Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2005
Hamilton engines powered Ford's Highland Park plant
By Jim Blount
"Probably no factory changed life in 20th century America as much as the Highland Park Ford Plant," asserts a National Park Service web site, and a Hamilton industry had a part in that national transformation. "Power to turn the machines of the plant," a local newspaper said in 1913, "will be furnished by the largest gas engine power plant in the world," built by the Hooven, Owen, Rentschler Co.
It was at the Michigan plant, reports the NPS, "that Henry Ford and his engineers developed many of the crucial principles of modern mass production. The most notable of these was the continuously moving assembly line; its introduction in late 1913 reduced the assembly time of a Model T from 728 to 93 minutes. By 1920 the plant turned out a car every minute, and one out of every two automobiles in the world was a Model T."
The Highland Park plant -- about four and a half miles from downtown Detroit -- was built between 1909 and 1920 and is regarded as "the birthplace of the moving assembly line." It was Ford's major plant until 1927, when work shifted to the River Rouge plant. Near the end of World War II, about 45,000 employees were engaged in defense work at Highland Park.
The Republican-News told Hamilton readers in 1913 that the Hooven, Owens, Rentschler machinery "will embody some features that are practically untried" and "will come as near to solving the problem of perpetual motion as mechanical science will permit in that every possible bit of energy will be put to use. A combination by which the heat from the gas engines will furnish steam to operate other machinery is the device that is to be used in the new power plant."
Later, citing an industrial publication, the Republican-News offered this explanation of the $1 million HOR project: "The power, to be turned into electricity and thus distributed through the great automobile factory covering many acres, will be produced by the four big 6,000-horsepower engines."
"Each engine will have four cylinders in tandem on each side, one pair of cylinders being operated by producer gas and the other by steam. The steam will be generated from water heated in the water jacket of the gas engine, further heated by exhaust gases and by waste heat from the producer gas plant. The water or steam will be used as the feed water for the boiler which supplies the steam engine cylinders."
"This remarkable power plant, by utilizing the energy usually lost in waste heat, is expected to give the Ford factory the cheapest power in the world," the report said.
A company history says "Henry Ford (1863-1947) insisted that the company's future lay in the production of affordable cars for a mass market." That car was the Model T, launched in 1908, five years after he had founded the Ford Motor Co. With a $950 price tag, the Model T fulfilled Ford's promise to "build a car for the great multitude."
Ford's Model T output in 1914 was 308,162, or 56 percent of all U. S. auto production. By 1919, it had produced three million, and turned out a million cars annually from 1922 through 1925. Two years later, when it was discontinued, Model T production totaled 15.485 million.
In the Henry Ford Museum inventory, the Hamilton-built engines are described as "very large gas⁄steam engine driving generator;" 5,888 horsepower, drives 4,000 kilowatt DC generator; weighs 750 tons; 82 feet long x 46 feet wide; "one of nine similar engines that generated power for the Highland Park Ford plant, 1915. Made by Hooven, Owens, Rentschler Co., Hamilton, Ohio. One cylinder gas driven for efficiency, one cylinder steam driven for regulation and reliability. Beautiful condition, huge."
One of the HOR generators is displayed at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. A sign says: "These engines represented for Mr. Ford the pinnacle of power, efficiency and beauty."
HOR traced its corporate roots to the 1840s. Over the decades, its leadership had included Clark Lane, Job E. Owens, George A. Rentschler, Frederick B. Rentschler, Walter A. Rentschler, Henry C. Sohn, J. C. Hooven, George H. Helvey, James E. Campbell, Alexander Gordon, James K. Cullen, R. C. McKinney, Sidney D. Waldon and others in Hamilton's industrial who's who of the 1845-1960 era.
The Ford engines were built in shops along North Third and North Fourth streets. HOR later was part of the General Machinery Corp. which, through mergers, became Lima-Hamilton Corp. and finally Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton Corp. BLH moved its Hamilton operations to Eddystone, Pa., in 1959-60.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2005
Highway associations first to encourage auto travel
(Highway improvements have always been a priority in Butler County. This is the third in a series on road developments in the area between the 1890s and the 1950s.)
By Jim Blount
In the early 1900s, roads were built and maintained within each county with little or no coordination with adjoining counties. That system worked then because people weren't interested in long-distance auto travel over unpaved roads between major cities. Instead, the emphasis was on improving farm-to-market roads that benefited both rural and urban economies.
In the 1910-25 period, only a brave motorist risked the roads for a long trip. Serious tourists, seeking comfort, took advantage of the extensive passenger train schedules on the steam railroads serving Butler County. For shorter trips, especially within Ohio, there was the electric-powered interurban system.
When federal and state governments ignored accommodating and encouraging long-distance auto travel, private interests formed associations to promote tourism.
The road or trail associations -- including dues-paying tourism groups, chambers of commerce, hotels and related businesses -- produced route maps, guidebooks and newsletters to nurture travel and trade along a series of highways given a common name. Some of the first highway markers were erected by the associations.
The associations didn’t build or maintain roads. Instead, they lobbied local and state governments and sought private contributions for such purposes.
Hamilton and Middletown were on the original Dixie Highway, a network of roads stretching from the top of Michigan to the bottom of Florida. The highly-promoted Dixie Highway Association, uniting 10 states, was formed in 1915.
Another named road passing through the county was the Wayne Highway connecting Cincinnati and Jackson, Mich. Ohio cities along the route, from north to south, included Bryan, Van Wert, Celina, Greenville, Eaton, Hamilton and Cincinnati. This route -- later U. S. 127 in western Ohio -- honored Gen. Anthony Wayne, who had defeated Indians in the region in the 1790s.
Cincinnati was on or at the end of at least seven other named systems with the Atlantic Pacific Highway the longest. It ran between New York City and Los Angeles. Intermediate points were Trenton, N. J.; Philadelphia; Baltimore; Washington, D. C.; Staunton, Va.; Charleston and Huntington, W. Va.; Portsmouth, Ohio; French Lick, Ind.; Mount Vernon, Ill.; St Louis; Wichita; Phoenix; and Bythe and San Bernardino, Calif.
Three C Highway, or 3 C Highway, acquired its name from the three major Ohio cities it served, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. Other cities, from the north, included Wooster, Mount Vernon, Washington Courthouse and Wilmington. The Cincinnati-Lookout Mountain Air Line extended south through Covington, Georgetown, Lexington, Nicholasville, Stanford and Somerset in Kentucky; and Harriman and Dayton, Tenn., before ending in Chattanooga. U.S. 25 and U.S. 27 later followed a similar route.
The Cincinnati-Parkersburg Way connected the Ohio and West Virginia cities in its name.
The Wonderland Way linked Cincinnati and Mount Vernon, Ill. Indiana cities, from east to west, included Aurora, Vevay, Madison, Jeffersonville, New Albany, Corydon, Gentryville, Rockport and Evansville.
The Queen City also was on the Terre Haute-Columbus-Cincinnati Trail through Lawrenceburg, Greensburg, Columbus and Bloomington (later Indiana 46) and the French Lick Route from Cincinnati through Aurora, North Vernon, Seymour, Bedford, Paoli, French Lick, Jasper, Boonville and Evansville.
"By the mid 1920s, trail associations had named over 250 routes," according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). "In the early days of the automobile era, the named trail associations provided a valuable service. But as the number of named trails increased, and as the number of automobiles increased, so did the problems caused by the routes."
"Rivalries among trail boosters left motorists uncertain of which route to take," notes the FHWA history. Some named trails "were routed through dues paying cities rather than the shortest, best route for motorists." As traffic increased, drivers needed more than names or numbers on roads. Uniform information and warning signs were required, including stop signs and notices of railroad crossings, curves and hills.
The increase in motor vehicles compounded the problem. The FHWA reports 500,000 registrations in 1910. The total jumped to about 10 million in 1920 and to more than 26 million six years later.
The U. S. Bureau of Public Roads decided in 1925 that it would be simpler to number roads. The government "opted for efficiency before imagination, bureaucracy before romance," said Pete Davies in his 2001 book, American Road. "The intriguing named highways began to disappear in the later 1920s as route numbers appeared along roads and on maps."
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Journal-News Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2005
99-year land leases expensive income for Miami
By Jim Blount
When John Cleves Symmes failed to provide land or money for a college within his Miami Purchase, the U. S. Congress fulfilled his obligation by designating 23,321 acres, or 36.4 square miles, in the wilderness of western Butler County for "an academy, other public schools and seminaries of learning." Part of that September 1803 land grant would become the site of Miami University. The remainder was intended as a way to finance the university.
Symmes -- a New Jersey officer during the American Revolution and a member of the Continental Congress (1785-87) -- applied to buy a million acres in the Northwest Territory in 1787. Symmes and associates, Elias Boudinot and Jonathan Dayton, received approval a year later.
The tract was north of the Ohio River between the Little Miami River on the east and the Great Miami on the west, including about half of present Butler County. As revised, the northern limit of the purchase was a line extending east and west from Trenton. It was known as both the Miami Purchase or the Symmes Purchase.
After several changes, Congress authorized a patent, and President George Washington issued the deed Sept. 30, 1794, for 311,682 acres, including a requirement that Symmes reserve "one whole township for a university."
Symmes (1742-1814) bought the land to profit from its resale. In the process -- either intentionally or because of negligence -- he sold more land than he had. A victim of the debacle was the college land. That led Congress to meet the commitment in 1803. Six years later, the Ohio General Assembly chartered Miami University, but collegiate instruction didn't begin until the 1820s.
Miami didn't receive state funding until after the Civil War. Instead, the university obtained money from the long-term leasing of the 23,321 college acres not developed by the institution. The land was west of the Great Miami River, outside the Symmes Purchase.
Instead of selling the excess land, MU trustees were authorized to issue 99-year perpetually renewable leases. Instead of paying a purchase price, lessees were to make an annual payment of 6 percent of the auction value.
The meager rent income was cited as one reason the university closed for 12 years, 1873-1885.
According to a 1959 report, the lessee of a large farm paid $50 a year, but occupants of standard lots -- the majority -- owed Miami only $1 a year, due by March 1 annually. The article said "the $7,500 collected today barely meets the cost of collection."
The League of College Land Taxpayers -- formed in 1930, early in the Depression, by residents of Oxford and Milford townships -- campaigned to exempt the lessees from state, county and school property taxes. The LCLT argued that those taxes should be paid by the owner, Miami, not the lease holders.
Miami asked state legislators to end the unproductive lease system in January 1959. According to a news report, Miami sought "a bill to permit Oxford Twp. landholders to acquire title in fee simple and avoid future land rent payments by paying off in a flat amount, determined by capitalizing present rent rates to assure comparable income." John D. Millett, Miami president in 1959, suggested permissive legislative, giving landholders the choice of continuing the lease payments or buy the property.
Twenty years later, Miami trustees renewed their request, but some lessees wanted the rents continued, according to the Oxford Press. The newspaper said in 1979 that "if fee simple title is returned to the property owner [Miami], certain state taxes from which these rented land, under 99-year lease from the state university are now exempt, may be invoked and would assess the property owner far more than the current land rent."
In December 1986, MU trustees tried a new approach. The board raised minimum annual rent from $1 to $10, effective March 1, 1987. It was meant to encourage landholders to purchase property and the university offered assistance to those wanting to buy their land. "When I was president, we found we were spending $15,000 to collect $7,500 in taxes, said Dr. Phillip R. Shriver, who became Miami's president in 1965 and served 16 years.
In 1995 about 600 residents still paid the rent. Ten years later, "as of the April 2005 billing," Miami reports, "we had 462 records for owners of the 1,892 parcels of property subject to land rent."
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2005
Inter-city auto travel challenge to motorists in 1919
(Highway improvements have always been a priority in Butler County. This is the fourth in a series on road developments in the area between the 1890s and the 1950s.)
By Jim Blount
"America has been penny-wise and pound-foolish in the development of her highway system. While she has amazed the world at her seething progress in the automobile industry, she has not kept pace in the matter of good road building," said a report in the Hamilton Journal on Memorial Day weekend in 1919.
The writer said there are "over 17 times the number of cars today than there were in 1910 while there are only two times the amount of improved roads."
The critic failed to mention the absence of a uniform system of marking roads between cities, or the uncertainty that standard warning signs would be posted in advance of dangerous curves, hills, railroad tracks or other road risks.
Another article a few day earlier noted the revival of the Indianapolis 500 after the race had been discontinued during World War I (1917-18). It predicted that "improvements on motors brought out by the war will result in an increased showing of speed" at Indianapolis and "will undoubtedly cause all previous records to be shattered."
That article, prepared by the B. F. Goodrich Rubber Co., included directions for driving from Hamilton to Indianapolis. They required drivers to keep one eye on their odometer and the other on the countryside. The guide was typical of the detailed instructions needed for such a trip in the years before roads were marked with federal and state numbers to ease inter-city driving.
The directions included the mileage to important landmarks, villages and railroad crossings. Here's a portion of the 1919 driving instructions with explanations by this writer within brackets [ ]:
"0.0 Hamilton -- from courthouse go straight, cross long bridge over Big Miami River.
"0.2 -- turn right with trolley on B Street." [At the corner of Main and B streets, the Hamilton-Dayton interurban line ran north along North B Street.]
"1.2 -- cross railroad" [the Belt Line at Champion Papers]. "3.6 -- left fork, leaving trolley and follow poles. 4.9 -- cross railroad.
"6.5 -- Seven Mile -- straight across RR" [railroad] "and follow same. 10.5 -- Collinsville. 11.2 -- bear right across RR, then left, and follow poles.
"14.4 -- Somerville -- straight. 18.9 -- cross railroad, then turn right.
"19.3 -- Camden -- straight. 23.9 and 26.3 -- cross railroad.
"27.9 -- Eaton -- turn left on Main Street, meeting trolley. Cross iron bridge, then bear right with trolley and follow same.
"28.6 -- cross railroad. 30.4 -- New Hope -- straight with trolley.
"38.2 -- Westville -- straight with trolley. 39.8 -- cross railroad.
"43.8 -- Richmond -- straight on Main Street. 44.4 -- cross long viaduct. 44.8 -- turn left and turn right at car barns. 46.6 -- through crossroads. 53.8 -- through covered bridge. 54.1 -- under railroad. 56.3 -- through covered bridge."
That's about half the directions. The guide ended at 109.9 miles at the 284-foot State Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Monument Circle in Indianapolis. The speedway is a few miles west of the circle.
Local residents who followed the directions to the track saw Howard Wilcox win the race and the $20,000 purse. He averaged 87.12 miles an hour in a Peugeot. Two drivers and a mechanic were killed during the 500-mile competition.
The Hamilton-Indianapolis directions were representative of the driving guides published between 1910 and 1925 by privately-supported road and trail associations. The associations were formed by dues-paying tourism promoters, chambers of commerce, hotels and related businesses. They also produced and distributed road maps and newsletters to promote travel and trade along highways with a common name.
The purpose of the associations was to generate business for their members. They weren't obligated to provide travelers with information on the shortest, most scenic or safest roads.
Drivers who dared to venture outside cities had to rely on the services of the road associations until federal and state governments devised a system of numbered highways in the mid 1920s.
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Journal-News Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005
35th OVI finally tested at Chickamauga
By Jim Blount
In mid-September 1863, surviving members of the well-traveled 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment approached two years of duty in the Union Army. The regiment -- originally 912 men, mostly from Butler County -- had marched extensively, but had seen little combat.
After leaving Hamilton Sept. 26, 1861, the regiment had campaigned through Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. It was about to add Georgia to its itinerary. In 24 months of Civil War service, the 35th OVI had missed the battles of Mill Spring, Shiloh, Perryville and Stones River because it arrived too late for the fight, or was assigned to supporting roles behind the lines.
In September 1863 -- with only 391 men remaining from more than 900 -- there was a tragic change as the 35th maneuvered near Chattanooga. It had crossed the Tennessee River, ascended mountain passes west of Chattanooga, and then descended into Georgia.
At about 8 o'clock Saturday, Sept. 19, Colonel Henry V. Boynton allowed his regiment to stop for a 20-minute breakfast. "We were strung along the road and had hardly got the coffee served when a bugle call commanded us all to fall in," recalled Jacob Jackson, a drummer boy in the 35th. "Many of the boys responded with a tin cup in one hand and a musket in the other."
"Knapsacks were abandoned," Jackson said. "We didn't know what the orders were, but when a cannon ball from a six-pounder went whizzing over us, we knew there was something going on. The next thing we were formed in line of battle and the music began," Jackson said in describing the start of the two-day Battle of Chickamauga.
In about four hours of fighting, Boynton's weary 35th lost nine men killed, 97 wounded and four missing -- more than 28 percent of his 391.
The 35th resumed fighting at 11 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 20, 1863. At one point that day, the regiment was part of a battlefield oddity, "the uncommon spectacle of two armies charging each other at the same instant," observed Whitelaw Reid, the historian of Ohio's Civil War effort.
At 2:30 p.m., with the Union army situation worsening, the 35th and its brigade reported to Major-Gen. George H. Thomas on a crest known as Snodgrass or Horseshoe Ridge. There the Butler Boys -- the regiment's appropriate nickname -- learned that the center and right of the Union lines had crumbled under of a combination of Confederate strength and Union mistakes.
The remaining Union forces gathered on the ridge under Thomas, the only high-ranking officer who had not retreated into Chattanooga with the bulk of the army.
The defenders repulsed a Confederate attack at 3 p.m. as the 35th exhausted its supply of ammunition. About 95,000 rounds of ammunition arrived before the next assault. That charge came at 4:30 p.m. After an hour of combat, the 35th again had no cartridges.
A search party under Major Joseph L. Budd, Captains Samuel L'Hommedieu and Lewis F. Daugherty and Lt. James H. Bone checked the bodies of the dead and wounded to find more ammunition. Meanwhile, some other rear guard units withdrew toward Chattanooga.
The 35th remained on the field until between 7 and 8 p.m., claiming to be the last regiment to leave the battlefield. It had helped establish a new nickname for Gen. Thomas -- "the Rock of Chickamauga."
It was a deadly two days for the regiment. When the fighting ended, almost half (49.87%) of the 391 men in the 35th were dead, dying, wounded or captured, a casualty rate much higher than the ratio for the entire Union army.
The 35th lost 43 killed, 124 wounded and 28 captured or missing. Several in the latter group died later in Confederate prison camps. Among the captured were two regimental surgeons -- Dr. Charles C. Wright and Dr. Abraham H. Landis -- who stayed on the battlefield to care for the wounded who couldn't be moved.
Even the enemy appreciated the courage and determination of the 35th and its comrades at Chickamauga. Major-General T. G. Hindman, a Confederate division commander, in his report on the desperate fight at Snodgrass Ridge, said he "had never seen federal troops fight as well."
Future columns will cover other details of the service of Butler County's 35th OVI and the Battle of Chickamauga.