Timeline is a quarterly publication of the Ohio Historical Society. My annual membership pays for this fine journal. One reason I am reviewing it is because it is for sale to the general public, although at $12 an issue the price is steep. It is a very high quality magazine and perhaps people think it is worth the cover price. That is the other reason I will be reviewing it. I think it is worth it, and am glad not to be directly paying for my subscription. I am facinated by history and I look forward to its arrival and thought I’d share my impressions of each issue. This issue includes articles on four very diverse topics.
Milton Caniff by Lucy Shelton Caswell
What is history without people? Places, events and dates give us the framework of the where, what and when something occurred, but it is the who that normally provides the most interesting insight into history. I love biographies.
As a child, I read as much as possible. I devoured the Columbus Dispatch Sunday Comics. I read every cartoon, including the serials. It was tough to keep up with the exploits of The Phantom, Steve Canyon and Prince Valiant reading only the one strip each week, but I tried. I suspect that my imagination and ability to reason things out follow from those early mental exercises each Sunday. I was aware of Milton Caniff, the creator of Steve Canyon. I did not know anything about him and this excellent article filled that gap in my knowledge. I am left with a curiosity about not only finding out more about Caniff, but also about the early years of syndicate owned comic strips. Caniff created, wrote and drew the hugely popular Terry and the Pirates that was published prior to, and during, World War II, yet Caniff had no ownership rights to his creation.
What is it About Bats – by Peter Hildebrandt
I like that the Ohio Historical Society includes Natural History as part of its mission. Geology, biology and botany are fascinating. This particular article covers bats that are indigenous to the state of Ohio. It never occurred to me why it was that bats invade barns, attics and other mostly vacant man made dwellings. It is because they needed to find substitutes for hollow trees that use to permeate the old growth forests of the distant past. I had a fun evening a few years back simply watching hundreds of bats flying out of and back into unused chimneys in downtown Waverly, Ohio. How much closer to a hollow tree could these bats get? I learned quite a bit, and the pictures are fantastic.
Autumnal Fever and Daniel Drake – by Stephen Gehlbach
This offering had everything a person like me could want; the what–autumnal sicknesses; and the who–an early scientist following the data instead of folklore.
Back in 2003 I acted in a trilogy of community theater plays that celebrated the Ohio Bicentennial here in Pike County, Ohio. In the first two plays I portrayed the same character that in the second act of the second play succumbs to the “black ague”, an unnamed autumnal fever. I did a little research on my own, but was still curious. This article actually mentions the epidemic the play’s author used in the play. It is mind numbing but 80% of the population of Pike County, Ohio died to epidemic fevers in the early 1820′s. It is a wonder anyone stayed in the area.
Enter the scientist, Daniel Drake. Drake did not trust the lore of the day that spoke of unhealthy air and bad weather causing the outbreaks. He set about collecting meteorological data, soil and water samples, and anything else that could be used to explain under what conditions the fevers occurred. This fascinating physician nearly discovered the mosquito borne malaria that was rampant in the Ohio Valley during that time. He even went so far as to predict viruses, although he called them animalcules. Because this dealt with things I was already interested in, I was totally captivated. Scientific method winning out over superstition. Great stuff!
George Crook: Soldier and Humanitarian – by John K. Ohl
I think the editor of Timelines has been looking at my reading shelf. This forth article also dealt with at topic that I am fascinated by. Native Americans, the Indian Wars and the people that stood up, even if belatedly, to give voice to the plight of these peoples.
I relished this opportunity to learn more about the famed General Crook, Indian Fighter. I was surprised to learn that he was from Ohio. I guess this is because the first I learned about him was from vacationing in Arizona near the Chiricahua Mountains. I was even more surprised to learn about his efforts to succor the native populations that he helped herd onto reservations. He came to respect Native Americans as equals. I am planning on finding additional reading about Crook and his time in Arizona.
Over all this was a fantastic issue of Timelines for me. Normally there are articles that while interesting, just don’t capture my interest and enthusiasm. Not so this time. It was an utterly enjoyable read from cover to cover. It is a shame I have to wait three months for the next one to arrive.