THE WATER-POWER PERIOD—1828-1851
Dayton came out of the industrial slump following the War of 1812, on water power.
The ever enterprising D. C. Cooper had long ago recognized the possibilities in developed water power. Besides his “corn-cracker” on Rubicon Creek, he had built a little sawmill and gristmill at the head of Mill street, probably before building the one on the Rubicon. For these mills he had dug a short race from Mad River—the mouth of which, before the change in the channel, made in 1842, was 400 feet farther downstream; it furnished a strong current. The tail-race emptied down a gully in Mill street.
THE FIRST HYDRAULICS On his return to town, after selling his farm to Colonel Robert Patterson, Cooper dug a race about one mile up Mad River, and in 1804 or 1805 changed the site of his mills to First and Sears streets, to conform to this new water power.
During the War of 1812, while Dayton was a concentration camp for troops in the western campaign, Cooper hired a number of soldiers to dig a prolongation of his race from First and Sears to Fifth street. At this point, where Fifth street intersects the present canal-bed, he erected a new sawmill, and changed the old one to a turning lathe. His group of water-driven plants finally consisted of a flouring mill, a fulling mill, a machine shop, a turning lathe and a sawmill.
The day of steam power had not yet dawned in the Miami Valley. Down at Cincinnati a big building had been equipped with a steam engine of 70-horse power in 1814, but it was far ahead of the times. There is no record of steam power being used in industrial pursuits in Dayton for many years thereafter. It was still too much a curiosity; the problems of capital, skill and fuel were perhaps too intricate. In 1830 a “locomotive engine” drawing cars in which people could ride was exhibited in the Methodist church by an Englishman who charged a fee for riding in it.
Tremendous efforts were put forth to develop water power for manufacturing. The opening of the canal in January, 1829, which will be discussed in the next chapter, had opened up a new era in transportation, new markets. Sudden expansion of markets invited increased production. And as hand power was no longer equal to the demand and steam power not yet practicable, it was inevitable that enterprising individuals, budding capitalists, should strive to harness the water power of the valley.
In 1830, James Steele built a dam across the Miami above town, below the mouth of Stillwater, and cut a millrace across the horseshoe bend which is now Riverdale. The old millrace has recently disappeared in the Miami Boulevard.
A strong water power was obtained by this improvement. It was used first for a sawmill, and later also for a gristmill. In 1867 the mills were transferred to a stock company, and the water power further developed.
A great increase of water power for the town’s industries was obtained in 1838 by the construction of the Cooper Hydraulic. It was 700 feet long and 50 feet wide, running parallel with the canal, west of Wyandotte street, between Third and Fifth streets, and we fed from the canal. Edw. W. Davies and Alexander Grimes, the trustees of the estate of D. Z. Cooper, son of D. C. Cooper, built this improvement. Later it passed to a stock company.
Water was also taken from the canal to run mills south of Fifth street and at the foot of Ludlow, and to give power to a sawmill where Wayne crosses the canal.
But the biggest undertaking was the construction of a race from Mad river, three miles above town, down to Front street. This “upper hydraulic” was built in 1845 by H. C. Phillips, Paul Beckel, J. D. Phillips, Samuel Edgar and J. D. Lowe. They bought of the writer’s great grandfather, George Kneisly, his race and group of mills on Mad river, and extended the race. This water supplied power to a number of mills, passed from the mills to the canal, and became available again through the Cooper Hydraulic. The owners later incorporated as The Dayton Hydraulic company, which still exists.
The three hydraulics furnished enough water power to propel 170 run of stone. As a run of stone was 8-horse power, this was no mean development of motive force for the local industries.
INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION The shift from hand power to water power was nothing short of an industrial revolution. It revolutionized the entire economic foundation and in consequence the social and political superstructure.
There was a rapid multiplying of mills and factories just before, at, and after the completion of the canal. At the time the canal was completed, a sawmill, a shingle and lath factory, corn mill, iron foundry and cooper shop had been built.
In 1824, Thomas Clegg had come to Dayton and started a cotton factory, “The Washington Cotton Factory”; in 1828, with a Mr. McElwee, he started an iron foundry for making iron castings—a notable event. December 2, 1828, they made their first heat at their Dayton Iron Foundry near the head of the canal basin. Until the opening of the canal such a venture would have been impracticable because of the lack of means for transporting pigiron. This business finally became the Globe Iron Works, still existing.
In 1827, Henry Diehl started a chair factory; Samuel Dolly was manufacturing coaches, carriages, gigs and dearborns; P. L. Walker, saddles, harnesses, trunks and military accouterments.
In 1828, Samuel Eversale built the first canal boat in Dayton. Three boatyards finally developed here during the heyday of canal traffic.
In 1829, J. Ridway began to manufacture “Jethro Woods’ patent plow”; P. C. Hathway manufactured carpenters’ planes; the trustees of the Cooper estate established a cotton mill near the head of the basin.
In 1830, The Dayton Basin company was incorporated to manufacture cotton and woolen goods and machinery. In 1832, Nelson Holland began to manufacture wagons, Strickler, Wilt & Company gun barrels, and E. Stansifer looking glasses. A silk factory was started by Daniel Roe, who had 2,000 Italian mulberry trees for planting and offered to supply silkworm eggs to whoever would supply the cocoons. Hopeful efforts were being made at that time to establish the silk industry in the United States; in 1839, the Dayton silk company was incorporated for $100,000. But all such ventures came to naught.
In 1833, Marsh, Williams, Hayden & Company started a clock factory, and by 1837 were turning out 2,300 clocks per annum.
In 1834, Greer and King started a stove factory which employed 100 men. This is s significant item; it shows the growth of plants, the gathering of wage-workers in increased numbers under one roof for co-operative effort. In short, it shows how labor was becoming socialized.
In 1837, the Dayton Carpet Factory began turning out 150 to 200 yards of carpet a day; A. and A. C. Alexander & company established a paper mill.
In February, 1837, there were 29 “mechanics’ shops” with a total estimated capital of $77,000; 9 manufactories, $150,000 capital; 21 groceries, $364,000 capital; 22 dry goods stores, $203,000 capital; 2 confectioneries $1,800; 2 hardware stores, $20,000; 4 drug stores, $12,600; 2 book stores, $12,000; 4 iron stores, $12,000; 41 miscellaneous establishments, $36,200. A total of $888,600 invested in industrial and commercial pursuits.
In 1838, Cook and Ennis started a rifle factory; and Kepler, Markle & Karr began the manufacture of “portable threshing machines,” a great curiosity.
In 1839, William Bourne advertised he would continue the manufacture of pianofortes as good as came from Cincinnati or the east.
In 1841, there were in and around Dayton, 5 carpet factories, 2 carding machines, 1 hat factory, 5 flour mills, 3 chopping mills, 5 sawmills, 1 gun barrel factory, 2 oil mills, 2 paper mills, 1 last and peg factory, 2 turning lathes, 4 foundries and machine shops, 4 soap and candle factories, 1 clock factory, 4 distilleries, 2 breweries, 30 carpenter shops, 10 boot and shoemakers, 6 harness shops, 5 tanneries, 18 tailor shops, 9 blacksmiths, 5 carriage and wagon shops, 4 cooper shops, 5 tinners and coppersmiths, 3 hatters, 4 chair factories, 2 ropewalks, 6 bakeries, 8 cabinet shops, 4 gunsmiths, 1 glove factory, 2 locksmiths, 12 plasterers, 1 sash and blind factory, 6 jewelry shops, 4 stove stores, 3 stone quarries, 4 brickyards, 5 drug stores, 1 hardware store, 3 iron stores, 3 book stores, 22 dry goods stores, 31 groceries, 4 lumber yards, 1 insurance company, 2 newspapers and 1 bank. Value of manufacture, $624,575.
CLASS BEGINNINGS And there were 969 “mechanics employed.” Classes were emerging. There were 969 craftsmen who, lacking the facilities for employing their labor power for themselves, were hiring out to employers. Relationships between man and man were changing. Production now was almost wholly for market, not for home use.
The handtool period, with its petty enterprises, its one-man and two-man shops, was vanishing. Water power, harnessed, was giving to man the strength of 1,360 horses in tireless motive force. Inevitably this meant mills and factories using this increased power must be of increased size with increased machinery in order efficiently and economically to apply it. When one has a giant’s arm, he equips it not with a tack-hammer, but a trip-hammer.
Thus were appearing in the community’s economic life, in place of the old level of individual independence and equality, hills and vales; some owned and by their ownership extracted profit from the labor of others; and others because they did not own, were forced to labor at the machines of the owners, acquiring no claim to the fruits of their labors. The seeds of class struggle were germinating.
But this cleavage in industry was as compared with that of after times not deep. Still the great West beckoned; still the restless and ambitious sought individual independence on the frontier. In 1849 came the great gold-rush to California, draining off many able-bodied young men from Dayton, among them the writer’s grandfather, a young physician, Elijah Ealy. Emigrants from Europe were pouring into America. In 1833, German settlers began coming to Dayton in numbers. The scarcity of men available for wage-labor not only resulted in the rapid and early development of machine-processes for which America is noted, but kept wages far above what could be earned anywhere else, with a consequent high social position of the wage-worker.
Neither had the accumulation of capital in industry reached that oppressive size when by sheer weight it crushes competition and rises like an unscalable wall before the ambitious beginner. The manufacturers and merchants of the town still conducted their business individually. There was, it is true, a drift towards partnerships, because of increased capital required. But the corporation, the stock company, was still a rarity, reserved for unusual ventures of extraordinary collections of capital—a bank or turnpike company.
The Mexican War, breaking out in 1846 and ending in 1848, had less direct influence upon Dayton’s industrial development than the previous war. But the little Ohio town, now emerging from its frontier isolation and drawn more and more into the net of the world-market, pledged to socialized production and socialized distribution, found itself a part of the great national struggle raging over the question of chattel slavery—an economic struggle, the irrepressible conflict between two systems of exploitation.
In 1850, Dayton had grown upon water power to be a city of 10,977 inhabitants. It had 62 manufacturing firms, individual or partnership; 192 merchandise firms; 4 newspapers—the Daily Journal, Western Empire, Transcript and Das Deutsche Journal; 4 banks, 2 breweries; 22 hotels and taverns; 6 livery stables; 41 physicians, 36 lawyers, 18 preachers and priests.
Let him who does not realize that successive industrial revolutions have swept over the city, go and stand on the canal-bank east of the Public Library, and gaze upon the former business center.
In that desolate array of old buildings and stagnant deserted canal bed overgrown by weeds, one may mark the changed foundation of our industrial life.
In the fall freshet of 1828, Broadwell’s old red warehouse, where so many flatboats had loaded for the New Orleans market, was swept away. As if the fates, to signalize the industrial revolution occurring in Dayton, were destroying every vestige of the former rule.
THE CANAL The canal from Cincinnati to Dayton was completed in January, 1829. It had cost $567,000. The first through-boats arrived January 25. Dayton as a commercial center dates from that hour. The canal was the mother of the city.
With the arrival of the canal, river traffic and flatboats disappeared. A new system of transportation had confiscated all the business.
The bringing of the canal to Dayton was an incident of widespread agitation conducted for years. A serious industrial depression had of course followed the War of 1812; it follows necessarily after every war, as collapse follows the fictitious exaltation of an injection of cocaine. And every such depression under capitalism is—or was—mastered by increased exploitation of markets and conquest of new.
The flatboat trade had been a peculiarly helpless kind of transportation. Carried out of the western streams by spring freshets at about the same time, the flatboats arrived almost simultaneously at New Orleans with their cargoes and always glutted the market. The western frontier had to take what prices it could get. At times pork sold at $1 per 100 pounds, corn at 121/2 cents per bushel, wheat at 25 cents per bushel. In 1822, a price list in Dayton gave flour at $2.50 per barrel, butter at 5 cents per pound, chickens at 50 cents a dozen, beef at 1 cent to 3 cents per pound, ham at 2 cents to 3 cents per pound.
An overwhelming need of better mastery of transportation in the West spurred on the energies of communities. Dayton like hundreds of other towns was clamoring for easier, cheaper and more continual outlets for her surplus produce.
June 29, 1821, a citizens’ meeting was held at Reid’s Inn, where now Loew’s Dayton Theater stands. Reid’s Inn was a two-story frame house with a belfrey for its dinner-bell, and a tall post in front displaying a wooden painting of Commodore Lawrence and his famous “Don’t Give Up the Ship.”
This meeting appointed a committee to co-operate with other towns in raising funds for a survey of a canal route from the Ohio river up to the Mad river. In 1811, the first steamboat had been seen on western waters, the “New Orleans,” Robert Fulton in charge. From that hour the imaginations and hopes of western settlers had centered on the development of water-transportation.
PUBLIC ENTERPRISE In 1825, the Ohio State Assembly authorized the construction of a canal from Cincinnati to Dayton. State enterprise and state funds brought the canal to Dayton. In those early times there were no organizations of capitalists to decry state enterprise or spread an insidious propaganda in favor of private enterprise; there was no talk of “paternalism.”
July 4, 1825, Governor DeWitt Clinton of New York, assisted at the inaugural of the Ohio canal at Newark, Ohio, and on July 9, with Governor Morrow of Ohio, and their staffs, came to Dayton, where a big public dinner was had at Reid’s Inn, to which 134 guests sat down.
When the canal was completed, the business center of the town was at the “basin,” between First and Third streets, where the canal was 70 feet wide. It was not long until 70 canalboats a month were entering the basin and loading and unloading cargoes. Some were exclusively passenger boats.
Here is a birdseye view in a letter by John W. Van Cleve, June, 1829:
“The streets are all busy, drays running, hammer and trowel sounding, canal boat horns blowing, stages flying—everybody doing something.”
The town was like a prisoner who had burst his fetters. It was on the boom. In 1830 the population was 2,954, a gain of 1,237 in little more than two years.
In 1829, were shipped from Dayton via the canal 27,121 barrels of flour, 7,378 barrels of whisky, 3,429 barrels of pork, 423 barrels of oil (flaxseed.)
And still the outlets for products were being enlarged, the means of exchange improved. The canal was completed to Piqua in 1837, and from the Ohio river clear through to Lake Erie in 1845.
PREMATURE STEAM POWERS In 1829, an experiment was made in running a canalboat by steam power. The boat was reported arriving in Dayton after a successful run, but for some reason steam power was not developed on the canal. In that day of cheap mules and cheap provender, perhaps the hay-engine was still the more economical. No direct connection had been established with the coal fields.
LAND TRAVEL Nor was it only by water the means of traffic and travel were revolutionized. Land transportation kept pace with it.
Down to April 6, 1825, the mail had come by post-rider. On that day it arrived from Columbus by carriage. Two days later a mail stage was started to Cincinnati. It marked the growing volume of mail and the improvement of roads.
The stage lines competed successfully with the packet boats. Eleven hours was the time for making the trip to Cincinnati until the spring of 1842, when competition with the packet boats reduced the time to 7 hours. A daily omnibus line was established in September, 1847, which made the trip in seven hours. The fare, which had been $2, was reduced by competition to $1.
TURNPIKES But these improved facilities for land travel must be read in connection with the rise of turnpike companies.
Private enterprise attempted, of course, first, to meet the clamor for improved roads. In 1833, turnpike companies were chartered to enlist private capital for making pikes to Covington, to Lebanon through Centerville, and to Springfield. Such charters authorized companies to take possession of public roads already existing between the termini and improve them by covering them with planks or gravel and to erect gates and collect toll from the travelling public.
STATE AID Nothing, however, was accomplished by private enterprise towards improving the roads until March 24, 1836, when by act of the legislature a loan of credit by the state of Ohio to such companies was authorized, and subscriptions by the state to the capital stock of such private companies.
This state-aid to private enterprise was withdrawn and the act repealed in 1840. But Dayton was one of the first towns to avail itself of the state-aid while it lasted. Before the act was repealed, five turnpikes out of Dayton were already completed or far advanced with the help of state funds. These were the Covington pike, the Lebanon pike through Centerville, the Great Miami pike, extending southward to Sharon in Hamilton county, the Springfield pike, and the Dayton and Western pike, extending to Eaton and Richmond.
A little later the following turnpikes were added: the Xenia, the Troy, the Madriver, the Valley, the Germantown, the wolf Creek, the Wilmington, the Salem and the Brandt. All were toll roads, and at first were merely graveled, but later were macadamized. It was private enterprise for private profit under state regulation. It served the immediate purpose of getting the highways improved. But the time was to come when this system of toll gates and private profits would in its turn become fetters upon the enlarged forces of production and be swept away; public enterprise would be compelled to take charge of the highways. No growing organism can long endure to have a tax-meter on its nose; and the highways were the breathing channels of industry.
The economic revolution wrought by change from hand-tools and flatboats to water-power and canalboats meant, of course, the former political apparatus would soon be found inadequate.
In the winter of 1828-29, came the first of these political readjustments. The state assembly amended the Dayton charter.
By this amendment only “free, white male freeholders or householders, over 21 years of age, who have resided within the corporation one year next preceding the election” could vote. Power was given council to license grocers, retail and wholesale liquor dealers, beer ale and porter houses, and all houses of public entertainment other than taverns and to regulate or suspend such licensed places.
Thus had the race question and the liquor question thrust up their unwelcome heads. They had to be dealt with by political action, by government interference, howsoever loudly men might continue to chant the maxims of Jefferson.
RACE PROBLEM The presence of colored people in the community was beginning to be felt. It could no longer be ignored. For years the settlement around Seely’s Basin on Wayne street (about where Wayne Avenue market house now stands) was known as “Africa.” In 1824, amid scenes of wild excitement, twenty-four colored people had left Dayton for Hayti at the expense of the government of the little negro republic. In 1826, a “colonization society” had been formed in Dayton; sending freed negroes to Liberia was at that time regarded as a safe, sane, enlightened method of solving the race question, and so entirely respectable that the most prominent and prosperous ladies and gentlemen of the town belonged to the society. It is interesting to note that as late as 1844 this society was recognized with Hon. Robert C. Schenck as president, and such names as Crane, Grimes, Parrott, Jewell, Davies, King, Phillips and Winters in the membership. Long after it was obvious colonization was like trying to still a storm at sea by dipping up water with a bucket, these worthy society folk soothed their own consciences with this pretense of doing something.
But in spite of the Haytian exodus and colonization activities there were in Dayton on May 1, 1828, 1,693 whites and 74 blacks. More negroes kept coming.
When a social system is based on antagonisms in industry, negroes in a community like Dayton were bound to be a disquieting element. Freed men with a lower standard of living were objected to by white workmen if applying for jobs, and by farm workers or householders if applying for land or houses. They lowered wages—not in itself an objectionable thing to employers; but they also lowered property values and tended to keep white immigrants, a more efficient form of labor, away, an unpardonable sin.
Moreover, their presence raised awkward questions: what status should negroes have in court as parties, witnesses, jurors?—how were their children to be schooled?—their aged and indigent sheltered?—what rights accorded them in voting, if they were subject to taxes?
The smug self-satisfaction of our sires over their “free” and “democratic” institutions shattered like a frail vase against the hard facts resulting from the negro’s appearance side by side with the white in the competitive struggle.
“THE BLACK BEN” TRAGEDY In 1831 a steady, decent colored man, “Black Ben” was seized in Dayton under the Fugitive Slave Act, torn from his wife, taken to Cincinnati, and locked by his captors for the night in a fourth-story room. The despairing captive threw himself from the window and died two days later.
That tragic incident was like a drum-beat to the few men and women in Dayton whose hearts were really attuned to the message of Liberty and the meaning of the Declaration of Independence.
Needless to say, in 1841, when the anti-slavery men of Ohio met in convention at Columbus, they were “chiefly farmers and artisans.”
ABOLITIONISTS The Dayton group formed for antislavery propaganda were such obscure persons, of such moderate means, their names have been lost. Only a few belonged to the business and professional classes and have therefore been remembered: first among them, Luther Bruen and Dr. Hibbard Jewett. All honor to these two splendid citizens! Their marble statues should adorn the schools of Dayton to teach that true patriotism and true Americanism consist not in sailing on the flood-tide of popular opinion, not in voicing the passions of the majority, but in battling for a human freedom in the teeth of public prejudice.
Doctor Hibbard Jewett’s barn on Jefferson street, between Second and Third became a station of the “underground railroad,” which meant Dr. Jewett was risking his own liberty in violating the Fugitive Slave Act by sheltering fugitive slaves and speeding them northward.
The overwhelming sentiment of the community was against abolition and abolitionists. And there is no question Abolitionists of the William Lloyd Garrison faction—like the Communists of today—used a propaganda ill-adapted to the American type of mind, which foiled rather than aided their own purpose, by giving the reactionary forces opportunities eagerly seized for inflaming public prejudice and passion against them in the name of “law and order” and “Americanism.” Thus Garrison denounced the federal constitution as “a covenant with death and an agreement with hell,” and repudiated political action.
But abolitionists believing in political action accepted the leadership of James G. Birney of Cincinnati, and of this faction were the anti-slavery group in Dayton.
They met at the Union or “New Light” meeting house on the west side of Main street between Fourth and Fifth. Not that these champions of freedom were themselves a religious set or functioning as such. “Church people” are usually last to join any movement for freedom. Doctor Hibbard Jewett was a much-outspoken infidel of the Thomas Paine sort. On a Sunday morning many years ago the writer’s aunt, then a young girl, went to him, the family physician, for treatment. She remarked she had just come from church. “Humbug!” exclaimed the old abolitionist, to her blank bewilderment.
UNDESIRABLE The “New Light” Christians of ante-bellum days who dared lend their meeting house to anti-slavery advocates were a much despised unorthodox set, regarded as little better than infidels. They were finally forced away from Main street. But the Christian Publishing Association, at Fifth and Ludlow streets, shows the modern development of the sect into an orthodox and perfectly respectable church.
CONSERVATIVE In 1836, James G. Birney and Rev. John Rankin while trying to make an anti-slavery address at the Union meeting house, were set upon by a murderous mob of our best Dayton citizens and property holders.
The local records of this disgraceful affair perished in the flood of 1913. But as it was an echo of a similar event occurring about the same time at Cincinnati, some idea of the spirit and temper of the times may be caught from the following account in Schucker’s “Life of Salmon P. Chase”:
“James G. Birney was a Southern man, a lawyer and a slave-holder, who in 1833 emancipated his slaves and thenceforward devoted his life and energies to the anti-slavery cause. In April, 1836, he established his newspaper, the “Philanthropist,” at Cincinnati, but the public sentiment of the city was violently pro-slavery, as indeed was the almost universal public sentiment of the country, and his paper soon attracted attention, and became a definite object of popular hatred and complaint. On the 12th of July, at midnight, his office was entered by a mob, and his types and press were seriously damaged. Threats were made at the same time, that unless the publication of the paper was stopped, the assault would be repeated and the office destroyed. Some days later, on the 21st of July a public meeting was held by the citizens, to consider whether they would permit the publication or distribution of abolition papers in Cincinnati. The mayor of the city presided; and the meeting, a large one, deliberately resolved that nothing less than a complete abandonment of the publication of the paper would prevent a resort to violence. This meeting further proclaimed that they would use all the lawful means at their command to suppress any newspapers advocating the modern doctrine of abolition. A committee of thirteen was appointed to wait upon Mr. Birney and his associates, to request an abandonment of the publication of their paper; and to warn them that if they did not comply, the meeting would not be responsible for the consequences. On the evening of the 28th this committee of citizens (which was composed of gentlemen of large wealth and commanding social position, headed by Judge Burnett, who had formerly been a United States senator), and the executive committee of the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society, under whose auspices the “Philanthropist” was published, held a conference. The anti-slavery committee proposed a public discussion, but the citizen’s committee would hear of nothing less than the immediate discontinuance of the “Philanthropist” and utter silence on the subject of slavery. In case of refusal to comply with this demand, they predicted a mob unusual in numbers, determined in its purposes, and desolation in its ravages. Judge Burnett expressed it as his opinion that the mob would consist of five thousand persons, and that two-thirds of the property-holders of the city would join it. The citizens’ committee was then asked whether, if the mob could be averted, they (the committee) would be willing that the publication of the paper should go on. Several of the committee, including the chairman, promptly answered that they would not, and the anti-slavery committee was informed that it would be allowed until noon the next day to give a final answer touching the matter of the conference.
“At noon the next day the eight members composing the anti-slavery executive committee announced their determination NOT TO COMPLY with the insolent and lawless demand made upon them.
“This answer was decisive of the result which followed.
“In the evening another meeting was held be the rioters, and they resolved that the types and press belonging to the “Philanthropist” should be thrown into the streets, and its editor notified to leave the city within twenty-four hours. With the darkness of the night, the work of destruction began; the office was entered and pillaged, the types were scattered into the street, and the press thrown into the river. The mob sought Mr. Birney; he was absent from the city, and not finding him, they turned their rage upon the humble and unoffending homes of the colored people. After several hours, near midnight, the mayor advised the mob to go home, that enough had been done, nor more need be—to convince the abolitionists that the public sentiment of the city was not to be defied.”
What occurred at Dayton was a miniature imitation of the riot at Cincinnati. It was natural for our Dayton business men to parrot the prejudices and passions of the business men of Cincinnati. Where the treasure is laid up, there the heart is. South; they catered to the good will of the south; abolitionism in Dayton made their best customers angry, and that hurt business.
The attack on Birney and Rankin in Dayton would probably have cost them their lives, had not Dr. Hibbard Jewett and his relative Dr. John Steele (not an abolitionist but a defender of free speech) concealed them. The homes of abolitionists and negroes were attacked that night and some were burned. The bible and furnishings of the meeting house were torn and mutilated.
MOBBING OF CHASE The Birney mob in Cincinnati aroused young Salmon P. Chase, a budding lawyer there, to espouse the anti-slavery cause. The future Governor of Ohio, Secretary of the treasury and Chief Justice of the United States, tried in his turn to deliver an anti-slavery address in Dayton at the Union meetinghouse, but was rotten-egged.
In 1839 and Anti-Slavery Society was formed with forty members; Luther Bruen was chosen its president.
MOBBING OF MORRIS In January, 1841, former Senator Thos. Morris, a supporter of Birney and nominated later for vice-president, tried to make an anti-slavery speech at the courthouse under the auspices of the Anti-Slavery Society. A disorderly mob egged him and broke up the meeting. Doctor Hibbard Jewett and he attempted to escape in a carriage; the mob pulled the driver from the box and caused the horses to run away; later when the two had reach Dr. Jewett's residence, the mob came and plastered it with eggs, and entering disfigured the furniture.
THE PAUL PRY MOB On the night of January 26, 1841, the morality and respectability of Dayton chose to take offense at a colored resort, the “Paul Pry” in the southwestern part of town. A white mob—presumably the same patriots that attacked Morris and Jewett—made an assault upon it. One of the mobbers was stabbed and killed. In retaliation, on the night of February 3, a number of houses, occupied by negroes were burned. Many of the negroes fled, others sold their good later, some their homes and moved away. But this characteristic American method failed to settle the race problem.
Meantime the town steadily grew in population, its industries multiplied, and private enterprise in one line after another proved its inadequacy.
POLICE In 1833 the population was 4,000. In January, 1834, Council passed an ordinance for the appointment of one or more watchmen with badges and the same power of arrest as the marshal. This was the beginning of the city police force.
In April, 1836, council resolved to borrow not over $10,000 to improve the public commons, the wharf at the head of the State Basin, extend the markethouse, grade the streets and walks throughout the town, and purchase 500 feet more of hose for the Fire Department. This is the first record of borrowing money.
FREE SCHOOLS In August, 1836, a memorable convention was held in Dayton in the interest of free schools. Private enterprise in that work was not getting satisfactory results. The children of the poor were growing up in ignorance; and the community needed artisans, bookkeepers, clerks, intelligent forms of labor.
May 7, 1838, a public meeting at the courthouse was called to discuss the erection of public schoolhouses and how much money should be raised by taxation for the purpose. The purpose was strenuously opposed by a few wealthy citizens. All the arguments invariably advanced in favor of private enterprise in street railways, telephones, coal yards, etc., nowadays, were used then against public ownership of schools; it would destroy individual initiative, would penalize thrift in favor of the thriftless, would create a bureaucracy, inject the schools into politics, put an end to incentive, and prove an impracticable and ruinous experiment.
But the proposal carried by a large majority. They decided to raise $6,000 and build two public schoolhouses. Thus the Dayton public school system began.
READJUSTING POLITICAL APPARATUS The federal census of 1840 showed a population of 6,067, and the town was growing rapidly; it had more than doubled in the decade. On December 29, 1840, Council adopted a resolution appointing a committee to draft a city charter. A city charter was granted by the state legislature March 8, 1841, subject to the approval of the people.
An election to decide whether Dayton should become a city under the city charter was held May 3, 1841. The vote was 382 yes, 378 no. Dayton became a city by a majority of four votes.
The reason for this close contest may probably be found in the liquor question, always an obscure but powerful issue in American politics. The new charter failed to confer authority on the city to license the sale of liquor. That perquisite was retained by the state.
The new charter increased the councilmen to two from each ward. Council was authorized to appoint one school board member from each ward. It chose its president from its own membership, and appointed a recorder and clerk from the citizenship outside.
In 1843 there were nine miles of graded streets, but only four and one-half miles finished from curb to curb. The debt of the city was a little over $12,000.
THE FLOOD PROBLEM Flood protection was definitely taken out of the realm of private enterprise, by the flood of 1847. D. C. Cooper had built a levee about 1804 to protect his Mill street properties. This monument of private enterprise was extended from the old mouth of Mad river to the Miami at the foot of Fairground Hill. After the great flood of 1805 Cooper proposed moving the whole town to the hills, but was blocked by two settlers who demanded compensation for their improvements from him as titular proprietor of the plat. A new levee had been built by the town inside the old levee, as a reinforcement, at the Bridge street bend. Both these levies broke under the pressure of the flood of 1847; nearly the whole town was flooded. The levee was shortly afterward strongly rebuilt by the city. This problem of flood protection was destined to assume larger and larger bulk in municipal politics.
THE FIRST PUBLIC SERVICE CORPORATION February 4, 1848, a company was chartered for furnishing lights for streets and buildings. June 2, Council granted the company a franchise on condition the price of gas was never to be higher than then or thereafter charged in Cincinnati.
Thus Dayton entered the era of franchises given to privately owned corporations for securing public utilities.
The first public utility corporation prolific mother of so many benefits and evils, undertook the manufacture from grease of “Crutchetts’ solar gas.” The new light was first kindled in the city February 6, 1849. It made a rich, full light. The original cost was $6.00a thousand cubic feet, but in September was advanced to $10.00 a thousand, said to be equivalent to coal gas at $3.00 a thousand.
Property holders at first opposed lighting the streets at the expense of abutting property, but after the experiment of lighting Third street from Jefferson to Ludlow, and Main from Second to Fourth, there was a general demand for street lights. Progress was checked by difficulty in securing grease; the company was sometimes compelled to buy tallow. Later the company stock increased and it turned to coal gas. September 15, 1851, coal gas was first supplied; the price was $4.00 per thousand.
THE FIRE PROBLEM AGAIN Meantime the matter of fire protection was going through its evolution from private to public enterprise. With the arrival of the new engine from Philadelphia, a volunteer fire company had been organized. Other fire engines and other volunteer companies were organized from time to time. The Whigs organized their company and Democrats theirs. Party feeling was growing in passion in Dayton as the old level of economic equality disappeared. The rival political parties vented their hatred at fires. Instead of emulating one another in extinguishing fires, they placed obstructions in the path of the rival company, flung stones, cut ropes and hose, and engaged in fistic battle. Thus the public was being slowly educated to the necessity of public enterprise.
PARTISAN POLITICS The intense partisan feeling between Whigs and Democrats had dated from the election of Andrew Jackson. The night before election in 1832, the Democrats erected a hickory pole in honor of “Old Hickory” in front of the courthouse, flying the American flag. The town was prevailingly Whig. A special meeting of the council was called in the early morning hours; it was resolved the pole was a “nuisance” and must come down. Forthwith Mayor John Van Cleve weighing 300 pounds, town marshal Doctor John Steele, and other dignitaries marched solemnly to the spot, the mayor bearing the axe, and chopped the offending pole and flag down. But the national election going in favor of Jackson, the Dayton Democrats celebrated the victory by a barbecue January 8, 1832, and erected a taller hickory pole, which was not cut down.
Enormous gatherings in 1840 and 1842 greeted William H. Harrison and Henry Clay, respectively, in their presidential campaigns. It was estimated 100,000 people attended the Harrison convention, and 120,000 the Clay convention. The Whig Party represented in general the manufacturing and commercial interests of the North, favoring stronger and more centralized government, protective tariff, and internal improvements such as canal and highway construction at federal expense; the Jacksonian Democratic Party represented rather the agrarian interests of the south, decentralized cheap government, local autonomy, free trade and opposition in particular to a United States bank as a menace to small business. Dayton as a canal center, with hopes of being on the line of a national highway, was linked by its business interests to the Whig party.
THE WORKING CLASS But a new class was becoming evident in the United States, as capital agglomerated, machinery developed, and mills and factories studded the rivers, canals and highways. Political appeal to this new class was not wanting. The wage-worker had to be reckoned with. How his political support was played for may be seen in the following editorial in the Dayton “Journal,” October 29, 1844, during the hotly contested Polk-Clay campaign:
“WHITE SLAVES. The organ of Locofocoism, the Evening Post, published in the city of New York, denounces the working men employed in the manufacturing establishments of the United States as ‘White Slaves.’
“The operatives of Mattewan, an extensive manufacturing town, recently held a meeting and pronounced the author of the article ‘a base slanderer and liar,’ and demanded a retraction of the allegation.
“It is wonderful that we have in our midst men who in their eagerness to benefit FOREIGN MANUFACTURERS, can descend so low as to brand their own countrymen engaged in industrious pursuits as ‘WHITE SLAVES.’ Locofocoism, or in other words, ‘PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRACY,’ assumes the most untenable position, and we imagine a more absurb one than that of proclaiming men who labor in manufacturing, establishments to be ‘WHITE SLAVES,’ has not been discovered.”
Even in the new western state of Ohio already the “mechanics” were beginning dimly to sense that as wage-workers their interests did not always coincide with the interests of business in general. They had their own peculiar perils to face.
Thus in the Dayton “Journal,” of July 30, 1844, appears an “Address adopted by the Mechanics’ State Convention at Newark, Ohio, to the Mechanics and Laboring Men of Ohio.” It is a long and indignant attack upon the competition they were forced to meet of prison-made goods.
“The usual compensation of the free mechanic for making a coat of good quality is $5.50; the Journeyman’s wages is $4.00, taking four days to perform the labor, and it gives him $1.00 per day for his labor on which to support his family, and the master tailor receives $1.50 out of which he must pay the necessary expenses of his shop, and support himself and family also.”
It uses also as an example the once flourishing “business of coopering,” upon which prison-made goods had made ruinous inroads. It shows how convicts are taught the mechanical trades in the prisons and how they come forth not to re-enter into competition with doctors, lawyers and other professionals, but to share the bench with honest mechanics and compete against them. In conclusion it calls upon mechanics generally to unite in petitions which will force the state assembly to grant redress.
A society in which the competition of convicts is thus strongly felt is one in which the class struggle begins to take on its final form—wage-workers against capitalists.
Thus far had water power carried Dayton. It remained for steam power to usher in the undisputed reign of King Capital.
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