Comprehensive histories about Columbus and central Ohio are few and far between.
William T. Martin wrote the first one with his "History of Franklin County" in 1857. Martin was a witness to and participant in many of the events he described.
His history was followed in 1873 with a history of Columbus by Jacob Studer. Studer later left the city and went to New York, where he successfully published a large book on the birds of America.
These works were followed by a two-volume history of Columbus by Alfred E. Lee, a Civil War veteran who had been a clerk and assistant to Rutherford B. Hayes. Completed in 1892, Lee's history remains one of the most detailed account of the period it covers.
In 1909, William Alexander Taylor completed a two-volume history of the area that is more anecdotal and descriptive in its approach.
But in the 20 years since the publication of Taylor's book, a new history of Columbus and central Ohio had not been completed.
The United States had entered World War I and was participating in the greatest struggle the nation had seen since the Civil War. Columbus and central Ohio had experienced a lot in the first 20 years of the 20th century.
Osman Castle Hooper decided the story needed to be told -- and that he was the man to tell it. And by all accounts, he was well-equipped for the job.
Born in Alexandria in 1858, Hooper graduated from Denison University in 1879.
From 1880 to 1889, he served as associate editor of The Columbus Dispatch. Seeking a better position, he left Columbus and went to work for the Cincinnati Enquirer. Apparently, he realized Cincinnati was not the place for him as he returned to Columbus and went back to work for the Dispatch.
He stayed there until 1918, leaving to become a professor of journalism at Ohio State University. There, he completed a new history of the city of Columbus.
Hooper's history was created in the way many local histories were in those days. The book was sold in advance by subscription, and the author sold space in the book to people who wished to have a biography of themselves in print at the back. In fact, more than half of the 638-page book consists of biographies and accompanying pictures.
As might be expected, the biographies are uniformly positive in their appraisals.
But with the publication cost paid by these sales, Hooper was able to write the history he wanted to write, in the direct style his journalism background demanded.
Here is a small sample from 1919:
"President Wilson, on his tour of the country to explain the terms of the treaty with Germany and of the League of Nations covenant, made Columbus his first stopping place. He and Mrs. Wilson and others of their party reached the city at 11 o'clock, Thursday morning, September 4. Greeted as he entered the city by circling airplanes and by a great throng at Union Station, the President and his party were escorted to automobiles.
"Headed by the Barracks band and a body of soldiers from the Barracks, the procession moved to Memorial Hall where a capacity audience awaited him, other thousands filling the streets outside. Former Governor James Campbell and Dr. W.O. Thompson, President of the Ohio State University, rode in the automobile with the President and Mrs. Wilson and went with them to the stage, the audience cheering and singing 'Dixie.'
"President Frank L. Packard, of the Chamber of Commerce, called the meeting to order and Dr. Thompson and Governor Campbell made a few preliminary remarks, the latter introducing the President, who spoke for forty-five minutes to an intensely interested and enthusiastic audience, leaving amid another ovation for his further journey into the West."
In 1940, Hooper received the distinction of being the only living member elected to the Ohio Journalism Hall of Fame, which he founded in 1926. The honor was in recognition of his long service to journalism as an editor and as a teacher.
In the introduction of his book, Hooper explains why he took the time to write a history of Columbus:
"It is a wonderful story -- this of Columbus -- marked by the courage and endurance of its early settlers and by the foresight, perseverance, public spirit and benevolence of the later comers. There has been continuous progress from the beginning till now, and the development of the last fifty years, crowned by the extraordinary patriotic endeavor of the World War period, must fill all with pride.
"Today Columbus with its 237,000 population, stands elate, a credit to the state and nation."
Hooper died May 11, 1941, at his home in Columbus. He is buried in Green Lawn Cemetery.
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.