Culture in Ohio History – Writers – Folklore – Libraries – Ohio Education

Cultural topics in Ohio history. Free online works on Public Schools, Higher Ed, Theater, Folklore, Law Courts, Music, Art, Writing, Libraries, Architecture, Poetry, Literature

The Old Court House: reminiscences and anecdotes of the courts and bar of Cincinnati

Carter, Alfred G. W.
Cincinnati: Thomson 1880

The author, Judge Alfred George Washington Carter, wrote in a very brief preface that the book’s purpose “…is fulfilled in showing mostly the sunny, or funny side of the old court house – only this and nothing more.” The subject court house was completed in 1819, and was destroyed by fire in 1849. In the introductory chapter the author provides the names of all judges and members of the bar in Cincinnati in 1819 (a total of 31), 1825, 1831, and after 1831 to 1849. The volume appears to consist entirely of amusing anecdotes, with witty and often caustic characterizations of lawyers and judges. Overall, it is a perceptive and frequently critical account of the legal system of the day.

The Poets and Poetry of the West : with Biographical and Critical Notices

Coggeshall, William Turner
NY: Follett, Foster 1864

Editor William T. Coggeshall (1824-1867) was a journalist and publisher, and editor of The Genius of the West, a literary magazine in Cincinnati. He served as State Librarian of Ohio from 1856 to 1862.

The editor wrote in his Preface that it was his intention to include in the collection every person “…legitimately belonging to the West, who has gained recognition as a writer of reputable verse.” It contains selections, with biographical notices, from the writings of 97 men and 55 women. 60 were residents of Ohio, 23 of Indiana, 14 of Kentucky, 13 of Illinois, 5 of Michigan and 4 of Wisconsin. Not more than 10 of these poets pursued literature as a profession. The volume contains poems from about 1815 to the early 1860s.

The book is very substantial in size and the biographies are sometimes surprisingly detailed. Entries are in chronological order, and the first ones contain valuable background detail about the early literary life of Cincinnati.

See also: Books about 19th Century American Women Authors

For further information on profiled authors, see: Sharp, Robert Farquharson, Dictionary of English Authors, Biographical and Bibliographical in Century Past Collective Biographies: Authors Q–Z and Adams, Oscar Fay, Dictionary of American Authors in Century Past Collective Biographies – Authors A–F

Also see our collections of Popular Cultural History Articles: Clothes – Food – Recreation and Cultural History Articles – Literature, Music & Fine Arts

Ohio Authors and Their Books. Biographical Data and Selective Bibliographies for Ohio Authors, Native and Resident, 1796-1950

Coyle, William, ed.,
Cleveland: World 1962

This mid-20th century reference work has 700 pages of biographical sketches of Ohio authors.

See also: Books about 19th Century American Women Authors

For further information on profiled authors, see: Sharp, Robert Farquharson, Dictionary of English Authors, Biographical and Bibliographical in Century Past Collective Biographies: Authors Q–Z and Adams, Oscar Fay, Dictionary of American Authors in Century Past Collective Biographies – Authors A–F

See our book collection on Education of Girls & Women in the 19th Century U.S.

“Education in Territorial Ohio”

Ohio History XXXV,April 1926, Number 2, 322-79

Dunn, W. Ross
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

The author begins with the clauses in the Ordinances of 1785 and 1787 pertaining to public land designated for education, and reviews the many issues that arose in regard to support for education in the early years of land sales in Ohio Territory. Mechanisms had to be established to convert the lands to money and apportion the funds for education of children. There were as yet no school laws for the Northwest Territory, and little precedent for public education. The author goes on to trace the way in which a system of public education gradually developed.

Early Homes of Ohio

Frary, Ihna Thayer
Richmond, VA: Garrett and Massie 1936

Includes photos of homes and of interior and exterior architectural features.

The Library Movement in Ohio

Galbreath, Charles Burleigh
Columbus: 1909

Sketches of Ohio Libraries

Galbreath, C. B., comp.
Columbus: Heer 1902

A comprehensive study of “all collections of books that are open to the public either for circulation or reference.” Compiled by the State Librarian in accordance with a resolution by the State Legislature.

“Among Ohio Writers”

The Buckeye Country: a Pageant of Ohio pp. 263-277

Hatcher, Harlan
Ohio: G. P. Putnam’s Sons 1947

A chapter from Harlan Hatcher’s history of Ohio, which can be found on the Ohio General History page of this site. Hatcher was a Professor of American Literature at Ohio State University when he wrote this.

See also: Books about 19th Century American Women Authors

“Old-time Music of Columbus”

Old Northwest Genealogical Quarterly VIII, (1905) 136-40

Huntington, Peletiah W.
Columbus, Ohio : “Old Northwest” Genealogical Society

In this brief article the author reminisces about music in the 1840s through 1860s in Columbus, as residents heard it or performed. Mentioned are church organists, church choirs, the Oratorio society, amateur brass bands, and ballad singer Lillian Bailey.

Buckeye Legends: Folktales and Lore from Ohio

Katz, Michael Jay
University of Michigan 1994       

A collection of stories about Ohio including “The Zanesville earthquakes,” “Rattlesnake mound,” “The Corpse that wouldn’t bleed,” and “The headless horseman of Cherry Hill.”

The History of Higher Education in Ohio

Knight, George W.
Washington: GPO 1891

Books and articles about everyday life, women, ethnic groups, social issues etc. at Topics in the social history of Ohio

Biography of Samuel Lewis: First Superintendent of Common Schools for the State of Ohio

Lewis, G. W.
Cincinnati: 1857

Samuel Lewis (1799-1854) was appointed Superintendent of Common Schools in 1838. When he accepted the position he traveled across Ohio to research the quality of existing schools, visiting 340 schools. He found intense animosity among Ohio residents toward the existing taxes for funding schools, even though the State legislature was allocating to the school districts just 14 cents per student. In 1838 Lewis issued a report that described the problems of Ohio’s 8,000 school districts that were educating almost 500,000 students, and recommended a course of action. The legislature took no action on his recommendations, and Lewis resigned in 1839.

See also: Hoyt, Charles O. and Ford, R. Clyde, John D. Pierce, Founder of the Michigan School System. A Study of Education in the Northwest in Michigan Cultural History: Education, Recreation, the Arts

Banta, D. D., “The Early Schools of Indiana: From the Papers of D. D. Banta” in Indiana Cultural History: Education, Recreation, the Arts;

Boone, Richard Gause, A History of Education in Indiana in Indiana Cultural History: Education, Recreation, the Arts;

Poems on Ohio

Martzolff, Clement L.
Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society 1911

A History of Education in the State of Ohio

A centennial volume, published by authority of the General Assembly

Ohio Teachers’ Association
Columbus, OH: Gazette 1876

Motion Pictures as a Phase of Commercialized Amusement in Toledo, Ohio

Phelan, Rev. John J.
Toledo: Little Book 1919

The New Juvenile Expositor or Rational Reader, and Key to the Juvenile Spelling Book …

comprising the definitions of all the syllabic words in that work; with copious illustrations in English etymology: forming an extensive definition class book for the instruction of youth: being American School Class Book No. 4

Picket, Albert and J.W.
Cincinnati: Picket 1831

This is an example of an early school instructional book that appears to have been used in Ohio, and one of a series authored by the two Pickets for teaching students reading and grammar. This book was intended for teachers rather than for students, who may not have used text books. This volume reveals much about educational approaches of the time period.

Note that through page 258, there are repeated lists of words, followed by definitions, presumably to enable the teacher to drill students on the spelling, pronunciation and definition of each word. The level of difficulty seems suited for older students. At page 259 begins “Easy Lessons, for Reading, Synonomising, Paraphrasing, &c”. This section is based on brief moral essays, which start out with simple vocabulary but quickly escalate in complexity. Beginning at page 360 is a section on poetry, with a number of poems for the teacher to read to students.

Some mid-19th Century school textbooks are at: Great Lakes Region Cultural History: Education, the Arts

Please visit our Century Past Free Online Library, with thousands of books to read online or download

“High Lights in Ohio Literature”

Ohio History XXVIII, July 1919, Number 3, 255-79

Randall, E. O.
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

Emilius Randall was a professor of Law and the Secretary of the Ohio Historical Society. This paper was delivered as an address to the Ohio Society of New York at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. In it he begins with a number of topics in Ohio’s earliest history, including the classical training of some of Ohio’s founders which was revealed in early place names; Ohio’s first school teachers, and the first library. He then names some of Ohio’s early newspapers and top journalists, noting that Ohio had 16 newspapers in 1810. He also reviews several of Ohio’s earliest as well as the most famous poets in the first half of the 19th century, and then discusses several popular prose authors. He finishes with a review of a few nationally-known (Ohio-based) humorous writers.

“The Higher Education of Women in the Ohio Valley Previous to 1840”

Ohio History XXV, January 1916, Number 1, 1-22.

Sherzer, Jane
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

The author says the region covered by this paper “includes Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia; Southern Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois; and Kentucky and Tennessee. Her method is to review, one after the other, specific schools for girls that were established in the early nineteenth century throughout the region. The earliest school in Ohio for girls was the Cincinnati Lancaster Seminary established in 1814 for 1400 pupils. Boys and girls were taught in the same classes, with boys on one side of the room and girls on the other. Also mentioned are two early boarding schools for girls in Cincinnati, apparently established in the 1830s.

Pioneer Schools and Schoolmasters

Ohio History XXV, January 1916, Number 1, 36-51

Shilling, D. C.
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

The author first describes some of the earliest schools in Ohio, including a section on “Lancastrian” schools. Then there is a brief history of “The Rise of Public Schools”. In 1825 the first law was enacted making public schools mandatory. Even then the funds allocated were so inadequate that school directors would announce free school for ten days, after which there would be a fee. The next section of the paper is on “The Pioneer School House”, and describes the typical township school structure in the early days. The final section is “The Pioneer School Master”.

A History of the Schools of Cincinnati

Shotwell, John B.
Cincinnati: School Life Company 1902

Some of the many chapter headings are:

Walnut Hills High School, Sign School for the Deaf, Hughes High School, Music in the Public Schools, Drawing Department, University of Cincinnati, Medical College of Ohio, Ohio College of Dental Surgery, Public Night Schools, Physical Culture, German Department, Lane Theological Seminary, Hebrew Union College, Y.M.C.A. Law School, Natural History Society, Cuvier Club & Audubon Society, Agnostic Sunday School, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Ohio Military Institute, Laura Memorial Woman’s Medical College, Ohio Mechanics Institute, Watters Business College, Cincinnati College of Pharmacy, House of Refuge, Bartholomew-Clifton School, Cincinnati Teachers Association, Colored Schools, Ehrgott Vocal School, Miss Satlers School, Wesleyan Female College, Ohio Conservatory of Music, American Book Company, Kindergartens, New Citizens Educational League, Cincinnati Veterinary College.

Books and articles on Religion in historic Ohio

Theatrical Management in the West and South for Thirty Years: Interspersed with Anecdotal Sketches

Smith, Solomon
NY: Harper. 1868

Solomon Franklin Smith (1801-1869) began his career as a theatre manager in Cincinnati in 1823, forming a partnership in 1835 to manage a traveling theatre company. This volume is autobiographical, but mainly consists of anecdotes, helpfully listed at the front in an index of nearly 80 “anecdotal sketches”. Smith explains in the Preface that when people took long journeys in stage-coaches, they often passed the time by singing songs or taking turns telling stories. As a member of a traveling theatre company, Smith probably spent plenty of time in coaches, and here he puts his vast stock of amusing stories on paper.

For more about 19th century theatre and entertainment, see:
– Cody, Mrs. Louisa (Frederici) and Cooper, C. R., Memories of Buffalo Bill in Century Past Biographies: C
– Ringling, Alfred, Life Story of the Ringling Brothers in Biographies & Memoirs in Wisconsin History;
Kellogg, Clara, Memoirs of an American Prima Donna in Century Past Biographies: I, J, K & L;
Daly, Joseph Francis, Life of Augustin Daly in Century Past Biographies: D, E & F;
Barnum, P. T., Struggles and Triumphs: or, Forty years’ Recollections of P.T. Barnum in Century Past Biographies: A & B;
Sherman, Robert L, The Chicago Stage; its Records and Achievements in Illinois Cultural History;
Strang, Lewis C., Famous Actresses of the Day in America in Century Past Collective Biography Q – Z;
Carson, William G. , The Theatre on the Frontier; the Early Years of the St. Louis Stage in Illinois Cultural History

“The Forest City Rises: Symbol and Value in Cleveland’s First Pictures”

Resource Library (July 3, 2009)

Steinberg, David
Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art

This short but informative paper covers a wide range of topics in Cleveland art from the 1830s through the 1870s. Early paintings of Cleveland landmarks are discussed in terms of how the compositions “elevate specific buildings to the status of emblems representing Church and State”, and how the objectives and values of the merchants who commissioned such paintings were reflected on canvas by the artists.

Painters Jarvis Hanks and Allen Smith, Jr are profiled as painters who successfully “positioned themselves in the life of the community”, with Hanks painting signs, regimental colors, Masonic aprons and other items, as well as portraits. The author interprets the symbolism of poses and props in some representative portraits, and discusses techniques used in mid-century by portrait painters to make use of photographs. There is also a section of the paper describing how residents of Cleveland could become amateur artists, and a description of traveling art exhibitions, including gigantic panoramas of historic events.

“Literary Periodicals of the Ohio Valley”

Ohio History Vol 1, September 1887, Number 2, 201-5

Venable, William H.
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

Author William H. Venable was a leading authority on Ohio literature in the late nineteenth century. This article is actually a five page list of 60+ literary periodicals that appeared in the Ohio valley from 1819 to 1860, with a short description and history for some of them.

See also: Venable, William H., Beginnings of Literary Culture in the Ohio Valley; Historical and Biographical Sketches on Great Lakes Cultural History

Ohio Literary Men and Women; an Address Prepared for the Ohio Centennial Celebration

Venable, William Henry
Columbus: Heer 1904

Also see Venable’s article on this page and his book on the Great Lakes Cultural History page. This address on 19th century writers of literature and in other professions has the following sections:

– Pioneer Books and pens in Ohio – Early Periodical Literature – Some Ohio Journalists – Personal Histories, Memoirs, etc. – Histories, Local and General – Science – Law and Medicine – Theology and Denominationalism – Miscellaneous – Fiction – Humorous Writers – Poetry – List of Ohio Authors who have written within Recent Years (nearly 300) – Poetry. Some Ohio Writers of Verse and their Works. (Nearly complete list of poets who published books) – Prose Writers – Supplemental List (about 500 Ohio authors, with titles and years of publication)

See also: Books about 19th Century American Women Authors

For further information on profiled authors, see: Sharp, Robert Farquharson, Dictionary of English Authors, Biographical and Bibliographical in Century Past Collective Biographies: Authors Q–Z and Adams, Oscar Fay, Dictionary of American Authors in Century Past Collective Biographies – Authors A–F

Please visit our collection of 2,000+ selected online magazine and newspaper articles on 40 subjects, plus online map & vintage photo collections, at Century Past History Resources

The Literature of the Western Reserve

Ohio History 100 (Summer-Autumn 1991) 101-28.

Wheeler, Robert A.
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

In the words of the author, who was a professor of History at Cleveland State University, “This essay will trace the literature written about the Reserve, from the early nineteenth century writers who described, embellished and maligned the region to suit their own purposes, to the mid-century residents who preserved the pioneer past in county histories”. The latter part of the paper seems to be a review of 20th century scholarly works on 19th century Western Reserve literature.

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