Sunday, September 8, 2019

Those Back-to-School Sales

Back-to-school shoes (left) and
material to make clothing (above)

Digitized newspapers are a wonderful genealogical resource, and not just for the birth, marriage, and death information they provide. Of course, they carry the local, national, and international news of the day that can contextualize our ancestors' lives, giving us a taste for what they might have talked about it, or what they might have personally experienced. But there's a bonus.

The place to buy your student's books, papers,
pens, pencils, protractor, ruler, etc.
What to pack for lunch? Some potted meat...
Whenever I am researching in online newspapers, my attention is often diverted by the ads. Newspaper advertisements might not provide the life facts or the news that engaged my ancestors, but they enable me to imagine something of their everyday lives--where they shopped, what they ate, the latest clothing styles, the newest "stuff". Ads provide us (literally) with illustrations of ordinary people going about ordinary, daily doings. The Armour's food ad is an example: There's Grandma or Great Aunt Delilah looking for ways to feed her family within a budget. In the absence of actual photographs, or solid facts about how our ancestors negotiated the ups and downs of daily life, illustrated ads can help us imagine their lives. Also, using advertisements as illustrations is a charming way to enliven a family history.
Since it's back-to-school time, I looked for ads that might have interested a mother of school-age children one hundred years ago. These ads appeared in August and September editions of the 1919 Zanesville Times Recorder.
...On fresh bread...
...And a nice "vacuum flask" of milk.

A labor-saving device for Mom so the kids have clean school clothes every week

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Life Expectancy Myth

How long should we expect to live? All things being equal, human life expectancy is, on average, about 76 years. What might surprise you is that this has been true for at least a couple of thousand years. Yet most people believe that the generations before us couldn't expect to life past 45 or even 35 years. I once heard someone claim that ancient Egyptians had a life-expectancy of 25 years.

Medical treatment book, 1885
It's true that your chances of dying before 76 were higher some generations ago. We take for granted what medical doctors can do for us nowadays, whether we face our own unique afflictions or a wide-spread epidemic. Our ancestors, though, didn't have access to the level of medical expertise and treatments available today, and except in the direst of circumstances, they expected to doctor themselves. This was especially true in rural areas, where most families relied on a book of "physic" to guide their treatment of family members' illness or injury. Many, if not most of the recommended treatments, were useless, and in the case of a fatal illness or injury, often made the victim's last days and hours even more terrible. My g-g-g grandfather William Burdett died in 1841 of stomach cancer; in addition to leeches, one of the treatments used was tincture of creasote.

Bessie G. Rambo, 1867-1870
Elda Rambo, 1869-1870 (above)
Georgie Rambo, 1871-1872 (below) 
Except for smallpox, there were no vaccines available to ward off diseases that can be deadly, especially to children: measles and whooping cough being two examples. Neither was there a vaccine for tetanus, the agonizing "grinning death", that might develop from a cut, puncture wound, burn, or animal bite. If surgery were necessary, there was no anesthesia to block the pain, and no antibiotics to stop infection. Worse, there was little to no understanding of the role sanitation played in the prevention of infection or in stopping the spread of killer diseases like cholera, typhus, and yellow fever. An ancestor who lived to see her 76th year and beyond (my g-g-g grandmother, Jane Turner Holloway, lived to be 95) was unusual only because, in a long life, she avoided serious injury and/or a fatal disease at a time when medical knowledge was fairly primitive, and medical treatment often ineffective if not barbarous.

Injury and disease aside, the primary contributor to the mistaken idea that our ancestors had a short life-expectancy is childhood. Tragically, childhood has been a perilous life stage in all societies from earliest times until into the mid-20th Century. For most of human existence, 25% of infants (0-1 year old) died; 46% of those surviving infancy died before they were 15. The belief that our ancestors had much lower life-expectancy than we do is chiefly the result of skewed statistics: Too many adults died before their allotted time due to injury, disease, and poor to no medical treatment to statistically counterbalance the high percentage of infant and child deaths.

A 19th century surgeon prepares to amputate
So the next time you share your family tree with someone, and they are amazed to see people who lived into their 80's and 90's more than 150 years ago (because people "then" only lived to be about 40, didn't they?), please share this blog with them. Statistics don't lie; but statistics can be misunderstood. The life-expectancy thing is a case in point.

Childs, D. & Kansagra, S. "Ten Health Advances That Changed the World", retrieved 20 Jul 2019 at

Radford, B. "Human Lifespans Nearly Constant for 2000 Years", retrieved 21 Jul 2019 at

Roser, M. "Mortality in the Past-Around Half Died as Children, retrieved 21 Jul 2019 at

Bee, E. J., M.D. "Case of Scirrhous Pylorus" in American Medical Intelligencer, retrieved 3 Mar 2017 at

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Right to Vote

Florence Kling Harding-01.jpg
First Lady Florence Mabel (Kling) Harding
On June 4, 1919, seventy-one years after the drive for women's suffrage had been initiated at Seneca Falls, New York, the U.S. Senate approved a House bill that would amend the Constitution to give women the right to vote. The amendment was then sent to the states for ratification; three-fourths of them had to approve the amendment for it to become law. The bill to amend did not put a time limit on the ratification process, and it took until August 18, 1920 for the ratification requirement to be met. The election of 1920 was the first presidential election in which women voted, and women have been credited (blamed?) for electing Warren G. Harding of Ohio, the affable but highly inept politician whose administration was one of the most corrupt in our nation's history. If women were responsible for putting Harding in the White House, it might have been because his wife, Florence (Kling) Harding, was a supporter of women's suffrage, and more importantly, of equal rights for women. Women might have voted for the power behind the throne, rather than for the throne's occupant.

The National Women's Party, the organization most instrumental in securing passage of the 19th Amendment and its ratification, did not stop its work once the amendment became part of the United States Constitution. Realizing they had an ally in the White House in the person of the First Lady, suffragists advocated for equitable treatment, seeking the repeal of laws that made women second-class citizens, and the passage of laws that guaranteed equal treatment.

Suffragists' demonstration, New York City, 1917
Jobs Ohio women were prohibited from doing
Thirteen discriminatory Ohio laws as of 1921. In the margin Dr. Gillette Hayden
noted the numbers of the House and Senate bills introduced to overturn these laws.
I recently worked on a manuscript collection for the Ohio History Connection that chronicles the suffragist work of Kenyon and Gillette Hayden, Columbus sisters who were prominent in the National Women's Party. Among the papers are lists of restrictions placed on women by Ohio, as well as copies of Ohio House and Senate bills meant to correct  the inequity in Ohio's laws. Even for someone who has studied history and knows something about the history of American women's struggle for equality, the ways in which men had legislated against women since Ohio's statehood was sometimes startling, and not a little angering. Despite its history of discriminatory laws, Ohio was one of the first states to ratify the 19th Amendment, doing so on June 16, 1919. The Times Recorder relegated the news of this important legislative action to page three of its June 17 issue.
As noted above, it was more than an year later before 3/4 of the states ratified the amendment into law. After August 1920, the remaining states took their own sweet time about formally accepting what had become the law of the land: Connecticut, Vermont and Delaware ratified the amendment in 1923; Maryland, 1941, Virginia, 1952; Alabama, 1953; Florida and South Carolina,1969; Georgia, Louisiana and North Carolina, 1971; and Mississippi horsed around until 1984!

The Times Recorder, June 17, 1919, page 3

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Giants in the Earth?

The bogus Brush Creek township stone tablet,
watched over by J. F. Everhart, historian and huckster
J. F. Everhart began his over-sized tome, History of Muskingum County, Ohio (1882), with a section on the earliest native people, incorrectly referred to by Everhart as the "Mound Builders". In the first sixteen pages, Everhart rambled around, haphazardly citing this historian's and that scientist's dogmatic statements about ancient peoples on all continents. It's obvious Everhart wanted to convince the reader that he was a learned and esteemed member of the scientific community, and that his story of the excavation of a burial mound and inscribed stone tablet in Brush Creek township in 1879 was absolutely the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. 
So, what sensational story about Brush Creek Township did Everhart report? Everhart didn't tell the story himself, but instead relied on the text of two documents, the first probably written by him, to do his dirty work. The first document was a letter Everhart claimed was sent to him on March 3, 1880. (Note how close this date is to the publication date of his book; Everhart undoubtedly was in the throes of writing his book at this point, so the Brush Creek discovery was conveniently timed.) The letter--signed by Thomas D. Showers, John Worstall, Marshall Cooper, J. M Baughman, S. S. Baughman, and John E. McCoy--described the excavation of "an ancient mound, located on the farm of Mr. J. M. Baughman....rising 152 feet above...the stream called Brush creek. It is about 64 feet in width by about 90 feet in length...nearly flat on top" on December 1, 1879. The letter is replete with exacting measurements and careful descriptions of all the wonderful discoveries unearthed, giving the appearance that good archeaological methods were employed by the local farmers and laborers who undertook the excavation. The letter claimed that eleven skeletons, all measuring between eight and nine feet four inches in height, were found, proof that giants really did once walk the earth, even in Muskingum County. Not only were all the skeletons complete (despite their great age), the amateur archaeologists were able, in a glance, to distinguish male from female bones. In addition, so the letter claimed, there was, among the artifacts, a "sand-rock,...twelve by fourteen inches...upon which were engraved the following described hieroglyphics." (Everhart was careful to mention here that the actual letter contained an exact representation of the picture-writing; he would let the reader "see" the hieroglyphics himself from the drawing included in the chapter.) 

The book's illustration (above) was made from a photograph of the stone taken by a Zanesville photographer, William T. Lewis. The second document Everhart included in the story, was the text of Lewis' sworn statement of March 16, 1880. Lewis stated he worked at the Smith Gallery, and had "between December 20, 1879, and January 10, 1880,...photographed for Dr. J. F. Everhart an engraved stone, said to have been exhumed from a mound in Brush Creek Township...." From this point on, Everhart painstakingly and pompously explained how he, and he alone, brilliantly translated the message of the Brush Creek hieroglyph (which appears to have a message akin to passages found in the Old Testament), to the cheers of the scientific community world-wide. 

It should come as no surprise that if you go the archaeological exhibit in the Ohio History Connection museum, you won't see a single bone or artifact, and certainly not the inscribed stone, from the "mound" on the Baughman property in Brush Creek Township. A museum interpreter will confirm that the Adena people, who lived around 2500 years ago in what would become Muskingum County, were famous for building both burial and ceremonial mounds. But--you will be told--no Adena mound has ever been located in Muskingum County, although neighboring Licking County has a nice set.

Cardiff Giant being "exhumed", Cardiff, New York, 1869
The Brush Creek "ancient giants" story reported by Everhart was one of a series of giant hoaxes (read that both ways) perpetrated on the public in the second half of the nineteenth century. America's "golden age of hoaxes" began in 1869 with the elaborate ruse known as the Cardiff Giant, a 10-foot petrified man (a complete body, not just a bunch of bones) dug up in Cardiff, New York. A gullible public flocked (and paid) to see this amazing find, later revealed to be a sculpture of clay, ground bones, rock dust, and plaster created and planted by a local resident to excite biblical literalists. The premier huckster, P. T. Barnum, unable to buy the Cardiff Giant, made his own version of it, and then claimed the one his museum was
real, while the one in Cardiff, N.Y. was a fake. The phrase, "there's a sucker born every minute", came into being in response to news stories about the number of people willing to pay to see such obvious fabrications. (The sucker phrase has been wrongly attributed to P. T. Barum. In fact, David Hannum, who purchased the original fake Cardiff Giant from its creator, coined the phrase.)

Who was responsible for the Brush Creek hoax? A recent article in the Columbus Dispatch by Ohio History Connection archeaology curator Bradley Lepper says "Dr." J. F. Everhart himself was the culprit, concocting the story to boost the sale of an otherwise boring book. This fact came out because Everhart was not only a huckster, he was a bit of deadbeat. It seems, according to the article, Everhart didn't pay the excavators, and one of them sued him. During the court hearing, another workman "testified that he'd never been paid the $15 he'd been promised to carve the inscription on the slab and give it 'the appearance of ancient work'", giving added meaning to the word "chiseler".


Everhart, J. F. History of Muskingum County, Ohio with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Pioneers. [No place of publication given] J. F. Everhart & Co. 1882 [Note: Google J. F. Everhart, and you'll find no information. Goodreads lists the author as "Albert Adams Graham, J. F. Everhart". A google search for Albert Adams Graham revealed only that he was a Columbus publisher who spear-headed the formation of the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society which is today known as the Ohio History Connection. Adams name, as author or publisher, appears nowhere in the front-matter of Everhart's book.]

Eschner, Kat. "The Cardiff Giant Was Just a Big Hoax"; article;; Retrieved April 30, 2019.

"Cardiff Giant"; article; Wikipedia Retrieved April 30, 2019

Lepper, Bradley. "Archaeology: Were Ancient Writings, Giants Pulled from Ohio Burial Mounds? Ummm, No"; article; The Columbus Dispatch Retrieved April 30, 2019.

Monday, March 4, 2019

The Spanish Flu: A Footnote to WWI

Soldiers suffering from Spanish Flu, Fort Riley, 1918
I've been reading Laura Spinney's Pale Rider:The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World. In the introduction, the author notes that the influenza outbreak is often treated as "a footnote to World War I", meaning that while the centenary of the war held our attention from 2014-2018, there has been little to no centenary recognition of the chaos, disruption, and death caused by the Spanish Flu, the deadliest pandemic in human history.

The infection known as the Spanish Influenza of 1918 actually occurred in four distinct waves between spring, 1918 and the early months of 1920, with its most virulent occurrence being from late summer through the fall of 1918. After its initial, somewhat benign appearance in the spring, the disease mutated into something highly contagious and lethal. It was this strain that soldiers of all nations carried home in the last months of 1918. All together, the flu affected about 500,000,000 people, one-third of the world's population. Estimates of deaths range from 50-100 million people. (The wide variance is due to inaccurate diagnoses and poor recording keeping.) In contrast, World War I took about 20,000,000 lives: 9.7 million military personnel and about 10,000,000 civilians.

The Spanish Flu did not begin in Spain (where it was called the French Flu). The name apparently relates to Spain's ability to remain a neutral country during the war. Because of that, Spanish newspapers weren't censored as in combatant countries, where governments feared that news of an epidemic would undermine both military and civilian moral, and so they suppressed reports of the growing contagion and deaths. Spain's newspapers, however, reported on spread of the disease (one of the survivors being the king), making it seem to be a singularly Spanish catastrophe.

Health Superintendent G. W. McCormick reported 876 cases
of influenza in Zanesville, and Wayne, Washington, Falls, 
and Springfield Townships between October 21-26, the height 
of the epidemic. During that time there were 74 deaths, 35 in 
Zanesville. (October 29, 1918, p. 7)
Front page Times Recorder, October 12, 1918

The Spanish flu attacked a victim's respiratory system. The tell-tale sign that death was almost certain was the blue-black discoloration of the victim's face and extremities due to slow suffocation as the lungs filled with fluid. Those in the 15-44 age range succumbed in greater proportion than did the elderly, infants or children.

We now know the Spanish Flu was an air-borne virus, spread primarily through coughs, sneezes, and spittle. In 1918 there was no such thing as a flu vaccine, and no known cure. The only fairly reliable preventative was to bring fresh air into homes and offices, and stay out of crowded places. The only help for the victim was to try to keep her hydrated, comfortable, and isolated.

The highly contagious nature of the Spanish Flu led government authorities around the world to restrict public gatherings, such as theatre performances and even church attendance. Most schools, however, remained in session, authorities recognizing that children seemed less likely to contract the disease, and were probably safer in school than at home.

J. H. McDonald used the flu as a marketing tool
(December 13, 1918, p. 7)
If you search "Spanish Flu" in the Zanesville Times Recorder between 1918-1920, you will find an abundance of news items. There are official notices forbidding public gatherings, and updates on the epidemic's toll (above). There are reports of individuals or whole communities taken ill: Mrs. Iola Squires of White Cottage "who has been spending the winter at Detroit, Mich. with her son Allen, has been ill with pneumonia* and Spanish influenza." (January 30, 1919, p. 4); "Twenty-five cases of Spanish influenza which developed within the past three days were reported at Road Forks, near Harrietsville, late Friday afternoon....The patients are under care of Dr. Hill" (January 31, 1920, p. 7). There are dozens of advertisements for so-called preventatives and cures
                                                                                                           (below), and even for insurance policies (left).

In addition to the book that got me started on the topic of the Spanish Flu of 1918, there are a number of others. Of course the internet is loaded with information and photographs. I read once that if you had people in your family who died in 1918 (especially in the autumn of that year), there's a good possibility they were one of the millions of victims of the world's deadliest pandemic. Even if you didn't have any victims in your family, you can be sure your ancestors were touched in some way by the influenza.

Laura Spinney, Pale Rider:The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World , Public Affairs, 2017.
John M. Barry, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, Penquin Books, 2005.
Gina Kolata, Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011.
History Today: The Spanish Flu Pandemic
History: The Spanish Flu
National Geographic: Mystery of 1918 Flu...Solved?
The Atlantic: The 1918 Flu Pandemic--Photos From a Century Ago

*Pneumonia frequently accompanied the flu--as it does today--and some survived the flu only to die of pneumonia.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Searching and Researching Muskingum County's Population Centers

Outside of the city of Zanesville, Muskingum County has (depending on the source you consult) somewhere between 45 (see Muskingum County, Ohio: Communities) - 105 areas (see Ohio Hometown Locator) of  settlement, each one designated as either a village, unincorporated community, or CDP (Census Designated Places). At least, that's the theory. The sources seem to agree on which population areas are villages and which are CDPs. When it comes to which places are officially referred to as "unincorporated" and which ones are just kind of "there", there is some agreement, but no, as I see it, clear agreement.

To add to the confusion, there are "historic" communities that continue to exist---or not---again depending on the source. And there are names changes to contend with. When I began doing research, well before online searches were even conceived, it was startling to find my paternal ancestors, known to have lived for generations in White Cottage, living in a place called Newtonville.

The designation of an area of settlement is determined by governance, as well as population density: Villages, like towns and cities, are incorporated, meaning they are self-governing entities; unincorporated communities are governed by the county, and do not have their own post office---usually.

Muskingum County townships
and selected population centers
CDPs are are artificial creations of the U.S. census bureau based on local residents' shared understanding of the extent of a named area. CDPs are unincorporated areas of dense population often located within or adjacent to the boundaries of a city, town or village. For example, East Fultonham is an unincorporated adjunct of the village of Fultonham. It is a settlement named and defined by the local residents. To simplify data collection, the Census Bureau has formalized East Fultonham's boundaries, although no actual boundary lines for the settlement exist.

During the coming year, I'll be tackling a bit of the history of as many of these population centers as possible. There is a fair amount of information about each of villages, the CDPs, and the official unincorporated communities, but I'm intrigued by the large number of places that are just "there", or that aren't there but once were, so I've got some digging to do.

I would appreciate any information about and/or photos of any of the following "just there" places. Please do not use the comment area of this blog to provide information. Instead, please contact me at,

  • Ashcraft Ford (historic, but might still exist)
  • Black Run
  • Bloomfield
  • Blue Rock (this is an area supposedly in the western part of Blue Rock Township)
  • Buckeye
  • Cannon
  • Drake
  • Elizabeth
  • Fairview
  • Frazier
  • Kieffer (historic)
  • Maysville
  • McDonald
  • Meadowbrook
  • Merriam
  • Opera (historic)
  • Riverview
  • Roberts
  • Rock Cut
  • Smith Mill
  • Stringtown
  • Wesley
  • Wortley

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Santa Claus and the Political Satirist

St. Nicholas was generous
but not cheerful
In "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (commonly known as "The Night Before Christmas" from its opening line) Clement Moore described Saint Nicholas/Santa Claus as a chubby "right jolly old elf". This was a distinct departure from the usual representation of Saint Nick as a thin, serious, monastic figure--the Christian bishop of Myra, Greece--or as the also thin, slightly less serious, "Father Christmas", an English creation based on the Old English god, Woden.

Father Christmas brought cheer
but no gifts
Moore's poem was published in 1822. Forty years later, a German-born naturalized American, Thomas Nast, listened as his wife read Moore's poem to the family. In the imagination of a political satirist and caricaturist who got his start as a war artist for Harper's Weekly, the Santa Claus we know today began to take shape. Nast's conceptualization first appeared in his drawing, "A Christmas Furlough", published on the front page of Harper's in December, 1863.

Over the next 22 years, Nast honed his idea of how Santa looked and dressed. Stout, white-bearded, cheerful Santa changed his costume color over the years, but little else. Before settling on a red suit around 1869 Nast clothed his Santa in green, then brown. Nast was also responsible for giving us the North Pole, the list of good and bad boys and girls, and letters to Santa. Nast used drawings of his own five children in many of his later Santa Claus illustrations.

Nast's bearded, slightly portly Santa dispensed both
good cheer and gifts to Union soldiers

 Ironically, the man who created today's well-known and beloved version of Santa Claus was best known for his highly opinionated and caustic political cartoons. He was so good at drawing attention to the criminal activities of the notoriously corrupt William Marcy "Boss" Tweed, that Tweed was jailed for the rest of his life. This earned Thomas Nast enough threats from Tweed's associates that he moved his family from New York City to Morristown, New Jersey for their protection. Nast's political cartoons were so persuasive, they actually influenced the outcome of six presidential elections between 1864 and 1884, earning Nast the nickname "The President Maker". It was Nast who popularized the elephant and the donkey as symbols of the two major political parties.

After he left Harper's in 1886, Nast fell into serious debt as a result of bad investments. In 1902 he applied for a State Department job. President Theodore Roosevelt, who admired Nast's work, appointed him Consul General to Guayaquil, Ecuador. Shortly after arriving at his new post, Thomas Nast contracted yellow fever and died five months later. His Santa Claus lives on.
Nast's brown-suited Santa Claus in a rag book entitled
"Santa Claus and his Works". The book has been
in my family since its publication in 1869.