Ohio History Journal

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Book Reviews

Book Reviews



An Ohio Portrait. By George W. Knepper. (Columbus: The Ohio Historical

Society, 1976. 282p.; illustrations, maps, index. $20.00.)

An Ohio Portrait is one of a growing list of publications resulting from the

bicentennial which raises the hope that whatever the ultimate assessment may

be of other phases of this national birthday celebration it will be viewed in the

future as having provided the same kind of noteworthy stimulus to publications

in the field of state and local history as was provided by America's centennial.

This reviewer, a non-Ohioan, congratulates the Ohio bicentennial commission

and the Ohio Historical Society for collaborating on this handsome volume and

expresses his regrets that more states, including his own Michigan, did not

follow Ohio's example in subsidizing similar publications that will have

continuing value and use long after many other bicentennial-financed activities

have been forgotten.

George Knepper's text is concise, yet admirably comprehensive, treating not

only the standard topics that one expects in such histories, but also handling

such subjects as the geographical and geological background, the arts,

recreation, and sports in a more satisfactory and knowledgeable manner (with

the notable exception of baseball, where Knepper's account contains more

errors than it does hits) than one is accustomed to finding in state histories.

Knepper is especially successful in demonstrating the validity of the theme, to

which he repeatedly returns, of Ohio as the most representative of all the states.

The more than 600 illustrations that accompany the text are, as a group,

superb. As the author of a two-volume pictorial history of Michigan, this

reviewer knows something of the difficulties that one encounters in trying to

locate good materials for this kind of work and he has nothing but admiration for

the outstanding job performed by those who were responsible for searching

through the pictorial resources available for An Ohio Portrait.

The book is not without its faults, however. The text, although containing few

glaring factual errors, is sometimes guilty of the tendency, common to this

genre, to claim too much for the state. The space given to discussing the Scopes

Trial in Tennessee might have been used better had it been devoted to an event in

the career of a lawyer whose life was more closely associated with Ohio than that

of Clarence Darrow, who, although born in Ohio, during most of his life lived and

practiced law elsewhere. Similarly, Hayes, Garfield, McKinley, Taft, and

Harding, Ohioans all the way, would seem to be enough presidents for Ohio to

claim, leaving native sons Grant and Benjamin Harrison for Illinois and Indiana

to make of them what they will.

The sources of all the pictures are meticulously noted at the end of the volume,

but there are no footnotes identifying the sources used in writing the narrative,

nor is there any bibliography, the addition of which would have been helpful to

the many non-specialists to whom the book is designed to appeal. The picture

layout designed by Ron Mlicki is effective and, in the case of the montages that

introduce each chapter, rather innovative. Unfortunately, the text and the

appropriate illustrations are sometimes separated by several pages, which can

lead to confusion, as, for example, when a full page of illustrations on the

Cincinnati riot of 1884 appears in a section devoted to labor troubles and the