In This Issue: Summer 2004

In The Current Issue:

Our regular readers have probably been wondering what became of the spring issue of the Northeast Ohio Journal of History. Whereas we had the content for this edition months ago, we met with unanticipated (and lengthy) technical challenges in endeavoring to upgrade the website. Thus, in the interests of accuracy, we have decided to call this the “Summer 2004” issue. This is a one-time adjustment, however, and the fall issue will still come out as scheduled. We apologize for the delay, and hope it has not caused too much inconvenience to our subscribers.

We also trust that our readers will forgive the wait for this issue once they see what awaits them inside. For example, our feature article takes us for a trip out to the bars. In “Tavernocracy: Tavern Culture on Ohio’s Western Reserve,” Adam Criblez argues that the humble local tavern had oft-neglected but vital social, cultural, and political influences on the residents of early nineteenth century Northeast Ohio. Absent other social institutions on the frontier, Criblez notes, the tavern provided an important forum for people of all classes to meet and discuss the issues of the day.

For those of our readers who wish to meet and discuss issues of the day without threat of hangovers, we are very pleased to introduce our new discussion board. Taking advantage of the technology available to us as an electronic journal, we believe this new feature will make our journal more interactive and serve to engender substantive debate, discussion, and exchange of information for all people interested in the history of Northeast Ohio.

To get the ball rolling in this new “virtual tavern,” we have reprised Gregory Wilson’s item “Thinking About Regions” in our “Notes and Comments” section. The Northeast Ohio Journal of History is by definition a regional history publication, but how should that region be defined? Politically? Geographically? Culturally? Environmentally? Wilson, NOJH’s Publication Director and Assistant Professor of History at the University of Akron, means to provoke discussion and debate with this piece. To add your part to this debate, please post your thoughts on the discussion board.

For this issue’s virtual museum exhibit, we are extremely fortunate to feature Jack Geick’s photographic tour of Cascade Locks Park in Akron, Ohio. One of Northeast Ohio’s most important local historians, Geick takes the reader through the nearly forgotten landmarks of the old Ohio and Erie Canal lock system near downtown Akron, deftly illustrating the history that is often literally right under our feet.

In addition to the usual book reviews, we also encourage the reader to explore the other features of our site. For those who missed earlier issues, please visit our “Archives” link, which contains the entire contents of our first volume. 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 item. 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

Continue reading In This Issue: Summer 2004

Notes & Comments: Thinking About Regions

By: Gregory Wilson, University of Akron
Publication Director, Northeast Ohio Journal of History

The Northeast Ohio Journal of History bills itself as a regional enterprise. However, this masks the many complexities involved in defining a region. Of course, the concept of a region is a human creation, an effort to simplify discussions of disparate events, or to generalize about certain trends, issues, and events noticed in various local or state locations. Within the history of the United States, writers have made great and frequent use of regions: the West, the Great Lakes, Appalachia, the Northwest, the Great Plains, the South and so on. By its nature, defining a region means creating an entity that is unique in some fashion, different from other places around it according to some combination of cultural, economic, environmental, political, or social attributes. Regional boundaries are fluid, flexible, and porous and thus it is a matter of debate as to what is or is not part of a region. For example, the South usually refers to the 11 states that seceded in 1861; yet at times, historians have expanded this to include West Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland and Oklahoma. Including 11 makes the South a region defined politically by secession, but including 4 others means historians must go beyond political categories and search for other attributes that bind together people and places. In the case of the South, what makes the 4 others “southern”? The former presence of slavery? Accents and words in the language? Food and folkways?  Geographic features? Economic data? Again, there are multiple factors at work in defining places as regions. Continue reading Notes & Comments: Thinking About Regions

Book Review: A Politician Turned General

A Politician Turned General: The Civil War Career of Stephen Augustus Hurlbut. By Jeffrey N. Lash. (Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 2003. xii, 300 pp. Cloth, $49.00, ISBN 0-87338-766-x.)

In recent years, readers of Civil War history have enjoyed a spate of works detailing the lives and contributions of so-called “political generals,” those elected officials, North and South, who received important military positions in recognition of partisan service to their respective sections. Books by James Hollandsworth and Richard Kiper have, for example, presented nuanced looks at Nathaniel P. Banks and John A McClernand respectively, two of the more notable politician-soldiers employed by the Union. As a practice, the awarding of general’s stars to rank amateurs strikes most modern students as at best cynical politicking, and at worst as a monstrous roll of the dice—many soldiers paid dearly for these battlefield neophytes’ lack of military acumen. Yet it must be remembered that military professionalism, now accepted as an article of faith in Western culture, was a nascent phenomenon during the middle nineteenth century. Early American society generally held career officers at arms length, preferring, in a paean to republican simplicity, the presumed talents of the virtuous citizen-soldier, one who dutifully left his civilian post to provide sagacious leadership in a military setting. Moreover, political generals, as Thomas J. Goss cogently argues in his important study The War within the Union High Command, played a vital role in garnering and maintaining national backing for war. To the growing list of quality volumes on such figures as Banks and McClernand we now include the work of Jeffrey N. Lash, whose A Politician Turned General examines the lesser-known (but no less controversial) Stephen A. Hurlbut.

The author’s chief contribution to the literature is one that, on the surface, appears to be purely semantic, but is in fact essential to understanding Hurlbut’s long and tumultuous Civil War career. Continue reading Book Review: A Politician Turned General

Book Review: The 1858 Oberlin-Wellington Rescue

The 1858 Oberlin-Wellington Rescue: A Reappraisal. By Roland M. Baumann. (Oberlin, Ohio: The Oberlin College Archives, 2003.  52  pp. Paper, $9.95.)

On September 13, 1858, thirty-seven ardent abolitionists rescued fugitive slave John Price before Kentucky slave catchers could return him to bondage. The rescue was completed without violence, and within days, Price was removed to Canada. To scholars of the mid-nineteenth century and the Civil War, the Oberlin Wellington Rescue is an event of incredible importance. Some declare that dedicated abolitionists made Oberlin the town that started the Civil War. While Roland Baumann would not go as far as to give Oberlin this title, he does recognize the importance and unique character of the people of Oberlin, the rescue, and the subsequent trial of those involved and how these events effect the local and national discussion of slavery. The 1858 Oberlin-Wellington Rescue: A Reappraisal written by Roland M. Baumann, Archivist and Adjunct Professor of History at Oberlin College, provides a basic narrative of the events of 1858-1859, while focusing on the underlying theme he sees as essential to the incident and the town’s reaction. In addition, Baumann addresses the motivations of the participants, the degree of organization that existed among the rescuers, and the significance of the event. While his attention to these points feeds the traditional historiography of the rescue, his main thesis looks at Oberlin’s unique character and brand of abolitionism. He argues that Oberlin’s evangelical based beliefs in the abolitionist movement created an environment and people that were unique in their worldview. Continue reading Book Review: The 1858 Oberlin-Wellington Rescue

Book Review: Confronting the Odds

Confronting the Odds: African-American Entrepreneurship in Cleveland, Ohio.  By Bessie House-Soremekun. (Kent: Kent State University Press, 2002. xxvi, 202 pp. Paper, $21.00, ISBN 0873387341.)

In the book Confronting the Odds: African American Entrepreneurship in Cleveland, Ohio Bessie House-Soremekun looks at the African American experience in developing a business foundation in Cleveland, Ohio. Using a variety of sources including interviews, newspapers, and books, Soremekun paints both an optimistic and troubling picture of Cleveland’s African American experience in business development. The book traces the many successes and failures of African American entrepreneurs in Cleveland, while analyzing the many difficulties they faced. Soremekun relies heavily on Jesse Jackson’s analysis of the underserved economy of African Americans, Hispanics and urbanites who encompass more than sixty million people and more than $600 billion in annual earnings. The books talks about the untapped potential of those undeserved communities and how they could serve as a powerful engine for expanding African Americans entrepreneurial success. Continue reading Book Review: Confronting the Odds

Tavernocracy: Tavern Culture in Ohio’s Western Reserve

By: Adam Criblez

“I am sure the Americans can fix nothing without a drink. If you meet, you drink; if you part, you drink; if you make acquaintance, you drink; if you close a bargain, you drink; they quarrel in their drink, and they make it up with a drink. They drink because it is hot; they drink because it is cold. If successful in election, they drink and rejoice; if not, they drink and swear; they begin to drink early in the morning, they leave off late at night; they commence it early in life, and they continue it, until they soon drop into the grave. To use their expression, they way they drink, is ‘quite a caution.’ As for water, what the man said, when asked to belong to the Temperance Society, appears to be the general opinion: “It’s very good for navigation” — Frederick Marryat[1. Frederick Marryat, A Diary in America With Remarks on Its Institutions (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962), 389.]

In 1776, American colonists revolted against perceived inequities unjustly thrust upon them by a tyrannical English monarchy. After defeating the colonial power, Americans faced a new, perhaps more daunting, task; creating a new form of government based on tenants of freedom and a vague ideal known as republicanism. With limited precedent from which to draw, Americans heatedly debated what it meant to be an American citizen, what true virtue and republicanism stood for, and how this fledgling nation should be run. From the very beginning, this public discourse and private conversation poured forth from one of the nation’s most important centers for the dissemination of information; the rural tavern.[2. Throughout this work I will interchangeably use the terms ‘tavern’, ‘bar’, ‘ordinary’ and ‘public house’. I avoid using the terms ‘saloon’ and ‘hotel’ because they elicit decidedly post-bellum connotations.]

Within the tavern, men carried out the traditions of the revolution. They discussed American politics, drank American beverages, and escaped their defined roles in society through the close, if often forced, intimacy of the early nineteenth century tavern. It was in these walls that settlers discussed what it meant to be American and parlayed words into action. Continue reading Tavernocracy: Tavern Culture in Ohio’s Western Reserve