The Cincinnati House of Refuge and Asylums for Children in 19th century Cincinnati

The Children's Home of Cincinnati, 1093
The Children’s Home of Cincinnati, 1903

In my previous blogs, I have explored the history of Cincinnati’s House of Refuge and the records of the institution that are still available.  Throughout my journey, I have been struck by the number of homeless children and children without adequate homes who were placed in this juvenile detention facility.  One of the questions that I have been exploring is why these children were placed in the House of Refuge and not in another institution.    My first thought was that there must not have been anywhere for these children to go, but a search for orphanages and other institutions in 19th Century Cincinnati has revealed that there actually were institutions that cared for children who had been abandoned, neglected, or whose parents were simply unable to care for them.  So why were children who were not juvenile delinquents living in the House of Refuge?  It seems that one reason may have been because there was not a standardized or centralized way of dealing with neglected, abused or homeless children in the city.[1]

Services for children in need in 19th century Cincinnati were controlled by different entities and the placement of children was often influenced by religion, ethnicity, and race.  Orphanages in Cincinnati were almost exclusively privately run and they were often affiliated with a particular religion.  Some took in children who were homeless or children who the administrators felt were not adequately cared for by their parents, but other institutions only accepted orphans whose parents were either both deceased or whose parents were contributing members.  In addition, only a few institutions in 19th century Cincinnati, including the House of Refuge, accepted African American children.  A closer look at a few of these early Cincinnati orphanages shows how their services differed and overlapped. Continue reading The Cincinnati House of Refuge and Asylums for Children in 19th century Cincinnati

Found! House of Refuge Records at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

House of Refuge Main EntranceAs anyone who has done historical research can tell you, locating old records is not always easy.  Sometimes records simply were not kept.  Other times, they were destroyed by fire, water damage, or pests.  The House of Refuge records at UC is one collection in which the records are incomplete.  The collection consists of five volumes and include inmate registers, employee registers, and a financial ledger.  There are two volumes of inmate registers in the collection, which cover the years 1869-1882 and 1891-1902.  Missing from the collection at UC are the years 1850-1869, 1883-1890, and 1902-1912.

This fall while conducting some general research related to the House of Refuge, I started searching local libraries for items connected to the history of the House of Refuge.  Through a simple catalog search, I discovered that the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (PLCH) had three volumes of House of Refuge records! Even more exciting was how well these records complimented the collections at UC.  Although registers at the University of Cincinnati list the name of the children who were admitted to the House of Refuge, their offense (or reason for being sent to the House of Refuge), and some general family information, there really is not much detail on the specifics of each child’s case or information on what happened to them after they left the House of Refuge.  The records at PLCH do provide specific information on inmates’ family history, offense, and the details of their release from the House of Refuge. Continue reading Found! House of Refuge Records at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

The Benjamin Gettler Papers Project

By: Alex Temple, Gettler Project Archivist

Alex TempleHi, my name is Alex Temple, and I’m the Project Archivist who will be letting the life and work of Benjamin Gettler out of the box, so to speak.  While I am unpacking and learning, I will be using this blog to share with you some of the interesting footprints* left behind by Mr. Gettler throughout his accomplished life of service and business achievement.  To round it out, I will also be sharing with you my process and experiences with the project.

These “footprints” are currently stored in six boxes.  It is my job to sort through these boxes and arrange their contents in a way that best represents the life of Ben Gettler, and to describe the contents and arrangement to make his life easy for you to access and discover for yourself.  There will be detailed finding aid created, along with a web exhibit and select digitization of important documents.

Gettler papers boxesTo put another way, Mr. Gettler wore many shoes in his life while leaving these footprints, and I’ll be determining their style and occasion.  I will also be rehousing the collection to ensure that these records of his life will be preserved for long-term care, so with some luck we just might meet a cobbler on the way!

In his life, Benjamin Gettler worked as a lawyer, served on the University of Cincinnati’s Board of Trustees, and was deeply involved in Cincinnati public transportation, the Jewish community, and local, state, national, and international politics and philanthropies.  What are the contributions of Ben Gettler that you are interested in? Throughout this project, your thoughts are always welcome and encouraged!

To learn more about the holdings of the Archives & Rare Books Library and its ongoing projects, visit us on the 8th floor of Blegen Library, call us at 513.556.1959, email us at archives@ucmail.uc.edu, visit our web page at http://libraries.uc.edu/arb.html, or follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ArchivesRareBooksLibraryUniversityOfCincinnati.

 

*Visible Footprints is the autobiography of Benjamin Gettler, co-written with Michael G. Rapp and published in 2012.

What’s in the water?

Ohio River headwaters in Pittsburgh
Formation of the Ohio River in Pittsburgh by the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. Photograph taken by Eira Tansey, October 2017.

What’s in the water?

Ohio’s status as a “water-rich state” has meant that it has long been a flashpoint for concerns over how to ensure protection of our water resources, particularly as Ohio’s waterways have played a significant part in regional industry. One of the most famous images of the environmental movement was Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River catching on fire in 1969 – it was not the first time, as it had caught on fire several times before, going back to the mid-1800s. If you want to learn more about the political atmosphere of Cleveland during this event, UC history professor (and friend of the Archives and Rare Books Library) David Stradling has written a book about it.

One of the landmark federal laws that was placed under authority of the newly established EPA was the 1972 Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Act actually traced its origins to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948, and was the result of many amendments to the 1948 law. The Clean Water Act requires significant recordkeeping and information systems in order to support implementation of the law. Much of the Clean Water Act’s powers are delegated to state environmental protection agencies (for example, Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency, or Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection). One of the major parts of the Clean Water Act is a permitting system known as the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). The NPDES system “regulates discharges of pollutants from municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants, sewer collection systems, and stormwater discharges from industrial facilities and municipalities.”

As a system of bureaucratic recordkeeping, the NPDES system reveals much about how we have attempted to take hard-to-quantify aspects of our environment, and pack it down into standardized documentation about human impact.

For example, reviewing a recent draft permit for a wastewater facility in the greater Cincinnati area, this permit will last for five years. It requires the wastewater facility to self-report sampling levels of their discharges to one of the tributaries of the Ohio River. Sampling must take place Monday through Friday but the time of day doesn’t have to be reported, and the permit holder must retain records for three years. One can imagine arguing for modifying any of these recordkeeping requirements upwards or downwards, based on your orientation towards deregulation or to environmental protection.

Recordkeeping is not a neutral act. What is reported and recorded reflects information necessary for regulatory fulfillment. Choices about recordkeeping – what to record, when to record it, who should record it, how often to record it, where to store it, and public vs proprietary access, reflect competing values attached to environmental information.

The Archives & Rare Books Library’s Current Desiderata

By:  Kevin Grace

Gulliver's Travels, illustration by RackhamAs we are continually building the collections of the Archives & Rare Books Library in our areas of strength and making them more accessible for teaching and research, we know there are vital monographs or documents we would always like to acquire.  In some cases, our rare book budget will accommodate some special items, but when it comes to archival materials – and many rare books – we depend on the kindness of friends and strangers.  Our most current desiderata outlines some of the books and papers we are seeking, everything from documenting everyday lives in our German Americana Collection through cookbooks and organizational archives to rare books that strengthen our Shakespeare collection and our illustrated myth and legend holdings.  And of course, we always welcome Mick and Mackthe records of University of Cincinnati student organizations.

William ShakespeareThe items we list as desired acquisitions are primary resources in areas that are heavily used not only by UC students and faculty but by global scholars and the general public as well.  To view the list, go to http://libraries.uc.edu/arb/collections/desiderata.html and to learn more about the collections of the Archives & Rare Books Library and how to effectively use them in the classroom, in research, or in publications, call us at 513.556.1959, email ARB at archives@ucmail.uc.edu, have a look at our website at http://libraries.uc.edu/arb.html, follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ArchivesRareBooksLibraryUniversityOfCincinnati, or visit us on the 8th floor of Blegen Library.

 

 

Environmental Records and Regulation

By:  Eira Tansey

Burning Barge on the Ohio River
Strode, William, “Burning Barge on the Ohio River”, 1972, Environmental Protection Agency: DOCUMERICA. Image source: https://catalog.archives.gov/id/543983

The relationship between local, state, and federal environmental protection has always been complicated – both by accident and by design. When the earliest environmental protections began, they typically started at the local and state levels, often following some kind of environmental disaster – and thus, environmental protections developed unevenly. By the time, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created in 1970, the decentralization of environmental policy was deliberately embedded in the original organization of the agency: much of EPA’s enforcement and regulatory duties are delegated to state environmental agencies.

Water issues have been roiling the Midwest, with significant attention paid to the Flint lead crisis and the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. Ohio’s water issues may not be in the headlines as much, but the risks are worth paying attention to. Ohio is often described as a “water-rich” state with Lake Erie to the north, and the Ohio River to the south. Although we may be water-rich, this water is often quite contaminated. The Ohio River is consistently ranked as the most polluted river in the United States, and UC researchers have conducted studies of pollutants from Ohio River-sourced drinking water supplies connected with past manufacture of Teflon. Both Lake Erie and the Ohio River routinely experience harmful algae blooms, which are often connected to runoff from agricultural activities – and much harder to regulate. In addition, Cincinnati is under a federal consent decree due to the overflow from infrastructure deficiencies with the local sewer system.  Continue reading Environmental Records and Regulation

Donald and Marian Spencer: Lives of Love and Social Justice

By:  Sam Whittaker, History Department Intern

Donald and Marian SpencerThe Archives and Rare Books Library recently received a new collection of papers from Marian and Donald Spencer.  For over fifty years, the Spencers fought for educational equity and equal rights with organizations such as the NAACP, the U.S. Commission on Human Rights Ohio Board, and the Cincinnati Board of Education. While processing the papers of Marian and Donald Spencer, I learned a vast amount about their groundbreaking electoral campaigns, keynote speeches, court cases, and community boards. However, I also came to know them as people. Donald and Marian Spencer met while they were both students at the University of Cincinnati, married in 1940, and raised two boys. They spent a great deal of their nearly 70 years of marriage in Cincinnati fighting for social justice and equality in the community. Continue reading Donald and Marian Spencer: Lives of Love and Social Justice

In Memoriam: Edgar Slotkin, Ardent Friend of the Archives & Rare Books Library

Edgar SlotkinOn June 21st, the Archives & Rare Books Library lost a friend. Edgar Slotkin, professor emeritus of English, died at the age of 72. Edgar was a remarkable folklorist and Celtic scholar, but most of all he was a man generous of his time and knowledge. At his retirement in 2011, he donated his local folklore collection to us and it became the Southwest Ohio Folklore Archive. Additionally, several years ago Edgar worked with Jerry Newman, our Associate Dean for Collections at the time, to acquire and catalog two wonderful rare book collections of Irish and Welsh literature. Of the former, much of it is from the early 20th c. Celtic Revival period in Ireland and represents a physically fragile gathering of books that might otherwise have been lost. Edgar Slotkin was a kind and learned man, and someone who is greatly missed.