Monthly Archives: September 2002

In This Issue: Fall 2002

Welcome to the inaugural issue of the Northeast Ohio Journal of History. An interdisciplinary and interactive publication, the NOJH combines the high scholarly standards of refereed print journals with the power and capabilities of the World Wide Web. As stated in its bylaws, the journal’s purpose is:

  1. to stimulate and publish high-quality research in Northeast Ohio history and prehistory
  2. to facilitate access to Northeast Ohio archives and historical resources
  3. to serve as a conduit of information for all archaeologists, academic historians, public historians, and members of the general public interested in Northeast Ohio history and prehistory.

With an editorial board comprised of representatives from the major universities and museums throughout the region, we will endeavor to publish the best and most comprehensive research the area has to offer.

One of the more challenging and rewarding aspects of this project is the medium we have chosen to use. Publishing as a web-based journal affords us opportunities that simply are not available to print journals. Each issue, for example, will feature a virtual museum exhibit on some aspect of Northeast Ohio’s past. In addition, our “archives” link will contain not only past articles from the journal, but also (in the near future) a growing list of links to primary source documents. Our “Current History” section will be updated regularly between issues, keeping our readers apprised of new events and announcements. Between these features and world-wide accessibility, we believe that the Northeast Ohio Journal of History has the potential to become a necessary stop for anyone interested in exploring the history of the region.

In This Issue:

We feature a triptych of pieces sharing a Cleveland theme. In our feature article, Dr. Arthur DeMatteo from the University of Wisconsin-Fox Run discusses the life and significance of A.B. duPont. DuPont, a member of the powerful family of American industrialists, was a renowned businessman in his own right and a close friend and confidante of Cleveland’s famous reform mayor, Tom Johnson. DeMatteo argues not only that duPont was an important figure in Cleveland history, but also a personification of the several strands of reform that represent the often-confusing world of Progressive-Era history.

Tom Johnson, of course, was not the only Cleveland mayor who won great recognition outside of Northeast Ohio. Dr. Melvin Holli of the University of Illinois-Chicago has contributed an interpretive essay in our “Notes and Comments” section on the unusual success Cleveland mayors have had on the state and national scene. Holli, the author of fifteen books and the country’s foremost expert on the history of American mayors, argues that despite the fact that the mayoralty is usually a political dead-end, Cleveland has succeeded more than any other American big city in promoting its former mayors to higher office.

The final piece of this issue’s Cleveland trilogy can be found in our virtual museum feature. Dr. Patsy Gerstner and Laura Travis, under the auspices of the Dittrick Museum of the History of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University, have produced a disturbing, yet compelling exhibit on smallpox in Cleveland at the turn of the twentieth century. In ways that words alone cannot express, this display provides the viewer with a more profound understanding of the terror that the specter of this disease evoked in the past, and indeed still elicits a hundred years later.

Beyond these featured items, this issue includes book reviews on Ohio topics ranging from a military unit of the 1830s to football in the 1890s to unsolved murder cases in the 1930s to the environment of today. The “Notes and Comments” section also contains a prospectus for the Consortium of Northeast Ohio History. This promising new project is designed not only to encourage the use of the area’s rich historical and archaeological collections, but also to provide valuable opportunities for students and teachers of history alike to perform and publish research on these materials.

Please address any inquiries about this project (or about any other aspect of the journal) to the editor at kkern @ uakron. edu. We welcome all comments and suggestions.

Kevin F. Kern

Continue reading

Notes & Comments: Prospectus: The Northeast Ohio Consortium

By: Kevin Kern, The University of Akron

Purpose

Northeast Ohio is exceptionally rich in important historical resources and collections among its major universities, libraries, and museums. Among the most notable of these are the Cleveland Public Library (one of the nation’s largest and with ready access to the city’s municipal records), Cleveland State University (housing a number of archival and archaeological resources including the Cleveland Press Collection), the Cleveland Visiting Nurse Association, the Western Reserve Historical Society (boasting scores of important regional collections), and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (housing the Hamann-Todd osteological collection–the largest of its kind anywhere in the world). Some of these collections have already produced significant scholarly work, while others have only begun to be tapped by serious investigators.

As valuable as these resources are individually, however, there is even greater potential for innovative and interdisciplinary use of these materials. Continue reading

Notes & Comments: Cleveland: Success City in Promoting Public Office

By: Melvin G. Holli, University of Illinois at Chicago

PATHWAYS TO POWER: or The Yellow Brick Road to Emerald City

Is the big-city mayoralty a “stepping stone to higher ground” as the Reverend Jesse Jackson asserted when Chicago’s first African American mayor, Harold Washington, was elected, or is it as New York scholar Wallace Sayre declared in his famous “Sayre’s Law” a dead-end job whereby Gotham’s mayors “come from anywhere and go nowhere”?1

In seeking an answer to that question, I examined the upward political mobility of all of the mayors who served between 1820 and 1980 in the fifteen big cities. (The fifteen big cities were selected from those with the longest duration in the top fifteen population class for the period under study). In the search that includes 679 biographies found in the Bibliographical Dictionary of American Mayors, we find that Cleveland, with its seven “success” mayors, emerges as something of a nursery for growing national leaders. In second place is Detroit with five upward achievers, followed by San Francisco and Boston with four, and then Baltimore, New Orleans, and New York with three apiece, which covers the top half of the big cities studied. At the very bottom of the post-mayoral achievement scale are Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Los Angeles with a mere one each.2 Continue reading

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Jesse Jackson quoted in Anne Keegan, “Will Wise Words Outlast the Hot Ones?” Chicago Tribune 25 February 1983. For Sayre’s law see Wallace S. Sayre and Herbert Kaufman, Governing New York City (New York: Norton, 1965), 686-87. The chapter subtitle and text references to the “yellow brick road to Emerald City” come from L. Frank Baum’s Journey Through Oz: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (New York: Derrydale Books, 1990).
  2. The cutoff date for measuring upward mobility corresponds to that of the Biographical Dictionary of American Mayors, 1820-1980s eds. Melvin G. Holli, Peter d’A. Jones (West Port, Ct.: Greenwood, 1981). Thus, Baltimore’s success mayors do not count William D. Schaefer nor does Cleveland count George Voinovich who became governors of their states after that date.

Book Review: Lake Erie Rehabilitated

Lake Erie Rehabilitated: Controlling Cultural Eutrophication, 1960s—1990s. By William McGucken. (Akron: University of Akron Press, 2000. xvi, 318 pp. Cloth, $49.95, ISBN 1-884836-57-7. Paper, $29.95, ISBN 1-884836-58-5.)

In this meticulous, yet often dry and ponderous work, historian William McGucken traces the efforts by the United States and Canada to control cultural eutrophication in Lake Erie. Cultural eutrophication is when “a lake’s nutrients are being excessively increased by some human activity – as, for example, the disposing of sewage in the lake” (2). The sign of this process in Lake Erie was algae growth that covered much of the surface, washed ashore, and whose decomposition led to depleted oxygen levels and the loss of desirable fish such as walleye and blue pike. Lake Erie was not the only lake undergoing this process in the years after WWII, but it was the most publicized one in North America. While McGucken considers the various “ecological, engineering, health, industrial, international, political, and scientific issues” (6) involved in this story, his concentration on the scientific is both the strength and the weakness of the book.

McGucken, who died in 2000, was chair of the history department at the University of Southern Indiana. He published three other books: Nineteenth-century Spectroscopy: Development of the Understanding of Spectra, 1802-1897 (1969), Scientists, Society, and State: The Social Relations of Science Movement in Great Britain, 1931-1947 (1984), and Biodegradable: Detergents and the Environment (1991). Lake Erie Rehabilitated is part of University of Akron Press’s series on technology and the environment (indeed, McGucken was one of the founding co-editors). Given the author’s background in the history of science, it fits that this work stresses the scientific over the political and social.

Although the focus of the book is Lake Erie, McGucken begins by examining the emergence of cultural eutrophication as an international problem to be corrected. Continue reading

Book Review: In the Wake of the Butcher

James Jessen Badal, In the Wake of the Butcher: Cleveland’s Torso Murders (Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 2001. xii, 255 p., Paper, $18.00, ISBN 0-87338-689-2.)

With respect to serial murder, “Jack the Ripper” of late 19th century London renown has nothing on the “torso murderer” of Depression-era Cleveland. The two serial killers have much in common, including the unfortunate fact that the identification of both murderers remains subject to speculation.

While several scorebooks have been published on the famous Victorian murderer of London prostitutes, James Jessen Badal is the first to give the torso murderer of Kingsbury Run the scrutiny these notorious crimes merit. Drawing on previously unexploited collections, including detailed police files, Badal tells us probably all we can ever hope to learn about these gruesome crimes. Continue reading

Book Review: Showtime in Cleveland

Showtime in Cleveland: The Rise of a Regional Theater Center. By John Vacha. (Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 2001. 264 pp. Paper. $29.95, ISBN 0-87338-697-3.)

John Vacha has written about fine and performing arts for a variety of scholarly and popular history publications and was an associate editor of the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History/Dictionary of Cleveland Biography.

Vacha’s Showtime in Cleveland traces the evolution of “legitimate” theater (live spoken drama) as part of the city’s cultural history. The work is a chronological narrative with chapters representing distinct eras in the development of Cleveland theater history. It is not a scholarly history, but a rich narrative account interspersed with photographs and illustrations. Continue reading

Book Review: When Oberlin Was King of the Gridiron

When Oberlin Was King of the Gridiron: The Heisman Years. By Nat Brandt. (Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 2001. xii, 230 pp. Paper, $18.00, ISBN 0-87338-684-1.)

It was an all-too-familiar story of the 90′s: Ohio’s college football powerhouse regularly trounced a series greater or lesser teams from throughout the region, but each year the team and a certain controversial coach named John were never quite able to win the big game against Michigan. Whereas most of the scarlet and gray faithful at this point will roll their eyes and say they have heard it all before, chances are actually likely that they have not. The ’90s were the 1890s, the John was John Heisman, and the Ohio football powerhouse was Oberlin College. In a well-researched book steeped in the flavor of college life in the 1890s, Nat Brandt tells the unlikely story of how Oberlin College went from a school where football was forbidden to one of the strongest teams in the nation. Continue reading

Book Review: The Cleveland Grays

The Cleveland Grays: An Urban Military Company, 1837-1919. By George N. Vourlojianis. (Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 2002. x, 150 pp. Paper, $12.00, ISBN 0-87338-678-7.)

Within the military history genre, regimental and other small-unit studies retain a popularity perhaps second only to campaign volumes and “battle books.” Interestingly, early regimental histories appeared en masse on the American scene while the Civil War still raged, providing veterans and home readers accounts of epic deeds performed on blood-stained fields from Manassas to Missionary Ridge and beyond. Over the next one hundred years, the basic format remained nearly unchanged: “Regimentals” (as they are widely known) recounted in painstaking detail the stories of camp and battle, with scant mention of the social, political, and cultural forces that called these men, often hailing from a single community, to duty in defense of their homes. In fine, such studies provided precious little context of the world from which the soldiers came, serving instead as quintessential “pot-boilers,” accounts that stirred arguments among rival units and latter-day adherents rather than encourage meaningful understanding for subsequent generations of scholars, students, and enthusiasts.

The past thirty years, however, have witnessed the advent of truly integrated small-unit works, volumes that are as much community studies and social histories as they are military tomes. George N. Vourlojianis, assistant professor of history at Cleveland’s John Carroll University, attempts to contribute to the “new military history” in producing The Cleveland Grays, a reworking of his own 1994 Ph.D. dissertation. This reviewer took encouragement from the book’s first sentence, one that modestly decreed it a “work on a bit of Cleveland history” (ix) rather than a mere institutional or chronological narrative. Continue reading

Cleveland’s A.B. duPont: Engineer, Reformer, Visionary

By: Arthur E. DeMatteo

Attempting to synthesize the events, agents, and accomplishments of the years spanning the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries into a neat package labeled “The Progressive Era” can prove frustrating for the modern historian. Reformers of the period were a diffuse and diverse group, often more noteworthy for their disunity and incongruities than for coherence to any set of standards; they included pacifists, municipal ownership advocates, feminists, Single Taxers, civil rights crusaders, efficiency experts, and countless others. This lack of commonality led Peter Filene to assert, in a seminal article published over thirty years ago, that progressivism was merely an artificial creation of historians, and that the dynamics of this period were the result of “agents and forces more complex than a progressive movement.”1

In an essay of later vintage, historian Daniel Rodgers acknowledged the difficulty of defining progressivism, while offering a useful counter-thesis to Filene. Rodgers suggested that Progressive Era reformers shared at least one of three “idea clusters,” or “shared languages of discontent.”2 The first of these languages, antimonopolism, was traceable to the Jacksonian era, and had once been the exclusive domain of “outsiders,” such as farmers and Populists; by the turn of the twentieth century, however, the crusade against inequitable taxation and abusive business practices had gained acceptance among “respectable” segments of American society. The second language, that of “social bonds,” was more specific to the Progressive Era, and encompassed an attack on a “set of formal fictions,” including notions of racial, sexual, or ethnic inferiority; it sought to create a “consciously contrived harmony” among societal groups. The third language of discontent was that of “social efficiency,” and could be applied to a broad range of reformers, from those seeking to rationalize and streamline municipal government to engineers designing modern manufacturing plants.

Like so many reformers of his era, Antoine Bidermann duPont, friend and confidant of Cleveland Mayor Tom L. Johnson, was a complex person who defies easy categorization. Continue reading

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Peter G. Filene, “An Obituary for the ‘Progressive Movement’,” American Quarterly 22 (Spring 1970), 20-34.
  2. Daniel T. Rodgers, “In Search of Progressivism,” Reviews in American History 10 (December 1982), 113-32.

Current History: Fall 2002

Award-Winning Historical Collection Now Available Online

The Oral History Digital Collection at Youngstown State University was named a finalist for a 2002 Award of Achievement by Northern Ohio Live! magazine in the IT/Internet Resource category. The Oral History Program at YSU began in 1974 by Professor Hugh G. Earnhart. In its 28 year existence, the program has collected over 2000 interviews with northeastern Ohioans on topics ranging from education to the steel industry to politics. In 2001, the staff of YSU’s Maag Library digitized the transcripts and placed them on-line, making them available on the internet.

Anyone wishing to examine these materials can access the collection at http://www.maag.ysu.edu/oralhistory/oral_hist.html.

Upcoming Events

Continue reading