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The Wizard of Oz involves Ohio politics

Published: Sunday, October 07, 2012 @ 12:00 AM
Updated: Sunday, October 07, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

“Who is this Wizard who speaks through various figureheads ….? Marcus Alonzo Hanna … a close adviser to (William) McKinley and the chairman of the Republican National Committee.”

— Rutgers Professor Hugh Rockoff

Oz is short for ounce.

The yellow brick road represents the gold bullion that once backed the dollar.

Dorothy’s slippers, changed to ruby for the Technicolor movie, were silver in the book and represent silver ingots.

Toto represents the nagging but politically ineffective voice of the teetotalers of the day.

These aren’t allegations being traded in the Sherrod Brown-Josh Mandel race.

They’re opinions of serious scholars who argue the 1900 Frank Baum classic “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” reflects the most pressing political issue of the 1896 presidential campaign and that era’s Populist political movement.

“Yes, I think it’s a story of Populism, sure,” said Larry Schweikart, professor of history at the University of Dayton. “The symbolism seems too much to ascribe to pure luck.”

The Oz-as-politics theme is of particular interest to Ohioans because the Wizard is thought to be Cleveland’s Marcus Hanna, Karl Rove’s role model.

Moreover, because of the stake farmers and laborers had in the political roil, Springfield newspapers of the time heavily endorsed the silver side, as did Springfield industrialist John Bookwalter, who in 1896 wrote the book “If Not Silver, What?”

A story, but more

In 1990 the respected Journal of Political Economy revived an academic discussion dating to the 1960s when it published “’The Wizard of Oz’ as a Monetary Allegory,” by Rutgers University’s Hugh Rockoff.

“Baum’s main purpose was to tell a story, and his need for symmetry, interesting characters,” prevented precise parallels, Rockoff writes. But the book is “rich in references” to the politics of the times, the author adds.

With the nation in an economic slide it wouldn’t face again until the 1930s, the 1896 election was a fierce fight between the Eastern financial and business establishment and the farmers and laborers of the South and West over what constituted “fair” money.

The financial establishment, championed by Ohio Republican William McKinley, argued that gold was the steadier commodity and its continued use would assured that any debts owed were paid back in dollars closest in value to the dollars lent. They also said the 16:1 ratio of silver to gold proposed by the so-called bimetallists would devalue the dollar and lead to wild speculation.

The bimetallists, led by Nebraska Democrat William Jennings Bryan, had two arguments with the gold standard:

• Because the limited supply of gold limited the supply of circulating money, parts of the United States didn’t enough cash on hand to do business. This proved a practical problem for Western farmers at harvest time and was a constant problem in the South, which had experienced massive bank failures during the Civil War.

• For many years, the stagnant supply of gold actually caused the value of the dollar to increase in a condition called deflation. As a result, debtors felt they were paying back more than they had borrowed when they paid back loans, although some historians argue the deflated prices farmers paid for other things evened things out.

If the gold-silver debate sounds strange 116 years later, some lines from Bryan’s famous “Cross of Gold” speech at the 1896 Chicago Democratic Convention could be used in this year’s campaign.

“There are two ideas of government,” Bryan said. “There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.”

Some argue that in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” Bryan is the Cowardly Lion — cowardly because of his opposition to the Spanish American War and a lion because of his roaring power as an orator. Likewise, most of Dorothy’s entourage is a political coalition, in which the Tin Man represents factory laborers and the Scarecrow represents farmers.

For the Scarecrow

It was for the scarecrows that Bookwalter, president of Springfield’s James Leffel Co., wrote his campaign-year book “If Not Silver, What?”

“As one whose prosperity depends almost entirely on farmers,” Bookwalter wrote, “I have naturally thought most of the effect of monometallism has had, and will continue to have, upon them.”

So did The Sun, Springfield’s morning newspaper.

Reliance on the gold standard had caused, “a heavy increase in the burden of taxation and of all debts, public and private; the enrichment of the money lending class at home and abroad; (and) prostration of industry and impoverishment of the people.”

Down the road in Dayton, the Evening Herald argued the opposite.

“It is estimated that the stockholders of the silver mining companies number about 50,000 persons … considerably less than the population of (Dayton). To increase the(ir) already enormous wealth … we are asked to take a step that will add mountains of weight to the burdens … of our laboring millions.”

Dayton’s Evening News agreed, citing this paragraph from the Financial Chronicle of New York: “The only gainers by a dishonest money policy would be the big debtors, including all employers of labor, who owe great numbers of small creditors, such as depositors in savings banks, holders of insurance policies and men and women who work for fixed salaries and wages.”

Witch direction

As mentioned, the battle pitted different regions against one another. It’s for that reason, Rutgers’ Rockoff argues, that Dorothy is from Kansas, a hotbed of Populism, and that her house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, representing Eastern banking interests.

The Good Witch of the North, where populism also was strong, gives Dorothy the silver slippers and sends her toward the Emerald City (Washington, D.C.) to confront the powers that be. And Glinda the Good Witch of the South, where Populism also took root, helps Dorothy return to Kansas.

Rockoff notes that when Dorothy and her coalition arrive in the Emerald City (a city the color of cash), they are ushered one by one into a round room (“The Oval Office?” he asks). During their separate meetings with Oz, “each sees a different character” in an exchange Rockoff says is typical of the different things people hear when talking to politicians.

“But who is this Wizard who speaks through various figureheads …?” Rockoff asks. “To a Populist at the turn of the century there is only one answer: Marcus Alonzo Hanna. A close adviser to McKinley and the chairman of the Republican National Committee, he was, in Populist mythology, the brains behind McKinley and his campaign.”

Upon taking office, McKinley arranged for Hanna to fill the U.S. Senate seat from Ohio vacated when he named Sen. John Sherman his secretary of state.

Local fallout

The Ohio Historical Society says that Springfield industrialist Asa Bushnell, whose opulent mansion on East High Street is now the Richards, Raff & Dunbar Memorial Home, was a “longtime foe of Hanna in the state (Republican) organization.”

Serving in his first term as governor when McKinley was elected president, Bushnell “delayed naming Hanna as long as possible,” the historical society says.

Bushnell was a partner in Warder, Bushnell & Glessner, meaning his economic interests were close to the so-called Silverites. But it’s not clear whether his differences with Hanna were over silver or due to Bushnell’s allegiance to his own political mentor, Joseph Foraker.

There’s no doubt, however, that after resisting Hanna’s appointment and then only narrowly winning a second term, Bushnell was aware of the real world power of the “man behind the curtain” in late 19th century American politics.

More snow heads for Miami Valley Wednesday

Published: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 @ 4:09 AM
Updated: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 @ 4:20 PM

Bursts of heavy snow, windy conditions and low visibility at times expected today.

Heavy batches of snow, snow squalls, will be likely through the afternoon and evening, according to Storm Center 7 Meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs.

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  • Snow showers/squalls ending as skies clear tonight
  • Another clipper brings snow showers back Wednesday
  • Warming trend expected for the weekend 

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THIS EVENING : Snow showers will taper off with temperatures falling into the teens. Wind chills will fall into the single digits.

Watch this quick timelapse showing snow squalls passing through Dayton, Ohio over a two hour timeframe.

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TONIGHT: Skies will gradually clear with cold temperatures dropping into the lower to middle teens. Wind chills will be in the single digits.

WEDNESDAY:  Clouds will increase in the morning with snow showers developing by midday. On and off snow showers are expected again late in the afternoon and evening. Snowfall accumulations of 1 to 2 inches are expected near and north of Interstate 70 with around 1” south through Wednesday night. It will be breezy. Temperatures will climb into the lower to middle 30s.

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THURSDAY:  Clouds will linger across the Miami Valley with temperatures holding in the middle 20s. It will blustery with wind chills in the teens.

FRIDAY: Expect a mix of sun and clouds with a chance for some passing snow showers, mainly north. Highs will be near 30 degrees.

RELATED: Dayton Interactive Radar- WHIO Doppler 7

SATURDAY: Sunshine returns to the Miami Valley as a warming trend gets underway. Highs will be near 40 degrees.

SUNDAY:  Clouds will increase with a chance of rain showers developing. Highs will be in the lower 40s.

Christmas spirit alive in Xenia: Officer helps family targeted by thief

Published: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 @ 6:21 PM

Kate Bartley
(Kate Bartley)

A thief took some clothes and towels from an unattended dryer inside a laundromat, threatening to ruin Christmas for one family. But Xenia Patrol Officer Rob Swihart made sure that wasn’t the end of the story.

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On Saturday Gena Storer left towels, washcloths, her baby girl’s clothes and other items in one of the three dryers at the Xenia Laundromat on Charles Street, she said.  

Storer said she planned to return later that day to retrieve the items after they had dried.

“We went to get our clothes and everything was stolen,” she said. “We were completely devastated.”

The thief took new pajamas, pants and other items that she had recently bought for her toddler-aged daughter, Storer said.

Xenia officer Rob Swihart and family

“It was stuff that we had just gotten her for Christmas that we went ahead and gave to her because she had outgrown all of her pajamas so fast,” she said.

Storer said they planned to return Christmas gifts that were already wrapped and under the Christmas tree to help pay for replacing the items.

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Xenia Patrol Officer Rob Swihart responded to Storer’s home to take the theft report.

Storer said Swihart took her daughter’s clothing sizes and other specifics of what was taken and left, promising to check with local charities to see if there might be help available. 

"He came back within less than two hours with Walmart bags of stuff that he had gone out and got with his own money and a $50 gift card on top of that,” Storer said. 

Swihart said it was a busy night, but he told his shift commander what happened and asked for permission to go to Walmart to help the family out.

Swihart, who is a new father of a 4-month-old, said he couldn’t bear the thought of the family going without during the holidays.

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“This isn't something that just goes on during the holidays,” he said. “I know that if I would have contacted any of the six other officers that were working with me that night and said, 'hey I need money for this,' they all would have ponied up money for it." 

Swihart added that it’s important for people to realize that "we're people too." 

"If we have the ability to help somebody out then that's what we want to do," he said. "In our line of work there's a lot of negativity. For us to be able to influence something in a positive manner that's important to us as individuals and us as a department.” 

Storer said she’s excited about Christmas this year. She can’t wait to see her daughter open the present that has Tickle me Elmo inside.  

“I'm still in shock,” she said. “It's like all the Christmas movies that you watch only it happened in real life for us."

Cordray in Springfield: Lawmakers at war with local governments

Published: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 @ 5:00 PM

Richard Cordray, a democratic candidate for Ohio governor, stopped in Springfield Tuesday to discuss why he should be governor.

Richard Cordray, Democratic candidate for governor, met with about two dozen supporters in Springfield on Tuesday, where he argued policies enacted by the majority-Republican legislature in Columbus have harmed local communities.

Cordray’s visit at the Comfort Inn and Suites was one of the his first stops after announcing last week that he planned to run for governor. Cordray recently resigned as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency he led for about six years that was tasked with protecting consumers from deceptive or abusive financial practices.

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In that role, Cordray said he led an agency that returned about $12 billion nationally to consumers who have been harmed by banks and other financial agencies. He also said he played a similar role while previously serving as Ohio Attorney General and would continue to stand up for consumers if elected governor.

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“I thought it was important to hold Wall Street accountable for the damage they had done to our state,” Cordray said. “There was a lot of fraud, there were a lot of irresponsible financial practices and we brought lawsuits on behalf of the state of Ohio against AIG, against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, against Bank of America and many major players to bring back money and put it in the pockets of Ohioans that never should have had it taken from them in the first place.”

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But Republican critics, including Clark County Republican Party Chairwoman Lynda Smith, have said Cordray was overzealous in his role at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Smith said the federal agency had little oversight and Cordray was too aggressive in regulating the financial industry.

“I didn’t like the job he did in Washington,” Smith said. “He tended to overreach. That bureau was not accountable to anyone and I think they kind of got a little out of hand.”

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Cordray countered that the agency filled a necessary role for consumers who had few resources compared to large banks and other financial agencies

“I frankly think it was needed,” Cordray said. “People when they’re battling large financial companies need to have someone standing on their side to make sure they’re treated fairly and that’s what we did.”

Through cuts to local government funds, he said Republican lawmakers in Columbus have slashed resources to local communities. And he said Republicans overrode efforts by cities like Dayton and Toledo to curb predatory lending, while doing little to resolve the issue themselves.

“This state legislature in Ohio has been waging a war on local government for years,” Cordray said.

Cordray has twice won statewide office, which he argued will give him the best chance in next year’s governor’s race. He narrowly lost a re-election bid in 2010 to current Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a Republican also running for governor.

“Next year will be different,” Cordray said of the race with DeWine. “If that’s the rematch I’m looking forward to it.”

Several other candidates have lined up to run for Ohio governor next year. The Republican candidates are DeWine, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci.

The other Democratic candidates are Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni and former state Rep. Connie Pillich.

Students create exhibit, calendar of Springfield park scenes

Published: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 @ 8:00 PM

            Project Jericho’s latest exhibition, “Afternoon in the Park,” will open at 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14 at Clark State Community College. Shawnee High School freshman Merideth Risteff’s painting for the month of April will be one of the works and is featured as the cover of an original calendar. Contributed photo
Project Jericho’s latest exhibition, “Afternoon in the Park,” will open at 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14 at Clark State Community College. Shawnee High School freshman Merideth Risteff’s painting for the month of April will be one of the works and is featured as the cover of an original calendar. Contributed photo

With chills in the air and mostly grey skies outside, imagining an afternoon in the park is a nice escape.

Project Jericho can make that happen every day in 2018 with Afternoon in the Park, an art exhibit inspired by changing seasons at local landscapes that also led to an original calendar. The exhibit will be from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14, in the Sara T. Landess Technology and Learning Center at Clark State Community College, 570 E. Leffel Lane.

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The community is invited and admission is free.

“The whole idea was to introduce the students to landscape painting,” said Lauren Houser, Project Jericho manager, who along with local lead artist Kristen Eisentrager took photos of Snyder Park in late summer to give a reference to the 12 students, teens ages 13-17.

They each randomly picked a month to depict, and as a further incentive, took a field trip on a chilly late October day to visit George Rogers Clark Park.

“In general, the kids were really willing to learn,” Houser said. “It was a new environment for them to create in, taking them out of their everyday atmosphere.”

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The students were also introduced to plein air painting, which is going outdoors to capture a scene live. They used acrylic painting on wooden boards.

All 12 paintings will be on display. Some commonalities can be seen, Houser said, as the students worked together and supported each other’s works.

“We’re all really excited for them to see their work on display, and this project really lent itself well to a calendar,” Houser said.

The calendars will be available at the exhibition for $10 apiece.

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The Project Jericho office will have calendars available for those who can’t attend as well. The office is located at 275 S. Limestone St. in the Hollenbeck Bayley Creative Arts and Conference Center.

Revenue raised will go back into the program budget.

The exhibition will feature several of the artists and refreshments will be served. Several people from Clark State’s horticulture and agriculture programs who appreciate the landscaping in the exhibition have also been invited.

Afternoon in the Park will be on display at Clark State through January. This is the group’s last major project of 2017 and they will begin the New Year planning for new ones starting in February.

Project Jericho is a program of Clark State Community College supported through funding from Clark County Department of Job and Family Services, Clark County Juvenile Court, the Ohio Arts Council, the Turner Foundation and private contributions.


What: Project Jericho Afternoon in the Park exhibition

Where: Clark State Community College, 570 E. Leffel Lane, Springfield

When: Thursday, Dec. 14, 5 to 6 p.m.

Admission: free

More info: 937-328-3869 or