Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2006
By Jim Blount
Hamilton officials received complaints about the free lunch available at most saloons in the city in 1910. It wasn't the quality of the food or health violations that raised concern. At issue was the popularity of the attraction. The free lunch "makes tramps out of many a good man," and "it is worse than gambling," charged a writer of an anonymous letter to Mayor Abe Rothwell.
It was one of two pleas shared with readers of a Hamilton newspaper, both asking the city to take action to end free food in liquor establishments. One was signed by "a suffering mother and wife," the other by a "Mrs. Smith."
The newspaper didn't comment on the authenticity of the two complaints. The letters reflected points emphasized by groups supporting passage of local, state and national prohibition laws before World War I. They could have been legitimate pleadings, or authored by prohibition advocates.
Hamilton was an industrial city of 35,279 people in the 1910 census. About 10,000 persons were employed by 140 local manufacturing companies. The city had more than 110 saloons that year -- a ratio of about 320 inhabitants, regardless of age, per drinking place.
In some bars the free lunch was simple fare, limited to cold cuts, bread and condiments. Others competed to be the biggest and the best in town, offering extensive spreads that included hot meats, cheese, soups, salad, vegetables and fresh fruit.
Some locations catered to the tastes of specific immigrant or ethnic groups. In Hamilton, that would have included German, Irish, Italian, Appalachian and African-American clients.
Some saloons required the purchase of an alcoholic drink before food could be selected. Others didn't monitor patrons, assuming they would eventually buy one or more drinks. In some places, the spread wasn't limited to lunch time. Elsewhere, snacks were gratis in the late afternoons and evenings.
The complaints published in 1910 linked the free lunch to the neglect of family responsibilities.
"My heart is broke begging my husband and sons to go to work and bring home some money, so we can eat. My husband don't work and bring home some money so we can eat," said one of the published letters. "My husband don't work because he can go in saloons and get all he wants to eat for nothing."
"They come home and sleep and go out in morning and get all they want to eat all day and they don't think of the little ones that are suffering at home for a crust of bread," the writer continued. "No man would stand for a wife to go around and do that. Maybe if there was no free lunch in town the men would get hungry and look for work."
The second letter lamented that "my husband won't work because he can go up town and get all he wants to eat and we must go hungry at home. It is a shame the big lunches they serve, that is why so many poor children and mothers and wives have to work to support big able men. It is the free lunch."1 The free lunch began to disappear in the 1910-1915 period with enactment of health regulations that required proper heating or refrigeration of food offered by businesses. The practice ended in May 1919 with the start of prohibition in Ohio. Only a few saloons tried to revive the attraction when Prohibition ended in 1933.
A Chicago Historical Society (CHS) web site said saloons, especially in the pre-Prohibition era, offered more than free food for their male patrons. "Politics was also a natural avocation for saloonkeepers because of the adaptable social nature of their business," explains the CHS web site.
"In neighborhoods where literacy was low, the bar provided the principal place for the exchange of information about employment, housing, and the many tragedies that beset the city's poor; a savvy politician could turn his access to resources into votes.
"In slum districts," the CHS article says, the saloonkeepers "provided a safe for valuables, a telephone for emergencies, a newspaper for the literate, a bowl on the bar for charity collections.
"In factory districts, saloons became labor exchanges and union halls, as well as providing a place to cash paychecks. On busy streets and downtown, the saloon provided a restroom," the article noted.
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Journal-News Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2006
By Jim Blount
There are plenty of stories about former Civil War enemies – one who wore blue and the other in gray – becoming friends and colleagues after the 1861-1865 conflict. A strange tale, set in Butler County, involved a student and a professor who had been opponents about a year earlier.
At Miami University in Oxford – late in the war – the young student, who had been a Confederate soldier, part of a feared southern army that had threatened Butler County, sat in a class taught by a man who had been a distinguished lieutenant colonel in the Union army.
Also on the Oxford campus at that time were students who had opposed the young Confederate, who had been a member of a force that invaded Indiana and Ohio in July 1863.
The secret of the young Confederate was revealed in 1930 when a classmate explained the strange situation in a letter to Dr. Alfred H. Upham, then president of Miami University.
The letter was written by Leland Jordan, then a resident of Los Angeles, Calif., but formerly a lawyer and banker in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Jordan had been a Miami student in 1863 and 1864 during the Civil War.
The former Confederate he identified was William M. Mayes, listed as a student in 1864 and 1865 from Lebanon, Ky., by the Miami University Alumni Catalogue, published in 1909.
The professor was Robert W. McFarland, a Miami teacher from 1856 through 1873, when financial problems forced the university to close at the end of the school year. McFarland returned to Miami when it reopened in 1885, helped re-establish the institution and was Miami's president from 1885 to 1888.
McFarland's Civil War service began in Oxford when the professor trained Miami students and young men from the village as home guards. The Oxford unit became the nucleus of Company K of the 86th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment in 1862 and McFarland became a captain in the regiment.
The 86th was reorganized in 1863 and McFarland was commissioned lieutenant colonel, the second in command, as the regiment rendered valuable service at Cumberland Gap, Tenn., until February 1864.
Jordan's letter in 1930 described Mayes as an uncaptured, unparoled rebel soldier, who had been in the ranks of the Morgan raiders in 1863.
That would have pitted McFarland and Mayes against each other in July 1863 when John Hunt Morgan's Confederate cavalry rode through Kentucky and Indiana into Ohio. The 86th OVI's first assignment was to join the chase of Morgan's raiders in eastern Ohio. Morgan's command rode between Cincinnati and Hamilton the dark evening of July 13-14, 1863.
Jordan, who related the story, said the raid "had just occurred when I left home to enter Miami. Shortly after I and my step brothers entered college, a new student appeared among the student body," Jordan recalled. "His name was Mayes.
"As we grew in friendship and intimacy he disclosed to us that he was one of Morgan's men, that he escaped capture and, after hardships and dangers, made his way back home.
"His father fixed him up in citizen's dress and brought him to Oxford to school," Jordan explained. "We strictly regarded and kept his secret."
Jordan said Miami students considered it "peculiar and a colorful picture" to see Mayes, the former Confederate, "sitting before a former federal colonel, McFarland, who was invalided, and who taught his classes in the uniform of the United States army."
"The ex-colonel could, and on occasion did talk of his war experiences boldly and freely," Jordan said. "The Confederate private kept quite mum as to his, which might have been much more thrilling."
There were several students on the Miami campus in 1864 who could have told Civil War stories – including some who had fought against Mayes. There were 26 graduates in the Class of 1864 and at least 16 of them had Civil War experience before graduation.
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Journal-News Wednesday, Nov.15, 2006
(This is the first in a five-part series on telephone service in Hamilton.)
By Jim Blount
"His reputation was larger in New York, Chicago and Washington than among his own townsmen," said a contemporary when James Waring See died in his Hamilton residence Jan. 31, 1920. He was "one of the best known mechanical engineers" and "had been summoned as an expert witness in over 300 cases involving patents in federal and other courts." A colleague said See's "knowledge of mechanical and industrial affairs brought him in touch with many of the largest manufacturing concerns, and a large number of eminent engineers who greatly admired his talent and appreciated his advice."
See -- who came to Hamilton at age 24 -- was born in New York City May 19, 1850. As a boy, he moved with his family to Arcadia, St. Louis and Springfield in Missouri.
Although only 11 or 12 years old, he was attached to Union forces during the Civil War, serving first as a hospital aid in Springfield and later as a messenger and telegraph operator. Near the end of the war he spent a year at Irving Institute in Tarrytown, N. Y.
After the war, See was a machinist in Springfield, worked in shops in St. Louis and Yankton, S. D., held a government job on an Indian reservation and operated a small machine shop in Omaha, Neb., before coming to Hamilton in 1874.
He quickly worked his way up from machinist to foreman at the Niles Tool Works. When not working, he studied law and engineering on his own. When a recession caused layoffs at Niles, See started his own business. "He never went back to Niles," a newspaper noted, "although for many years he was retained as a consultant by that company." In that role, See installed the first electric lighting system in Hamilton in the Niles factory.
In 1876 he opened an office as a patent attorney and mechanical and consulting engineer, first in the Opera House (southeast corner of High Street and Journal Square) and later in the Rentschler Building (southeast corner of Second and High streets) in downtown Hamilton.
In his dual occupation, See "was a factor in the development of many great basic inventions," including the airplane, the Hamilton Daily News reported.
"He was a counsel for the Wright brothers in the litigation arising from their invention of the aeroplane, and as expert witness, counsel or associate counsel, he was associated with many other cases of importance," the newspaper said.
See -- a prolific technical writer and an expert on the Corliss engine -- helped represent Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright in several legal battles, the most bitter with Glenn Curtiss, also an aviation pioneer.
After their successful flights Dec. 17, 1903 -- the longest 59 seconds -- the Wright brothers fought to protect their achievements. They had submitted their U. S. patent application in March 1903, but didn't receive federal approval until May 22, 1906.
The Dayton brothers shunned public demonstrations and seldom flew for the next two years while rival aviation inventors sought opportunities to display their engines and flying machines.
Curtiss -- who had been a bicycle and motorcycle racer -- formed a company to build airplanes. After failing to partner with the Wrights, he obtained the backing of Alexander Graham Bell. When Curtiss-built planes won international air races, the Wrights claimed their patent had been infringed. The Wrights eventually prevailed in court after both sides incurred large legal costs.
An obituary said "James W. See was never an aspirant for public office," but "ever had the welfare of the city at heart." His favorite Hamilton project was the Lane Public Library. His service included compiling a catalog of its books and developing a card system for library use.
An editorial writer in 1920 said "Hamilton has lost another of that group of exceedingly capable and earnest men who contributed so much to the industrial development of the community and to its widespread fame as a center of applied engineering knowledge."
See capitalized on his technical knowledge in the late 1870s to produce the first of a new device for Hamilton. That innovation -- a novelty then, but considered a necessity now -- will be covered in a future column.
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Journal-News Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2006
(This is the second in a five-part series on telephone service in Hamilton.)
By Jim Blount
Hamilton's first telephone system had only two customers, James W. See, who built it, and the office of the Niles Tool Works, his prime client. The connection extended only about six or seven blocks from See's office on High Street to the factory at 609 North Third Street. To the many Hamiltonians who knew him, it was no surprise that the innovation was the work of See, an engineer, technical writer and patent expert of international repute.
See, a New York City native, arrived in Hamilton at age 24 in 1874 to work for Niles. Two years later, he established an office as a patent attorney and mechanical and consulting engineer. His clients were a who's who of industrial America, including the Wright brothers.
"He applied himself to mechanical and engineering questions, and became in time one of the most eminent members of his profession," said the Hamilton Daily News. "As a patent attorney, his fame was more than national."
It was See's business to know what was transpiring in the technical world, and Alexander Graham Bell's telephone captured his attention. Bell received his patent March 7, 1876, three days before his successful demonstration of the instrument. Bell soon had numerous imitators and competitors, and the race to wire the nation was underway.
According to a 1936 newspaper report, See built a private system, probably between 1877 and 1879, described as "an acoustic telephone." The report said "copper wire was used, suspended from house tops and held by sticks and ropes. According to the best information obtainable, the time was just about the date when the invention of Professor Bell was announced."
"The receiving and sending was by the same instrument and talking was not very satisfactory," said the 1936 article. "Ordinary tin cans were used at each end and this wire was attached to a sheepskin drawn taut over the top of the can. Tapping on the sheepskin with a lead pencil was the method of notifying the party at either end of the phone that he was wanted."
"When the Bell invention was announced, Mr. See built receivers similar to those carried in the newspaper descriptions, using the sheepskins, however, for signaling. Later Mr. See built magnetic call boxes," the report recalled.
See's system wasn't unusual. In the late 1870s, most telephone service began as a connection between only two points with no access to other subscribers.
What is now Cincinnati Bell had started in 1873 as the City and Suburban Telegraph Co., providing telegraph service to businesses and residences.
"By mid 1877, when the telephone was first demonstrated in Cincinnati, the association was maintaining about 50 private telegraph lines between offices and plants or residences," according to a Cincinnati Bell web site. "Customers were equipped with a simple telegraph instrument and a code book, and young men who pedaled foot treadles served as operators and powered the call bells."
From telegraph to telephone service was a natural step, and in September 1878 the company became the City and Suburban Association. It had a contract with the Bell Telephone Co. of Boston as "the exclusive agent for Bell telephones within a 25-mile radius of Cincinnati."
About March 1, 1880, the Cincinnati telephone company completed a pole line into Hamilton. The first long distance call -- from a Hamilton source to a Cincinnati newspaper -- was reported March 13, 1880. Hamilton's first phone listing -- 25 customers, mostly businesses and government offices -- was published in April 1880 as part of a Cincinnati directory.
The early phones required batteries and had to be cranked to produce a ring. Because of cost and limited service, most families couldn't justify joining the network. Expansion in Hamilton was slow.
There were 91 phones in use March 1, 1884, in a city that had 12,122 inhabitants, according to the 1880 census. There were fewer than 150 subscribers by the end of 1886, four years before the 1890 enumeration reported 17,565 Hamilton residents, a 45 percent population increase during the decade. In a city of 23,914 in 1900, there were only 396 phones -- an average of 60.4 people per instrument.
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Journal-News Wednesday, Nov.29, 2006
(This is the third in a five-part series on telephone service in Hamilton.)
By Jim Blount
Cincinnati Bell launched telephone service in Hamilton in March 1880, but during the early 20th century another company provided competition and helped moderate local rates. The Hamilton Telephone Co. -- later known as the Hamilton Home Telephone Co. -- incorporated in 1898 when local residents and businesses were realizing that a phone was more than a novelty.
In June 1898, Hamilton Telephone Co. announced rates starting at $1.50 a month for phones in residences, $3 for businesses and $10 a year for an extension. Those prices seem low in comparison to 2005 rates, but, allowing for inflation, that $1.50 would translate to paying $33.23 today while the $10 extension phone would cost $221.56 annually.
Those 1898 rates were for local service only. If you wanted connections to other cities, you had to subscribe to Cincinnati Bell. Some businesses had both services.
The local company -- which initially operated from the second floor, above a drug store, at the southwest corner of N. Second and Market streets -- eventually extended service into Butler County.
As business improved, the company had moved by May 1906 to larger quarters across Second Street in the rear of the Frechtling Store (later Wilmurs and part of Elder-Beerman before demolition in 2005).
In 1906 -- when it reported 1,272 customers in Hamilton -- Cincinnati Bell moved from a small office at 238 High Street to a new building at the northeast corner of S. Second and Ludlow streets. In addition to new and improved facilities, the company announced reduced rates, effective July 1.
1 An individual private line for residences became $30 a year, a $6 annual saving. For those willing to share a two-party line, the rate went from $25 to $15 a year. Business rates were lowered to $48 a year for a private line and $25 annually for two-party service. Extension phones -- either desk or wall models -- were an additional $6 per year.
At the same time, Cincinnati Bell eliminated three and four-party service in Hamilton, and increased the number of local operators from 19 to 28. "The switchboard is a manual operated central energy board of the latest type, with an ultimate capacity of 4,800 lines," it was announced when the new building was occupied in October 1906.
"Our lines are the only ones connected with Cincinnati and Middletown, the two most important points near Hamilton," Cincinnati Bell boasted. It advertised the phone as "an inexpensive necessity."
Bell's local customers increased from 396 in 1900 to 2,430 in 1909, a year before a federal census reported Hamilton had 35,279 inhabitants, a 47 percent population increase in a decade.
In 1900, when the city numbered 23,914 people, there was an average of 60.4 people per Bell phone. By 1910, the ratio had dropped to 14.5 persons for each unit.
Cincinnati Bell had started in 1873 as the City and Suburban Telegraph Co. with telegraph service to businesses and residences. In 1882 it contracted with Bell Telephone Co. of Boston as "the exclusive agent for Bell telephones within a 25-mile radius of Cincinnati." That area covered Butler, Hamilton, Clermont and part of Warren counties in Ohio; Dearborn, Franklin, Ohio and Switzerland counties in Indiana and Kenton, Campbell, Boone, Gallatin, Grant and Pendleton counties in Kentucky.
In 1893, it added long distance service beyond a 100-mile radius from Cincinnati. That year a five-minute call between Cincinnati and New York City cost $7.25.
State regulation of telephone service began in 1911. A year later, the first of a series of legal clashes between Cincinnati Bell and the Hamilton Home Telephone Co. (HHT) came before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). In state and federal courts, Cincinnati Bell was able to defend its long distance monopoly and its refusal to connect with the HHT system.
The competition that had meant lower rates in Hamilton ended in August 1919 when Cincinnati Bell purchased HHT. The $400,000 transaction covered 4,000 Bell subscribers in the county and 3,700 Home customers, including 700 who had both services.
The buyout required a readjustment of phone numbers and higher rates for former HHT clients, but they were able to retain the same phones. An editorial writer noted that "no longer will one part of the community be isolated from the other by reason of competing telephone systems."