Shop whistles part of Hamilton's industrial past
By Jim Blount
They were part of Hamilton's proud industrial past. They were important to most residents, not just factories workers. They alerted the community, when necessary, and kicked off celebrations on other occasions. They were factory whistles -- once timepieces for the city's daily routine, but unknown to recent generations.
The steam-driven devices sounded a daily industrial chorus that announced shift changes, lunch and other work breaks for employees. For others, they provided wakeup calls and a convenient reminder to check the accuracy of a watch or a household clock. Some young Hamiltonians -- when out of sight and sound of a parent -- relied on the whistles to remind them when to go home for lunch or dinner.
Each whistle was unique. Residents learned to distinguish the Champion Papers whistle from the one at the Ford Motor Co. and those at other shops.
In 1942 -- in the first year of World War II -- six factory whistles (Champion, Ford Motor Co., Shuler & Benninghofen, Economy Pump, Estate Stove and Black-Clawson) alerted the city during air raid drills. Their piercing blasts started and ended civilian defense exercises until replaced by sirens.
The "Voice of Champion" -- a brass steam-powered whistle atop the paper mill -- was heard seven times a day -- 7 a.m., 11:55 a.m., 12 noon, 1 p.m., 4 p.m., 4:55 p.m. and 5 p.m. It was manually operated by an employee whose duties included watching a clock.
There's no record of Hamilton's first shop whistle. The last used on a daily schedule is believed to have the Champion system in 1970. It was retained to signal tornado warnings into the 1980s.
When the daily time sequence was interrupted, Hamiltonians paid attention. Unusual, sustained shrill blasts from local shop whistles announced major news.
At 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, 1918, the whistles revealed the end of World War I, but it was a false alarm. Confirmation of the real armistice reached Hamilton at 2:05 a.m. Nov. 11, but city officials were reluctant to wake the populace. The restraint ended at 5 a.m.
At 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, 1927, the whistles hailed 25-year-old Charles A. Lindbergh Jr. as the aviation hero circled over Hamilton.
The whistles brought good news shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday May 8, 1945, setting off Hamilton's celebration of V-E Day (Victory in Europe). Three months later -- at 6:02 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14, 1945 -- the whistles heralded Japan's surrender and the end of World War II.
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Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Butler County escaped deadly 1915 wind storm
By Jim Blount
A Republican-News editorial writer implored readers "not [to] make the mistake of referring to the storm as a tornado. It was not, and it had nothing of the nature of a storm of this terrible nature. It was simply a dangerously heavy wind accompanied by a terrific downpour of rain," he said, referring to a storm that lashed southwestern Ohio Wednesday, July 7, 1915.
If the worst of the thunderstorm micro burst had shifted a few miles north, it may have produced one of Butler County's most memorable weather disasters.
Instead, said a newspaper, "Butler County seems to have escaped, in some miraculous manner, material damage from a terrific storm" that "swept the eastern section of the country from the Mississippi to the Atlantic."
Although ranked as one of Ohio's 25 severe weather events, "Hamilton and surrounding towns escaped with only slight damage," noted the Republican-News. The report said 1.26 inches of rain drenched Hamilton in about two and half hours, most of it in 30 minutes.
Shortly after 6:30 p.m., lightning and thunder "presaged a coming storm" that began at 9 p.m. "Until 9:30 the deluge continued paralyzing the city," the newspaper said. Vehicle and pedestrian traffic "was a standstill, not a person being seen on the streets."
Residents who had endured the March 1913 flood, the worst in the city's history, awaited word on the Great Miami River. It rose from a depth of four feet at 9 p.m. to 9.5 feet five hours later, and to 10 feet eight inches the next day -- far from the 1913 level of 44 feet.
Butler County farmers "were rejoicing," the newspaper said, "because they had cut their wheat before the terrific rain fell. With the crop in shocks, the damage was slight." The newspaper said a week earlier, "with the wheat standing, the crop would have been almost a total loss."
The wind, estimated at 50 miles an hour in Hamilton, reached its "greatest velocity" near Seven Mile, blowing down fences and trees. "East Hamilton suffered most severely of any section of the city" while trees and wires were downed in other areas. There was temporary flooding in some neighborhoods.
Butler County residents didn't have to look far to see what could have happened had the storm veered north. At least 38 people died in Cincinnati, including a Hamilton man. Twenty-nine of the Queen City victims were crushed when buildings collapsed. Six of 18 crewmen drowned when wind capsized an Ohio River towboat.
Three men and 19 race horses were killed when a special train blew over in Terrace Park, east of Cincinnati. The train was hauling horses from Latonia, Ky., where a race meet had ended, to eastern tracks when it was toppled by the wind. The horses were part of the E. R. Bradley racing stable.
Eighteen of the Cincinnati deaths were in five buildings that caved in at Sixth and Mound streets as the Weather Bureau recorded wind of 70 mph at the peak of the storm.
Three days later, one of the victims was identified as Abraham Cohen, 49, a Hamilton businessman, who was survived by a wife and 10 children. Cohen, a buyer and seller of barrels, had been in Cincinnati on business that day. After concluding business, he entered a store as the storm approached. His body was found in the wreckage of the building.
"Telegraph and telephone service was prostrated for several hours; railroads and interurban traffic delayed by washouts and debris on the tracks" in the Cincinnati area, the Republican-News reported. Other damage included roofs blown off, windows smashed and signs destroyed. Loss was reported "at several millions of dollars." There were no estimate of the number injured.
The 30-minute storm, according to an Ohio Historical Society web site, "is the greatest known in Ohio for a windstorm in which no tornadoes were involved." The OHS report says "the damage was all toward one direction, so the wind is presumed to have been the result of thunderstorm microbursts."
"The storm of Wednesday night," said the Republican-News, "was the most severe Southern Ohio has known in 10 years," but in Butler County "was not serious."
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Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Female colleges outnumbered: all-male Miami in mid 1800s
(This is the first of a four-part series on women's colleges in Oxford.)
By Jim Blount
During its first half century, Miami University admitted only male students. At first glance, it would appear attending Miami in those years was akin to confinement to a monastery. But there were plenty of young women in Oxford during Miami's early years.
"In the 1850s, how many colleges were in Oxford?" asks a trivia quiz on a Miami University Alumni Association web page. The answer is five, including Miami, which started instruction in 1824.
The others were the Western Female Seminary (later Western College), the Oxford Female College, the Oxford Female Institute, and the Oxford Theological Seminary. Three of the five enrolled only women.
There had been schools for young women in Oxford since 1830. They were known by various names and endured a series of philosophical changes and fiscal reorganizations until Western College, the last one, merged into Miami in 1974.
Miami became coeducational in 1887. After a 12-year closure, Miami reopened in 1885 and two years later trustees voted to admit women, but change was slow. "Most of the boys considered it an outrage," said Ophia D. Smith, an Oxford historian, in assessing reaction to the 1887 decision.
The first Miami female graduates were in the class of 1900 when three women were among 16 people receiving bachelor degrees. Miami's female enrollment expanded after creation of a teacher training program in 1902. Within 10 years, the predominantly female student body in the teachers college represented about 40 percent of Miami's total enrollment.
A school for girls, the Oxford Female Academy -- more like a high school than a college -- started in 1830 with the help of Miami's president and two Miami professors. It struggled for nearly a decade before incorporation in 1839 under the same name. Its charter said its purpose was "establishing and sustaining a seminary for the education of females in the town of Oxford."
In 1849 Ohio legislators chartered the Oxford Female Institute, which opened under the direction of the Rev. John Witherspoon Scott, a former Miami faculty member. He was the father of a future first lady, Caroline Scott Harrison, wife of President Benjamin Harrison.
In 1853 the Western Female Seminary was founded by local Presbyterians. The school -- later known as Western College for Women and Western College -- opened in 1855. For a brief time, it was called the Beecher Female Seminary, in honor of Lyman Beecher, who had encouraged its formation.
In 1854 the Oxford Female College opened under the leadership of Rev. Scott, who, after a dispute with trustees, left the Oxford Female Institute to form Oxford Female College.
The fifth institution in Oxford in the mid 1850s was the Oxford Theological Seminary, whose purpose was to train Presbyterian clergymen. It had opened in 1839 and shared a building, often called the Old Seminary, with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian congregation of Oxford. After training more the 100 students in 19 years, the seminary moved to Monmouth, Ill., in 1858.
The presence of one to three women's colleges didn't mean Miami men had an easy time finding dates, according Olive Flower in her 1949 book, The History of Oxford College for Women, 1830-1928 .
She said Oxford College girls were disciplined if caught "corresponding with Miami students, talking to them on the street, passing notes, taking clandestine buggy rides, or having other engagements with them."
As late as 1877-79, she wrote, the women "were required to line up in the hall for inspection by the teacher whose turn it was to lead them uptown and safely home. Going to town was an event. They had to pass Miami enroute to town and back, so they must be properly dressed and groomed." Rouge, powder and lipstick were prohibited.
"In the '80s girls might make calls in town the first Saturday of each month," Flower wrote. "They could shop only on Saturday afternoons. They could receive calls [visits] from young men once a month, and then only with the permission of their parents."
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Oxford Female Institute filled education void in 1849
(This is the second of a four-part series on women's colleges in Oxford.)
By Jim Blount
Miami University was a small institution in 1830, graduating only 10 men in each of its last two classes. But Oxford, a village of 737 people, was ready to add another school, this one to educate young women -- the Oxford Female Academy.
"With Miami University, now six years old, and sufficiently established to educate the boys in the family, the next step, naturally, was to provide for the girls as well," said Olive Flower in her book, The History of Oxford College for Women. "Since coeducation was not even dreamed of, there was need of a school for girls."
Oxford Female Academy opened in 1830 in a one-room brick house on Main Street just south of High Street.
It was directed by Miss Bethania Crocker, a 16-year-old daughter of a clergyman. Her father had guided her education, which included Greek, Latin and Hebrew. Olive Flower said Miss Crocker was described as a "learned, brilliant, forceful administrator." Her title was principal.
OFA opened with guidance from three Miami University men -- President Robert H. Bishop, Professor William McGuffey and Professor John Witherspoon Scott.
Crocker guided the school until about 1834, when she married the Rev. George Bishop, a son of Miami's president and pastor of the Presbyterian Church." A member of the Miami Class of 1928, he had graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1830. He was ordained by the Presbytery of Oxford in 1833 and was pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Oxford, 1833-34, before becoming a professor at Indiana Theological Seminary in Hanover in 1834.
"Not much is known of the Academy, except that, under the guidance of various principals it would flourish until the principal married some professor, minister, or at least a member of the church, according to the fashion of the times in Oxford, and then it would be temporarily suspended," Flower wrote.
In an effort to establish permanency, the Oxford Female Academy was chartered by the Ohio General Assembly Feb. 27, 1839, "for the purpose of establishing and sustaining a seminary for the education of females in the town of Oxford."
"Entrance was by examination," said Flower, and "emphasis was laid on mathematics and philosophy because it was thought that girls were not capable of mastering Greek." The academy -- believed to have closed in 1846 -- was the equivalent of a high school, not comparable to the classical curriculum offered at Miami.
One of the 1839 incorporators was the previously mentioned Rev. Scott, a son of a Presbyterian minister who had joined the Miami faculty in 1828, remaining for 17 years. He was ordained in the Presbyterian ministry in Oxford in 1830.
President Bishop and Rev. Scott "were thrown out of the faculty" in 1845, according to the 1882 Butler County history. Their removal was based on philosophical differences over Presbyterian doctrine and the slavery debate. Scott went to Farmers College in College Hill, north of Cincinnati, where he organized a female seminary as part of the college. Seminary in that era denoted a private school for young women, not a place where people were trained for the ministry.
In 1849, Scott was back in Oxford, directing the Oxford Female Institute. He was president of the OFI for six years, operating in several locations before completion of a permanent building in 1850.
That structure still stands at the southwest corner of High Street and College Avenue. The building, now on the Register of Historic Places, was known as Ox College for decades. It outlived the Oxford Female Institute, serving as a Miami residence hall for 70 years until 1998. In 2000, thanks to long-term lease with Miami, Ox College became the Oxford Community Arts Center.
1 The institute had 172 students in 1852 and, according to Flower, its leaders considered expansion. Debate about a donated new site led to a split. The schism caused Rev. Scott to resign and take a lead role in forming a new institution -- the Oxford Female College.
Oxford Female Institute -- 18 years after its incorporation -- held its last commencement June 20, 1867, graduating 11 young women.
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Western College modeled on Mount Holyoke success
(This is the third of a four-part series on women's colleges in Oxford.)
By Jim Blount
Oxford already had a women's college in the early 1850s when the Rev. Daniel Tunney, pastor of Oxford's Second Presbyterian Church, and his wife took an interest in a Massachusetts female liberal arts institute that offered a challenging curriculum at an affordable cost.
Mount Holyoke Female Seminary had opened in 1837 under the direction of Mary Lyon. By 1853, its successful plan became the model for a new Oxford school -- the Western Female Seminary, later known as Western College for Women and finally Western College. Western mirrored Mount Holyoke, earning the Ohio upstart recognition as a "daughter school."
Mount Holyoke, explains a school web site, "instituted rigorous academic entrance requirements and a demanding curriculum conspicuously free of instruction of domestic pursuits." Lyon required the young women to take seven courses in sciences and math for graduation, "a requirement unheard of at other female seminaries" in 1837.
Her aim was to establish a women's school on the academic level of the all-male colleges of the era.
At the same time, Lyon assigned domestic work to her students to limit school operating expenses and keep tuition low for enrollees from modest backgrounds.
Lyon's ideas sound reasonable now, but they were radical in 1837. "Lyon faced steep ideological obstacles," explains a Mount Holyoke history. "There were those who would confine women to the kitchen and nursery. Prevailing thought held, moreover, that women were constitutionally unfit to withstand the mental and physical demands of higher education.
"Lyon proved otherwise. She pursued the traditionally male discipline of chemistry and excelled. Her struggle to obtain an education fired her determination to make higher learning available to all women, particularly those of limited means."
"In the 19th century, most U. S. colleges and universities did not allow women in their science classes, but emerging women's colleges like Mount Holyoke, Bryn Mawr, and Vassar provided places where young women were encouraged to study science," says the Chemical Heritage Foundation, declaring that Mary Lyon's success went beyond improving education for women..
"She deserves every bit of this fame, but given how much she did for women's education, it is easy to miss how much impact she had on chemistry education in general," says the CHF. "Lyon didn't just work to see that women were allowed to learn chemistry just like the men were; she also changed how chemistry was taught to both women and men."
"The Mount Holyoke of the West" was founded July 14, 1853, as the Western Female Seminary in the southeast corner of present Oxford (south of Trenton-Oxford Road, Ohio 73, and east of Millville-Oxford Road, U. S. 27).
Its original constitution said its name would be Beecher Female Seminary, in honor of Lyman Beecher, who had encouraged its formation. But it was Western when it opened in September 1855.
The Mount Holyoke influence was strong from the start. Western's birth was directed by Miss Helen Peabody, a Mount Holyoke graduate who had taught there for five years, 1848-53. She headed Western for 33 years. Peabody Hall is a reminder of her 33 years of strong guidance. Peabody Hall -- rebuilt and repaired after periodic fires -- is now part of the Miami University campus.
Eight Holyoke graduates formed the first Western faculty, according to Narka Nelson in her 1954 book, The Western College for Women, 1853-1953.
Western wasn't the only women's school in Oxford in the mid 1850s. The Oxford Female Institute was chartered in 1849 and the Oxford Female College in 1854. There also were two male schools, Miami University (1824) and the Oxford Theological Seminary (1839).
Western College graduated its last class June 9, 1974. Among Western's 80 graduates in 1974 were eight men, its first male graduates. Effective July 1, 1974, it became part of neighboring Miami University.