Book Review: Cradles of Conscience

Cradles of Conscience: Ohio‘s Independent Colleges and UniversitiesEdited by John William Oliver Jr., James A. Hodges, and James H. O’Donnell. (Kent: Kent State University Press, 2003. ix, 588 pp. Paper $50.00, ISBN: 0-87338-763-5.)

Ohio has an unusually rich and deep heritage of private institutions of higher education. Apart from Pennsylvania, no state has more independent baccalaureate colleges and universities, and this ambitious book of forty-three essays examines the history of all of them, along with many more that no longer exist. Although uneven and marred by editing and organizational problems, this book nevertheless is an important contribution to the historical literature of higher education in Ohio, and serves as a valuable reference work for anyone interested in the state’s “Cradles of Conscience.”

College histories are an idiosyncratic literature, written for and appealing to largely parochial audiences with personal interests in the school studied. As a result, most college histories stand more or less alone, with only passing references to other colleges of the time or area. Thus, while the reader may get a deep understanding of the institution studied, often the comparative element is missing, leaving the reader unaware of just how ordinary or unusual events and trends in school history were. With only about ten to twenty pages devoted to each school, Cradles of Conscience can not hope to rival traditional college histories in depth, but provides instead unprecedented breadth in examining the landscape of private colleges in Ohio. The succinctness of each chapter also shows, in sharp relief, the major themes and trends evident in the history of each school, facilitating comparisons with other colleges and universities throughout the state. Continue reading Book Review: Cradles of Conscience

Book Review: Ohio States

Ohio States: A Twentieth-Century Midwestern, by Jeffrey Hammond. Kent: Kent State University Press, 2002. pp. X, 195. $14.95

It may seem a bit out of place for a journal of history to review what is essentially a literary work, but a strict distinction between “literary” and “historical” can be a false dichotomy when discussing worthwhile reading on Ohio.  Books such as John Baskin’s New Burlington: The Life and Death of an American Village and Terry Ryan’s The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio have demonstrated that compelling accounts of late 20th-century Ohio are as likely to come from professional journalists and writers as they are from professional historians.  Jeffrey Hammond’s Ohio States–a collection of charming and thoughtful essays on growing up in Findlay, Ohio in the 1950s and 1960s–is an important entry into this admittedly small genre.  Deceptively modest and straightforward in approach, this extremely well-written work touches on issues of religion, politics, race, gender, and even philosophy en route to a deeper understanding of people, life, and what it means to be an Ohioan. Continue reading Book Review: Ohio States

Notes & Comments: Prospectus: The Northeast Ohio Consortium

By: Kevin Kern, The University of Akron


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: Prospectus: The Northeast Ohio Consortium

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: When Oberlin Was King of the Gridiron