Recently returned from a study tour to Edinburgh, Scotland over spring break, the students in the University Honors Program seminar “The Culture of Books and Reading” added one of their assignments to the ARB website – a story entitled “The Sin-Eaters Ghost.” A group project written by each student contributing a page, the story is just one of the assignments for this course in which the traditional and emerging reading habits and the heritage of books are explored in cultures around the world.
With a grant awarded by the National Archives and Records Administration a few years ago, we were able to process our Theodore M. Berry Papers, a collection of nearly 200 boxes that documented the life and career of Ted Berry, UC alum, first African-American mayor of Cincinnati, and a national figure in the Civil Rights Movement. Communities around the nation are celebrating Black History Month in February, and on Tuesday The Ledger-Independent in Maysville, Kentucky ran a very nice article about Berry, based in large part on the website that was created for the grant project. Written for the newspaper by Marla Toncray, the article was picked up by Dawn Fuller in UC’s Public Information office.
They are the fruit of our archival world, those strange objects, quirky provenance discoveries, and odd functions that lend surprise to the workday. For example, while attending a conference just last week, I was working one afternoon in a research library to delve into a few early documents related to our UC holdings. Taking a break and wandering down a dark hallway, I saw a partially-opened door, poked my head in, and saw two shrunken heads in bell jars. Not what I was looking for, but certainly more interesting than what I had been reading!
So it wasn’t unexpected at all when I returned home and saw that the Archives & Rare Books Library’s own anatomical oddity is in the public eye, something we’ve anticipated for the past several weeks. In its January issue, Cincinnati Magazine has a feature called “Artifact,” for which they used the jawbone of a mule from our Stephen Foster Collection. Having the mandible in the collection isn’t as bizarre as it might seem. The Foster materials were compiled by former UC president Raymond Walters during his tenure from 1932 to 1955. Walters was a Foster scholar of sorts and acquired the collection as part of his research, eventually donating it to the Libraries. There are the typical items in the Foster material that you would expect, such as sheet music, songbooks, images, and recordings. And the jawbone fits right in with these items because it is actually a musical instrument, used for percussion in the antebellum minstrel shows that traveled up and down the Ohio River, stopping in towns like Cincinnati to perform their songs and dances. A stick would be used to rasp up and down the teeth to provide the rhythm. But how and when Walters acquired the bone is a mystery. Continue reading ARB Jawbone Makes the Pages of Cincinnati Magazine
The primary task of the Rapid Transit Commission and the 1917 Bauer Bill (Senate Bill 264, which authorized the formation of a commission for the design and construction of a rapid transit system) was not the construction of the subway alone, but the construction of Central Parkway, the “grand boulevard” that was to replace the Miami & Erie Canal. The Commission was also tasked with the secondary subway project to ensure that the Parkway was built, since the one could not commence before the other was underway, a means of ensuring the success of both.
When it was first proposed in a 1907 report, written by landscape architect George Kessler regarding the development of a city park system for Cincinnati, Central Parkway was meant to rival Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue and the grand boulevards of Europe, to be landscaped and lined by stately brownstones and mansions. Accented by decorative lampposts, fountains, trees and shrubbery, the new boulevard was to provide a park-like atmosphere for Cincinnatians, with sidewalks to stroll and benches on which to relax and enjoy the scenery of the Parkway as it wound its way north from Walnut Street in the downtown business district to Lundlow Avenue in the residential neighborhood of Clifton.
Woodward (“Woodie”) Garber’s designs for Christ Church Episcopal Church in Glendale, Ohio are now available for viewing at Archives and Rare Books Library of the University of Cincinnati. There is a specification notebook of the addition to the church, as well as numerous blueprints that cover every aspect of the building from the temperature control wiring to chapel windows and even the layout of trees on the grounds.
Garber (1913-1994) assisted in the design of Christ Church Epsicopal Chapel in 1959. He added the All Saints Chapel which produced space for 100 people along with classrooms and offices. This new addition connected the main church and the parish house by a glass corridor with an entrance colloquially known as the “Whale’s Mouth.” Continue reading Woodie Garber Blueprints Now Available
A prominent figure in early Cincinnati history, Henry Probasco was both businessman and philanthropist, committing his time to numerous Cincinnati organizations and societies, accumulating a large personal library of rare books and manuscripts, as well as an extensive collection of prints and paintings, both rivaling the finest in the country, and dedicating two elaborate fountains to the citizens of Cincinnati in the late 1800s.
Henry Probasco, along with his business partner and brother-in-law, Tyler Davidson, managed one of the most successful hardware companies in Cincinnati in the 1800’s – Tyler Davidson & Company. Probasco joined the business in 1835 as a clerk, and in 1840 was made a partner. The same year, he married Davidson’s half-sister, Julia. Together with Davidson, Probasco succeeded in expanding the business quickly, and by 1846, Tyler Davidson & Company was the largest hardware store in Cincinnati. In 1851, at Probasco’s suggestion, the partners built a new, multi-level structure on the site of the original store at 140-142 Main Street, between Second and Third Streets, and within three years, their sales quadrupled. Pearl Street, Water Street and Front Street were also located in this area, and ran parallel with Second Street to the north and the river to the south. The hardware store, Second, Front, Water, and Pearl Streets no longer exist; all have been replaced with I-71, Fort Washington Way, the Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium, among other attractions along the riverfront.
Here at Archives and Rare Books Library, we have the Progress Photographs of the construction of Union Terminal that were organized by the Cincinnati Union Terminal Company. The Engineer of Construction was George P. Stowitts. The photographs show views of the different phases of construction from the beginning to the end of the project. These albums are available for viewing upon request. Cincinnati Union Terminal was one of the last great train stations built. It was a significant development in the history of Cincinnati transportation and has become an icon of the city. The building project started in August 1929 and was completed on March 31, 1933. Having 94 miles of track, Union Terminal cost $41 million to build. It was built to accommodate 216 trains per day for 17,000 passengers daily. Passenger train services ceased in 1972 and started up again in 1991 when Amtrak took over train operations at the station. Continue reading Union Terminal: A Struggle for Success
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