The Archives and Rare Books Library’s collection of Hamilton County Civil War Exemptions is now available in digital format on the UC Libraries’ Digital Resource Commons. The collection consists of 102 documents dated from August-October, 1862, that can be searched, viewed, downloaded and printed. The documents in this collection were created as proof of exemption status under the Militia Act of 1862, which resulted in the first attempt to conscript Union soldiers in the Civil War. This collection represents a very small window in time during the long years of the Civil War, but it marks an important turning point in how the Union built its army.
The University of Cincinnati’s Archives and Rare Books Library (ARB) maintains numerous collections containing records of historic value for research and scholarly use. These materials are comprised of a variety formats, including printed documents, university records, sound recordings, and photographic prints and negatives.
One of these collections is the Ohio Network collection, comprised of historic local government and public records. The City of Cincinnati Engineer Records is part of this collection, and contains records produced by the engineer’s office from 1851 through 1957, including those of the Rapid Transit Commission for the subway and Central Parkway construction, as well as other street improvements carried out by the city within the same timeframe. And among these records are the negatives and photographic prints that are currently being digitized and that will be made available online via the ARB and Digital Collections web sites.
Researchers know that life events tend to leave some amazingly informative paper trails and that sometimes you can find good things in seemingly bad places. For some individuals, a prison sentence was a significant, formative life event, and the paper trails that prison stays provide can tell some interesting stories. The Cincinnati Workhouse, which operated from 1869-1985, tried to take those prison sentences and turn them into more positive experiences for inmates and society through rehabilitation, emphasis on moral ideals, and hard work. As part of our Ohio Network of Local Government Records collection, the Archives and Rare Books library holds jail registers from the Cincinnati Workhouse for the years 1877-1945.
On March 9, 1866, the Ohio General Assembly passed an act authorizing any Ohio city exceeding 100,000 in population to erect and maintain a workhouse. A workhouse was a new concept in the field of criminal justice, responding to the emerging idea that crime was related to societal and moral issues, and providing not only punishment, but rehabilitation as well. A workhouse aimed to rehabilitate by stressing moral values, providing inmates with something productive to do, and possibly introducing them to a new trade. Additionally, they were seen to be more cost-effective than traditional jails, as inmate labor contributed to the institution’s operations and provided outside income. Continue reading A Look at Doing Time in Cincinnati: The Workhouse Jail Registers
On June 15, 2013, David Blackburn passed away and the Cincinnati dance community lost a beloved teacher and friend. Blackburn served as a professor of dance at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music for over 30 years and played a vital role in the history of the Cincinnati Ballet as a dancer and then as Assistant Artistic Director.
The subway and street improvements photograph collection is truly a wealth of historic information about the city of Cincinnati in the first half of the 20th century. As with most cities, many of the streets and avenues are named for the founders and prominent families who helped establish the city, as well as important statesmen such as presidents, governors and military heroes. Cincinnati has her fair share of these, with the city directories reading like a “Who’s Who” of Cincinnati’s political, cultural and economic development, with street names such as Ludlow, Symmes, and Patterson, St. Clair, Gamble and Ault, Anderson, Findlay and Wade, among others.
Oh, the things you can find when you go to an auction. Even the typical items that you find for sale, such as books, sometimes contain a surprise for the unsuspecting buyer. That’s exactly what happened to Linda Sheets of Jonesboro, Indiana when she bought a box lot of books and discovered a University of Cincinnati tuition receipt dated October 1, 1917. The strip of paper has yellowed with age, and fortunately Ms. Sheets realized it might have historical value for UC, and was kind enough to share her discovery with the Archives and Rare Books Library.
Jordon Alcott, the student from the 1917-1918 academic year, probably thought that $63.50 in tuition for one semester here at the university was expensive. That total comes from a $5 library fee, $50 for tuition to the College of Liberal Arts, a $ 1 registration fee, $2.50 fine to use the gymnasium, and a $5 contingency fee.
Contained within the subway portion of the photograph collection are images of the interiors of homes along McMicken Avenue taken during the construction of the subway. Originally intended to serve as evidence for claims by homeowners of structural damage to the houses caused by blasting for the subway tunnels, the pictures now serve as a historic reference of domestic life during the 1920s.
Road construction. It seems like it’s never ending. Some have joked that Ohio has only two seasons – winter and road construction. And the images in the Street Improvement collection would certainly seem to validate that. What is interesting about the images in the collection of street improvements is that many of the streets recorded in the photographs no longer exist. Or, where they do still exist, they are named differently or the surroundings have been altered to the point that the location in the photograph is no longer recognizable.
One major example of a street changing in both name and appearance is Laurel Street – or as we know it today, Ezzard Charles Drive. Originally a narrow street lined with brick row houses and businesses, Laurel Street extended from 1247 Plum Street west to Freeman Avenue, with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Hall towering over the eastern end of the street, as if keeping watch over all who passed. In the winter of 1921, subway construction made its way north along the canal bed to the Laurel Street intersection, where a tunnel ventilator was constructed.
Downtown Cincinnati at the turn of the 20th century was a bustling business and commercial center, but with a dangerous mixture of pedestrians, horse-pulled wagons and carriages, street cars, and unseasoned automobile drivers. Add to this a mess of unpaved or cobblestoned streets, a lack of traffic laws, speed limits, and stop signs at intersections, with streetcar tracks criss-crossing lanes. It was a recipe for disaster.