Ohio History Journal

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Town Promotion in the Progressive

Era: The Case of Newark, Ohio



On July 8, 1910, an angry mob stormed the county jail at Newark,

Ohio, seized a young, white "dry detective" being held there, carried

him off to the courthouse square and lynched him.1 That violent act

stunned local leaders who had long promoted their booming industrial

town in Licking County as "the best place in Ohio to live and work."

At the same time it dramatized the inter-city struggle that had long

engaged business interests in most American cities of that era, as each

sought to outdo its closest rivals in the competition for growth.

Town promotion has a history going back to the "urban frontier"

of the late eighteenth century. Few American communities did not have

boosters seeking to attract new migrants, new means of transport,

new institutions public and private. By the 1850s civic leaders in Cin-

cinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus had formed local associations to pro-

mote trade in a regular, systematic fashion. With the rise of manufac-

turing in the post-Civil War period, the focus of inter-city rivalry east

of the Mississippi shifted to the acquisition of new industry. It was into

this latter competition that Newark and other towns of similar size soon


Characteristically, Newark promoters approached their work in a pa-

rochial fashion. They did not place their efforts within a historical con-


G. Wallace Chessman is Professor of History at Denison University, Granville,



1. A "dry detective" was a private individual hired by prohibitionists to enforce local

liquor laws.

2. On earlier efforts at town promotion, see especially Richard W. Wade, The Urban

Frontier: The Rise of Western Cities, 1790-1830 (Cambridge, 1959), Chapters 1-2, 6, 10;

Daniel J. Boorstin, The Americans: The National Experience (New York, 1965), Part

Three; Harry N. Scheiber, "Urban Rivalry and Internal Improvements in the Old North-

west, 1820-1860," Ohio History, LXXI (October 1962), 227-39, 290-92; Charles N.

Glaab, Kansas City and the Railroads (Madison, 1962); Blake McKelvey, The Urbaniza-

tion of America 1860-1915 (New Brunswick, 1963), Chapter 2; Kenneth Sturges,

American Chambers of Commerce (New York, 1915). See also Henry L. Hunker, Indus-

trial Evolution of Columbus, Ohio (Columbus, 1958). Milwaukee's Chamber of Com-

merce was one of the first to raise a fund to "promote the city's industrial growth," in

1869; see Bayrd Still, Milwaukee: The History of a City (Madison, 1948; rev. ed., 1965),