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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.

Family of Springfield woman found in crashed car looks for answers

Published: Friday, September 22, 2017 @ 8:00 PM

Family seeks answers about Springfield woman's death

The family of a Springfield woman found dead in a crashed car last week says they have a lot of questions about what caused her death.

Chelsea Marie Dowler, 27, was found in a 1993 Dodge Dakota on Sept. 14. The car left the roadway and struck a tree before coming to rest in Delaware County’s Kingston Twp. north of Columbus, according to the Delaware Post of the State Highway Patrol, but it’s unclear when the crash happened.

She had been missing for nearly four weeks, according to her brother, Tyler Dowler.

“It’s definitely a little bit easier than not knowing,” Tyler Dowler said. “Not knowing was the worst.”

The family had filed a missing person report with the Springfield Police Department, he said, and had handed out flyers and made posts online asking for information about his sister.

“It gives us a little bit of relief knowing that she’s not in pain anymore,” he said. “She’s not suffering.”

But he said he wants more answers.

“Did she wreck? Did someone force her to wreck? Was it drugs? We’d like to know,” he said.

An investigation into the crash is ongoing, said Lt. Bob Sellers with the Delaware Post of the State Highway Patrol.

Chelsea Dowler leaves behind two sons, a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old. Tyler Dowler and his girlfriend are now the guardians of the boys.

RELATED: Springfield woman found in crashed car may have died weeks ago

“Things are finally starting to come together a little bit. I think they’re happy,” Tyler Dowler said. “They don’t want to go anywhere.”

She struggled with drug addiction, he said, but was a good mother.

“She was loving you know, she had her problems as most of us do,” he said.

He wants the boys to remember their mom for the good times they shared.

“The times where their mom did nothing but make them smile,” he said, “because she would, she would do anything in her power to make them smile.”

The Springfield Police Division has closed its missing person investigation, according to Capt. Mike Varner.

The family is still in the process of making funeral arrangements.

Springfield’s annual CultureFest draws crowd

Published: Saturday, September 23, 2017 @ 3:54 PM

            Sameep Singh and Raipal Singh share a little of their Sikh culture with David Oty as they wrap a turban around his head Saturday at CultureFest. Bill Lackey/Staff
Sameep Singh and Raipal Singh share a little of their Sikh culture with David Oty as they wrap a turban around his head Saturday at CultureFest. Bill Lackey/Staff

About 1,000 people gathered Saturday afternoon in downtown Springfield to celebrate the diversity in and around the city.

Springfield’s CultureFest featured music, entertainment, fun and games and a lot more this year. Resident Tiffany Kaffenbarger said she thought the festival was good for Springfield.

“The more you gather around, you get more businesses around here, it will just help Springfield,” she said.

MORE: CultureFest brings the world to Springfield

She said Saturday was her first time at CultureFest and that she enjoyed her time.

“The more diverse we can be, the more we can expand and maybe we can bring Springfield back to where it used to be.”

Different types of food from many cultures were for sale at the festival. Children were given activities t0 help them learn more about the cultures around the world and in Springfield.

People were seen celebrating their heritage by teaching others about it, Saturday. Some paraded a dragon commonly associated with Chinese New Years around the festival and others showed clothes from their homeland.

Yousef Ahmad, who was born in Africa, sold clothing at the festival.

“They are African print dresses for women and accessories,” he said. “Everything is handmade.”

He had beaded necklaces, bracelets, dresses and aprons. He said people from all backgrounds buy his products.

READ: Culture Fest at City Hall Plaza in Springfield

“Everybody likes colors,” he said.

Lakhwinder Singh had a booth open for his restaurant Jett India. He said he had been to CultureFest many times over the years and liked seeing so many people attending.

“We have been here for many, many years,” he said. “We are here every year. I love Springfield.”

He said he never wants to miss a Springfield CultureFest.

“We got a lot of friends from the festival here and people love the food,” he said. “I am here all the time. There are a lot of people here. There are activities here all day.”

Resident Renee Stacey said she showed up because her 11-year-old daughter was singing in a choir. She said she thought the festival was a nice change of pace for the city.

“There’s sometimes nothing for anybody to do in Springfield,” she said.

She said she wants to attend more events like CultureFest that bring the community together.

Addicts, family members share stories at Springfield recovery banquet

Published: Friday, September 22, 2017 @ 7:37 PM

            Carey McKee, a McKinley Hall board member, speaks to the crowd about her family’s experience with addiction at the sixth annual Recovery Works banquet held Thursday evening at the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Springfield. MICHAEL COOPER/STAFF
Carey McKee, a McKinley Hall board member, speaks to the crowd about her family’s experience with addiction at the sixth annual Recovery Works banquet held Thursday evening at the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Springfield. MICHAEL COOPER/STAFF(MICHAEL COOPER/STAFF)

In March of 2016, Cole Sowards walked into McKinley Hall, a local treatment facility, for the sixth time.

MORE: More prevention needed to curb opioid epidemic in Springfield

The 29-year-old Springfield resident had been to treatment eight times previously, but it never stuck. Today, he’s been clean for 18 months.

“I’ve never lived this good a day in my life,” Sowards said.

Sowards was one of the speakers at the sixth annual Recovery Works banquet, held by local treatment facility McKinley Hall as part of National Recovery Month, held annually in September. About 150 people attended the banquet, including recovering addicts and their family members and local government officials.

When he went to McKinley Hall 18 months ago, he didn’t think treatment counselors would let him stay for the appointment – but he knew he had to try again.

“I was smoking crack all day, and I was late,” Sowards said. “I hadn’t showered in a week, and I stunk pretty bad.”

RELATED: Springfield native living clean, successful after prison, addiction

After a tough discussion, Sowards was admitted into treatment for the ninth time a week later.

He was introduced to treatment at the West Central Community Correctional Facility at 18 after being charged with aggravated burglary, he said.

“I didn’t really pay attention,” Sowards said. “I thought I had it figured out.”

After later finding McKinley Hall, he was told to attend meetings and get a sponsor, he said.

“The first time I didn’t do anything,” Sowards said. “I said, I’m cool. I got this.”

MORE: ‘Perfect’ Springfield couple battles addictions, finds recovery

Slowly, he found his way to recovery. He has a sponsor, attends meetings and is still in the Vivitrol program, a medication that blocks blocks opioid receptors in the brain for one month at a time.

“I’ve just been doing what I was told to do,” Sowards said. “My way didn’t work.”

He’s currently attending Clark State Community College and has been able to get his license back and hold a job, he said. He’s also rebuilding his relationship with his children, he said.

“Life’s good,” he said. “It’s great.”

While more than 80 people have died this year due to the opioid epidemic in Springfield and Clark County, many more have found their way out of active addiction, McKinley Hall Chief Executive Officer Wendy Doolittle said.

RELATED: Springfield ex-addicts: Recovery possible

“I get to see people get better every day,” she said.

Clark County is one of the best counties in the state for its collaboration to end the drug problem, Doolittle said. The community is working hard to fill the gaps in coverage, including multiple new programs such as the warm hand-off and a $213,000 safe house program, she said. The Families of Addicts group also recently received at $28,000 grant to operate a support center, while the Springfield Police Division also received a $100,000 grant.

“All these different sectors are fighting,” Doolittle said.

Keynote speaker and McKinley Hall board member Carey McKee spoke about how she coped with a family member who struggled with addiction. Until the Springfield resident understood how the brain worked, she didn’t understand the problem, she said.

“Addiction is a disease and those affected need support and treatment to get well,” McKee said.

Addicts are survivors who deserve respect similar to people who have battled other diseases, she said.

“(Addiction) is life-threatening also,” McKee said.

Addiction should be a priority similar to mental health, she said.

“I only ask that we support those suffering with addiction, educate ourselves and do the right thing,” McKee said. “Society will be a better place for it.”


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Safe h ouses for Springfield overdose patients might save lives

Drug epidemic wreaking havoc on Clark County businesses, economy

Drug crisis traumatizing children in Clark County, state

Money used to fight Clark County drug crisis at risk

More than 100 Clark County law enforcement officers to get Narcan kits

Springfield examines officer, medic safety after Ohio police overdose

Demand for, debate over Narcan soars in Springfield

20 more overdoses in Clark County during 25-hour stretch

Clark County sees another big spike of at least 40 overdoses in 5 days

Clark County leaders pledge to fight addiction stigma, OD crisis

Clark County to charge addicts who OD and don’t seek treatment

Overdose epidemic spreads, strains Springfield first responders


The Springfield News-Sun has written extensively about opioid and heroin problems in Clark County in the past five years, including stories about multiple overdoses in one weekend and efforts to expand treatment options. This year, the News-Sun will take a deep dive into the community’s drug epidemic and what local leaders are doing to solve the problem. Coming Sunday, the News-Sun will feature multiple people have to recovered from illegal and prescription drug abuse as part of National Recovery Month.


2.6 million: Opioid addicts are in the United States

74: Percentage of people in McKinley Hall’s vivitrol program who are recovered.

$100,000: Grant money to be used to hire a police officer with work with a local safe house for addicts.

$28,000: Grant monty used to open a support center for addicts and their family members.


For more recovery stories, log on to

Springfield Guard unit providing communications after hurricanes

Published: Sunday, September 24, 2017 @ 7:00 AM

            Tech. Sgt. Josh Foley demonstrates communication equipment that will be used in hurricane recovery. JEFF Guerini/STAFF
            Jeff Guerini
Tech. Sgt. Josh Foley demonstrates communication equipment that will be used in hurricane recovery. JEFF Guerini/STAFF(Jeff Guerini)

A group of airmen from Springfield have spent much of this month on the island of St. Thomas, stabilizing communications as rescuers and government agencies respond to damage caused by two hurricanes.

In all, six airmen from the 269th Combat Communications Squadron were deployed on Sept. 7 to the U.S. Virgin islands, which have been lashed first by Hurricane Irma and more recently, Hurricane Maria. The unit has experience responding to similar disasters, having responded to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans more than a decade ago.

RELATED: WPAFB, DP&L ready to help those in Hurricane Irma path

The airmen specialize in providing communications services including radio and Internet, which can be utilized by first responders and government agencies that have responded to the disaster. With local power infrastructure and communications systems damaged by the storms, the unit was able to provide communications services that have allowed local first responders to communicate, said Capt. Craig Conner, detachment commander for the squadron.

The damage caused by the storms is hard to describe without seeing it first-hand, Conner said.

READ MORE: Former Springfield base commander retiring from National Guard

“The houses are concrete and steel reinforced so the structures are here most of the time,” he said. “But the roofs are gone, windows are gone and there’s debris everywhere.”

The unit first arrived in St. Croix, then moved on to St. Thomas to assist with the recovery from Hurricane Irma. That storm swept over the island as a Category 5 hurricane, knocking out power, flattening trees and causing significant damage to businesses and homes throughout the island. While they were still assisting with that storm, Hurricane Maria battered the island again.

The unit rode out the storm in a local government building and began immediately working again to reestablish communications services after it passed. The winds sounded like a jumbo jet was flying 10 feet over their heads, he said.

“It was literally deafening,” Conner said. “I have never seen anything like that in my life.”

It’s been rewarding to provide assistance as the islands try to recover, he said. Early in the trip, the airmen slept overnight behind a ticket counter at a local airport. They were told many of the local residents had been without food and water, and provided prepackaged military Meals Ready-to-Eat.

DETAILS: Portman: Springfield base in good position to add missions

“It wasn’t much but it was something, Conner said. “From a human perspective it’s wrenching to see what we’re seeing.”

He also credited both the airmen on the scene as well as Guard members in Springfield who have continued to provide assistance with the mission. The mission has been challenging, with little time off and sweltering temperatures.

MORE BUSINESS NEWS: Hospital top Clark County employer, reflects statewide trend

“They literally have no days off and we’re eating MRE’s every day,” Conner said. “Their attitude could not be better.”

The unit has extensive experience providing communications support both for major disasters and other major events. The unit was also deployed to provide assistance during Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana in 2005, and many of the lessons they learned then are being applied to more recent situations. At that time, the unit arrived with a lot of heavy equipment, but it was difficult to provide communication between the various agencies who responded to that crisis.

Now, the unit travels lighter and can connect numerous entities allowing relief agencies, firefighters, and police to more easily communicate. As agencies on the island repair their own communications, the unit will be able to step back and move on to other tasks, said Amanda Adducchio, commander of the 269th.

She said the current unit will continue to provide assistance, and a fresh group of airmen will travel to the island every few weeks to provide relief until the job is finished.

The unit has also provided service at large public events. Last year, the unit provided communications support at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. More recently members provided assistance at the U.S. Air Force Marathon, where they installed video cameras along the race route to ensure runners were safe, said Capt. Travis Clarkson, of the 269th.

They also provided support for a mobile phone app that runners could download and use to communicate with first responders if they experienced a medical emergency during the race.

The Springfield News-Sun will continue to provide unmatched coverage of the local military and its impact on the region.

By the numbers:

6 — Guard members assigned to mission

40,000 — Estimated federal personnel working in response to Hurricane Irma

578,000 — meals provided by FEMA in St. Thomas and St. John

Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency