Thursday, March 27, 2008

Raise the Rutherford!

Part I: Hayes in Cincinnati

A day in the life of a Cincinnati lawyer in 1850.

A continuing, slightly humorous series to raise awareness of Rutherford B. Hayes and erect a statue of him in Cincinnati.

As I mentioned in the past, I have been spending some time reading President Hayes’s online diary and letters from the time he was in Cincinnati. A lot of his entries are fascinating, giving a glimpse of not only his life, but life in the Cincinnati at the height of the City's growth prior to the Civil War. One of my favorite letters so far is a letter to his Uncle, Sardis Birchard, dated February 19, 1850. The geek in me finds it so interesting . . .

The excerpts below begin at the second paragraph after the greeting "Dear Uncle":

Mrs. Valette's thinking of my place of worship reminds me that I have never given you a detailed account of my way of living and spending time, and, therefore, thinking it may perhaps interest her if it does not you, I will try to give you a picture of my days. My office is in the "Law Buildings." The lower story is occupied by two express offices, an auction store, and a telegraph office; the upper stories by about eighteen lawyers, three or four architects, and a loafer or two, about one-third of whom sleep in their offices or rooms adjoining. The rooms rent for about ten dollars per month each. Our office is one of the best, if not the best, in the building. In one corner of the room, about twelve feet square is partitioned off for a bedroom, in which are two husk mattresses on bunks the size of Mrs. Valette's lounge, a washstand, a bureau, and divers pegs on which hang divers dusty garments. In the morning about 5 o'clock, an Irishman (who is not a Son of Temperance) comes in and builds a fire and sweeps out the office; about seven (more or less) the newsboy comes with the daily paper, and we get up, scratch open our eyes, read the news, and go to breakfast.

QCS Note: The Valettes were residents of Fremont and friends of the Hayes’s. Uncle Sardis lived at their estate at different times from what I’ve gathered. The Law Building, based on another entry, was on the south side of Third Street, between Main & Sycamore Streets, directly opposite the Henrie House. I particularly love the mention of the Irishman.

Photo of Henrie House from Library's Cincinnati Memory Project. Next paragraph . . .

My boarding-house is three squares off. A very respectable set of boarders;--one Old School Presbyterian clergyman, four or five intelligent Scotch merchants, also Presbyterians (but not members of our preacher's church), and strong on doctrinal points, an agreeable lawyer and his lady (an old schoolmate of Fanny's), a young Methodist New Yorker who is always getting the worst of the argument from the Scotchmen, an insurance broker from Connecticut, very like John Pease, and with more sense than all the rest, two or three nondescripts, an old widow lady, great on homoeopathy and Swedenborgianism, a son of hers about forty who echoes his mother's sentiments most dutifully, and myself.

QCS Note: So as I count it there were upwards of fifteen boarders, including Rutherford Hayes! Fanny is his beloved sister.

Next paragraph . . .

While we are gone to breakfast, our Irishman and his wife make up the beds, bring water, and brush off the dust, never omitting to arrange all the books and papers on our tables right wrong exactly.

After breakfast, I read law student-fashion till noon, when one of us go to the postoffice and then read news and letters, if there are any, until dinner. Every few days a forenoon is spent in court, if anything interesting is going on. Dinner at one o'clock. Remain in the office until near four, when we sally out to call on friends or ladies--in short, in search of prey. About half-past five, I go to the gymnasium where I often meet Mat Stem and occasionally Glenn; Glenn you know is pussy [pursy]. He works hard and looks among the youngsters who are seen there like a whale in Green Creek. About half our evenings are spent in the office--one or two evenings a week with the ladies, and one or two at lectures, Sons [of Temperance], or something of that sort. Among the lawyers in this building are Judge Walker, Judge Read, Tom Gallagher, Gholson & Minor, etc.--all clever and social.

QCS Note: Hayes mentions "one of us go to the postoffice" which would at this time imply either he or another lawyer and friend John W. Herron with whom he shared an office. John Herron would go on to become a District Attorney and he was the father of the future wife of President William Howard Taft, Helen Herron Taft.

Photo of the Cincinnati Post Office until 1853 from Library's Cincinnati Memory Project.
To continue reading the entire entry where he discusses church, clubs and his law practice, click here.

Next . . . Part II: Hayes in Cincinnati – Cincinnati Literary Club

1 comment:

Chris S said...

This is a really nifty little bit of history in context. Thanks for posting it!