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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.

The Ohio Guide - 1940

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, June 15, 2008

So, you are planning a trip around Ohio for this year's vacation, and you come to the library to check out a travel guide.

 

You go to our shelves and find "The Ohio Guide," which sounds like a great overview of Ohio travel, until you realize that it was published in 1940.

 

Why would a library keep something that is so out-of-date?

 

It is true that travel guides have a short lifespan, but this book is different.

 

"The Ohio Guide" was published as part of the American Guide Series, compiled by workers of the Writers' Program of the W.P.A., one of the federal programs from the 1930s.

 

These guides were published for many states, and remain today as great historical information for the states.

 

The guide starts with 17 essays about Ohio, ranging from nature and early settlers to the government and economy.

 

It is interesting to read Ohio history written in 1940 and compare the observations with those of today.

 

In 1940, the Great War was what we today call World War I, since the 2nd World War hadn't happened yet.

 

Also in 1940, Ohio's greatest natural disaster was the 1913 flood and was still a major topic of discussion.

 

The 2nd part of the Guide is a review of cities.  Steubenville is listed with pertinent information provided.

 

It is interesting that in 1940, the first things listed for all cities are the train station, bus station, and interurban station.

 

The bridges across the Ohio River cost 5 cents for pedestrians and 25 cents for autos.

 

The Chamber of Commerce was located at 172 N. 4th Street, and the Auto Club was at 315 Washington Street.

 

Listed as annual events are the Boys' Kite Contest, the Cymanfa Ganu Welsh singing festival, the Hollow Rock Camp Meeting, and the County Fair.

 

Listed under "Points of Interest" are the Union Cemetery, Court House, Stanton Statue, Fort Steuben site, the Carnegie Library, Beatty Park, and the Wheeling Steel Plant.

 

The "site" of the Land Office is mentioned as a marble stone located at 118 N. 3rd Street.

 

It is also interesting that in 1940, both the Fort Steuben Bridge and the Railroad Bridge are points of interest with instructions for "best viewing."

 

While history doesn't change, the focus and background from which it is written at a particular time does change.

 

The 1940 guide was written at the end of America's economic Depression, and the federal agency sponsoring the writing was a result of the Depression.

 

Because of that, much of the phrasing recounts those economic conditions and the development that has taken place since.

 

Highways are listed and described in a different way than today's guides.  In 1940, it was important to know if the roadbed was "macadam, concrete, brick, or other."

 

The route numbers were already in place by 1940, State Route 7, US Route 22, US Route 40.

 

So, I wouldn't grab this book and get in your car to travel, but it is interesting reading some 70 years later.