Title Reviewed:
A History of Ohio

Author Reviewed:
Eugene H. Roseboom; Francis P. Weisenburger

William T. Utter


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 50, Issue 4, pp 414-416

Article Type:
Book Review

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A History of Ohio. By Eugene H. Roseboom and Francis P. Weisenburger. (Columbus, Ohio: The Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1953, pp. xiii, 412. Illustrations, appendix, bibliography, and index. $6.50.)

This volume, the most significant publication connected with Ohio's sesquicentennial celebration, is basically a reprinting of the earlier one-volume history written by the same authors in 1934. The original printing was exhausted some years ago and it is good to know that so valuable a book is once again available. The six volume history of the state, to which these authors contributed, had not appeared when the original work was published and in the past twenty years many important monographs on Ohio history have been written. The text remains essentially the same, for it was written with care in the first place. Revisions are to be found in the chapter which deals with early Ohio Indians, significant additions have been made to the chapters on social and cultural history, and a final chapter summarizes the events of the past twenty years. Excellent bibliographical essays are included in an appendix.

The first sentence of the text reads: "Ohio is a political, not a geographical, unit." Roughly three-fourths of the volume deals with political happenings and these are woven into a clear narrative: a masterpiece of condensation. With the year 1850 this narrative is interrupted by a two-chapter description of social and cultural life and a similar survey entitled "Cultural Progress since 1850," is placed towards the end of the book. Chapter XIV deals with "Economic Progress, 1850-1880" and the final chapter contains a survey of the economic woes of the 1930's. It is this final chapter which caused a mild critical reaction at the time the book appeared, yet the facts presented could be easily substantiated, in the opinion of this writer, and there are remarkably few indications of bias on the part of the authors other than a sympathy for the victims of the Great Depression.

It is clear, even to the cursory reader, that the authors succeeded admirably in doing what they set out to do. And each reader will think of phases of Ohio's history that have been omitted. The reviewer, because of his own interests, wishes that space might have been found for a chapter on economic problems of the early decades comparable to that for the period 1850-1880. It seems regrettable that no description of the trade with New Orleans is to be found. One may be certain that the authors felt these omissions even more keenly than does the reader.

It is a pleasure to praise the format of this book in highest terms. James H. Rodabaugh of the Ohio State Museum served as editor and had supervision of the choice of illustrative materials. The meticulous care given to proofreading and to press work are abundantly evident. The text, as it appeared in 1934, was small octavo and had no illustrations other than maps. The present volume is in the popular quarto size with heavy coated paper admirably suited for the reproduction of half-tones, of which there are approximately three hundred.

The illustrations are a supplement to the text and little effort is made to tie the two together otherwise than by chronology. For this reason it is to be regretted that a few lines of comment or description were not placed below each cut. To one who is familiar with books about Ohio it is refreshing to see pictures which have not before appeared in print. One is especially impressed with the excellence of the drawings which Thomas K. Wharton made of the Ohio country in the 1830's. Few readers will find fault with the choice of pictures and no one can criticize their reproduction. This writer can see no merit in the depiction of Simon Girty (p. 38) and wishes that the cheaply humorous portrayal of the burning of Crawford (p. 42) had not been included, especially since there is reason to question the antiquity of the "old print." He questions the date, "about 1840," of the river scene at Marietta painted by Charles Sullivan (p. 92). Full-rigged sea-going vessels, such as are shown here, were probably not built at Marietta after 1820. A short paragraph, based on Hulbert's article in the American Historical Review (XXI, 720), would have been most useful here.

One might continue this game of minor criticism (why-Governor Ethan Allen Brown is not pictured and why hex signs on Pennsylvania barns are), but this writer is in the mood of praising the work of authors, editorial staff, and craftsmen, for producing a thoroughly satisfying book.

Denison University William T. Utter

Published by theĀ Indiana University Department of History.