Ohio History Journal

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IN CINCINNATI, 1903-1913



Associate Professor of History, Kenyon College


One April day in 1903 two law students were watching with

interest and curiosity the voting processes during a municipal

election in their native city, Cincinnati.1 Stationed near a polling

booth in one of the notorious precincts along the river front, they

witnessed a long line of Negro voters shuffle from the Silver Moon

"flophouse," through the polling place, and with quickened step

into a businesslike office across the street. Here each elector

exchanged a small metal disc, received from the party watcher

in the voting booth if his ballot had been marked as instructed,

for a two-dollar bill. The procedure was open and unabashed,

conducted with an amoral disregard of the corrupt-practice code,

its pains and penalties.2

"The spectacle produced a species of political fury in one of

the law students," Henry T. Hunt.3 He privately resolved to

challenge this shameless fraud and fight for clean government

for his city. Short and slender, with a jaunty carriage and a boyish,

infectious smile, his looks seemed to belie an aggressive character.

But when he was aroused, the tight set of his jaw, the thrust of

his chest gave testimony of his fighting determination. Hunt was

then twenty-five, about to graduate from the Cincinnati Law

School and enter the bar. He had been born April 29, 1878, into a


1 This article is largely drawn from the author's doctoral thesis, Ohio's Crusade

for Reform, 1897-1917. Since all references are fully documented in the above

manuscript, which is available upon request in the Harvard College Library, the

author has refrained from citing references for every factual statement in order to

conserve space. The principal primary sources are the files for the period of the

Cincinnati newspapers, the Enquirer, Post, and Times-Star, the Cleveland Plain

Dealer, and Ohio State Journal (Columbus); articles by such participants as Elliott

Pendleton, Henry T. Hunt, Herbert Bigelow, A. J. Freiberg, and S. Gale Lowrie;

interviews with Bigelow, Graham P. Hunt, and Edward Alexander. The most

significant secondary literature is cited in footnotes below.

2 This is paraphrased from Henry T. Hunt, "Obligations of Democracy," Yale

Review, New Series, VI (1916-17), 598.

3 Ibid., 598.