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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Through a Rear-View Mirror

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, April 1, 2007

Sandy Day, our Local History Librarian, and I were conversing about the type of inquiries that she receives in that library department.


Aside from the expected genealogical research, she was noting the questions relating to life in our area within a certain time period.


It usually relates to a specific topic and when it existed locally, or when it disappeared.


These are difficult topics to search, because the information is either buried within a source with no access, or the information was simply never recorded.


Sandy and the library staff have been indexing some sources that have such information to try to unlock the data for future research.


One such book being indexed is the 1964 publication, "Through a Rear-View Mirror" by George A. Mosel.


The author describes himself as an "Ex-child of the City of Steubenville, Ohio."


Using clues in the book, he was born in 1894; moved away from Steubenville in 1931, and died in Amherst, Mass. in 1967.


The advantage of reminiscences of local events is the fact that they are recorded for the future.


The disadvantage is that time passes, and descriptions written in 1964 are hard to apply in 2007.


Mr. Mosel opens his book with lots of early Steubenville history, intertwined with stories of Edwin M. Stanton.


He notes that in 1830, Steubenville was the third largest city in Ohio.


He moves on to the North End of the city in the early 20th Century, describing the houses crowded side by side down the streets.


The soot of area industries, combined with the fog of the river valley discouraged landscaping, and he noted that "elephant ears, cannas, and red salvia" were the only plants that could survive both conditions.


Later he commented that laundry hung outside was covered with a thick coating of "soot and grime so dense that a day's washing became dirty before it was dry."


The author provides us with hints about area railroads in their heyday.  Like most of America, Steubenville had an extensive local and regional mass transit wiped out by the automobile.


The Pennsylvania Railroad's "Spirit of St. Louis" arrived at the depot daily to take passengers east and west in Pullmans named "Saratoga, Green River, and Empress."


The Station at 6th and Market Streets was a busy place in the 1920s.  Mr. Mosel looked at the schedules on the racks to see how to connect to the New York Central, the Santa Fe, and the B & O to connect to the world.


The flu epidemic of 1918 is covered in one chapter.  Patients filled the hallways of the Ohio Valley Hospital, and funeral homes had 8 services per day, with mourners all wearing masks.


Again, this is information that cannot be found in other sources, and will benefit from a good index and digitization.


The text has a great ending, "Steubenville does things to you, once in your blood, it never lets you go."


The same is likely true with all of our hometowns.