Journal-News, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2004
Prominent journalist once edited Hamilton newspaper
By Jim Blount
Hamilton was one of several stops as John A. Cockerill rose from Civil War drummer boy to recognition as a prominent journalist. His globe-trotting newspaper career included helping start the Washington Post and contributing to the success of publisher Joseph Pulitzer.
He was born Dec. 5, 1845, at Locust Grove in Adams County, Ohio, a son of Joseph R. Cockerill, a lawyer who served in the Ohio General Assembly and the U. S. Congress. During the Civil War, the father commanded the 70th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment and later a brigade.
John A., only 15 years old in 1861, also went to war. He tried to join a company raised by a 20-year-old brother, Armstead Cockerill, in June 1861. But the teenager was rejected because of his size. When the brother’s company became part of the 24th Ohio Infantry, John went along as a drummer boy and later a bugler.
Drummer boys "were relied upon to play drum beats to call the soldiers into formation and for other events," explains a National Park Service web site. "Drums got the soldiers up in the morning, signaled them to report for morning roll call, sick call, and guard duty. Drummers also played at night to signal lights out or ‘taps’. The most important use of drums," says the NPS, "was on the battlefield where they were used to communicate orders from the commanding officers and signal troop movement."
Cockerill -- who saw battle action early in the war at Fort Donelson and Shiloh and served through campaigns in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama -- wasn’t the youngest drummer in the 24th OVI. John Clem -- only 10 when he joined the regiment -- became the legendary "Drummer Boy of Shiloh."
Cockerill -- who trained as a printer before the war -- left the army in 1863 and bought a newspaper in Adams County before moving to Dayton to edit the Evening Ledger.
Feb. 23, 1865, at the age of 19, he was named editor of the Hamilton True Telegraph. Oct. 26, 1865, Cockerill and his brother bought the newspaper. John became the sole owner April 25, 1867, and was regarded as a "great force" in local journalism until July 2, 1868. On that date, Jacob H. Long purchased the paper that later was renamed the Democrat and through mergers eventually evolved into the Journal-News.
Cockerill went to the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1869 and a year later was promoted to editor. In 1877, he went to war again, this time as an Enquirer correspondent during the Russo-Turkish War.
Later that year he was hired to establish a new newspaper, the Washington Post, in the nation’s capital. He was lured away from the Enquirer to be managing editor of the Post, but he didn’t stay long. In 1878, he moved to the Baltimore Gazette.
Two years later he associated with Joseph Pulitzer. With Cockerill as editor and Pulitzer as publisher, they revived failing enterprises in St. Louis and New York. In January 1880, Cockerill became a part owner and editor of the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
Cockerill’s aggressive journalism made some enemies. A name-calling dispute in St. Louis led to a newsroom confrontation in which Cockerill shot and killed Alonzo W. Slayback Oct. 13, 1882. Cockerill, claiming self defense, wasn’t indicted in the death of the lawyer and former Confederate colonel.
When Pulitzer purchased the faltering New York World in 1883, Cockerill became its editor and was credited with developing and improving the newspaper. In 1889, a reluctant Cockerill gave an okay to Nellie Bly, a female reporter, for a highly publicized around the world reporting trip. Bly suggested the stunt after reading Jules Verne's fictional Around the World in Eighty Days. More than a million readers entered the World's contest to guess how long it would take her to complete the trip. Bly returned to New York Jan. 25, 1890, making the trek in 72 days, six hours, 11 minutes and 14 seconds.
In 1895 Cockerill, resumed his own globe-trotting reporting, going to Japan as a correspondent for the New York Herald. The former Hamilton editor was at work when he died April 10, 1896, in Cairo, Egypt.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2004
Subway would have aided Butler County travelers
By Jim Blount
Recent studies to upgrade I-71 and I-75 in the Greater Cincinnati area recall earlier plans to improve transportation in the region. Those portals to the left as you travel south on I-75 near the Western Hills viaduct are reminders of a proposed Cincinnati subway that had as one of its original purposes encouraging residents in outlying areas, including Butler County, to work, shop, dine, relax and be entertained in downtown Cincinnati.
"The main reason Cincinnati needed rapid transit was to provide a method of quickly bringing interurban passengers downtown without running on the streetcar lines," writes Allen J. Singer in The Cincinnati Subway, History of Rapid Transit, published in 2003 by Arcadia Publishing ($19.99 in area book stores).
"Nine traction lines operated out of Cincinnati. They were controlled by seven different companies and extended in nine different directions to surrounding cities and towns," says Singer in the 128-page book that is loaded with photos, illustrations, diagrams and maps.
"The Cincinnati Traction Company owned a monopoly on the [streetcar] lines and stubbornly refused to allow any other company to use them on a permanent basis," he says, including five interurban companies that had the same gauge as the streetcar system.
The subway was first suggested in 1884 by the Graphic, a weekly magazine, that proposed converting the decaying Miami-Erie Canal into new transit system. It was part of a plan to relieve Cincinnati's narrow downtown streets that were congested with streetcars and horse-drawn vehicles.
The downtown situation worsened in the early 20th century as automobiles and electric-powered interurban cars complicated the traffic problem. By 1910, Cincinnati's streetcars operated more than 222 miles of track, some also carrying interurban lines. But sharing track wasn't practical. Mixing slow streetcars, making frequent stops, with high-speed interurban cars wasn't safe or workable.
"Concerned citizens . . . felt that the city must provide high-speed local passenger transport to connect with the outlying interurban service," Singer writes. "Some city official felt the same way," Singer writes.
In 1910, a new mayor, Henry Hunt "proposed that instead of commuters having to use the slow moving streetcars to travel from downtown to the edge of the city to reach the interurbans, a 15-mile belt railway could circle the city, which would be partly underground in a subway using the bed of the canal." Part of the plan included building Central Parkway over the subway.
Ten years later, Jan. 28, 1920, excavation started. Money ran out in 1925, and the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II in the early 1940s were two of several obstacles to resuming work. By the 1940s, the interurbans had shut down and roads for cars and trucks -- not a subway -- were in demand.
Interurban service had opened between Hamilton and Cincinnati Oct. 25, 1898, over an 18-mile line serving Symmes Corner, Pleasant Run, New Burlington, Mount Healthy and College Hill.
The Cincinnati & Hamilton Electric Street Railway Co. -- the first of many names -- ended at College Hill, requiring transfer to a streetcar to reach downtown Cincinnati. Later, the southern terminus was extended to Spring Grove Avenue, shortening the streetcar trip.
In its final years, the line over Pleasant and Hamilton avenues was part of the Cincinnati & Lake Erie system that closed between Cincinnati and Mount Healthy June 17, 1938.
A rival system between Cincinnati and Hamilton -- first called the Millcreek Valley Street Railway -- linked Carthage, Hartwell, Lockland, Wyoming, Glendale and Springdale, along the approximate route of present Ohio 4. It was part of a business complex that included the Cincinnati Street Railway Co. The Millcreek's 5-foot 2-inch track gauge matched that of the streetcar line, enabling passengers to travel to and from downtown Cincinnati without transferring to a streetcar.
The first Millcreek car rolled into Hamilton May 25, 1903 Service between Hamilton and Glendale ended July 11, 1926.
"Not much of the subway exists today," Singer explains -- "only about 2.2 miles of tunnels still lie beneath city streets," the longest under Central Parkway from between Walnut and Main streets downtown to near the Western Hills viaduct adjacent to I-75.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2004
Mother's stories sparked Albert Volwiler's history career
By Jim Blount
Albert T. Volwiler and Ernest H. Volwiler are examples that Butler County farms have produced more than abundant crops and healthy livestock. Rural families also cultivated knowledge -- internationally recognized scholarship in the case of the Volwiler brothers, Albert in history and in chemistry for his younger brother.
Albert was born in Cincinnati about 1888, Ernest in Hamilton Aug. 22, 1893, but both were products of their childhood in rural Morgan Twp. The brothers and at least one sister, Ella, were raised by immigrant parents in a German-speaking home. An 1895 Butler County Atlas shows a Volwiler owning a 40-acre farm near the intersection of Layhigh and Robinson roads.
Albert Volwiler's "interest in history goes back to stories told to him during his boyhood by his mother," ranging from ancient Rome and Napoleon to the British empire, says an anonymous biographical sketch in the Ohio University archives. The same source says "before going to college he had read several hundred historical books." Later, an alumni newsletter said Volwiler attributed his decision to teach history to the influence of a history course he took as a junior at Miami University.
He graduated from New London High School at Shandon in 1904. The he worked his way through Miami, graduating cum laude in 1910. While in Oxford, he found time to be president of the Oratorical Association, a member of the intercollegiate debating team and assistant editor of the Miami Student.
Volwiler earned his master degree in history at the University of Chicago in 1911 and his doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania in 1922. During that period he was a high school history teacher in Hibbing, Minn., 1911-14, and Evanston, Ill., 1918-20, an instructor at the University of North Dakota, 1914-18, and a research fellow at Penn in 1922. He was married June 26, 1913, to Ada E. White, who also had attended Miami University.
Volwiler was a history professor at Wittenberg College from 1923 to 1933, and, starting in 1926, head of the history department. He joined the faculty at Ohio University, Athens, in 1933 and chaired the history department from 1947 until retirement in 1955.
In addition to his stints at Wittenberg and OU, Volwiler's list of visiting professorships included Miami, Johns Hopkins, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Penn State universities.
In 1926 Volwiler published a highly-regarded book, George Croghan and the Westward Movement, 1741-1782. "Croghan was one of the first Englishmen to grasp a clear vision of the future greatness of the forest-clad kingdom beyond the Appalachians," Volwiler wrote. "He was the leading exponent of the expansion of the Anglo-Saxon race into the Ohio region during the generation before 1775."
After arriving in Pennsylvania in 1741, Croghan "was preeminent as an Indian trader, an Indian agent, a land speculator and a projector of inland colonies," wrote Volwiler, who found Croghan's birth date and early life in Ireland and the extent of his family in the colonies among several mysteries about the frontiersman.
The Croghan study, that began as a graduate dissertation, earned Volwiler election to the Royal Historical Society of London for his work in British-American history.
Among his other scholarly interests was Benjamin Harrison, also a Miami graduate, and president of the United States from 1889 to 1993. Volwiler, while maintaining a busy teaching schedule, wrote on a variety of topics for scholarly journals in the U. S. and aboard.
He was active in professional groups, historical societies and projects promoting history programs. At Ohio University, he chaired the university's Ohio History Committee that established the annual awards competition in Ohio history, government and citizenship for high school students.
The historian died June 25, 1957, in Athens, two years after retiring as chairman of the OU history department.
Next week this column will review the career of Albert T. Volwiler's brother, Ernest H. Volwiler, who was a chemist, pharmaceutical innovator and a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2004
Ernest Volwiler, Pentothal co-inventor, native of Butler County
By Jim Blount
It's safe to say that most Butler County residents have benefited from the extensive work and leadership of Ernest H. Volwiler, whose complete list of achievements in chemistry and the pharmaceutical industry would fill this page. His 1986 induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame was for his part in discovering the general anesthetic sodium Pentothal, called "one of the most important agents in modern medicine." His hall of fame profile says "the uses of Pentothal are legend. Few agents in medicine have played such an outstanding role in improving the well-being of generations of patients."
Volwiler, who earned numerous professional awards and honorary degrees, was a 1958 recipient of the Priestly Medal of the American Chemical Society, regarded as the highest honor in American chemistry.
The chemist -- also instrumental in the development of the non-caloric sweetener Sucaryl -- was born in Hamilton Aug. 22, 1893. He was raised by German immigrant parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Volwiler, on a farm near the intersection of Layhigh and Robinson roads in Morgan Twp. He was a 1909 graduate of Morgan Twp. High School in Okeana. His younger brother, Albert T. Volwiler (1888-1957), was an internationally acclaimed historian.
Ernest Volwiler graduated cum laude from Miami University in 1914. Before graduating, he was a teaching assistant on the Oxford campus in 1913-14 and in the summer of 1913 worked as a chemist at the Oliver Iron Mining Co. in Hibbing, Minn., where his brother was a high school history teacher.
Ernest Volwiler was a teaching assistant at the University of Illinois, 1914-18, earning master and doctorate degrees there in 1916 and 1918, respectively, before starting a 42-year career with Abbott Laboratories .
From research chemist in 1918, he rose to Abbott's chief chemist in 1920, executive vice president in 1946, president and general manager in 1950, a member of the board of directors from 1930 to 1959 and chairman of the board in 1958-59. After retirement, he remained with the company as a consultant and president of the Abbott Foundation.
In 1936, Volwiler and Donalee L. Tabern discovered Pentothal while seeking a substance that could be injected directly into the blood stream to produce unconsciousness. For three years, explains the National Inventors Hall of Fame, the two Ohio natives "screened over 200 compounds, eventually arriving at a sulfur-bearing analogue of Nembutal. Induction was smooth, pleasant, free of muscle twitching and notably lacking in delirium or frightening psychic effects. It could be used for minor procedures requiring anesthesia or for more prolonged procedures, being administered before ether." (Tabern was a native of Portage County, Ohio, and a 1917 graduate of Bowling Green High School before attending the University of Michigan.)
In 1951, Northwestern University, as part of its centennial, honored 100 men and women for distinguished service. Volwiler was one of the honorees selected from the six states that made up the Old Northwest Territory (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota).
In 1955, he was awarded the Industrial Research Institute Medal for "eminent leadership in industrial research, especially in the fields of antibiotics and radioactive pharmaceuticals . . . and for the breadth of vision and understanding that have been distinctive features of his entire career."
In 1958, Volwiler, who was responsible for several patented drugs, was appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to a six-year term on the National Science Board, the 24-member governing board of the National Science Foundation.
Volwiler didn't forget the start he had received at Miami. In appreciation, in 1983 he donated $250,000 to create a research professorship in chemistry and in 1989 contributed $450,000 to endow a chair in the chemistry department. He also established a lecture series and a chair in natural sciences and mathematics at Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, Ill., where he had been a trustee.
The Butler County native died Oct. 3, 1992, in his 99th year.