Ohio History Journal

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Hocking Valley Railroad

Promotion in the 1870's: The

Atlantic and Lake Erie Railway





Industrialization had begun in Ohio before the Civil War, and, after a war-imposed

delay, promised to accelerate rapidly thereafter. The Panic of 1873, however, stalled

the process substantially and destroyed many small industrialists and businessmen.

With the elimination of the financially weaker businessmen, the way was paved for

reorganization of the state's railroad, coal mining, and iron industries in the 1880's

by larger, stronger, and sometimes out-of-state or national corporations which ac-

quired at relatively small cost the remains of the shattered enterprises that had been

initiated by the small-scale operators. Using their superior financial resources and

organizational skill, the larger companies succeeded where the smaller firms had

failed. But even though they failed, the efforts of the small industrialists are worthy

of attenion.1

Ohio was generously endowed with the coal and iron ore necessary to produce

power and finished products. Bituminous coal underlaid about twelve thousand

square miles, and iron underlaid about eight thousand square miles. Almost all of

these resources were located east of the Scioto River. One of the most richly en-

dowed regions in the state was the Hocking River and its tributaries, the Sunday and

Monday Creeks, in south central Ohio. Coal and iron were located in close prox-

imity in this general area, and made it "the most promising center of iron production

in the state" in 1880.2

The development of Ohio's coal and iron resources began in the 1820's, and by

1840 Ohio ranked second to Pennsylvania in the production of pig iron. Through-

out the antebellum period, however, mines and foundries remained relatively small

enterprises producing for a local, agriculturally-oriented market. In 1850 only three

of Cincinnati's forty-four foundries were capitalized at over $150,000, and only one

employed over 200 men. In 1860 the state produced fifty million bushels of coal




1. Philip D. Jordan, Ohio Comes of Age, 1873-1900 (Carl Wittke, ed., The History of the

State of Ohio, V, Columbus, 1943), 220-252.

2. Tenth Census of the United States, 1880: Report on the Mining Industries of the United

States (Washington, 1886), 621.


Mr. Taylor is Assistant Professor of History, Mankato State College, Mankato, Minnesota.