The Benjamin Gettler Papers: An Introduction to Cincinnati’s New Public Transit

By:  Alex Temple, Gettler Project Archivist

Book on the Cincinnati Transit CompanyFor the past several months, work has continued on processing the Benjamin Gettler Papers donated to the Archives & Rare Books Library.  Gettler was a notable lawyer, businessman, and civic activist in Cincinnati, an international philanthropist, and a former member of the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees.  I’ve been fascinated by the amount of public transit-related history in this collection.  An often over-looked part of urban history is transportation infrastructure.  Public transportation records can tell us not only where people lived, worked, and played, but also the routes taken and who the routes served.  They can also provide insight into how, where, or why neighborhoods changed over time.

Cincinnati’s public transportation, as we recognize it today, really began in 1873 when several horse-drawn tram systems merged to form the Cincinnati Consolidated Railway Company.  Nearly a decade later, it was renamed the Cincinnati Street Railway Company (Gettler, 2012).  It remained the Cincinnati Street Railway Company until 1952, after the company had fully transitioned from rail to rubber-tire service, becoming the Cincinnati Transit Company.

Gettler himself was a prominent figure in Cincinnati’s transit history, as his involvement started slightly before the switch from streetcars to buses and through the sale of the Cincinnati Transit Company to the City of Cincinnati, forming the South Ohio Regional Transit Association (S.O.R.T.A.), and finally serving on the S.O.R.T.A. board beginning in 2003.  A good deal of the collection in the Benjamin Gettler Papers comes from his involvement in public transportation, including items such as meeting minutes from the board of directors.  One in particular which I found exciting to study was the meeting minutes from the board of directors from 1952 to 1954. Continue reading The Benjamin Gettler Papers: An Introduction to Cincinnati’s New Public Transit

Ohio Digital Newspapers & Chronicling America Presentation in ARB on Thursday July 26

Come hear about Ohio’s digital newspaper project and learn how to freely access historic newspapers from around the country.

When:  Thursday July 26 from 11:00am-12:30pm

Where:  Archives and Rare Books Library, Seminar Room 814

Westliche Blatter mastheadDid you know that 90 Ohio newspapers including foreign language papers have been digitized and are now part of the Library of Congress’ free newspaper database Chronicling America?  Learn how to access the over 13 million pages of historic newspapers from 47 states and territories covering 1789-1963 on Chronicling America.  Jenni Salamon, Coordinator for the Ohio Digital Newspaper Program, and Bronwyn Benson, Quality Control Technician, from the Ohio History Connection will demonstrate basic and advanced search strategies and how to work with your results to find information about local, state, national and international events, people, places and culture. They will also provide a brief overview newspaper digitization process and an update on the digitization of Ohio’s foreign language newspapers.

The Colored Citizen mastheadTreasures from the Archives and Rare Books Library collections including items from the German Americana collection that complement the digitized newspapers will be available for viewing before and after the presentation.

Snacks and drinks will be provided.

The Cycle of Knowledge and Do Unto Others: The Ouroboros of Blegen Library

By:  Kevin Grace

For several months from July of 2017 to April of this year, each day on the Archives & Rare Books Library’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ArchivesRareBooksLibraryUniversityOfCincinnati/, featured an architectural element of Blegen Library, from printer’s marks to the original floor tiles and terrazzo walls.  In the way the cultural Belgen Library exteriorheritage of the building was presented with its sculptures and carvings representing the history of the book and the legacy of education, every detail was explored with a capsule account of its meaning and importance.  The figures in the bas reliefs of “Ex Occidente Lux” and “Ex Orientale Lux” were freshly discovered.  The bronze symbols of knowledge over the front door were explained.  The human stories behind the plaster and bronze printers marks were revealed. Continue reading The Cycle of Knowledge and Do Unto Others: The Ouroboros of Blegen Library

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

“I Am Dying, Egypt, Dying!”: A Cincinnati College Soldier-Poet’s Embrace of the Battlefield

By:  Kevin Grace

William LytleOn September 20, 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, General William Haines Lytle of Cincinnati was shot and killed by a Confederate sniper’s bullet in the Battle of Chickamauga.  A few days later, his body was carried back to his hometown.  Lytle’s funeral was held at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Cincinnati and the thousands of mourners followed his casket in the cortege to Spring Grove Cemetery, miles away from the church.  The slow procession took up most of the day, the general’s body not arriving at Spring Grove until dusk.  Sometime later, his grave marker – a broken column – would dominate the landscape of the garden cemetery.

William Lytle was more than another officer killed in battle.  He was a literary man, a soldier-poet whose verse in antebellum America was popular in both the North and the South, and whose lines reflected his experiences on the battlefield.  They showed a view of the bloody vista typical of the Romantic era and they embodied his view of duty as well, in his eyes, a terrible beauty of death and destruction.  Lytle was a part of the Romantic tradition in his poetry, incorporating his classical education as a boy with his notions of heroism and duty in life.  This is an excerpt from a poem he wrote in 1840 as a fourteen-year-old, “The Soldier’s Death”: Continue reading “I Am Dying, Egypt, Dying!”: A Cincinnati College Soldier-Poet’s Embrace of the Battlefield

Art and Empire in Nineteenth-Century India

By:  Alia Levar Wegner

Travel literature in 19th-century India was closely linked to the British empire. Behind every picture was an army. This is especially true of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Ramus Forrest’s illustrated book, A Picturesque Tour Along the Rivers Ganges and Jumna, In India, (SpecCol RB Oversize DS408 .F65) published in 1824.

Picturesque Tour Title Page
Title page of A picturesque tour along the rivers Ganges and Jumna, in India. (Spec Coll RB Oversize DS408 .F65)

Continue reading Art and Empire in Nineteenth-Century India

Exploring Tagalog Grammar

By:  Alia Levar Wegner, ARB Intern

The University of Cincinnati’s Archives & Rare Books Library holds a rare first edition of Sebastián de Totanes’s Tagalog grammar, Arte de la lengua tagala y manual tagalog para la administración de los Santos Sacramentos.  Printed entirely on rice paper and bound in vellum, this book served as a Tagalog language primer for Spanish missionaries.

Tagalog Grammar Cover and Title Page

Left:  Vellum cover of Arte de la lengua tagala (PL6053 .T7 1745),  Right: Title page

Continue reading Exploring Tagalog Grammar

Talking About “Style” and the UC Alum Behind It

By:  Kevin Grace

Strunk Cover     If you took a composition course in America, chances are you were faced with the seminal book in writing well, William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White’s The Elements of Style.  And if you were fortunate, you had a high school teacher or college professor whose teaching could match the plain elegance and helpful guideposts of this little book.  The Elements of Style is arguably the most referenced guide to writing in American education.

But how many of us know the story behind this famous text?  Chances are we’re all familiar with E.B. White, the decades-long columnist for the New Yorker and the author of modern classics like Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, One Man’s Meat, The Second Tree From the Corner and a host of other books.  Curmudgeonly almost to a fault and a writer with uncommon regard for the simple declarative sentence, White was one of the great literary stylists of the 20th century.  And William Strunk?  He happened to be an English professor at Cornell University during White’s undergraduate days, White graduating from Cornell in 1921.  Strunk developed a little handbook for writing that he used in his classes and decades later White wrote an essay for The New Yorker about Strunk’s lessons for usage and style.  At the urging of a publisher, White revised Strunk’s work, added an introduction and The Elements of Style was born.

William Strunk
William Strunk, Jr.

Now to the University of Cincinnati connection: William Strunk, Jr., the author of this famous guide, grew up in Cincinnati and was an 1890 graduate of UC.  For the Archives & Rare Books Library’s “50 Minutes” lunchtime series of talks, Greg Hand returns to campus on Thursday, February 22, to relate in his well-informed fashion the story of Mr. William Strunk, and an interesting one it is.  As always, Mr. Hand tells his tales with great aplomb and guaranteed satisfaction for all, earning the favor of everyone in attendance.  He will speak of facts and fictions, of parodies and paradoxes, and if he were to offer an elegant phrase or two of his own, we would not mind in the least.  The talk begins at 12:00 noon in Room 814 of Blegen Library and will last until everyone is ushered out around 1 pm.  Bring your lunch, a friend, and acceptable manners (note the Oxford comma).  There will also be a random drawing of select and relevant books.

Indian Clubs and German-American Health Promotion

By:  Kevin Grace

Women with Indian ClubsOn a hot June day in 1909, thousands of people gathered at the Carthage Fairgrounds just beyond the city limits of Cincinnati.  There on the nubby dusty infield of the racetrack, groups of women clad in long dresses divided themselves into squads of threes and fours and faced the spectators.  In each hand they held an “Indian club,” a standard piece of gymnasium equipment at the time, and as the crowd watched, the women began a series of intricate, graceful movements, swinging the clubs up from their sides and around their bodies, crisscrossing the clubs in patterns that emphasized coordination and discipline.  The demonstration was just one of several exhibits of mass exercises at the quadrennial Turnfest that was hosted by the Cincinnati Turners organizations that year, a fitting location as the American Turner movement was founded by German immigrants in Cincinnati in 1848.

The festival attracted Turner athletes from around the country and around the world, all journeying to Cincinnati as they had to other cities in past years to exhibit the Turner philosophical ideals of physical and mental fitness, and civic responsibility.  In the days before the ladies’ exercise with Indian clubs, students in the city’s schools demonstrated the skills they had learned in physical education classes, a mainstay of the public school academic program in Cincinnati.  The proper uses of parallel bars, wands and rings, and the pommel horse were performed in front of school officials and Turner judges.  It was a program already several decades old, begun in earnest after the Civil War when secondary and primary teachers learned the techniques of physical fitness and health promotion under the leadership of Turner instructors. Continue reading Indian Clubs and German-American Health Promotion

Bloodsport for the Undergrads

By: Kevin Grace

On December 3, 1907, an angry father wrote to the Board of Directors at the University of Cincinnati:

Gentlemen:

     Enclosed you find a doctor bill for treatment of a fractured nose, rendered to my son Armin C. Arend, who was hurt in a flag rush on the 30th of October; the rush being aided and supported by the officials of the University of Cincinnati.  I hope your Honorable Body doesn’t expect that I have to pay this bill since I, as well as my son, am opposed to flag rushes.  Please take this matter into your hands, & judge for yourself who should pay this bill.  Remember, that I paid tuition for this day, which is not given as a holiday in the School Calendar of the University of Cincinnati.

     It is hard enough for me as a workingman to pay tuition let alone such foolish unnecessary expenses.

                                                         Yours Respectfully,

Julius Arend
3318 Bonaparte Avenue, City

The bill in question, for $5.00, was referred to the Board’s Law Committee, which quickly denied the father’s claim.    As no further word was heard from Mr. Arend, presumably he chalked up the medical bill to an educational expense, like young Armin’s textbooks, but literally, a lesson in the “school of hard knocks.”

Because that is what “flag rush” was during the Progressive Era, a bloodsport of occasional broken noses, broken arms, concussions, and countless contusions and abrasions.   A variation on games we know as “capture the flag” and “red rover,” flag rush was a heightened example of these, and was popular on college and university campuses around the country.

Flag Rush at UC

Continue reading Bloodsport for the Undergrads