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As New York Viewed Dayton 54 Years Ago

This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News, August 21, 1932



By Howard Burba


     Rummaging through an attic at Ozone Park, N.Y., a short time ago, Howard Collins, a newspaper man, came across several copies of the old New York Daily Graphic.  One of them was dated Oct. 29 and the other Oct. 30 in the year 1878.

     In each of these two issues appeared full page layouts of views made in Dayton but a few weeks previous to their appearance.  The Graphic, showing remarkable journalistic enterprise for that early day, arranged with C. H. Miller for a “write-up” of the town and photographs sufficient to make two full-page layouts.  He operated a photograph gallery at 23 S. Main st. and was at the time these sketches were published the leading artist in his line in this fast-growing and progressive city.

     The page reproduced alongside this text is the first of the two Miller submitted to The New York Graphic.  The school building in the upper left was the Ninth district school at Fourth and Huffman.  View No. 2 shows the west side of Main between Second and Third, from the alley north of the court house.  The old Union depot and the Beckel hotel pictures are familiar to everyone as is No. 6, the Odd Fellows temple at the southwest corner of Third and Jefferson, now occupied by The Merchants National bank.  The church shown in No. 8 stood on the present site of Keith’s theater at Fourth and Ludlow.

     Miller was apparently impressed with Dayton, and found no occasion for minimizing its importance as a coming metropolis.  This is indicated by the preface to his story under a local date-line appearing in the same issue as the one in which this picture appeared.  He wrote:

     “Dayton, the county seat of Montgomery co., is universally conceded by visitors to be one of the most beautiful cities on the continent.  And its surroundings are equally attractive.  It is notable for its broad, clean, smooth avenues, its uniformly comfortable and numerous elegant residences, its admirable public school system and school houses, its handsome church architecture, its numerous and large manufacturing establishments and the general air of thrift and solid comfort which pervades the community.  It is indisputably one of the most delightful of inland cities for a home, and as reliable in its established wealth and credit as any fortunate city in the Union.  These are features which impress all strangers, and the well-contented people of Dayton are pardonable for the pride they take in their most enviable city.”

     After briefly narrating the story of Dayton’s settlement by New Jersey pioneers, Miller turned his attention to the type of citizens then residing here, commenting in this interesting strain:

     “While many citizens of Dayton are well-to-do and rich, there is not one of immense wealth in the city.  There may be a dozen who rate from $500,000 to $1,000,000 cash, but none over a million.

     “It impresses them that Dayton is a very reliable city; a fact of which eloquent demagogues are not apt to take notice, and which is, perhaps, more general than is supposed or presumed, is worthy of attention.  The great mass of these fortunes were made by the men who own them, generally at hard labor at mechanical trades, in manufacturing and in commercial trading.  Hard work was the capital the men ‘in good circumstances’ begun on.  Dayton’s ‘aristocrats’ are workingmen.  There are hardly a score of fortunes in Dayton that were not made by the men who own them.

     “While Dayton is not a leading commercial mart, her trade is important.  This is plain when the immense outlying population she supplies is considered. Her wholesale trade is extensive, far-reaching and rapidly increasing.  Her largest grocery house approximated a million a year, in spite of New York, Cincinnati, Chicago and other great competitors.  Her dry goods, notions and hardware jobbers are also important factors in her valuable economics; but her great source of wealth consists in her mechanical arts and general manufactures which amount in round figures to almost $17,000,000 per annum.  They embrace almost everything in the catalogue of manufacturing art.  Whisky, malt liquor, tobacco and produce of grain and linseed oil are among the large elements.  Agricultural and other labor-saving machinery rank first in extent and volume.  There are some 20 large flouring mills in and about the city, one of them being the second largest in the United States.  Of agricultural implement factories there are about 20 of various classes, nearly all of them large establishments employing heavy capital and considerable numbers of artisans.  The Dayton district is second to Cincinnati in importance in Ohio, as a United states revenue collection district, and 10th in the Union, its tobacco products, high wines, whisky and malt liquors being very heavy in volume.”

     While he emphasized the financial and industrial advantages of Dayton in that early write-up, Mr. Miller did not overlook the equally important subject of social life.  While his article, made brief by the fact the newspapers 50 years ago were forced to conserve in this respect by reason of hand-set composition and a limited supply of white paper, he made much of the few inches allotted to him.  As an indication of this we quote his paragraph on the social side of Dayton in 1878.

     “From the sketch of Dayton already given, readers will infer that its social life is very charming.  No people live more comfortably, few enjoy more luxuries, and none are less ostentatious.  The people are as generously hospitable as the ‘Blue Grass Barons’ of Kentucky.  Social, benevolent and religious clubs of all kinds are numerous.  Every known secret society in the nation thrives here, and there is hardly a man who is not a member of something from the Young Men’s Christian association down to the Put-in-Bay Black Bass fishing club, under the special guardianship of ‘Commodore’ Cooper.

     The second sketch presented by The New York Graphic, and containing pictures of Dayton 54 years ago will be reproduced on this page next Sunday.