American Consequences - June 2019

hundred years later we still hearing about it in the Ohio History class all Ohio eighth- graders had to take. “To this very day Ohio’s tax system, especially the sales tax, commemorates the lesson Ohio learned from the excessive burden of building her canals,” said Randolph C. Downes, the very boring author of the Ohio History textbook that was so boring our teacher used to doodle or stare aimlessly out the window or nod off while teaching it. CHIM-MI-CHIM-MIN-I-TOO Undaunted by the unimportance of canals, Toledoans were also early railroad enthusiasts. Very early. Toledo’s Erie & Kalamazoo Railroad, with construction beginning in 1835, was the first railway completed west of the Appalachians. It ran from Toledo to... not as far as Kalamazoo. But 33 miles of track were laid to Adrian, Michigan. The technological leap startled the inhabitants of the Toledo backwoods – and gave Native Americans a rare opportunity to do some European-style “mansplaining” to the yokels. Dresden Howard – who’d come to the region as a child – was out riding with Ottawa tribesmen friends when, “Sounds reached us like distant thunder, and continued to approach... We saw a black object... rapidly passing through the trees... and could make out nothing definite about it until one of the Indians said it was an ‘iron horse,’ a ‘hot water horse, that spit hot water...’ After the ‘ Chim- mi-chim-min-i-too ’ (the devil of the woods) had passed, we all ventured forward and took

A Presentation of Causes Tending to Fix the Position of the FUTURE GREAT CITY OF THE WORLD In the Central Plain of North America: Showing That the Centre of the World’s Commerce, Now Represented by the City of London, Is Moving Westward to the City of New York, and Thence, Within One Hundred Years, to the Best Position on the Great Lakes Benjamin Stickney held onto his land, too. But there’s a reverse side to the American coin of success-in-failure. Stickney was almost 80 but he died too soon, in 1852. According to his obituary, “He was an extensive property holder, and a man generally esteemed... He could have disposed of his property in this valley, at one time, and been one of the wealthiest men of his day; he died on the verge of poverty, property-poor.” The canals were never really important to Toledo. Or Ohio. They carried shipping, but not much was shipped to Toledo. And, little being grown or made there, even less was shipped from Toledo. In 1850, the town had a population of 3,870 and its only significant businesses were 12 freight-forwarding operations. To build its canals, Ohio issued $16 million in bonds (over half a billion in 2019 dollars). Interest payments were $1 million a year. Fortunately for investors, the term “junk bonds” was not yet in use, or otherwise investors would have realized that that’s what these were. Receipts from Ohio canal tolls, from 1827 to 1903, totaled $17 million. The fiasco was so great that more than a

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June 2019

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