Book Review: Terrible Swift Sword

Terrible Swift Sword: The Legacy of John Brown. Edited by Peggy A. Russo and Paul Finkelman. (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2005. 228 pp. Paper, $24.95. ISBN: 0821416316.)

This collection of twelve essays by scholars from various fields examines the legacy of John Brown, the abolitionist zealot whose raid in 1859 on the Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, further inflamed sectional hostility and helped ignite the Civil War. Drawn from a symposium on Brown at the Mont Alto campus of Pennsylvania State University in 1996, these essays focus for the most part on how people then and now have thought of Brown and how they have portrayed him—as a martyr, madman, criminal, or terrorist. The conference organizers and the editors sought multidisciplinary contributors in hopes of overcoming the “habit of specialization” among academics in an effort to garner fresh insights into Brown’s legacy. These essays, for the most part, succeed in their goal. Continue reading Book Review: Terrible Swift Sword

Book Review: British Buckeyes

British Buckeyes: The English, Scots, & Welsh in Ohio, 1700-1900.By Warren E Van Vugt. (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2006. xiii, 295 pp. Cloth, $55.00, ISBN 0-87338-843-7.)

British Buckeyes. The English, Scots, & Welsh in Ohio, 1700-1900 by Warren E. Van Vugt of Calvin College is a survey of the influence British immigrants had on the development of Ohio over the course of two centuries. The arrival, settlement, and impact of British immigrants in the United States after 1775 is virtually ignored in academic literature, so this examination of them in one state is to be welcomed. The first premise of the work is that the history of Ohio cannot be told or understood without the British immigrants. The second premise, asserted in an often repeated phrase, is that British immigrants had a significant impact because of their cultural affinity with the Americans as well as a common language and religion. This fact is perhaps why British immigrants are so often overlooked: before 1775 they helped create American culture, but afterwards they simply blended in, not having as many obstacles to overcome or barriers to break through as other immigrant groups. Van Vugt, following heavily on the heels of Albion’s Seed by David Hackett Fischer, believes that British immigrants coming to Ohio were simply reinforcing the folkways of earlier arrivals from Scotland, England, and Wales. Provocatively, in his conclusion he wonders when Ohio stopped being British and started being American. Although he admits many changes occurred between “early” and “late” British migrants, he does not seem to regard the differences as significant. Continue reading Book Review: British Buckeyes

Book Review: Ohio and the World

Ohio and the World, 1753-2053: Essays toward a New History of OhioEdited by Geoffrey Parker, Richard Sisson, and William Russ Coil. (Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2005. xiii, 256 pp. Cloth, $49.95, ISBN 0-8142-0939-4. Paper, $22.95, ISBN 0-8142-5115-3.)

In an essay titled “Ohio States” from the book of the same name, Jeffrey Hammond noted that Ohio appeared average because it was, meaning that Ohio is an amalgam of U.S. society, notable for being the middle against which more radical, trendy or controversial events are measured.[1. Jeffrey Hammond, Ohio States: A Twentieth-Century Midwestern, Kent: Kent State University Press, 2002.] In his introduction to Ohio and the World, Andrew R.L. Cayton, author of several books on Ohio and frontier North America, takes exception to this characterization as incomplete. As he notes, Ohio possessed real leadership, since from “the mid-eighteenth through the mid-twentieth century, Ohio was at the forefront of most major developments in the Americas and Europe” (2).

Ohio and the World began as a series of lectures in honor of Ohio’s bicentennial. Now revised and edited, the essays by R. David Edmunds, James Oliver Horton, Eric Foner, Kathryn Kish Sklar, James T. Patterson, Herbert Asher, and William Kirwan seek to explain Ohio’s past and future as intimately involved with globalization. The larger purpose is to push Ohioans to once again make the state a destination point, an economic and socially progressive leader. Continue reading Book Review: Ohio and the World

Book Review: Religion in Ohio

Religion in Ohio: Profiles of Faith Communities. Edited by Tarunjit Singh Butalia and Dianne P. Small (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2004. 408 pp. $16.95, ISBN: 0821415522).

This book celebrates Ohio’s religious heritage after 200 years of statehood. It is the result of a collaborative effort by the Religious Experience Advisory Council of the Ohio Bicentennial Commission and the Interfaith Association of Central Ohio.

Within the book the reader will find a brief history of over forty of the major (and some major-minor) Christian denominations in the state, as well as a history of nine non-Christian religions which have found a home in Ohio (Native American Spiritual Traditions, Judaism, Islam, Hindu Dharma, Buddhism, The Sikh Faith, The Bahá’í Faith, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism). The articles are generally written by adherents of each faith, or, in the case of groups no longer in the state (Shakers, Society of Separatists at Zoar), by a scholar familiar with them. There is a detailed index covering both articles and illustrations, and a brief biographical sketch of contributors. Continue reading Book Review: Religion in Ohio

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: Lest We Be Marshall’d

Lest We Be Marshall‘d: Judicial Powers and Politics in Ohio, 1806-1812. By Donald F. Melhorn, Jr. (Akron, Ohio: The University of Akron Press, 2003. 352 pp. $44.95, ISBN 1-931968-01-2.)

Lest We Be Marshall‘d is an anecdotal history of politics and the judiciary in Ohio from 1806 to 1812. Author Donald F. Melhorn, Jr., is a Toledo attorney and Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Toledo . Melhorn is no stranger to scholarship since he published previously on the law. The focus is on the power of the courts to exercise judicial review relative to state laws. Chief Justice John Marshall in Marbury versus Madison, 1803, established the issue of judicial review on the national level. Still it remained a very controversial issue in state politics. Ohio seemingly went beyond reason by subjecting judges to impeachment if they ruled on the constitutionality of a legislative act. Several judges were impeached because they exercised judicial review: Calvin Pease and George Tod.

“Lest We Be Marshall’d” were words spoken as a reference to the influence of the Marshall Court . Melhorn’s anecdotal style is a fresh and scholarly interpretation of politics and personalities during the formative years of Ohio after it had achieved statehood in 1803. Melhorn introduces readers to the dynamics of frontier politics, personalities, and constitutional issues as manifested in the impact of Ohio ‘s “Sweeping Resolution.” In a limited way, Melhorn captured the zeitgeist in Ohio between 1806 and 1812. However, the work is wanting because Melhorn failed to address how Ohio politicians and the judiciary dealt with the black community during these years. When Ohio entered the Union in 1803 under the principles of the Northwest Ordinance, its members narrowly defeated a measure to allow slavery. While the 1887 Ordinance prohibited slavery in the Ohio territory, once it became a state, Ohio could approve or reject the institution. However, between 1804 and 1808, Ohio adopted a series of “Black Laws” which prohibited migration to the state and denied equality to blacks in the state. Thus, it is difficult to appreciate fully any interpretation in 21 st century America that is not inclusive of how politics and courts reacted to Ohio ‘s black community during its formative years.

W. Sherman Jackson
Associate Professor, Miami University

Book Review: Builders of Ohio

Builders of Ohio: A Biographical History. Edited by Warren Van Tine and Michael Pierce. (Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2003. xi, 338 pp. Paper $24.95, ISBN: 0-8142-5121-8.)

If an instructor could use only two books to teach an undergraduate course in Ohio History, he or she and the students would be well served by using Builders of Ohio and George Knepper’s, Ohio And Its People. As the editors state in the introduction, “The twenty-four essays in this volume use biography to explore Ohio’s history. They are not intended to provide a narrative history. . . . Nonetheless, they do provide a historical overview of the state’s development. . . ” (vii). Thus each work serves to complement the other, one providing the full narrative history and the other providing the human dimension to that narrative.

Editors Van Tine and Pierce purposefully chose the biographical approach to Ohio history for three reasons: (1) The personal narrative of a biography brings the work of academic historians more easily to the attention of the interested public; (2) Biographies emphasize the connections between historical events and the contributions of individuals; and, (3) Biography as an historical method “offers the most promising synthesis of culture and history.”(viii). Through the biographical sketches of twenty-four individuals, Ohio’s settlement, development of political and economic institutions, contributions to social reform, and the slow and sometimes painful transformation from an industrial-based to a service-based economy are highlighted. Continue reading Book Review: Builders of Ohio

Book Review: Along the Towpath

Along the Towpath, A Journalist Rediscovers the Ohio & Erie Canal. By Al Simpson. (Akron, OH : The University of Akron Libraries, 2003. 248 pp. $29.95, ISBN 0-9743507-0-2.

Along the Towpath, A Journalist Rediscovers the Ohio & Erie Canal is an interesting read in that it documents the development of the Ohio and Erie Canal Corridor from its embryonic stages until the canal lands were “saved” by local government units when the state of Ohio chose to divest itself of the responsibility for these historic lands. The story could easily be dismissed as an esoteric bonding of two men who shared a passion for the preservation of the Ohio and Lake Erie Canal in Stark County, Ohio. Their mission started innocently enough when a local politician invited a reporter from the Canton Repository to join him on a hike from Canal Fulton to Navarre along the banks of the canal in Stark County. The rest is history. Continue reading Book Review: Along the Towpath

Book Review: Opening Day

Opening Day: Cleveland, the Indians, and a New Beginning. By Jonathan Knight. (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2004.  200 pp.  Paper, $14.95, ISBN 0-87338-815-1.)

Writing a narrative about one’s favorite sports franchise can be a steep hill to climb for an author wanting to connect with a mainstream audience.  The most sincere testimony to such a love affair does not guarantee relevance, or even the interest of those outside the flock.  In Opening Day: Cleveland, the Indians, and a New Beginning, however, Jonathan Knight has navigated the recent history of “The Tribe” in an engaging manner that can enlighten, and be appreciated by even the non-baseball fan.  For this book is as much about the Indian fans of Northeast Ohio as it is about the team itself.

The core of the book surrounds the first game played at Jacob’s Field, Cleveland’s sparkling jewel of a new stadium, on Opening Day, 1994. Continue reading Book Review: Opening Day

Book Review: William McKinley and His America

William McKinley and His America, Revised Edition. By H. Wayne Morgan. (Kent: Kent State University Press, 2003. vii, 488 pp. Hardcover, $55.00, ISBN 0-87338-765-1.)

History has not been kind to presidents elected from Ohio.  The Buckeye State’s native sons are remembered as less-than-stellar chief executives, responsible for sins ranging from scandal to lechery, or as colorless party hacks who left little impact on the nation.  William McKinley has often fallen into this latter category, portrayed as an indecisive and dull-witted puppet of big business.  Four decades ago, H. Wayne Morgan challenged these generalizations with the publication of William McKinley and His America.  What emerged was a refreshingly different McKinley: independent, strong-willed, and sympathetic to the working masses.  Fresh on the heels of the centennial of McKinley’s presidency, Kent State University Press has released Morgan’s revised and expanded biography of America’s twenty-fifth commander-in-chief. Continue reading Book Review: William McKinley and His America