Journal-News Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008
E. W. Scripps had residence in Butler County
By Jim Blount
The recent demise of the Cincinnati Post recalls Butler County's brief part in the life of Edward Wyllis Scripps, regarded as the founder of the first major newspaper chain in the United States. The Post, which published its last afternoon edition Dec. 31, 2007, was Scripps' fourth newspaper. In 48 years, he started or purchased at least 47 newspapers and founded other media services.
Scripps, better known by his initials, E. W., was born June 18, 1854, in Rushville, Ill. According to a company biography, he went to Detroit at age 18 with $80 in his pocket. To acquire capital, he worked at a variety of jobs before joining three brothers and a sister in founding the Detroit News in 1873 in a rented part of the Detroit Free Press. Two months later, the News had its own facilities.
In 1878, with $10,000 borrowed from his brothers, 24-year-old E. W. Scripps started his own paper, the Cleveland Penny Press. Two years later, he founded the St. Louis Chronicle.
Jan. 1, 1883, E. W. bought control of the Cincinnati Penny Post from a brother, James, who had purchased it in 1881. He changed the name to the Cincinnati Post in 1890, the same year he founded a sister newspaper, the Kentucky Post, to serve Northern Kentucky.
Scripps advertised for a rural retreat where he could relax and ride horses. The Charles Gano family in Union Township (now West Chester Township) responded and Scripps rented spare rooms in their residence. The Ganos attended the Sharon Cumberland Church, whose minister was Samuel K. Holtsinger. He had left his native Tennessee in 1863 and took a factory job in Hamilton for six months until he was ordained. Then he served churches in West Chester, Bethany and Sharonville.
The Ganos invited Scripps to a church social where he met Nackie Benson Holtsinger, the minister's 18-year-old daughter, according to Virginia Shewalter in her 1979 History of Union Township. They were married Oct. 7, 1885, in the West Chester church and later became the parents of six children.
Scripps paid $5,000 for a house and farm on 30 acres near the Holtsinger residence. He improved the property, including building a siding from the Short Line Railroad to deliver coal and supplies directly to the hilltop house on West Chester Road.
In December 1890, he bought land near San Diego and created Miramar Ranch, an eight-year construction project. The California ranch, which grew from 400 to 2,100 acres, became the family's year round home in 1900.
After moving to Miramar, Shewalter said "Scripps [still] considered West Chester as his voting base," later a benefit to the township when it realized $123,000 in inheritance tax after his death.
Between 1892 and 1922, Scripps started or acquired newspapers in San Diego, Los Angeles,
Kansas City, Seattle. Akron, Chicago, Des Moines, Spokane, San Francisco, Tacoma, Toledo, Columbus, Sacramento, Fresno, Denver, Evansville, Pueblo, Terre Haute, Dallas, Portland, Oklahoma City, Memphis, Nashville, Berkeley, Oakland, Houston, Philadelphia. Birmingham, Norfolk, Fort Worth, Washington, Knoxville, Youngstown, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Albuquerque and Indianapolis.
In 1907 Scripps founded United Press (UP), a wire service to compete with the Associated Press (AP). Both supplied news, features and photos to morning and afternoon newspapers, and later to radio stations.
Scripps died March 12, 1926, while aboard his yacht, Ohio, in Monrovia Bay, Liberia. According to his wishes, he was buried in the Atlantic Ocean. After his death, his corporations expanded and diversified into radio, television, cable TV, lifestyle TV networks and Internet services.
Years after his death, Time magazine described Scripps as "an extraordinary personality" who was "famed for his feuds and his acquisitiveness." Time also said "he bullied advertisers and politicians" and "drank a gallon of spirits a day until he ruined his health at 46."
The magazine said the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain, under the guidance of E. W. Scripps, "came to identify a type of journalism, popular, but not vulgar, liberal . . . but independent."
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Journal-News Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008
Woodhull brought women's rights campaign to Hamilton
By Jim Blount
Among the many entertainers, politicians and personalities to appear on the stage at the Globe Opera House in Hamilton was Victoria Woodhull, regarded as the first woman to be nominated for president of the United States. She is best known as a controversial campaigner for women's rights, including an 1871 appearance before the judiciary committee of the U. S. House of Representatives.
Woodhull lectured Nov. 6, 1875, at the opera house at the southwest corner of High Street and Journal Square. One of those in attendance shared his or her impression in a letter to a Hamilton newspaper.
"I went with the expectation of hearing much that would be worthy of severe condemnation," said the unidentified skeptical writer. "I supposed she would shock the sensibilities of those who had an average amount of modesty. Her manner of delivery was not only pleasing, but to my mind, it was really fascinating" and "I do not suppose that any lady in the entire union embodies more grace," the writer noted.
"Her voice has none of that masculine harshness that I expected, but, on the contrary, it was melodious to a degree that really charmed me."
"My prejudice began to melt away when I found that no lady in the land could surpass her in refinement of manner," the letter continued. "I looked for unsparing invective and coarse denunciation, but was delighted to find that all her language was characterized by rare elegance."
"Not a coarse word escaped her lips," the letter said. "She is in possession of many personal attractions. When excited, her eye blazes with true poetic fire. She is rightly called 'queen of the rostrum,' for she has more of the elements of true oratory than any of her sex."
The writer said "she is under the impression that she has a divine mission to fulfill, and at times she speaks with the inspiration of true genius, whether she will succeed in bringing about a social revolution in behalf of her sex is a matter involved in great debate."
Her run for president had been three years before her Hamilton appearance. She was nominated in 1872 by the Equal Rights Party with Frederick Douglass, a black reformer, as her running mate. Ulysses S. Grant was reelected that year in a crowded race for the White House race. The Woodhull-Douglass ticket didn't win enough votes to earn any electoral votes, but it gained publicity for its cause.
Woodhull was born Victoria California Claflin Sept. 23, 1838, in Homer, Ohio, in Licking County, one of 10 children. By her death June 10, 1927, she was known as Victoria Claflin Woodhull Blood Martin, a name reflecting her three broken marriages.
At an early age she claimed to be a spiritualist who had visions from a patron saint. At 16, she was traveling the Ohio area selling patent medicine. She resided in Cincinnati, Chicago, St. Louis and New York at various times.
In writing and speaking on behalf of women's rights, including voting privileges, she was scorned for advocating controversial practices -- short skirts, free love and sex education.
With a younger sister, Tennessee Celeste, she published a newspaper espousing their beliefs. Some of their published reports led to obscenity charges and short jail terms before acquittals.
One of her chief supporters was millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt, who was attracted by a common interest in spiritualism. He advised her on investments and helped Victoria and Tennessee to open a Wall Street brokerage business.
Possibly because of Vanderbilt's death in January 1877, Victoria and Tennessee moved to England, where they continued to advocate women's liberation.
The site of her Hamilton lecture began in 1866 as Dixon's Opera House and was later renamed the Globe Opera House before closing in 1904. Entertainment and enlightenment has returned to a small portion of the High Street building. Since December 2007, it has been the home of Miami Hamilton Downtown, featuring a variety of noon and evening programs. More information is available on line at www.ham.muohio.edu
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Journal-News Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008
First National Bank building opened in 1930
By Jim Blount
The city's history and several styles of architecture are represented in the buildings that line High Street in downtown Hamilton. One of them, opened in 1930, had an interior character "similar to that of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the cradle of American liberty," according to a newspaper description. It was the new home of the First National Bank and Trust Co. that had started in Hamilton in 1863.
The bank -- now the First Financial Bank -- has expanded beyond Butler County and Ohio in recent decades. Officials announced in December 2007 that the 77-year-old High Street building will undergo more than $1 million in renovations.
Its 1930 opening came almost a year after the financial earthquake that is considered the start of the Great Depression.
Oct. 24, 1929, "Black Thursday," 12.9 million shares of stock were sold as investor confidence declined. Five days later, Oct. 29, "Black Tuesday," stock sales reached 16.4 million and losses were the worst in Wall Street history. By the end of 1930, U. S. bank closures totaled 1,350. More failures were to follow, but none in Butler County.
E. G. Ruder was president of the First National when it displayed its new home with a public open house Saturday, Sept. 30. It opened for business Tuesday, Oct. 3, 1930.
Childs and Smith of Chicago were the architects for the new structure on the northeast corner of High and North Third streets. The Frank K. Vaughn Building Co. of Hamilton was the general contractor. Security equipment was locally produced by the Mosler Safe Co. and the Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe Co.
The Hamilton Evening Journal provided details of the exterior and interior of the eight-story structure that featured office space on upper floors for other Hamilton businesses and professions.
The newspaper said "the exterior of the building is of Bedford limestone, with lead sprandels between the windows, giving an imposing general air of simplicity which prevails throughout the structure."
The High Street entrance, the article continued, features "a flanking of two massive columns, giving the effect of two massive guards at attention." The lobby floor "is parqueted marble."
A "gently sloping marble staircase" with handrails of "wrought iron of the Georgian period" leads to the bank on the second floor.
"The general character of the entire [bank] room," the Journal said, "is that of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and the executive desks are exact replicas of those used by the signers of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Their rich mahogany surfaces are relieved by ornamental handles of brass."
"Another outstanding feature of the imposing banking room is the use of scenic revolutionary wall paper, antiqued to give it the old revolutionary effect."
Flooring was "black and white blocked marble, another colonial touch." Large steel doors on the bank vault didn't spoil the setting. They were out of sight on a lower floor.
"From the high ceilings are hung crystal chandeliers, delicately fashioned, with glistening pennants hanging from the glass arms which bear the candelabra." On the walls are "side brackets of crystal, simple yet effective," the report said.
The First National Bank of Hamilton, its original name, was formed in July 1863 as the Civil War battle of Gettysburg was raging in Pennsylvania. The bank was organized shortly after passage of the national banking act.
Founders were Micajah Hughes, Philip Hughes, James Beatty, John B. Cornell, Edward Hutchinson, John Peter Paul Peck and Joseph W. Davis.
Hughes, the bank's first president, was a 56-year-old blacksmith and farmer who owned land in Liberty and Lemon townships. He also was an organizer and director of the Butler County Insurance Co. for 10 years. According to the 1882 county history, "he pays the largest personal tax in Butler County, being upwards of $87,000, all his property being in this county, except 10 lots in Louisville, Ky."
As it grew, First National moved around downtown, including brief occupancy of part of the first floor of the Globe Opera House at the southwestern corner of High Street and Journal Square.
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Journal-News Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008
Second National Bank building opened in 1931
By Jim Blount
It didn't seem like a good time to build an impressive new bank, but the formal opening of Hamilton's Second National Bank Saturday, Aug. 29, 1931, was declared "a brilliant success" attended by more than 15,000 people. It opened for business two days later.
Earlier that year, a federal commission said enforcement of prohibition laws had become nearly impossible, foreshadowing its end in 1933. But news in 1931 was dominated by financial gloom around the world. That year unemployment swelled and 2,293 U. S. banks failed, adding to the 1,350 closures in 1930.
"The new Second National building gives a mass effect, an impression of sturdiness and power happily symbolizing the banking institution that built it, and the city it serves," said the Hamilton Evening Journal in an optimistic report of the opening.
The four-story structure was designed by Weary and Alford, Chicago bank architects, and George Barkman, a local architect. The F. K. Vaughn Building Co. of Hamilton was the general contractor and the safes were manufactured locally by the Mosler Safe Co.
Other components were bought from local businesses, and the newspaper said "bank officials provided that Hamilton labor be employed in every possible way" in erecting and furnishing the building on the southwest corner of High Street and Journal Square.
It was built on a base of black granite and "the walls rise to the full height clothed in warm buff-toned Indiana limestone," said the Journal. The building was topped "by a graceful arch, over which is a beautifully carved decorative motif in the stone."
The article said the three-story arched entrance "is enhanced by the addition of two lanterns, suspended on slender metal which is anchored into a carved panel at the fourth floor, accenting the vertical feeling of the design. Over the entrance, with wings spread, is poised a majestic, carved stone eagle."
Interior details included a lobby floor of "natural slate in rich hues of purple and purplish green," marble window sills, the office floor corridor "wainscoted over seven feet high in warm-colored domestic marble and the floors are finished in terrazzo."
The banking area featured "soft rose-tinged marble" walls topped by textured plaster "that carries out a stone effect" and walnut woodwork. "The main banking room is of splendid proportions, unobstructed by columns, and serene as a cathedral," the report said.
The Second National was the second bank headquarters completed on High Street in less than a year. In October 1930, the First National Bank and Trust Co. had opened it new complex less than a block a way at the northeast corner of High and North Third streets.
Clinton L. Gebhart, bank president when the 1931 structure opened, said "this building is our response to the confidence that has been placed in us by the people during the 66 years the bank has been in Hamilton." Gebhart had joined the bank in 1901 and became its eighth president in 1929.
The bank was organized Jan. 19, 1865, in the final year of the Civil War. Its original directors were William E. Brown, Job E. Owens, John W. Carr, Alexander F. Hume, N. C. McFarland, Ezra Potter and James Rossman. Hume, later a Butler County common pleas judge, was the Second National's first president.
Hume held the job 10 months, yielding leadership in December 1865 to David W. McClung.
McClung was a former Hamilton superintendent of schools, newspaper editor and county probate judge. He entered the Civil War as a private, rose to the rank of captain and was quartermaster at Camp Dennison. In that position, the Journal said "he handled accounts in cash aggregating $25 million and property accounts reaching a total of $60 million."
The Second National Bank of Hamilton was acquired by the First National Bank of Cincinnati in 1982. After a series of name changes, the High Street building is known as US Bank