Book Review: Politician Extraordinaire

Politician Extraordinaire: The Tempestuous Life and Times of Martin L. Davey. By Frank P. Vazzano. (Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 2008. xiv, 322 pp. Cloth, $45.00, ISBN 978-0-87338-920-4.)

Nearly all Ohioans are at least somewhat familiar with the Davey Tree Expert Company and its ubiquitous green trucks.  But few are aware that Martin L. Davey, the son of the company’s founder, served in a number of political offices, most notably the Ohio governorship from 1935 to 1939.  Seeking to rectify this gap in the collective knowledge, historian Frank P. Vazzano, who calls Davey “the most interesting man I’ve never met,” has produced a masterfully-written biography of the state’s fifty-third governor.   He draws upon a voluminous collection of primary sources, including contemporary news accounts, Davey Company records, and government documents from the local, state, and national levels to paint a colorful portrait of a controversial man.  Unfortunately, as well-written and thoroughly-researched as this book is, readers may disagree that Martin L. Davey was in any way extraordinary.  On the contrary, what emerges from the pages is a stereotypical portrait of a cynical politician: an ambitious job-seeker climbing the political ladder – vain, hypocritical, self-aggrandizing, and not above employing “mean” campaign tactics, to use the author’s term. Continue reading

An Archaeo-Architectural Examination of Lock 24, Elkton, Ohio

By: Charles Mastran

Abstract

To the degree in which it can be determined at the present time, no formal archaeological field study has been conducted on any architectural remains still in extant within the domain of northeastern Ohio’s Sandy and Beaver Canal Company Line corridor, notably within Columbiana County. In summer, 2005, this contingency prompted archaeologists from Youngstown State University, accompanied by volunteers, to execute a first time field assessment and architectural description upon two free standing, quadratic ashlar stone lineaments known locally as Lock 24. The lock, presently under private ownership, and heavily cannibalized, is situated within the limits of Elkton, Ohio, a small locality residing in what was the twenty-seven mile long Eastern Division of the Sandy and Beaver Line, an affiliate of the Ohio and Erie Canal. The examination led to a plethora of Nineteenth Century architectural detail surrounding the remains of Lock 24, a generic reminder of the Ohio canal era. Indeed, through the agency of three specialized contractors, Lock 24, comprised of composite materials, was created as a fully-operational guard lock while under the jurisdiction of head engineer, William Minor Roberts in 1846. For clarity in presentation, a photographic figure and map display will best describe Lock 24, and thus contribute to the further understanding of an otherwise broad and well-known period in Ohio history and that history’s place within a local community. Continue reading

Book Review: Appalachian Ohio and the Civil War, 1862-1863

Appalachian Ohio and the Civil War, 1862-1863. By Susan G. Hall. (Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2000. vi, 258 pp. $39.95, ISBN 978-0-7864-3738-2.)

In Appalachian Ohio and the Civil War, 1862-1863, Susan G. Hall provides a narrative history of a select group of Ohioans. Hall’s goal is to show how the Civil War affected the “small society” in Harrison County and the surrounding five eastern Appalachian counties during the one year period from the summer of 1862 to the following summer of 1863. For Hall, this represents a time of “crucial battles and political events which shaped the Civil War and the nation subsequently, and altered societies in many ways.” (p. 1)

This of course could be said for many different time periods during the four years of national conflict. But Hall claims that the recruiting of soldiers in 1862 led to a bitter division between Appalachian Ohio citizens who supported the Union’s actions and the growing presence of anti-war Democrats. She asserts that studying this specific period can illuminate the shift in soldier motivations and the rise of Copperhead support in Ohio, both of which contributed to why 1862-1863 was such a pivotal year affecting the home front and the men away at war. Continue reading

Text and Context in Ohio’s 1938 Senate Campaign: Race, Republican Party Ideology, and Robert A. Taft’s Firestone Memorial Oration

By: Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr.

In the spring of 1938, Ohio Republicans were well aware of the erosion of support among the African-American population for the “Party of Lincoln.” Between 1932 and 1936, black voters had transferred their allegiance en masse to the Democratic Party. Although most African Americans had remained with Hoover and the Grand Old Party (GOP) in 1932, a massive electoral “realignment” began with the 1934 mid-term congressional races. The 2.4 million blacks who had migrated to northern cities were no longer willing to accept their lot as second-class citizens. New Deal programs politicized black voters across the nation; numerous measures that augmented black incomes, increased literacy rates and education levels, and engaged citizens in community activities also mobilized African Americans for the Democratic Party. While black political organizing became commonplace in the cities of the industrial North and Midwest, urban blacks in the Upper South likewise registered and voted in increasingly large numbers. For the first time in 1934, a majority of black Americans voted for Democratic candidates.1 Continue reading

Show 1 footnote

  1. The author wishes to thank Kenneth J. Bindas for his numerous suggestions for improving the argument and Austin McCoy for his insights into American race relations provided during the Spring Semester 2009 Research Seminar at Kent State University as this work neared completion.  Elizabeth M. Smith-Pryor’s extensive comments on an earlier and much longer assessment of Senator Taft’s views on race were absolutely crucial to this more modest project. Mary Ann Heiss scrutinized the manuscript with her keen editorial eye, made several suggestions to strengthen the conclusion, and improved the work immeasurably.
    Harvard Sitkoff, A New Deal for Blacks: The Emergence of Civil Rights as a National Issue (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 84-89.

In This Issue: Spring 2010

In The Current Issue:

After conquering some technical difficulties, we are happy to be back online with a new issue featuring Clarence Wunderlin’s study of Robert A. Taft’s Firestone Memorial Oration during the 1938 Ohio Senate campaign. Its examination of the speech and its context not only sheds light on the Republican Party’s difficulties in courting the African-American vote at the time, but also has some relevance to their similar struggles in the present.

In addition to this issue’s book review, we also encourage the reader to explore the other features of our site. For those who missed earlier issues, please visit our “Past Issues” page, which contains the entire contents of previous volumes. We have expanded our “Research Links” feature, adding not only more primary sources but also more links to local historical agencies. We strongly encourage the reader to suggest or send new links for this page. The same is true for items in “Current History,” which is a clearinghouse for information on events of a historical nature in Northeast Ohio. Because we update this section constantly, please feel free to send announcements for it at any time.

We would also like to remind our readers that printer-friendly versions accompany each article and review. These PDF files are not only easier on the eyes when printed, but also contain basic issue data and page numbers for convenience in citation.

As always, 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 Kern

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Book Review: Guide to the Building Stones and Cultural Geology of Akron

Guide to the Building Stones and Cultural Geology of Akron. By Joseph T. Hannibal. Columbus, Ohio: Division of Geological Survey, 2006. 75 pp. (paper) $11.00, Guidebook No. 19.

Joseph Hannibal weaves together geology, geography, and history to provide a Guide to the Building Stones and Cultural Geology of Akron, an interpretive tour of the built and natural landscape of Akron, Ohio.  The book can be read as a stand-alone work or carried into the field to find and understand the physical traces of Akron’s geologic, architectural, industrial, and commercial past.  Hannibal’s guidebook, number 19 in a series of field guides of Ohio’s geologic history, was written for the 2006 North-Central Section meeting of the Geological Society of America, which met in Akron, Ohio.

The book, organized in the style of a field guide, is arranged to guide visitors through a series of stops in and around modern-day Akron. Continue reading

Book Review: Call Me Mike

Call Me Mike: A Political Biography of Michael V. DiSalle. By Richard G. Zimmerman. Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 2003.xi, 322 pp. $34.00, ISBN 0-87338-755-4.

In the years since his death in 1981, Michael V. DiSalle, the Ohio city mayor and state governor, and director of the Office of Price Stabilization under President Harry Truman, has received little extensive examination. He deserves more. Born in 1908 to Italian immigrants living in a New York tenement, Michael’s father soon moved the family to the Midwestern industrial city of Toledo. There young Michael worked at many short-lived jobs before rapidly moving up the political ranks to city, state, and national office. After graduating from Georgetown University, he passed the Ohio bar exam and practiced law in Toledo. Meanwhile, local politics proved attractive in the suffering environment of the Great Depression, suggesting to him, as to New Dealers, that a compassionate government could lighten life’s burdens for people. In 1936 he carried that liberal passion into his successful campaign to become a Democratic member of the Ohio House of Representatives.  Continue reading

Book Review: The Story of My Life

The Story of My Life. By Frank Vlchek, translated and edited by Winston Chrislock. Kent:  The Kent State University Press, 2004, xvi, 392 pp., $34.00, ISBN 0-87338-817-8.

The Story of My Life by Frank Vlchek is an extraordinarily detailed account of the fortunes of a Czech immigrant who arrived in Cleveland in 1888 and went on to become one of the city’s leading manufacturers and a prominent member of Cleveland’s Czech community.  The book was first published in Czechoslovakia in 1928 and in 1929, Fern Long, an employee of the Cleveland Public Library, translated it into English but it has remained in manuscript form until the appearance of this edition edited by Winston Chrislock.  All of those interested in Cleveland’s history will be grateful for its appearance since it contains a wealth of detail about the city’s industrial and ethnic life written from the perspective of an individual who participated in Cleveland’s emergence as a major industrial city. Continue reading

Book Review: Akron’s Better Half

Akron’s Better Half: Women’s Clubs and the Humanization of the City, 1825-1925. By Kathleen L. Endres. Akron: University of Akron Press, 2006. 232 pp. (cloth) 978-1-931968-36-2, $54.95, (paper) 978-1-931968-41-6, $27.95

Most of Akron’s claim to national and international historical significance centers on its former status as the rubber capital of the world characterized by Steve Love’s and David Giffel’s, Wheels of Fortune: The Story of Rubber in Akron and historian and communications professor at the University of Akron, Kathleen Endres, 2000 publication Rosie the Rubber Worker. However, Endres, in Akron’s Better Half: Women’s Clubs and the Humanization of the City, 1825-1925 contends that understanding the history of women’s organizations in Akron, Ohio contributes greatly to the local and national narrative of urbanization and underscores the important work of Akron women beyond the factory floors of Goodyear and Firestone. Continue reading

Book Review: “Circumstances are Destiny”

“Circumstances are Destiny”: An Antebellum Woman’s Struggle to Define Sphere. By Tina Stewart Brakebill. (Civil War in the North.) Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press. 2006. Pp. xx, 255. $34.95.

“My destiny,” lamented Ohio native Celestia Rice Colby, “is to act, to do life’s humblest duties, in a narrow, unknown sphere, to crush back the upspringing aspirations that rise in my soul, and to strive for the mastery over my own spirit.” (xii)  With this, the reader of Tina Stewart Brakebill’s “Circumstances are destiny”: An Antebellum Woman’s Struggle to Define Sphere, a volume in Kent State University Press’s Civil War in the North Series, is led into one antebellum woman’s thoughts concerning her decades-long struggle against gender-based limitations in American society. Continue reading