Builders of Ohio

Van Tine, Warren and Michael Pierce. Builders of Ohio: A Biographical History. Columbus, Ohio; The Ohio State University Press, 2003.

As the subtitle says, Builders of Ohio is a history of Ohio told through short biographies of 25 Ohioans from early settlers to Dave Thomas.  As the editors state in the introduction, “history is not simply the interplay of impersonal social and economic forces: it is how individual actors responded to these forces to create the worlds in which they lived.” (viii)  Ohio is told through its builders.  In reading Builders of Ohio, it becomes quite apparent how difficult it is to tell 250+ years of history through the lives of 25 individuals.  But, the editors, who use a wide selection of academic historians to tell this tale, have strung together a series of essays the read well alongside the others.

There are many names left off of these essays: no Rockefeller (though B. F. Goodrich fills in for the Gilded Age industrialists), no Mark Hanna, no Wright Brothers, and no Pete Rose.  None of the presidents from Ohio make the final cut [though two failed wartime Vice Presidential candidates are included in George H. Pendleton (1864) and John W. Bricker (1944)].  We are given a diverse group of residents that cover a lot of ground.  (The editors do acknowledge there is a disproportionate number of white males).  I have read many books about the history of Ohio, and there were at least five names I was not familiar with and I’m not ashamed to admit this.  Cleveland from the late 1800s onward may get over-representation, but Cleveland was once the sixth largest city in America. Continue reading

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