co. [of Hamilton] furnish the motive power," said a newspaper in describing the powerhouse. "These engines are single cylinder heavy-duty Corliss engines of massive build. The flywheel alone weighs 25 tons and makes 90 revolutions a minute. The circumference of the flywheel travels 5,040 feet every minute."
"These engines drive Westinghouse motors of 500 horsepower capacity," the report said. "The steam boiler plant consists of two batteries of 600 horsepower each. Duplicate boilers, engines and dynamos are provided in case of accident."
Hamilton's first interurban -- running north over North B Street to Trenton, Middletown, Franklin, Miamisburg and Dayton -- opened Aug. 1, 1897, after a practice run July 25. It would be more than a year later before the first of two lines to Cincinnati was running.
The first Hamilton-Cincinnati route, from north to south, ran from High Street south over South Front Street, east over Court Street for one block, and then south over South Second Street, Central Avenue and Pleasant Avenue through Lindenwald.
From Hamilton, the original line ran on or parallel to present U. S. 127 through Symmes Corner in Fairfield Township, Pleasant Run at the county line, New Burlington and Mount Healthy to College Hill, a total of 17.9 miles.
Hourly passenger runs started Nov. 1, 1898, between Hamilton and Mount Healthy. The fare was 55 cents. Eventually, tracks extended into Cincinnati, eliminating the switch to a streetcar in College Hill. Later, freight service also was available.
At first (1897), it was the Cincinnati & Miami Valley Traction Co., but there were several changes in name and ownership over the next 40 years. The first line to the Queen City was called the Cincinnati & Hamilton Electric Street Railway. Later, names were Southern Ohio Traction Co.; Cincinnati, Dayton & Toledo Traction Co.; Ohio Electric Railway Co.; Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Interurban Co.; and, finally, the Cincinnati & Lake Erie.
The Symmes Corner power plant continued in use until 1906 when replaced by a new facility in Hamilton. It was located at the western end of Williams Avenue, now Powerhouse Park, the site of a softball diamond, tennis courts and Safety Town.
The electric-powered C&LE interurban cars stopped running Jan. 7, 1939, between Hamilton and Mount Healthy. Service between Hamilton and Dayton ended May 13, 1939.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2001
Waves of patriotism followed shocks nearly 60 years apart
By Jim Blount
"Hamilton stands today a unified city -- united behind the great national effort to annihilate aggression launched against the United States."
That declaration could reflect local sentiment in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in the Washington area. Instead, it is how the Journal-News summarized reaction to the Dec. 7, 1941, bombing of Pearl Harbor by carrier-borne Japanese aircraft.
The recent tragedy was quickly labeled a "second Pearl Harbor" by some commentators. While a shock, it wasn't entirely a surprise. Warnings of terrorist action against domestic targets have been heard for several years.
Nearly 60 years ago, World War II was underway in Europe and there were expectations it would eventually involve the United States. Also, the U. S. and Japan had been involved in bitter diplomatic negotiations -- largely focused on oil embargoes imposed by Washington.
Unlike Pearl Harbor, Americans saw the terrorist attack on television. In 1941, news of the raid on Hawaii came via radio. Newspapers published photos within hours, but it was several days before carefully-edited newsreels were seen in Hamilton movie theaters.
Area residents thirsted for newspaper and radio reports on the war, but few details -- including the extent of U. S. losses -- were released by military and government officials.
Japanese planes launched their attack on the main base of the U. S. Pacific fleet at 7:55 a.m., Hawaii time. Because of time zone difference, the first radio bulletins shocked Hamiltonians shortly before 2:30 that Sunday afternoon.
The Journal-News said early radio reports "brought about a feeling of horror. There was no hysteria, there was no demonstration -- but that the people of Hamilton are grimly determined to do their share in fighting aggression was indicated by the attitude of the hundreds who gathered on street corner to discuss the situation."
"Probably never before has the radio audience in Hamilton been so large," the Journal-News noted in reporting the community's rapt attention to President Roosevelt's Dec. 8, 1941, address to Congress. "The people of Hamilton," the newspaper said, "paused in their daily routines at 12:30 o'clock" Monday to hear the president ask Congress for a quick declaration of war on Japan. In that speech, FDR declared Dec. 7, 1941, "a date which will live in infamy."
Tensions continued to mount among uncertainty for several days. "Enemy Flyers Reported Near N. Y. City," said a headline across the Tuesday, Dec. 9, edition of the Journal-News. It topped an Associated Press story of an "official warning" of "hostile planes . . . two hours out of New York City" and air raid alarms sounding in the city. That report, and similar ones around the nation, proved to be unfounded.
The first reported direct contact between Hamilton and Hawaii was Dec. 9, when a cablegram arrived from the wife of a Hamilton naval officer stationed at Pearl Harbor.
Industries in Hamilton -- many of which had been producing war materials for one to two years -- immediately increased security. The FBI advised city officials to protect against sabotage around Hamilton's electric-generating plant and its water reservoirs.
The Hamilton Civilian Defense Council had started planning for the possibility of air attacks and sabotage months before Pearl Harbor. The threat of German or Japanese planes bombing Hamilton caused formation of a complex program depending on volunteers. Besides 3,355 people in Hamilton, additional thousands were required to handle civilian defense duties in Middletown, Oxford and rural parts of Butler County.
While patriotic fervor mounted in the Hamilton area, many young men were already in military service by Dec. 7, 1941.
Efforts to strengthen a Hamilton-based National Guard company began shortly after Germany attacked Poland Sept. 1, 1939. It was among hundreds of units called into federal service Sept. 16, 1940. It departed for training in Mississippi a month later, and the local troops were still there when Pearl Harbor was bombed.
In addition, more than 600 men from the Hamilton and Oxford areas had been inducted into the U. S. Army under the selective service system enacted Sept. 16, 1940. The first draftees had left Hamilton Nov. 20, 1940, for the Fort Thomas induction center in Northern Kentucky
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2001
McCloskey reminders prominent in Hamilton area
By Jim Blount
Robert McCloskey's award-winning writing and illustrating career took him away from Hamilton about 63 years ago, but at least two reminders of his boyhood remain in the city. A third will be added Friday, Sept. 21, when a sculpture of one of his favorite characters, Lentil, is unveiled in downtown Hamilton.
As a teenager, McCloskey was associated with the Hamilton YMCA and its Camp Campbell Gard, teaching various crafts and the harmonica. At camp, he was a dining room steward and led group singing. For two camping summers he chiseled a 12x12 wooden beam, transforming it into a totem pole, which has remained a camp landmark for decades.
The totem pole -- completed in 1934 -- was so impressive that it led to a commission for work on the Hamilton municipal building. McCloskey designed the bas reliefs for the structure that opened in 1935, three years after he had graduated from Hamilton High School.
Make Way for Ducklings -- his first book, published in 1938 -- earned McCloskey the Caldecott Medal, awarded annually to the most distinguished American picture book for children. The medal is sponsored by the Association of Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
He captured the Caldecott Medal again in 1958 with Time of Wonder -- the first artist to earn the honor twice. Time of Wonder -- his first picture book in full color -- is set on a Maine island, and tells of a family's wonder and delight in daily experiences.
There also are several runnerup prizes, called Caldecott Honor Books. McCloskey won or shared that award three times: 1949, Blueberries for Sal, and 1953, One Morning in Maine, both written and illustrated by McCloskey; and 1954, Journey Cake, Ho! written by Ruth Sawyer (his mother-in-law) and illustrated by McCloskey.
The latter is one of several books in which McCloskey was the illustrator, collaborating with another writer. Another example is Yankee Doodle's Cousins by Anne Malcolmson -- first published in 1941 -- which focuses on 27 American legends.
The Library of Congress -- as part of its bicentennial celebration in April 2000 -- awarded 78 "Living Legends" medals to "Americans whose varied creative contributions to American life have made them living legends."
Among the people joining McCloskey on that distinguished list are Dr. Michael DeBakey, Katharine Graham, Gen. Colin Powell, Gloria Steinem, Isaac Stern, Tony Bennett, Larry Bird, Hank Aaron, George Kennan, Mark McGuire, Dr. Sally Ride, Cal Ripken, Stephen Sondheim, Steven Spielberg and Tiger Woods.
The author⁄illustrator was born Sept. 15, 1914, in Hamilton. After graduating from Hamilton High School in 1932, McCloskey studied at Vesper George Art School (1932-36) in Boston and at the National Academy of Design (1936-38) in New York.
Nov. 23, 1940, he married Margaret Durand of Ithaca, N. Y., a children's librarian, and the daughter of a successful children's author, Ruth Sawyer. The McCloskeys are the parents of two daughters.
Lentil -- the basis for the Nancy Schon sculpture to be introduced Friday -- was the boy hero of McCloskey's second book, published in 1940. Lentil is a boy in fictional Alto, Ohio, whose experiences resemble those of McCloskey's boyhood in Hamilton. The sculpture will feature the harmonica-playing boy and his dog.
This is the last column in a four-part series about Robert McCloskey and his books.