Journal-News, Wednesday, July 6, 2005
Hamilton-made container protected UN Charter in 1945
By Jim Blount
A Hamilton product had a small, but important role in the establishment of the United Nations 60 years ago. It was a Treasurgard chest manufactured by the Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe Co. in its plant at 1550 Grand Blvd. in the final months of World War II.
In February 1945, San Francisco was selected as the site for the United Nations Conference to create a forum for resolving international disputes. Representatives from 50 nations that had declared war on Germany, Italy and Japan participated in the conference. President Harry Truman helped open the meeting April 25, 1945, less than two weeks after the April 12 death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a strong promoter of the world organization.
Germany surrendered May 8, but Japan was still fighting during the two months of deliberations that led to the UN Charter. The charter was signed June 16, 1945, in San Francisco's War Memorial Opera House by 46 nations, and later by other countries.
The UN started operations Oct. 24, 1945, but many details had to completed before that date, including the Japanese surrender Aug. 15. Another was transporting the original UN charter from San Francisco to Washington, D. C., for Senate scrutiny and approval.
"Not many Hamilton folks know it, but Hamilton did have a part to play (indirectly) in making sure that the completed United Nations Charter got all the way from San Francisco to Washington, D. C., so it could be presented to the Senate by President Truman," the Journal-News reported in July 1945.
"The story goes like this," the newspaper said. "When time came for the charter to be sent eastward by airplane, it was necessary to find some kind of container so the charter would be safe, no matter what happened. And the container had to be fireproof.
"So officials selected a Hamilton-made Treasurgard chest made by the Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe Co. The charter was put inside and a big label on the outside of the chest bore these words. 'The Department of State, Washington, D. C. Finder -- Do not open! Notify the Department of State, Washington, D. C.' "
For the Hamilton plant and its employees, the UN assignment represented just one of many contributions to the Allied victory in World War II. Its products included mortar shells and gun mounts for the U. S. Navy anti-aircraft guns.
Herring-Hall-Marvin was also involved a variety of smaller projects, including a highly secret one related to the production of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan cities in August 1945. Workers at the plant were not aware of their role in atomic work until almost 40 years later.
According to an explanation by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, "during the 1940s this company machined uranium slugs under subcontract with a prime Department of Energy contractor. The uranium slugs were machined from uranium billets." Ohio EPA said "the radiological cleanup was initiated in December 1994 and completed in February 1995," at a cost of about $1 million.
Sept. 1, 1896, groundbreaking for the original Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe Co. shop on Grand Blvd. between the canal (later Erie Hwy.) and the Pennsylvania Railroad featured a 100-gun salute. The company had been persuaded to move to Hamilton by the Hamilton Improvement Syndicate, headed by Lazard Kahn, Oakey V. Parrish and Moses Mosler.
The firm was a consolidation of Hall's Safe & Lock Co., Cincinnati; Marvin Safe Co., New York City; and Farrel & Co. and Meyers & Smith, Philadelphia.
In his 1901 book, A Concise History of Hamilton, Stephen D. Cone said the Hamilton plant "has a floor space of 100,000 square feet in the main factory building, exclusive of the boiler and engine room. The main building is 300 by 352 feet in dimensions, fronting on Grand Boulevard."
H-H-M was purchased by Diebold Inc., based in Canton, Ohio, in September 1959. The sale was challenged as a violation of anti-trust laws by the U. S. Department of Justice, but a federal court cleared the sale in March 1961. In October 1990, Diebold announced it would phase out operation of the 200,000 square foot plant in January 1991.
The combination of Mosler -- a competitor located across Grand Blvd. -- and Herring-Hall-Marvin earned Hamilton recognition as the "Safe Capital of the World" for half a century. The two companies were responsible for about 50 percent of the world's safe and vault production.
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Journal-News Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Rural Free Delivery came to Butler County in 1896
(Highway improvements have always been a priority in Butler County. This is the first in a series on road developments in the area between the 1890s and the 1950s.)
By Jim Blount
Butler County farmers were among the first to benefit from a new federal service in 1896. That's when the U. S. Post Office Department introduced RFD -- Rural Free Delivery -- on a limited basis. The first experimental rural routes began in West Virginia from post offices in Charlestown, Halltown and Uvilla. RFD started Oct. 15, 1896, from Collinsville in Butler County under the direction of John E. Lohman, Hamilton postmaster.
RFD was the second major postal improvement in the county in less than 10 years. Door-to-door mail delivery in Hamilton and Middletown had been launched July 1, 1887, the same year first class postage doubled from one to two cents. Until then, city residents had to collect their mail at the local post office.
Although Rural Free Delivery obviously was vital to speeding business and social communications for farmers and their families, it wasn't an easy sell.
Congress had been reluctant to authorize RFD because of its anticipated costs. Some congressmen claimed it could bankrupt the government because rural delivery would require adding thousands of postal employees. Critics also feared the system would necessitate federal spending for new and improved roads to make it work.
Extending delivery into the U. S. countryside was a challenge. Farmers made up about half the U. S. population in the 1890s.
Supporters emphasized the isolation and hardships imposed on country residents by the absence of direct mail delivery six days a week. Radio and television were decades away. In the 1890s, farmers seeking weather and market information had to rely on newspapers and other printed sources.
Before RFD, rural customers had to go to the nearest post office to pick up their mail and newspapers. The nearest PO, in many cases, was several miles away over poor roads.
For farmers, a trip to the village post office also meant sacrificing valuable time away from crops, animals and other chores necessary to maintain the family business. Depending on distance and demands on their time, it could be days or weeks between PO visits. When rain or snow complicated travel on unpaved roads, the intervals could be longer.
RFD advocates -- in addition to citing potential financial benefits to farmers and refinements in rural lifestyle -- believed they had a legal precedent in the U. S. Constitution, written in 1787 and ratified a year later. Clause seven of section eight says Congress shall have the power "to establish post offices and post roads." Creating RFD routes seemed a logical exercise of that power.
The most important supporter of RFD was John Wanamaker, the Philadelphia businessman who was appointed to the cabinet post of postmaster general in 1889 by President Benjamin Harrison, an 1852 Miami University graduate.
Wanamaker headed the post office department until 1893. Funds were appropriated to initiate a small-scale rural free delivery system a month before his departure, but it took three years to get the experimental routes started.
Some areas were denied service on proposed RFD routes then and later because of deplorable road conditions and unsafe bridges -- factors that pressured some townships and counties to begin improvements years before the appearance of the first gasoline-powered motor vehicle in their areas.
"Early rural letter carriers made their rounds on horseback, in buggies, and during winter months, in sleds," reports the National Postal Museum. "Unlike their city counterparts, rural carriers were, and still are, responsible for purchasing their own vehicles. Early carriers," the NPM says, "were also responsible for supplying, feeding and stabling their horses."
By 1902, a Collinsville RFD carrier in Butler County was serving 67 rural boxes on a 24-mile circuit. A year later, about 11,650 rural routes covered about a third of the nation. In 1906, the RFD system totaled more than 700,000 miles, and in 1915 it topped a million miles.
A future column will cover details on the expansion of RFD in Butler County.
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Journal-News Wednesday, July 20, 2005
RFD routes extended throughout county in 1905
(Highway improvements have always been a priority in Butler County. This is the second in a series on road developments in the area between the 1890s and the 1950s.)
By Jim Blount
Rural Free Delivery -- introduced on an experimental basis in Butler County in October 1896 -- expanded to new areas in 1900, bringing improved mail service to 1,385 residents east of Hamilton. Five years later, postal leaders reported the convenience of six days a week service would cover the entire county.
"Farmers and residents in the rural districts appreciate greatly the convenience of receiving and depositing their mail at their homes without taking a long trip to town," commented the Hamilton Democrat in announcing the start of two routes May 14, 1900. Before RFD, country residents were responsible for collecting their mail from nearby city and village post offices.
Rural delivery began in the county Oct. 15, 1896, with service from Collinsville under the direction of John E. Lohman, Hamilton postmaster. The 1900 additions were the first routes to operate from the Hamilton post office.
There were 725 residents on route No. 1 that originated on Middletown Pike north of the Butler County Fairgrounds. C. D. Knox's horse and wagon covered slightly more than 23 miles a day, serving northeastern Fairfield Twp. and the western part of Liberty Twp. His route included Rockdale, Kyle's Station and LeSourdsville with Cincinnati-Dayton Road its eastern limit.
Route No. 2, operated by G. W. Gilmore, delivered to 660 people on a 21-mile circuit through southern Liberty Twp. and northern Union Twp. (now West Chester Twp.). It started east on Princeton Pike and returned to Hamilton via Tylersville Road (then known as Deerfield Pike).
Knox and Gilmore were expected to leave the Hamilton post office at 8 a.m. and return by 2 p.m., despite driving over unpaved roads.
Within a year, three more RFD routes were operating from the Hamilton PO -- No. 3 through Fairfield Twp., south of Hamilton; No. 4 through western Fairfield Twp. and eastern Ross Twp., including Symmes Corner and Ross; and No. 5 to Darrtown and McGonigle west of Hamilton.
In September 1905, federal postal officials notified Hamilton Postmaster O. V. Parrish that "efforts will be made to deliver mail daily to every farmer in Butler County, whose home is at all accessible." Parrish had initiated a petition -- "signed by many other postmasters of the county" -- requesting universal service for the county. In Washington, Congressman Robert M. Nevin had taken the plea to the post office department.
In announcing the service extension, the Republican News said "there are at present 25 rural mail routes in this county." That number included seven from the Hamilton post office, three from Oxford; two each from Middletown, Heno (West Middletown), College Corner and Somerville; and one each from Collinsville, Seven Mile, Trenton, Kyles Station, West Chester, Okeana and New London (Shandon).
"It is likely that about 10 new routes will be required to complete the service," explained the Republican News. The 1905 announcement also said RFD customers would be assigned numbers and mail would be delivered only to approved mail boxes.
"Rural no longer meant isolated," says a postal history web site. "Rural Free Delivery brought the world to the American countryside. Wagons and sleds bearing the words 'U. S. Mail' on their sides were welcome visitors to lonely rural farms. Finally, farmers could get timely livestock quotations and produce price information, which allowed them to sell their stock and goods at the best time. Weather forecasts were delivered directly to farmers, along with newspapers, magazines and mail-order catalogs from Sears and Montgomery Ward."
"In 1904, the nation had 2,151,000 miles of roadways, but only 151,664 miles had been improved with gravel, shell, oil, or some other substance," reports another source. "The remaining two million miles were dirt roads that were rough, rutted, and often impassable."
Eventually, RFD helped produce more than expanded mail delivery. Postmasters could refuse rural service on dangerous and poorly-maintained roads. When denied RFD service, farmers and agriculture groups joined bicyclists and later motorists in the good roads campaigns that lobbied state, county and township officials to improve local roads and bridges.
Future columns will report on other steps in developing user-friendly roads and highways.
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Journal-News Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Short-lived, no-name railroad part of river project
By Jim Blount
There are no visible remains of a short line railroad that had a brief existence in Hamilton in the early 1920s. The nameless railroad also had an unusual right of way -- in the bed of the Great Miami River, north of the High-Main Street Bridge. The special purpose system was a byproduct of the March 25, 1913, flood that devastated Hamilton.
The temporary river bottom rail line was part of the flood protection completed by the Miami Conservancy District between 1918 and 1923. In 1914, leaders in counties along the Great Miami River and its tributaries formed the Miami Conservancy District to alter the river and build a flood-prevention system. The district included Butler, Montgomery, Miami, Shelby, Clarke, Greene, Preble, Warren and Hamilton counties.
The district formally organized June 28, 1915 -- two years and three months after the 1913 flood had struck communities along the river. The MCD’s mission was to control the Great Miami and its tributaries, including the Stillwater and Mad rivers north of Dayton. The program included retarding basins, dams, levees and channel improvements.
Work began March 1, 1918, during World War I on five dams (Englewood, Taylorsville, Lockington, Huffman and Germantown), all north of Butler County. The last dam was completed Dec. 31, 1921.
In Butler County, the plan included widening and reshaping the river through Hamilton and building levees in Hamilton and Middletown.
In October 1921, as work continued in Hamilton, earth and rock from the bed of the river were used to create an elevated track bed on the east side of the riverbed from the High-Main Bridge to north of the Black Street Bridge. There, tracks in the river climbed northeast and connected to the nearby mainline right of way shared then by the Baltimore & Ohio and Pennsylvania railroads.
Track, cars and locomotives used in the river railroad were of standard gauge (four feet, 8 ½ inches between the inside edges of rails), enabling a seamless connection with the B&O⁄PRR. Because of the match, "it will not be necessary to handle the same dirt more than one time," a newspaper noted.
The small, 40-ton locomotives and 12-yard dump cars were typical of those used on short lines for mining, agriculture, industry and the construction of dams, tunnels and roads into the 1940s.
The slow, but powerful 0-4-0T locomotives -- sometimes called tank engines, saddle tanks, dinkies and contractors engines -- were common said John (Jack) White of Oxford, formerly senior historian at the Smithsonian Institution and a railroad expert. A few were oil burners, but most used coal carried in a small bunker at the rear of the engine, explains White of Oxford.
With the tracks in place, dredging and widening the river began in earnest. Dump cars were loaded with sand and gravel from the river bottom. The powerful locomotives pulled the dump cars out of the river to the mainline track. Although not explicit, accounts indicate the dirt was hauled to other MCD sites where it was used to advantage.
In making Hamilton channel improvements, 2.26 million cubic yards of earth were excavated. Embankments included 407,782 cubic yards of earth, 31,615 cubic yards of concrete and 885.64 tons of steel.
Before the flood, the narrowest point in the river in Hamilton was 390 feet, near the High-Main Street Bridge. After the MCD work, it was a minimum of 540 feet wide, an expansion of at least 150 feet, or about 38 percent.
Most MCD construction was finished by the start of 1922, but some details weren’t completed until April 17, 1923. By then, the MCD had spent more than $192,000 in the Middletown area and in excess of $2.6 million in Hamilton to lessen flood risks.
The MCD’s original flood-protection works along 65 miles of the river were completed without state or federal money. The $33 million in bonds, retired in 1949, were paid off by residents of the counties that formed the district. The system is financed by a tax on real estate. In 1972, the American Society of Civil Engineers designated the Miami Conservancy District a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.