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Free books and articles on Ohio economic history. Farm life, Railroads, Manufacturing, Canal building, Banking, the Fur Trade, Cooperatives, Merchants, Land surveying, more.

The Farmers’ Centennial History of Ohio 1803-1903

Springfield, Ohio: Springfield Pub. Co. 1904

This book was apparently produced by the Ohio State government. It contains, first, a brief history of agriculture and agricultural organizations. For example, the first county agricultural societies were established in the 1820s, apparently to organize county fairs. The first agricultural college established was the Ohio Agricultural College at Oberlin, in 1854. Next there are little histories of horticulture (Apple orchards, grapes and wine industry), and breeds of horses introduced into the state. Similar sections follow for cattle, sheep, swine, and dairy. Then there are statistical tables and lists, which almost seem to have been selected at random. For example, there is a list of over 100 varieties of trees found in Ohio, tables for “Barbed wire required for fences”, “Vitality of seeds if properly kept” (i.e. how many years they can be stored), “Average yield per acre of various crops”. Following this section is a short chronological history of Ohio, followed by a variety of statistical tables for the U.S., which are mostly concerned with the end of the nineteenth century. Generally the late 19th century is covered much more thoroughly in statistics than the early part of the century.

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“The Indian Trader of the Upper Ohio Valley”

The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine XVII, no. 3 (Sep 1934) 163-74.

Adams, J. A.
Penn State University Libraries

This paper was derived from the author’s thesis for a master’s degree, and represented his original research. His objective was to learn about the British and American (not French) Indian traders that operated in the Ohio country from 1725 to 1776 and determine whether they deserved their generally low historical reputation. The author learned the names of 251 traders within the target years, and of those for which something significant could be learned, he divided into three groups. About a score of men were known for their good qualities, at least that many were notorious for evil qualities, and the rest fell somewhere in the middle. The author named several of the most outstanding and described the behavior of the most notorious. He also described the many ways that even the middle group of traders routinely cheated the Indians.

For works on the “Indian trade”, or fur trade, see:
– Stevens, Wayne E., “The Organization of the British Fur Trade 1760-1800″ in “The Indian Trader of the Upper Ohio Valley” in Ohio Economic History
Johnson, Ida Amanda, The Michigan Fur Trade in Michigan Economic History;
Turner, Frederick Jackson, The Character and Influence of the Indian Trade in Wisconsin; a study of the Trading Post as an Institution in Wisconsin Economic History;
Way, Royal B., “The United States Factory System for Trading with the Indians, 1796-1822″ in Economic History in the Great Lakes Region

Ohio Breweries

Armon, Rick
Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole 2011

A guide to the State’s 40 breweries and microbreweries.

“Joseph Hough, An Early Miami Merchant”

Ohio History XLV (1936): 37-45.

Beaver, R. Pierce
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

This historical paper incorporates a memoir by Joseph Hough, who had been a merchant in Hamilton, OH (30 miles north of Cincinnati) from 1806 to 1825. The paper describes the triangular trade of a typical early Ohio merchant in that region, who would bring manufactured wares from Philadelphia to Ohio, barter most of them for agricultural produce because money was scarce, and take the produce by flatboat for sale in New Orleans. Hough did business in exactly that way, and the excerpts of the memoir describe very well the logistics and hardships as he made this triangular journey, personally accompanying his goods every step of the way.

BFGoodrich: Tradition and Transformation, 1870-1995

Blackford, Mansel G. and Kerr, K. Austin
Ohio State University 1996

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Towboat on the Ohio

Casto, James E.
Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky 2010

“To get a personal look at what it is like to work on the Ohio River, newspaperman James E. Casto spent eight days aboard the Blazer as it traveled the Ohio from Huntington, West Virginia, to Pittsburgh, up the Allegheny and the Mongahela, and then back to Huntington. The Paul G. Blazer, a gleaming white towboat owned and operated by Ashland Oil, pushes a group — or “”tow, “” as the rivermen call it — of nine barges on this trip. Along the way, Casto introduces us to Captain Ronnie Davis, pilot Ronnie Burge, engineer Steve Bellomy, the mates, the deckhands, and the cook, as well as the river.” – book cover

“The Equipment, Instruments and Drugs of Pioneer Physicians of Ohio”

Ohio History XLVIII, July 1939, Number 3, 198-210.

Dittrick, Howard
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

This paper describes how pioneer physicians on the frontier in Ohio worked. Included are descriptions of some of their equipment and a few words about their typical training. They equipment they had available for a house call was limited to what they could carry in their saddlebags, which were specially made. It was necessary to have a horse that could swim, as it was often necessary to cross streams. Some country doctors had two horses, so that the one they used for a distant visit could rest if the doctor had to go out again immediately. The author reviews some of the more common medical conditions, and typical treatments, and describes the first successful Ceasarian section in 1827, done by a country doctor at a log cabin in Newton, OH. He reviews drugs that were available to these doctors, and some folk-lore remedies that were occasionally used.

Also see:
– Juettner, Otto, Daniel Drake and his Followers: Historical and Biographical Sketches, 1785-1909 in Biographies & Memoirs in Ohio History
Kemper, G. W. H., A Medical History of the State of Indiana in Indiana Economic History;
Zeuch, Lucius H., M.D., compiled, History of Medical Practice in Illinois in Illinois Economic History;
Michigan State Medical Society, Medical History of Michigan (Volume 1) in Michigan Economic History
Frank, Louis Frederick (Dr.), The Medical History of Milwaukee: 1834-1914 in Wisconsin Economic History

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An Account of the Epidemic Cholera, as it Appeared in Cincinnati

Drake, Daniel
Cincinnati: Deming 1832

Dr. Drake, one of the leading medical practitioners in Cincinnati, briefly describes 21 fatal cases of cholera that occurred in one week in October 1832 in Cincinnati, then goes on to describe the actions of the city’s Board of Health in response to the crisis.

For more works by Dr. Daniel Drake, see the Ohio Social History page of this website. For more information about Dr. Drake, see Daniel Drake and his Followers, by Otto Juettner on the Ohio Biographies and Memoirs page, and the biographical sketch “Dr. Daniel Drake, the Franklin of Cincinnati”, p. 299 in Beginnings of Literary Culture in the Ohio Valley, by W. H. Venable, on the Great Lakes Cultural History page of this website.

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Wood-Using Industries of Ohio

Dunning, Carroll W.
Wooster, OH: Experiment Station 1912

This survey was done by the Ohio Forest Service and U.S. Forest Service, to provide information for forestry management, manufacturers, sawmill operators and other businesses involved in some way with wood.

The Farmers’ Elevator Movement in Ohio

Erdman, H. E.
Wooster, OH: Agricultural Experiment Station 1910

Organizations Among Ohio Farmers

Erdman, H. E.
Wooster, OH: Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station 1920

They Built a City: 150 Years of Industrial Cincinnati

Federal Writers’ Project. Ohio
Cincinnati: Cincinnati Post 1938

Compiled and written by the Cincinnati Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration in Ohio, a depression-era Federal employment program. The book covers a very wide range of items produced in the city, with many photos.

Homegrown: Stories from the Farm

Frolking, Evelyn Hoyt
Granville, Ohio: McDonald & Woodward 2013

Explores the trend toward consuming locally grown foods through the eyes, minds, and actions of six small-farm families who have committed themselves to producing locally grown food in Ohio.

Ohio Canals

Galbreath, C. B., comp.
Springfield, OH: Ohio State Library 1910

Of value mainly for the sizable bibliography of works on Ohio canals.

The Centers of Agricultural Production in Ohio

Goddard, L. H.
Wooster, OH: Agricultural Experiment Station 1910

Without whose Aid: Nursing and the Cleveland Clinic

Grabowski, Diane Ewart
Cleveland Clinic Foundation 1996

“A Printer’s Troubles: Oxford, Ohio, During the Eighteen-Thirties”

Ohio History XLVII January 1938, Number 1, 40-58

Heiser, Alta Harvey
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

This paper is not really about the printer’s trade, but is instead a story of a young would-be businessman who got over his head in debt. The author makes extensive use of correspondence and excerpts from documents to give insight into the legal, financial and commercial operations of a struggling small businessman in the 1830s.

“The Construction of the Miami and Erie Canal”

Proceedings of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association Vol X, 1918-21, 349-62

Hirsch, Arthur H.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Mississippi Valley Historical Association

The Miami and Erie canal stretched across 15 of Ohio’s counties, from Cincinnati to Toledo. It was in fact three separate, linked projects, begun in 1825, 1833 and 1837. This paper is a general history of the politics and economics of their funding and construction.

A History of Banking and Currency in Ohio before the Civil War

Huntington, Charles Clifford
Columbus: Heer 1915

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Public Documents Concerning the Ohio Canals:…

Which Are to Connect Lake Erie with the Ohio River, Comprising a Complete Official History of These Great Works of Internal Improvement, from Their Commencement Down to the Close of the Session of the Legislature of 1831-32

Kilbourn, John
Columbus: Whiting 1832

The title of this ‘book’ is a little confusing. It suggests that this is the “complete official history” of the canal system, but the system was still under construction when this was published. Collected here are a wide range of public documents for this enormous project, which are listed in the index at the back. Categories of documents included are:

– Extracts from Governors’ messages – Laws relating to the canals – Resolutions (by the State legislature) – Canal Commissioners’ reports (including annual reports 1823- 1830 and special reports) – Civil Engineers’ reports – Canal Fund Commissioners’ reports – Financial reports – Miscellaneous documents (among these is a tariff of canal tolls)

Guide to Baltimore & Ohio Railroad

King, John T.
Baltimore: 1873

“Circulated on every passenger train of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and all its divisions”

The Official Ohio Lands Book

Knepper, George W.
Columbus, Ohio: Auditor of State 2002

This recent booklet, prepared by the state government of Ohio, explains how public lands in Ohio were distributed. The Ordinance of 1785 provided the first system for survey and sale of lands owned by the Federal government, and Ohio was the Territory, and then the State, where the new law was to be implemented first. Implementation was complicated by the fact that several large areas within Ohio were set aside to be used or disposed of in other ways. This book covers the implementation of the Ordinance of 1785 and successor legislation, as well as the special procedures followed for each of the set-aside areas.

Table of Contents

-Auditor’s Message – The First Arrivals on Ohio Land—Prehistoric Indians—Historic Indians of Ohio-Congress Creates the Public Domain-Land Ordinance of 1785 -Seven Ranges -Northwest Ordinance -Statehood for Ohio -Getting Started as a State —Boundaries of the New State -Privately Conducted Original Surveys—Virginia Military District—Connecticut Western Reserve .
—Firelands (Sufferers’ Land) -Land Sales to Private Groups—Ohio Company of Associates —Donation Tract —Symmes Purchase (Miami Purchase) -Federal Land Offices and Sales in Ohio—Harrison Land Act, May 10, 1800 -United States Military District (USMD)
-Congress Lands-Lands East of the Scioto River -Lands West of the Miami River-North of the Seven Ranges -Congress Lands in Northwest Ohio—South and East of the First Principal Meridian and Base Line—North and East of the First Principal Meridian and Base Line
-Michigan Survey -Federal Land Grants for Specific Purposes.—Moravian Indian Grants —French Grants —Refugee Tract —Zane’s Tract
—Dohrman Grant —Other Grants to Individuals -Federal Military Reservations—Fort Washington —Twelve Mile Square Reservation
—Two Mile Square Reservation -Federal Land Grants to the State of Ohio—School Lands —Ministerial Lands —Canal Lands —Wagon Road or Turnpike Lands —Salt Reservations —Swamp Lands -Federal Lands for Higher Education—Ohio University —Miami University
—Ohio State University -Original Surveys Influence Ohio’s Development-Appendix–The Origin of Ohio’s County Names —Additional Reading

See also: Treat, Payson Jackson, PhD, The National Land System 1785-1820 in Economic History in the Great Lakes Region

Measuring America: How an Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy

Linklater, Andro
NY: Walker 2002

“The fascinating, provocative, and eye-opening story of why America has ended up with its unique system of weights and measures―the American Customary System, unlike any other in the world―and how this has profoundly shaped our country and culture. In the process, Measuring America reveals the colossal power contained inside the acres and miles, ounces and pounds, that we use every day without ever realizing their significance.” – book cover

A History of Manufactures in the Ohio Valley to the Year 1860

Lippincott, Isaac
NY: Knickerbocker 1914

This was a PhD dissertation. Table of Contents:

1. Resources of the Ohio Valley-Introduction-General Features of Resources-Topography-Soil and Climate
-Navigable Waterways-Timber Resources-Mineral Resources (coal, iron, lead, salt, other)-Animals-Summary

2. Industry during the Period of Exploration
-Characteristics of the industry-Distribution of Population-Economic Conditions in Upper and Lower Louisiana-The Ohio Valley from 1700 to 1763 (commerce, Manufactures in Illinois Country)-The Effect of the Fur Trade on other Industries-The Ohio Valley during the French and Indian Wars-Elements of Weakness in the French System-The Ohio Valley from 1763 to 1790 (Changes in population, industrial changes)

3. The Pioneer Period-Introductions-Population (growth from 1790-1830)-Transportation and Commerce
-Manufactures-Hindrances to the Growth of Manufactures-Rise of Manufactures (flour and meal, whiskey, clothing, cotton and woolen goods, iron, ship and steamboat building, hemp, meat packing, salt, paper and printing, glass, lead, other)-Conclusion

4. The Mill Period-Introduction-Population (growth 1830-1860)-Commerce (internal improvements, railways)
-Manufactures, 1830-1860 (changing industrial conditions, growth of manufactures)-General Summary-Bibliography-Index

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The Agriculture of Ohio

Lloyd, W. A. and others
Wooster, OH: Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station 1918

Bulletin 326 of the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station. Part names are:

Part 1. History of Ohio Agriculture
Part 2. Ohio Agriculture from 1850 to 1910
Part 3. Crop Production by Counties in Ohio since 1850

The Ohio Railroad Guide, Illustrated

Cincinnati to Erie, via Columbus and Cleveland

Mansfield, Edward Deering
Columbus: Ohio State Journal 1854

“Zane’s Trace”

Ohio History XIII, July 1904, Number 3, 297-331.

Martzolff, Clement L.
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

The first part of this article is the personal and family history of Ebenezer Zane, the founder of Wheeling, WV and the man who began construction on Zane’s Trace in 1796. The remainder of the article is about construction and use of Zane’s Trace, with a detailed explanation of the route it followed. Although often referred to as a road, it is not so in the modern sense. Zane, with the help of his brother Jonathan and others, mapped a likely route for a road, mostly following Indian trails which may originally have been buffalo trails, and cut the timber and undergrowth away sufficiently that wagons could be pulled over the stumps. Zane also obtained land and a permit from congress that allowed him to operate ferries where travelers on the roadway needed to cross rivers. Zane’s Trace was the first such roadway to penetrate the interior of Ohio country, beginning at Wheeling, and helped open Ohio for settlement.

See also: Hulbert, Archer B., The Old National Road: a Chapter of American Expansion in Economic History in the Great Lakes Region

History of the Ohio Canals: their Construction, Cost, Use and Partial Abandonment

McClelland, Cloys P. and Huntington, Charles C.
Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society 1905

“Probably no other single publication presents in so concise and complete a manner all the information concerning the various features of the history and construction and use of the canals as does this volume. It treats exhaustively of the cost to the state, method of raising the money, manner of building, extent of traffic and travel upon the same; the industrial and economic effect, both direct and indirect, upon the state.” E. O. Randall, Ohio History Vol 15 No. 2 (Apr 1906) p. 287.

Ohio Trolleys

Morse, Kenneth S. P.
Baltimore: Sutherland 1960

Includes many old photos.

“Fine Timber [Ship-building in Marietta, 1800-13]”

Ohio History XLVI, January 1937, Number 1, 16-24.

Phillips, J. E.
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

The first group of Ohio settlers who accompanied General Rufus Putnam in 1788 to the Ohio Company’s land at the mouth of the Muskingum River included 48 mechanics, carpenters and laborers from New England. A number of these turned to boat-building in their spare time in their first years in Ohio. In 1798 Dudley Woodbridge joined in partnership with several other men, including Herman Blennerhassett, to build a sailing ship – a brig – which launched in 1801. It carried a cargo of barrel staves, pork and other local products to Havana, where it was loaded with sugar and rum. It then traveled on to Philadelphia, where both the cargo and vessel were sold. The trip was profitable, and the partnership immediately began work on another ship.

See also:Henderson, John J., “Ship-building on the Lakes” in Navigation on the Great Lakes & the Region’s Rivers

For works on boats and shipping, see: Navigation on the Great Lakes & the Region’s Rivers

Workers on the Edge: Work, Leisure, and Politics in Industrializing Cincinnati, 1788-1890

Ross, Steven Joseph
NY: Columbia University 1985

The formation of working class consciousness and radicalization in Cincinnati as it industrialized.

The Ohio River Trade, 1788-1830

Shaw, Hazel Yearsley
University of Illinois 1908

M.A. thesis, in the Dept of History at the University of Illinois.

Ohio; A Sketch of Industrial Progress

Short, John Thomas
Columbus: Smythe 1882

“The Organization of the British Fur Trade 1760-1800”

Mississippi Valley Historical Review V. 3 (1916-17) 172-202.

Stevens, Wayne E.
Urbana, Ill: Mississippi Valley Historical Association

The author writes that, “It will be the purpose of the present paper to describe briefly the nature of the business organization which was developed by British merchants for the conduct of the fur trade and which was centered in Canada, in the city of Montreal.” The first part of the paper is spent reviewing the fur trade when it was built up by the French in the century before the French and Indian War, and the long period of conflict and competition between English and French for the trade. The way the business was organized under the French regime gradually evolved in response to the British competition. When the British took Canada from France, they immediately made changes of policy and organization, although the British merchants continued to make use of French traders, who were well established in the forests and had long-term business relationships with the Indians.

For works on the “Indian trade”, or fur trade, see:
– Adams, J. A., “The Indian Trader of the Upper Ohio Valley” in Ohio Economic History
Johnson, Ida Amanda, The Michigan Fur Trade in Michigan Economic History;
Turner, Frederick Jackson, The Character and Influence of the Indian Trade in Wisconsin; a study of the Trading Post as an Institution in Wisconsin Economic History;
Way, Royal B., “The United States Factory System for Trading with the Indians, 1796-1822″ in Economic History in the Great Lakes Region

“Early Forges in Ohio”

Ohio History Vol. 46 January 1937, Number 1, 25-41.

Stout, Wilbur
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

The author writes that, “The forge was the forerunner of the rolling mill…” “Forging was the method used by the pioneers in the refining and the shaping of crude iron into wares usable by the blacksmiths and mechanics of that day”. “The pioneers thus looked to the forge for bars, rods, and plates or for refined metal for tools, implements, machinery, horse shoes, etc.” In the article the author lists early forges from 1809 through the 1830s, and describes how a number of them operated and how they contributed to local economies.

The Port of Toledo, Ohio

Water Resources Support Center
Washington, D.C.: USGPO 1989

Report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. All port facilities and their conditions are surveyed in about 40 pages.

Farm Life in Ohio Sixty Years Ago

Welker, Martin
Wooster, OH: Clappers 1892

In this small book, the author’s purpose was to help readers appreciate how life on a farm had progressed in the latter part of the 19th century with this portrayal of life on a typical central Ohio farm about 60 years before. The concluding chapter, entitled “Boys and Girls on the Farm; How to Keep them There” shows the author’s main concern. This is aimed at farm parents, and begins by pointing out how frequently farm children become dissatisfied with rural life and leave for the city at the first opportunity. He goes on to give advice as to how to improve the lives of their farm children and motivate them to stay in agriculture.

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