2011.01.12 Taking and giving a lesson in Ohio history

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

Back when I was a mere boy in elementary school, fifth grade if I remember correctly, I took a required course called Michigan History. Do schools still teach this? And does Ohio have a similar class to teach young Buckeyes about their state? For immigrants to Ohio such as myself, my tax dollars helped to pay for a publication to bring us up to speed.

I recently obtained a copy of “Profile Ohio,” formerly published as “Ohio Citizen’s Digest.” Once you get past the pictures and names of officials in state government, most of who are now out of office, it’s filled with a lot of interesting information.

While I guess I’m not really considered an immigrant, the booklet explains that an increasing amount of immigrants entering the United States intend to settle in Ohio. Since war broke out in Somalia in the 1990s, more and more refugees from the fighting are settling in Ohio. About 35,000 Somalis have settled in central Ohio over the last decade, and Columbus has one of the largest concentrations of Somalian refugees in the country.

A fact I already knew was that more U. S. Presidents have come from Ohio than any other state. Starting with William Henry Harrison, who was born in Virginia before Ohio was a state but was living there when elected in 1840, to Warren G. Harding, who was elected in 1920, eight presidents called Ohio home. From 1868 to 1920, only three elections were held without an Ohio Republican on the November ballot. Lots of interesting things happened to this group of eight, some of which is left out of the publication. 

Four of the eight Ohio chief executives never got out of office alive. James Garfield and William McKinley were both assassinated, while W. H. Harrison and Harding both died in office. 

Ulysses S. Grant and Harding were both plagued with scandals while in office, although neither was personally involved. The election of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 was the most controversial in history, at least until another that occurred 124 years later. Hayes trailed in the popular vote, but several states submitted two sets of votes to the Electoral College. A special electoral commission awarded all disputed votes to Hayes, giving him a one-vote victory in the Electoral Collage.

In 1888, Benjamin Harrison, grandson of William H. Harrison, also trailed in popular votes behind incumbent (and non-Ohioan) Grover Cleveland, but scored an easy Electoral College victory to win the presidency. Four years later, Cleveland won the popular vote for the third consecutive time and also took an Electoral College win to wrest the office back from Harrison, making Harrison the 23rd president filling in a 22nd and 24th President Cleveland sandwich.

William Taft had perhaps the most embarrassing loss of all. After winning the White House in 1908 as Teddy Roosevelt’s hand-picked choice to succeed him, Taft’s performance in office angered his former mentor and Roosevelt ran against him as a third-party candidate in 1912. Woodrow Wilson took advantage of the split to win the election while Roosevelt finished second and Taft became the first major-party candidate in the history of the two-party system to finish third.

Ohio is also home to astronauts, with NASA figures listing 24 astronauts as Ohio natives and another 10 living in the state at some point in their lives. They include Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, Jim Lovell of Apollo 13 fame, Guion Buford (first African-American in space) and Judy Resnick (who flew in the first mission of the Space Shuttle Discovery and later perished in the Challenger disaster).

Nationally-known businesses started in Ohio include Goodyear, Progressive insurance, Proctor & Gamble, Smuckers, Nationwide Insurance, Sherwin Williams, Bob Evans and Wendy’s.

Ohio is not only home to two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, but was home to trophy namesake John Heisman, a former player and coach.

The list of actors from Ohio starts off impressively with people like Clark Gable, Paul Newman, Halle Berry and Katie Holmes, but then someone had to throw in the name of Sarah Jessica Parker. I think that list went one name too far. Do you think we could trade her to another state? Make us an offer before they print an updated booklet. We’ll even throw in a spare astronaut or two.

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