Ohio History Journal

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City government in Cincinnati underwent a drastic overhaul in the 1920's. Once

called the worst governed city in the United States by Lincoln Steffens,1 Cincinnati

became a model of good government so quickly that the transformation amazed

even the most idealistic reformers. "The new regime showed so complete a reversal

of form from the old that it left observers dazed," wrote Alvin F. Harlow.2

This reversal of form was made possible in 1924 when voters ended bossism by

amending the city charter to provide for two basic changes in municipal government:

the election of a nonpartisan city council by the Hare system of proportional repre-

sentation and the hiring of a city manager. During a period when many Ohio cities

were cleaning house, Cincinnati became the third large city in the state to adopt

a city manager form of government, following Dayton and Cleveland, and one of

the first large cities in the United States to make proportional representation work.

The changes were so successful that Cincinnati soon enjoyed what many regarded

as "the best government in any of the larger cities of the country."3

Reformers credited the Cincinnati Post (now the Post and Times-Star) with the

successful advocacy of good city government. In 1924 the Post stood alone among

the city's dailies to support extensive revision of the city charter. In the years that

followed, it remained a steadfast advocate of the reform-minded Charter party and

of proportional representation. Murray Seasongood, a leader of the reform move-

ment and Cincinnati's first mayor under the revised charter, called the Post the one

unfailing newspaper champion of good government in Cincinnati, "like the shadow

of a great rock in a weary land."4 Russell Wilson, who followed Seasongood as

mayor, said the Post was "one of the most important factors in the rehabilitation

of our beloved city."5

One of Ohio's largest newspapers, the Post had a reputation as a reforming,

crusading newspaper which dated back to 1883, two and one-half years after its


1. Lincoln Steffens, "Ohio: A Tale of Two Cities," McClure's, XXV (July 1905), 293.

2. Alvin F. Harlow, The Serene Cincinnatians (New York, 1950), 415.

3. George H. Hallett, Jr., Proportional Representation--The Key to Democracy (New York, 1950), 2.

4. "Civic Achievements of Cincinnati Post Praised at Jubilee Dinner," Editor and Publisher, Jan-

uary 17, 1931, p. 12.

5. Ibid.


Mr. Stevens is assistant professor of communication at Purdue University.