Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2003
'Lentil' logical candidate for official Ohio children's book
By Jim Blount
Ohio has a host of state symbols -- including the buckeye, the cardinal, the scarlet carnation, the white trillium, the ladybug, the trilobite, the white-tailed deer, the black racer, tomato juice and flint -- plus "Beautiful Ohio," the state song, and "Hang On Sloopy," the state rock song, and a one-of-a-kind state flag, a red, white and blue pennant. But, as Ohio celebrates its bicentennial, there isn't an official state children's book or children's author.
With the recent death of Robert McCloskey, born and educated in Hamilton, it is time to correct the omission. "Lentil" is a logical nomination for official Ohio children's book, a designation that would require action by the Ohio General Assembly in Columbus.
McCloskey -- recalling his boyhood -- created Lentil, a boy about 10 or 11 years old who lives in a typical Midwestern town, the fictional Alto, Ohio. The New York Times called it "a book that, along with its fun, truly illustrates the American scene."
As noted in this column in 2001, "Lentil is one of three McCloskey works labeled his 'Midwest boy books,' reflecting his boyhood in Hamilton. The other titles are 'Homer Price' and 'Centerburg Tales.' They blend McCloskey's youthful interests in music, art and engineering with satire. Reviewers, critics and scholars have compared Lentil and Homer Price with Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer. McCloskey's work also has been likened to that of artist Norman Rockwell."
Lentil has been highly visible in Hamilton since Sept. 21, 2001. That day sculptures of harmonica-playing Lentil and his dog were unveiled in a new park at the northwest corner of High and North Front streets. The sculptures by Nancy Schon were sponsored by the Hamilton Community Foundation.
"Lentil" -- a book with fewer than 850 words -- is dominated by 30 McCloskey illustrations. The suggested enjoyment level is ages 3 to 8.
Lentil couldn't sing or whistle, and couldn't pucker his lips. "When he opened his mouth to try, only strange sounds came out," McCloskey wrote, "so he saved up enough pennies to buy a harmonica." Eventually, Lentil's harmonica skill saves the day in Alto -- and he becomes the community hero.
As a teenager, McCloskey worked at the Hamilton YMCA and Camp Campbell Gard. During two summer the 1932 Hamilton High School graduate transformed a wooden beam into a colorful totem pole, a camp landmark for decades. The totem pole was so impressive that it led to a commission for work on the former Hamilton municipal building. McCloskey designed the bas reliefs for the structure that opened in 1935.
"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 won the Caldecott Medal again in 1958 with "Time of Wonder," the first artist to capture the honor twice.
The Library of Congress, in observing its bicentennial in 2000, awarded McCloskey one of 78 "Living Legends" medals to "Americans whose varied creative contributions to American life have made them living legends." The Educational Paperback Association, a publishers' group, recognized McCloskey as among the top 50 authors for children in grades one to four.
Biographer Gary D. Schmidt, in assessing McCloskey's influence, said "in the midst of this dreadful world -- in the midst of folly and violence and threatened destruction -- appeared a series of books that celebrated childhood, family, friendship, the natural world -- in short, life itself."
"McCloskey was unusual, too, in that his artistic skill matched his literary imagination," said Amy Finnerty in reporting McCloskey's death in the Wall Street Journal.
McCloskey, born in Hamilton Sept. 15, 1914, died June 30, 2003, on Deer Isle, Maine, his home for many years. One of his last honors was approval Jan. 1, 2003, of "Make Way for Ducklings" as the official state children's book in Massachusetts. Among the competitors for that honor was Massachusetts native Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Suess.
"Make Way for Ducklings" main characters -- Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings -- are perpetuated in bronze sculptures in Boston and Moscow, also the work of Nancy Schon. This summer the Boston Landmarks Orchestra has featured an orchestral version of "Make Way for Ducklings" in a series of concerts.
What "Make Way for Ducklings" is to Massachusetts, "Lentil" is to Ohio. McCloskey's contributions to children's literature deserves official state recognition.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2003
Post office murals work of accomplished artist
By Jim Blount
The work of a nationally recognized artist goes unnoticed here despite its prominence in a public building in downtown Hamilton. His six murals, depicting local history and industry, aren't included in listings of City of Sculpture attractions. For decades, local postal officials haven't been able to identify the creator of the murals.
Richard Zoellner was commissioned by the U. S. Treasury Department in late 1935 to brighten the lobby of the new Hamilton post office. Unfortunately, 68 years later his work needs cleaning and improved lighting to be fully appreciated.
The mural project was part of a federal relief program during the Great Depression. The post office at the southeast corner of S. Front and Court streets, opposite the historic courthouse, had been dedicated June 14, 1933, and opened for business the next day.
Starting in December 1933, the Civil Works Administration allocated funds for the Public Works of Art Project that had two goals -- enhance public buildings erected under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, and provide income for unemployed artists.
A 1935 newspaper report said five of Zoellner's Hamilton murals "measuring eight and one-half feet by three feet will be painted above the doorways . . . and a larger one, measuring 14 feet by three feet, above the office of the postmaster."
The largest panel depicts the building of Fort Hamilton in 1791. The smaller scenes represent agriculture, stove making, printing, paper making and a foundry.
The native of Portsmouth, Ohio, sought advice from Postmaster Henry B. Grevey before starting the Hamilton murals.
Zoellner, whose studio was in Cincinnati from 1933 to 1942, was the recipient of several private and public commissions from the treasury department's Section of Fine Arts from the early 1930s until the start of World War II in 1941.
Besides Hamilton, he completed murals in post offices in Cleveland, Georgetown, Medina and Portsmouth in Ohio and Mannington, W. Va.; paintings in U. S. marine hospitals; and murals for the Cincinnati Zoo and the Greenhills library. The five Greenhills murals highlight the influence of the Ohio River on the Cincinnati area. Two paintings in his hometown PO in Portsmouth also feature river scenes.
Zoellner, who had worked for a sign painter while still in high school, graduated from the Cincinnati Art Academy and also studied in New York City and Mexico.
In a career that extended more than 70 years, he won numerous awards. His work has been featured in exhibits in Europe, Asia and South America, and his drawings, canvasses, sculptures and lithographs are among private collections and the holdings of several museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Library of Congress in Washington.
One of his earliest patrons was Mrs. Winston Churchill, who purchased a watercolor in 1942 while Zoellner was working on a promotional exhibit for a tourist agency in the American Virgin Islands.
"Teaching was another of his gifts," emphasized an obituary in the Tuscaloosa News.
"In 1945, Zoellner established at the University of Alabama one of only two fine art printmaking programs in the Southeast. At that time, UA's art program was part of the department of home economics." He was a member of the UA art faculty for 33 years before retiring in 1978.
"Throughout his storied career, Zoellner rode the currents and upheaval in modern art, much as he canoed the [Ohio and] Mississippi river from Cincinnati to New Orleans in 1928," noted the Tuscaloosa News. "Line and color, texture and symmetry, harmony and contrast, these were the tools of his trade," the newspaper said.
The 94-year-old artist-teacher was still painting in his Tuscaloosa studio until a few weeks before he died March 6, 2003.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2003
Lewis and Clark part of Fort Hamilton army
By Jim Blount
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark -- who led the dramatic exploration of the American West nearly 200 years ago -- were soldiers in the army that relied on Fort Hamilton in the 1790s. Their Indian-fighting experience on the Ohio frontier -- where the two Virginians became friends -- helped prepare them for their historic 1804-1806 expedition into the newly-acquired Louisiana Territory.
Their exploits will be hailed for the next three years with bicentennial observances of events and accomplishments of the Corps of Discovery as it gathered information on what was then the mysterious area between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean.
It could be argued that the risky Lewis & Clark Expedition actually began 200 years ago this month when Lewis moved down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh.
Meriwether Lewis -- born Aug. 18, 1774, near Charlottesville, Va. -- joined a militia unit in 1794 during the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania. Later he entered the regular army and was sent to the Ohio country to serve under Gen. Anthony Wayne. His enlistment began May 1, 1795, with the rank of ensign.
Lewis arrived after Wayne’s army had defeated the Indians Aug. 20, 1794, at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, near Toledo. After that setback, several tribes agreed to negotiate. They relinquished control over much of Ohio in the Treaty of Greenville in August 1795. Lewis was an army captain in 1801 when the Lewis & Clark expedition began to take shape.
William Clark -- the youngest of six sons -- was born Aug. 1, 1770, in Caroline County, Virginia. He was 14 when his family moved to Kentucky.
A militiaman in campaigns against Ohio Valley Indians since 1789, Clark became an officer in Gen. Wayne's army in 1792 and participated in the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. He resigned from the army in 1796 and returned to Virginia. Clark was living at Clarksville in Indiana Territory when he joined Lewis in 1803.
What isn't certain is how much time Lewis and Clark spent at Fort Hamilton, the frontier army's supply post that evolved into the City of Hamilton. As members of Anthony Wayne's army between 1792 and 1795, they had to at least pass through the fort.
In March 1801, while in Pittsburgh, Captain Lewis was invited by Thomas Jefferson to become secretary and aid to the newly-elected president. In offering the job, Jefferson cited the 26-year-old captain’s "knowledge of the western country," and "of the army," as qualifications for the position. He was paid $500 a year, plus room and board, for working at the White House.
Two years later, Jefferson -- eager for information on the country west of the Mississippi River -- asked Congress for $2,500 to finance a western expedition to be led by Lewis, who chose his friend, Lt. Clark, to share the leadership.
When news of the $15 million Louisiana Purchase was announced July 4, 1803, exploration of the upper part of the western region gained new importance.
Lewis arrived in Pittsburgh in mid July 1803 to supervise construction of a keelboat and recruit men for the mission. He started down the Ohio River Aug. 31, hampered at times by low water. He was in Cincinnati from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4.
Clark joined him Oct. 15 at Clarksville, opposite Louisville. By the time they left Louisville Oct. 26, they had selected several members of the Corps of Discovery. The group reached Cairo, Ill., Nov. 14, and started up the Mississippi River six days later.
They continued recruitment and preparations at a winter camp at Camp Wood, up river from St. Louis on the Illinois side of the Mississippi. They left that site, also known as Camp Dubois, May 14, 1804, starting from the mouth of the Missouri River.
After reaching the Pacific near the mouth of the Columbia River, the group returned to St. Louis Sept. 23, 1806, covering about 6,000 miles in more than 28 months.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2003
Civil War record boosted Andrew Harris in politics
By Jim Blount
When Andrew Lintner Harris was graduated from Miami University in 1860, he returned to the family farm in Preble County and began studying law in Eaton. But less than a year later, that routine ended when the future Ohio governor answered President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers. The Butler County native entered the Union army five days after the Civil War started. According to contemporary accounts, Harris saw action in 18 battles.
His war record -- two severe wounds during three years and nine months of combat leadership -- helped Harris win election to a series of county and state offices after the war. Three years as Ohio’s governor (1906-1909) highlighted his 30-year political career in an era when parties courted the votes of veterans with candidates who had served in the Civil War. Harris was the last of 12 Civil War veterans to govern Ohio between 1865 and 1909.
Although a modest man, he was proud of his military service. His only memberships were in veterans organizations -- the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) and the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.
Harris entered the war as a captain in Company C of the three-month 20th Ohio Infantry Regiment, serving from April 17, 1861, until Aug. 18, 1861. Another company in the regiment included many of his former Miami friends. Ozro J. Dodds, a Miami senior, had formed the University Rifles of Oxford into Company B.
Harris didn’t waste time in rejoining the army after his three-month enlistment ended. In October 1861 he recruited a unit that became Company C of the 75th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
Harris was captain of Company C when the three-year regiment organized at Camp McLean, Cincinnati, between Nov. 7, 1861, and Jan. 8, 1862. The 75th saw its first service in western Virginia (later the new state of West Virginia), and fought in the Shenandoah Valley before moving east to defend Washington in August and September 1862.
Harris was promoted to major in January 1863 and to colonel, commanding the 75th OVI, May 3, 1863. He was the second Butler Countian to command the regiment. Colonel Robert Reily -- a native of Hamilton and also a Miami graduate -- died May 5, 1863, while leading the 75th in the Battle of Chancellorsville, Va. The 75th lost 155 men killed and wounded in that clash.
Harris commanded the regiment until Jan. 17, 1865, guiding it longer than any of its three previous colonels. He led the well-traveled unit in three days of fighting at Gettysburg and later in campaigns in Virginia, the Carolinas and Florida.
At Gettysburg, Harris also commanded the second brigade in the first division of the 11th Army Corps. Other regiments in the brigade were the 17th Connecticut and two other Ohio units, the 25th OVI and the 107th OVI.
During the war, Harris saw the 75th evolve from foot soldiers to mounted infantry, utilizing horses for increased mobility. The transition came under his direction in February 1864 when the regiment was sent to Florida.
Harris was wounded twice. May 8, 1862, at the battle of McDowell in Virginia he was shot in his right arm, which was permanently disabled. He was wounded again in fighting July 1-3, 1863, at Gettysburg, Pa. The 75th suffered high casualties in both battles, including 87 men killed and wounded at McDowell.
The regiment arrived at Gettysburg with 16 officers and lost three killed, seven wounded and four captured in three days. Of its 292 enlisted men at Gettysburg, 63 were killed, 106 wounded and 34 captured.
Harris was mustered out Jan. 15, 1865 when the 75th OVI was dissolved after completing its three-year term. The war ended in April 1865, and a year later Harris -- born Nov. 17, 1835, in Milford Township, north of Darrtown -- won his first election. Earlier that year (March 13), he had been breveted brigadier general for "gallant and meritorious" service during the war.
July 4, 1906, as Gov. Harris, he returned to his native Butler County as the featured speaker at the dedication of the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument in Hamilton. The memorial was built by Civil War veterans, including men who had served with the governor in the 20th and 75th Ohio infantry regiments.
Next week this column will review the political career of Andrew L. Harris.