Category Archives: Ex Post Facto Reference

In this category, I answer “questions” that show up in the Search Terms on my Stats page – i.e., responses to the terms people searched for that led them to my blog somehow.

Van Cleve at St. Clair’s defeat

A few weeks ago, my blog stats told me that someone had been searching for “van cleave st. clair’s defeat.”

Now, “St. Clair’s Defeat” refers to a battle in November 1791 in which the forces of Genl. Arthur St. Clair (also Governor of the Northwest Territory) were defeated handily by a force of Native Americans led by Little Turtle. It is considered the greatest defeat of the U.S. Army by Native Americans. (Read more about it at Ohio History Central and Wikipedia.)

In the course of arranging and describing the Van Cleve-Dover Papers (MS-006, Dayton Metro Library), I learned that Benjamin Van Cleve’s Memoranda (Memoirs) apparently includes the most accurate and detailed description of General Arthur St. Clair’s defeat.

I assume that Benjamin Van Cleve’s first-hand account of St. Clair’s defeat is what that person was searching for when they typed “van cleave st. clair’s defeat” into their search engine.

So, whoever you are, here is a transcription of that account. Although the original in is the Van Cleve-Dover Collection, due to its age and fragility, I opted not to retrieve it for a photo-op, so all you get is the text. But do know that the original is safe and sound in the Dayton Library’s Local History collections.

On the 23rd of September my uncle received his letters of instructions & we immediately left Fort Washington-” with three or four brigades of pack horses loaded with armourers & artificers tools — The Artificers with Capt Tharp their Superintendant marched with us armed & composed but a weak escort We encamped the first night on the bank opposite to Fort Hamilton which had been recently erected At daybreak I went some distance from the encampment to look for my horse & discovered a person armed I ran in & gave the alarm a party turned out with me & we met the person who had discovered me & ran in by a more circuitous route very much frightened, it immediately occurred to me that we had alarmed each other & on asking a few questions I ascertained it. — On the fifth day in the morning we overtook the army at the first wet prairie between thirty & forty miles in advance of Fort Hamilton. This day the army lay still & the next we marched about seven or eight miles The day following we moved about half a mile & remained about a week, during this time Fort Jefferson was commenced & about half finished on ground on the right of our encampment We then returned with six brigades of pack- horses to Fort Hamilton one of which to Fort Washington where I also returned Our escort consisted of about half of
Faulkners company of Levies commanded by Capt. Faulkner with his Lieutenant Mr Huston who afterwards in the regular service at Greenville fought with Capt. Bradshaw the fatal duel where both were mortally wounded. Col Duer the Con- tractor had failed It had almost defeated all the arrangements of the army he failed to transport provisions sufficient for the troops & they were reduced before this time to short allowance in consequence of it — The orders from the board of war to the Commander in Chief were said to be imperiously to proceed We were sent to bring provisions to assist the other line in the transportation. On the last day of October we over took the army twenty two miles in advance of Fort Jefferson & found the Commander in Chief so ill with the gout as to be carried in a litter We met on the same day a few miles before we came up with the army about sixty of the Kentucky militia deserting in one body This evening the first regiment was detached to endeavor to bring them back & to escort in provisions then on the way

On the first of November the army lay I think at Still water On the second & third we marched to a Creek supposed to be the St. Mary’s but which was a branch of the Wabash We had orders to return next morning with some pack horses to assist the other line in bringing more provision.

I had been entered as a pack horseman at fifteen dollars per month: At times I had considerable writing to do Every brigade drew their rations seperately; & when we were not on the march I had this service to perform, orders to communicate & often the care of my uncles horses as well as my own, when we were on the march we could sometimes make arrangements so that I could ride, at other times I had to carry a share of our stores or baggage lashed on my beast & was obliged to foot it through the mud in the roughest manner We had a Marquee or large horsemens tent & having room took several officers into our mess Having sometimes to be in company & employment with officers & at other times in the mud I was induced to take all my clothes with me; so that even when I was able to ride I always had luggage sufficient to make it necessary to use a lash rope On the fourth at day break^° I began to prepare for returning & had got about half my luggage on my horse when the firing commenced We were encamped just within the lines on the right The attack was made on the Kentucky militia, almost instantaneously the small remnant of them that escaped broke through the line near us & this line gave way followed with a tremendous fire from the enemy & passed me. I threw my bridle over a stump from which a tent pole had been cut & retreated a short distance & finding the troops halt, re- turned & brought my horse a little further; I was now
between the fires & the troops giving way again was obliged to leave him a second time — as I quit him he was shot down & I felt extremely glad as I concluded now that I should be at liberty to share in the engagement My inexperience prompted me to calculate on the strength of our forces being far superior to any the savages could assemble & that we should soon have the pleasure of pursuing them & I determined on being if possible among the foremost in the pursuit, not more than five minutes had yet elapsed when a soldier near me had his arm swinging with a wound I requested his arms & accoutrements as he was unable to use them promising to return them to him & commenced firing — the smoke was settled about three feet from the ground but I generally put one knee to the ground & with a rest from behind a tree waited the appearance of an Indians head from behind a tree or when one ran to change his position. Before I was convinced of my mistaken calculations I had become familiarized to the scene & the battle was half over. Hearing the fire at one time unusually brisk near the rear of our left wing I crossed the encampment — two Levy officers were just ordering a charge: I had fired away my ammunition & some of the bands of my musket fiew off, I picked up another & a cartouch box nearly filled & ran ahead to a large tree where I charged my piece, & fixed my bayonet, almost against the party reached me — I think there was about thirty of us — I was soon in front — the Indians run to the right where was a small valley filled with logs. I bent my course after them & found I was with only seven or eight men the others had kept straight forward & had halted about 30 yards off We halted also & being so near to where the savages lay concealed the second fire from them left me standing alone; my cover was a small sugar tree or Beech scarcely large enough to hide me, & most of the Indians in the hollow from 50 to 70 yards distant directed their fire at me: The balls some struck the tree & many ploughed along the ground at its root one moved my hat but did not cut it. I fired away all my ammunition I am uncertain whether with any effect or not — a little before I left this place I discovered an Indian throwing his blanket up & down at the side of a tree & sometimes his body appeared I took good & steady aim past the side of the tree & when his body appeared fired & did not see him or his blanket more. When my ammunition was expended I looked for the party near me, I saw them retreating and half way back to the lines. I then retreated running my best & was soon in; by this time cur artillery had been taken I know not whether the first or second time our troops had just retaken it and were charging the Indians over the Creek in front, & some person pointed me to an Indian running with one of my kegs of powder but I did not see him ; there were about 30 of our men & officers laying scalped around the pieces of Artillery; it appeared the Indians had not been in a hurry for their hair was all skinned off. Daniel Bonham a young man raised by my uncle & brought up with me & whom I regarded as a brother had by this time received a shot through his hips & was unable to walk I got a horse & got him on. My uncle had received a ball near his wrist that lodged near his elbow. The ground was literally covered with dead & dying men & the Commander gave orders to take them away, perhaps it had been given more explicitly — happening to see my uncle he told me that a retreat was ordered & that I must do the best I could & take care of myself. Bonham insisted that he had a better chance of escaping than me & urged me to look to my own safety alone I found the troops pressing like a drove of bullocks to the right & gained the front when I saw an officer (who I took to be Lieut Morgan an aid to Genl Butler) with six or eight men start on a run a little to the left of where I was. I immediately ran & fell in with them — in a short distance we were so suddenly among the Indians who were not apprised of our object that they opened to us & ran to the right & left without firing I think about 200 of our men passed through them before they fired except a chance shot When we had proceeded about two miles most of those mounted had passed me, a boy had been thrown or fell off a horse & begged my assistance & I ran pulling him along about two miles further until I had nearly become exhausted The last two horses in the rear had; one, two; & the other carried three men I made an exertion & threw him on behind the two men The Indians followed but about half a mile further The boy was thrown off sometime afterwards but escaped & got in safe My friend Bonham I did not see on the retreat but understood he was thrown off about this place & lay on the left of the trace where he was found in the winter & was buried I took the cramp violently in my thighs & could scarcely walk until I got within a hundred yards of the rear where the Indians were tomahawking the old & wounded men I further detained here to tie my pocket handkerchief around a mans wounded knee & saw the Indians close in pursuit at this time — for a moment my spirits sunk & I felt in despair for my safety I hesitated whether to leave the road or whether I was capable of further exertions If I left the road the Indians were in plain sight & could easily overtake me I threw the shoes off my feet & the coolness of the ground seemed to revive me. I again began a trot & recollect when a bend in the road offered & I got before half a dozen persons to have thought that it would occupy some time of the enemy to massacre these before my turn would come By the time I had got to Stillwater (about eleven miles) I had gained the centre of the flying troops & like them came to a walk I fell in with Lieutenant Shaumburgh (who if my recollection serves me was the only officer of artillery that got away unhurt) with Corporal Mott & a woman who was called red headed Nance — the latter two were both crying Mott was lamenting the loss of his wife & Nance of an infant child Shaumburgh was nearly exhausted & hung on Motts arm I carried his fusee & accoutrements & led Nance In this sociable way we came together & arrived at Jefferson a little after sunset. The commander in chief had ordered Col Dark to press forward to the convoys of provisions & hurry them on to the army Maj Truman Capt Sedam & my uncle were setting forward with him a number of soldiers packhorse masters & men & myself among them joined them on foot We came on a few miles when all overcome with fatigue agreed to halt Darius Curtus Orcutt a packhorse master had stolen at Jefferson one pocketfull of flour & the other of beef, one of the men had a kettle & Jacob Fowler & myself groped round in the dark until we found water where a tree had been torn out of root & we made a kettle of soup of which I got a small portion amongst the many It was then concluded as there was a bend in the road a few miles further on that the Indians might undertake to intercept us there & we decamped & travelled about four or five miles further I had got at Jefferson a rifle & ammunition from a wounded Militia man an old acquaintance to bring in A centinel was set & we lay down to rest & lay until the Governor came up a few hours after; I think I never slept so profoundly & I could hardly get awake when on my feet. On the third the ground was covered with snow, the flats were now filled with water frozen over as thick as a knife blade I was worn out with fatigue my feet knock’d to pieces against the roots in the night & in splashing barefooted among the ice In the morning we got to a camp of packhorsemen & amongst them I got a doughboy or water dumpling & proceeded We got this day within seven miles of Hamilton & lay around a burning tree so stiffened as to be unable to get out of the way if the tree had been falling on us On the sixth I arrived at Hamilton soon in the morning over the ground very rough & much frozen & remained there until next morning

Nov 7th Notwithstanding the Indians had killed several on the road recently between Hamilton & Cincinnati I came with Joseph Stephenson & with no arms but the rifle I had brought in, to Cincinnati.

On the 25th November we were discharged I received my pay, entered into the service of Elliot & Williams the new Contractors & set off the same day for the falls of Ohio to bring up a boat load of salt.

The above text is from Beverly Bond’s 1922 transcription of Benjamin Van Cleve’s Memoranda. The memoirs, in their entirety, can be found online at :

Additional information about Benjamin Van Cleve (1773-1821) can be found in one of my earlier blog posts [Bio Sketch: Benjamin Van Cleve, 29 May 2012], on Wikipedia [“Benjamin Van Cleve”], and of course at the Dayton Metro Library (not least of which being in the manuscripts of the Van Cleve-Dover Papers!).

Bessie Tomlin and the 1937 Flood

Last week I noticed some search terms in my stats list pertaining to Bessie Tomlin, and I thought her story might make an interesting post. Bessie Tomlin is believed to have been the only casualty of the 1937 Flood in Portsmouth, Ohio.

I happen to have written a large research paper on the topic (the 1937 Flood in Portsmouth) in 2005, so I already had this story written out from years ago. The accompanying photos, I snapped this past weekend while in Portsmouth for a visit.


Text below is an excerpt from: Lisa M. Pasquinelli, “Chapter IV: Living with the Flood in Portsmouth,” in The Great Ohio River Flood of 1937 (Dayton, OH: Wright State University, 2005), 12-15. [Find it on WorldCat.]


1937 Flood at Portsmouth, Ohio (floodwall mural by Robert Dafford, photo by the author)

1937 Flood at Portsmouth, Ohio (floodwall mural by Robert Dafford, photo by the author)


            All the public schools in Portsmouth closed at the end of the school day on January 21, which, as luck would have it, was the last day of the semester anyway. Schools located in the flood zone were opened up for storing furniture (on the upper floors, of course), and all the students’ books were locked in one room. Hilltop schools, which still had heat, opened to refugees, and the students were asked to take their own books home with them, to free up as much space as possible.[1]

            The Hilltop schools utilized for refugee housing were: Lincoln, Highland, Garfield, McKinley, Roosevelt, and Rosemount. At one point, Lincoln School, located on the northwest corner of Kinney’s Lane and Waller Street, held about 1,600 people, before several hundred were evacuated elsewhere due to overcrowding.[2] Highland, on the northwest corner of Hutchins and Logan streets, held as many as 1,300. Garfield, at the northeast corner of Gallia Street and Mabert Road, held at least a few hundred, and at one point a sandbag barrier was necessary to keep water out of the basement and keep the heat running.[3] McKinley, on Kinney’s Lane at the north end of Baird Avenue, held 400 people before being converted to a hospital on January 29.[4] For a time, Washington School, located at the corner of Eleventh and John Streets, also held refugees, but it had to be evacuated as floodwaters quickly reached it.[5]

            During the evacuation of Washington School, the drowning of Portsmouth’s only 1937 flood victim occurred. On Monday, January 25, emergency workers were evacuating refugees from Washington School, which had been without access to food or fuel for a day and a half. One boat, commanded by a white fireman named Walter Chick, departed Washington School around 7:00 p.m. that evening carrying eight refugees. The boat was rowing towards Waller Street, which it would then follow north to Lincoln School on the Hilltop. However, as the boat was turning left (north) from Eleventh Street onto Waller, a wave of water splashed into the boat. The splash startled one of the occupants, a 22-year-old African American named Bessie Tomlin, who stood up from her seat, making the boat unstable.[6]

The boat then turned over, spilling Tomlin and everyone else into the cold, muddy floodwater. Chick recovered, either stabilizing his own boat or finding his way to another, in time to answer Tomlin’s cries of “Save my baby! Save my baby!” as she struggled to hold her 18-month-old daughter Alberta above the water.[7] Chick grabbed the child from Tomlin’s hands but could not grab Tomlin herself in time, and she slipped away under the water.[8]

Detail of the Portsmouth 1937 Flood mural, showing Bessie Tomlin (photo by the author)

Detail of the Portsmouth 1937 Flood mural, showing Bessie Tomlin (photo by the author)

Additional rescue boats picked up the overturned boat’s other occupants, which included Tomlin’s two sons and mother-in-law. Rescuers took them to an emergency hospital that had been set up at the Church of Christ, at the corner of Grant and Summit streets, where they were treated for minor injuries.[9]

            One week later, on Monday, February 1, around 1:00 p.m., after much of the floodwater had receded, someone discovered Tomlin’s body at the corner of Tenth and Waller streets, one block from where her boat had tipped over.[10] Tomlin’s funeral took place at the Emrick Funeral Home, at 2:00 p.m. Tuesday, February 2, and she was buried in Greenlawn Cemetery in Portsmouth.[11] Her husband William Tomlin, two sons Herschel Lee and David Taylor, and her baby daughter Alberta Madeline survived her.[12]

Monument to Bessie Tomlin, Greenlawn Cemetery, Portsmouth, Ohio (photo by the author)

Monument to Bessie Tomlin, Greenlawn Cemetery, Portsmouth, Ohio (photo by the author)

Bessie Tomlin, a young wife and mother (who was expecting her fourth child at any time), was the only casualty of the 1937 flood in Portsmouth.[13] Her address was given in the Portsmouth Times as rear 1142 Eleventh Street, and she was, according to Jerry Holt of Shawnee State University (in Portsmouth), “on the run from an abusive husband” and had been staying with relatives when the flood struck.[14] According to the Portsmouth Times, Tomlin’s husband, William, was employed by the WPA and “was helping move furniture from the first floor of the Second Presbyterian Church when the tragedy occurred.”[15]

            The case of Bessie Tomlin was an isolated, unfortunate incident. Everyone else who was transported to the schools arrived there safely and found two good meals daily and warm beds. The American Red Cross provided most of the food, which they prepared at the schools, nearby churches, and neighbors’ homes.[16] On Monday, February 1, the refugee schools even began issuing meal tickets to those staying there. However, they soon became extremely crowded, as refugee numbers exceeded one thousand in schools such as Lincoln and Highland. Therefore, authorities temporarily evacuated many refugees to other cities entirely, to relieve overcrowding on the Hilltop area. By Friday, January 29, they had reduced the total number of refugees occupying Portsmouth school buildings to just over 2,060 people.[17] However, the Portsmouth Times announced on February 1 that school children in Portsmouth would remain on “vacation” for at least two more weeks, as schools continued to house refugees and store furniture, even as floodwaters were receding, while residents cleaned up their homes.[18]


[1] “River May Go Over 62 Feet,” Portsmouth Times, 21 Jan. 1937, 7; “Homeless Use City Schools,” Portsmouth Times, 22 Jan. 1937, 1.

[2] Lincoln School is located on the same corner as the “infamous” Kinney’s Lane Spring, which was an important source of fresh water during the 1937 flood and will be discussed later in detail. It functioned as a Portsmouth City school district elementary school until a few years ago, when it was demolished and a new cancer center erected in its place. See Appendix 1, “Street Map of Portsmouth, Ohio.”

[3] Today, Garfield School is known as Vern Riffe School and is the home of the Scioto County Mentally Retarded Developmentally Disabled program.

[4] This hospital served 38 patients and 10 WPA boarders.

[5] “Housing Biggest Problem Facing Relief Leaders,” Portsmouth Times, 28 Jan. 1937, 3; “2,062 Refugees Make Schools Their Quarters,” Portsmouth Times, 30 Jan. 1937, 3; “Special Train Takes Group; More May Go,” Portsmouth Times, 26 Jan. 1937, 1; “1500 Taken Out of Town,” Portsmouth Times, 27 Jan. 1937, 2; Polk’s Portsmouth City Directory 1937, 792; “School is Made into Hospital,” Portsmouth Times, 30 Jan. 1937, 2; Sword, Story of Portsmouth, 104; Polk’s Portsmouth City Directory 1937, 792.

[6] “Woman Drowned as Boat Tips Over; First Victim,” Portsmouth Times, 26 Jan. 1937, 1-2; Sword, Story of Portsmouth, 106; River Voices, Lorentz and Lorentz.

[7] It is unclear whether Chick was able to right his own boat or whether he found his way to another boat.

[8] Sources only focus on Chick being the one to snatch the baby Alberta from Bessie’s hands. Some later examinations of the story have given notice to the fact that the white fireman Chick acted quickly and without racially-oriented thought to save an African American child from drowning—and would have saved the mother, too, had he been able to reach her in time. According to Shawnee State University history professor John Lorentz, “The story [of Bessie Tomlin] was kind of lost to history. Race had something to do with it.” Also, in June 2001, Alberta Tomlin Parker had a joyful meeting with David Chick, son of Walter Chick. She said, “When I met him, I was so thrilled. He said, ‘I have a black sister now’” (Mark Ellis, “Mural Tells of Disaster that Hit Portsmouth 65 Years Ago,” Columbus Dispatch, 26 Feb. 2002, online Lexis Nexis,

[9] “Woman Drowned as Boat tips Over; First Victim,” Portsmouth Times, 26 Jan. 1937, 1-2; Sword, Story of Portsmouth, 106; River Voices, Lorentz and Lorentz; Pictorial Views, n.p.

[10] For the approximate locations of Bessie Tomlin’s death and the site where her body was later recovered, refer to the yellow points B and C in Appendix 1, “Street Map of Portsmouth, Ohio.”

[11] “Flood Victim’s Body Found on 11th St.,” Portsmouth Times, 2 Feb. 1937, 2; Sword, Story of Portsmouth, 106. Tomlin has recently (within the last ten years or so) been memorialized with a large, pictorial marker over her grave in Greenlawn Cemetery in Portsmouth, and she has been immortalized in one of the murals painted on the new Portsmouth floodwall in the 1990s.

[12] “Flood Victim’s Body Found on 11th St.,” Portsmouth Times, 2 Feb. 1937, 2; River Voices, Lorentz and Lorentz. The Portsmouth Times says the baby’s name was “Arverta,” but Alberta Tomlin Parker gives an interview in the River Voices video, as well as The Columbus Dispatch (Mark Ellis, “Mural Tells of Disaster that Hit Portsmouth 65 Years Ago,” Columbus Dispatch, 26 Feb. 2002).

[13] “Flood Victim’s Body Found on 11th St.,” Portsmouth Times, 2 Feb. 1937, 2. The drowning death of Bessie Tomlin was the only truly accidental death recorded in Scioto County as a direct result of the 1937 flood. That is, according to all secondary sources, Tomlin is hailed as the “only victim” of the 1937 flood in Scioto County. However, a second flood-related death occurred in Scioto County on Thursday, January 28, around 5:30 p.m., and for the sake of completeness will be mentioned here. Everett Conley, a 32-year-old Franklin Furnace man, had made a bet with his friends that he could swim two hundred yards through the floodwater, fully clothed. Unfortunately for him, he became fatigued while still at least fifty feet from shore, and he drowned before anyone could help him. Perhaps secondary sources have ignored this second flood death in Scioto County because it was, in a manner of thinking, Conley’s own fault for making the wager in the first place, and so the accident was not entirely “accidental.”

[14] “Woman Drowned as Boat tips Over; First Victim,” Portsmouth Times, 26 Jan. 1937, 1-2; River Voices, Lorentz and Lorentz.

[15] Ibid. Incidentally, Second Presbyterian Church is located on the northwest corner of Waller Street at Eighth Street, only a few blocks from the scene of the accident (Polk’s 1937 Portsmouth City Directory, 743; see Appendix 1, “Street Map of Portsmouth, Ohio,” yellow points B and C).

[16] Highland School refugees’ meals were prepared at nearby Franklin Avenue Methodist Church, at the corner of Franklin Avenue and Logan Street. Lincoln School refugees’ meals were prepared at nearby Central Presbyterian Church, at the corner of Waller and Twenty-third streets. (See Appendix 1, “Street Map of Portsmouth, Ohio.”)

[17] A Portsmouth Times survey of refugees in the Portsmouth school buildings on Friday, January 29, revealed the following numbers: Roosevelt, 547; Highland, 520; Rosemount, 310; Lincoln, 375 (all “colored”); Garfield, 312. The sum of these numbers is actually 2,064, not 2,062, so I used the phrase “just over 2,060.” By January 29, the Ohio River had been falling for a day and a half; however, the river level was still above 71 feet, and most areas in the flood zone were still flooded.

[18] “Housing Biggest Problem Facing Relief Leaders,” Portsmouth Times, 28 Jan. 1937, 3; “Many Go Back into Homes to Start Mop-Up: Rehabilitation Steps Mapped,” Portsmouth Times, 31 Jan. 1937, 3; “2,062 Refugees Make Schools Their Quarters,” Portsmouth Times, 30 Jan. 1937, 3; “More ‘Rest’ is Seen for School Children,” Portsmouth Times, 1 Feb. 1937, 4.

Ex post facto reference: Saving digital photos to floppy disks? (Don’t)

Yesterday on my Search Terms (under my blog stats), I noticed the following question: “can i save my digital pictures to old floppy disks”?

Oh my…where to even begin?

Floppy disk by, on Flickr

Floppy disk by, on Flickr

I’ll tell you the short answer right up front, but not without a little bit of English-language semantic snark:

Can you save your digital photos to old floppy disks? Maybe. It depends on the file size and which old floppy disks (3.5″? 5.25″?) we’re talking about.

But I think the question you really want to ask is: Should you save your  digital photos to old floppy disks? And the answer to that is a resounding NO. No, no, no. No, thanks. No way. Do not want. Even hell to the no. And I’ll tell you why in a minute.


But first, let’s assume that for some unfathomable reason you MUST save your digital photos to old floppy disks. (Maybe it’s a scenario like that poster my math teacher used to have where the kid’s “why do I need to know this?” question is being answered by means of some ruffian putting a gun to his head and demanding that he “solve for x” in some equation. But I digress…)

First, let’s talk about what you mean by “old floppy disks”. How “old” are we talking, here? Do you mean “old” style — like, oldschool floppy disks you just bought new at the store (yes, some stores still sell them)? Or are they actually OLD — like, you found vintage ’80s and ’90s floppy disks in a box in your basement? (This plays into my “should you” argument more than “can you”, but it’s still something to clarify.) For the sake of this example (exempli gratia), let’s assume that whatever floppy disks you have, they’re currently in good shape. Somehow.

And are you referring to the 3.5″ floppy disks — the ones we all used in the late ’90s with the hard shell?

floppy disks for breakfast by Blude, on Flickr

floppy disks for breakfast by Blude, on Flickr

Or are we going back even older to the 5.25″ floppy disks — the more-common-in-the-’80s ones that are actually flimsy.

5.25 inch floppy disks by avlxyz, on Flickr

5.25 inch floppy disks by avlxyz, on Flickr

Here’s where “can you” comes into play. The capacity of those “old” floppy disks in most cases is going to be less than 3 MB per disk. Most 3.5″ floppy disks you will run across are going to be 1.44 MB. Most 5.25″ floppy disks are going to be less than that. The capacity can vary even among disks of the same size — I did not even realize how much it can vary until I looked at this chart on Wikipedia’s Floppy Disk article — but if we are talking “old floppy disks,” we are going to be talking small storage capacity compared to what’s available in newer technologies, no matter how you slice it. (For the sake of my sanity, I’m going to assume that the “old floppy disks” we’re talking about are probably the 3.5 inch, 1.44 MB ones, from here on out, because as a child of the ’90s, those are the ones I used most, and those are the ones I tend to find lying around more often than the older 5.25″ ones — although my Dad still has a bunch of them.)

And now let’s think about the file sizes of digital photos today. Obviously, it depends on the number of megapixels your camera is capable of capturing, as well as the quality it is actually set on. All of the cameras I use on a regular basis are 5-6 megapixels, which, according to this chart I found, should yield digital photos that are about 2.5 megabytes each. (And yes, that is about right, judging from the photos saved on my computer. But I’ve linked to the chart in case your camera has a different number of megapixels — which it probably does.)

Okay, so let’s compare: If 1 photo is 2.5 megabytes and 1 floppy disk is 1.44 megabytes, how many photos can you fit on that floppy? The answer is zero. (Well, unless you want to use some kind of file-splitting utility — remember WinRar? — but if you knew how to do that, I’m going to assume you wouldn’t still be trying to save digital photos on floppy disks. No offense.)

Now, sure, if your camera is only 2 megapixels, that’s only going to be about 900 KB (about 0.9 megabytes), so yes, you could fit one onto a floppy disk. Or, if you have scanned some photos at a really low quality — like back in the Day before I knew better and scanned a bunch of photos at 150 dpi, making each 4×6 photo file about 20-80 KB — then, you could probably fit several on a floppy disk (but even then it would only be like 15 files).

Something else to consider in the whole “can you” side of things is the hardware involved.

I’m going to assume that if you’re asking whether you can save digital photos to floppy disks, that you already have a plethora of floppy disks (and trust me, you will need a LOT of them), either from some dusty box in your closet or some (probably also dusty) ones that you bought at the store.

But do you still have a floppy disk drive? Does your current computer still look something like these?

Old Computers: Give Away or Recycle? by kalebdf, on Flickr

Old Computers: Give Away or Recycle? by kalebdf, on Flickr

See how prominently the floppy disk drive was featured in these older computers? That Dell on the right even has it molded right into the case. (We used to have one like that, perhaps that very model. We bought it in 1999.)

But these days, many computers don’t come with floppy disk drives in them anymore. They went out of laptops first (kind of like how a lot of laptops don’t even have CD drives anymore these days). Now you’d be hard-pressed to find a desktop computer that comes with a floppy disk drive.

If you don’t have a working floppy disk drive, you can still buy an external one that connects by USB.

External floppy disk drive by Nicholas Chan,

Photo by Nicholas Chan / NCDN,, via Flickr

I actually have one of these (similar to the one above) for whenever I find a random floppy disk at the house and need to find out what’s on it and whether I want to continue saving the data (in which case I transfer it to another media).

Okay, I think those are all the aspects I wanted to cover in the “can you” analysis.

And so, the answer to “Can you save digital photos to old floppy disks?” is: If you have a perfect storm of actually having digital photos small enough to fit onto whatever size floppy disk you have; if that floppy disk is functional and you have access to the equipment (i.e. floppy drive) necessary to read/write to that floppy disk….then, yes, technically, you can save digital photos (though probably not more than 1 unless they are really low quality) to a floppy disk.

But, more importantly:


As I said before, the quick and dirty, just-give-me-the-bottom-line-and-spare-me-the-sermon answer is NO. Don’t do it.

If you want the sermon portion, read on. (Haha – who am I kidding? Obviously you are interested in the explanation of things, or you would have quit reading long before now.)

I’ve already mentioned obsolescence. Even the original questioner used the word “old” in his/her query. Floppy disks are old. Even if you bought them new, they are old. They are an old format of media. There is no good reason to cling to them as a solution for storing today’s files. You will have trouble finding them; you will have trouble finding the necessary hardware to access them. Even if you still have the hardware to access them, what about when it stops working? You will have trouble replacing it.

So move on. Move on now. And please jump ahead to today’s storage solutions; don’t meander your way through all the media that came in between floppy disks and today. If you want some advice about today’s storage options, check out my earlier blog post about Saving your digital photos, Part 2: How to do it (6/12/2012).

Another reason why you shouldn’t use floppy disks is, as I have touched on already, the ratio of digital photo file size to the disk’s storage capacity. That is, the size of a single digital photo file is way too close to the maximum storage capacity of a floppy disk. You won’t be able to store very many digital photos on a floppy disk, unless they are (for whatever reason) really low quality. As an example: I went to a wedding the other day. I took over 120 digital photos, all of which are more than 1.44 MB each. Even if I had set the camera down to 2 megapixels – which would be a bad idea in itself but let’s just pretend I went crazy and did it – then I would have files of 0.9 MB each (according to the chart linked above), I would still need one floppy disk for each photo. That’s 120+ floppy disks.

Think about that from a financial and physical storage space standpoint. It doesn’t make sense. It’s going to cost you a fortune to store your all your digital photo files on floppy disks (unless, okay, you already own a bunch, which is probably the real reason you’re asking). AND, they are going to take up a ton of space.

floppies by functoruser, on Flickr

floppies by functoruser, on Flickr

Alternatively, you could store the same 120 photo files — which, at 0.9 MB each, that comes to about 108 MB — on a single CD (with tons of space to spare) for a cost of about $1 or even on something like Dropbox cloud storage for free (you get 2 gigabytes for free).

One more really important thing to consider as to why you shouldn’t still be using floppy disks (for digital photos or anything else) is their tendency to fail – completely and unexpectedly – for no apparent reason. It’s like one day, the disk is perfectly fine, and then the next day, it simply will not read. It’s like it committed suicide without ever seeming depressed or even leaving a note; it gave no warning signs and you had no idea anything was even wrong until it was too late.

(And then, in our anger and frustration, many of us — myself included — had a tendency to do this — am I right?

Death of the floppy disk (42/365) by Rob Hayes., on Flickr

Death of the floppy disk (42/365) by Rob Hayes., on Flickr

I’m not suggesting that other types of media don’t fail. They do. Oh, boy do they ever, sometimes. So you should always have backups (second copies) of things you actually want to protected from loss (again, see my Saving your digital photos entries from June 2012). But floppy disks just seem to be worse about randomly kicking the bucket, compared to most other media I’ve used. CDs, you can see the scratches; hard drives usually start making the “click of death”. Floppy disks tend to…just keel over one day.

Anyway, bottom line is : You really shouldn’t still be trying to use “old floppy disks” for your storage needs, for digital photos or anything else. The reasons for that being (to reiterate):

  • The media is already obsolete;
  • The storage capacity is too small to be useful for most file types these days (or for holding more than a handful of said files); and
  • Floppy disks have  tendency to fail epically without warning (worse than other media I’ve used).

So in answer to the original question: “can i save my digital pictures to old floppy disks”? You might be able to, if all the stars align. But should you? Absolutely not.

And if you have old floppy disks lying around and you are still reluctant to just chuck them in the bin? The only uses I can, in good conscience, recommend for those old floppies involve arts and crafts, such as these lovely examples:

Project 365 #30: 300109 Never Say Die by comedy_nose, on Flickr

Project 365 #30: 300109 Never Say Die by comedy_nose, on Flickr


Sunday DIY - Floppy Disk Pen Holder - 5/5 by rintakumpu, on Flickr

Sunday DIY – Floppy Disk Pen Holder – 5/5 by rintakumpu, on Flickr

Have fun!

Ex post facto reference: First burial in Woodland Cemetery, Dayton

Yesterday, someone apparently searched the Internet for the following : “what the first funeral for woodland cemetery dayton ohio”.

I hope whoever it is either sees this post later or calls the Dayton Library, or even Woodland, because this was a pretty easy question to answer.

Well, it’s an easy answer…assuming that I understand the spirit of the question correctly. The person said “funeral,” which I’m interpreting as “burial.” Technically, you could bury someone without a funeral (in all sorts of scenarios), or have a funeral without a burial (cremation, etc.).

But I’m going to go ahead and answer: “What was the first burial in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio?”

Woodland Cemetery was officially dedicated on June 21, 1843, and the first burial took place a few weeks later. The first person to be buried in Woodland Cemetery was Allen Cullum on July 11, 1843. Cullum was a native of Butler County, Ohio, and died on July 9, 1843, age the age of 38 years. He is buried in Section 77, Lot 83.

UPDATED 10/17/2012, to add photo:

Allen Cullum tombstone

Allen Cullum tombstone in Woodland Cemetery (Photo taken 7 Oct. 2012 by Matt Rickey. Used with permission.)


Woodland Cemetery Interment Database,

Norris D. Hellwig. Woodland: 150 Years. [Dayton, OH]: s. n., 1991. Pages 3-4.

Ex post facto reference: John H. Patterson’s house

It’s time for more “ex post facto reference,” where I answer a question that someone apparently had, because it showed up on my blog stats under the Search Terms section.

Today’s reference question came from someone who, in the past week, was apparently interested in: “ncr’s john h patterson house in dayton ohio” and “john patterson house in dayton ohio”.

I was a bit intrigued by this question because it caused me the realization that I didn’t actually know what they were asking about. I mean, sure, I know about John H. Patterson, the founder of National Cash Register. But the question made me realize that I had no idea where in Dayton he had lived.

Here is some information about the houses where John H. Patterson lived at various times in his life. Since I’m not sure “which” house the person was referring to (although I suspect the third one), I’ll go ahead and include a quick blurb about the three that I found:

House #1: Rubicon Farm on Brown Street, south end of Dayton

Patterson Homestead at Rubicon Farm

Patterson Homestead at Rubicon Farm (Dayton Metro Library, Lutzenberger Photograph Collection, photo # 0103)

As a child, John H. Patterson lived on the Patterson Homestead at Rubicon Farm, south of Dayton. This was the house built by John’s grandfather, Col. Robert Patterson, and later passed down to John’s father Jefferson Patterson. Even as an adult, John kept Rubicon Farm as his summer home until he later built a new rural estate in Oakwood.

[For more info on Col. Robert Patterson and additional pictures of Rubicon Farm, check out my Bio Sketch of Robert Patterson.]

House #2:  Northeast corner First and Ludlow, downtown Dayton

John H. Patterson mansion, northeast corner First and Ludlow, Dayton

John H. Patterson mansion, northeast corner First and Ludlow, Dayton (Dayton Metro Library, Lutzenberger Photograph Collection, photo # 0271A)

Like many wealthy Daytonians of that time, John H. Patterson had a fabulous mansion in downtown Dayton. His particular mansion was located on the northeast corner of First and Ludlow Streets. The Patterson house was razed in 1934 and a filling station built on the site. Presently, the site is occupied by the Soin Building.

House #3: “Far Hills” estate, Oakwood

John H. Patterson's mansion Far Hills, Oakwood

John H. Patterson’s mansion Far Hills, Oakwood (Dayton Metro Library postcard #0372)

And, like many wealthy Daytonians of that slightly later time, John H. Patterson eventually built a bigger and more fabulous mansion in nearby Oakwood, south of downtown Dayton. He built his new country home in 1896 and called it “Far Hills.” This Swiss chalet-style home was located on the north side of Thruston Boulevard, where Wood Road meets it. John lived at “Far Hills” until his death in 1922. Then, his son Frederick B. Patterson had the house torn down and replaced with a French style mansion on the same site. Fred Patterson’s mansion still exists as part of the Lutheran Church of Our Savior.


In addition to the Dayton Metro Library’s digital image collections (and their corresponding descriptions), I also consulted the following in writing this post:

“Far Hills,” The John H. Patterson Home, 1909. Postcard image and description by Steve Koons. Accessed 14 Aug. 2012,

Google Maps. Street View. Accessed 14 Aug. 2012,

Oakwood Historical Society. “A Brief Oakwood History.” Accessed 14 Aug. 2012,

Oakwood Historical Society. “The Town of Oakwood, 1872-1908: A Self-Guided Walking Tour.” Accessed 14 Aug. 2012,

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for Oakwood, Ohio, Feb. 1941. Accessed 14 Aug. 2012,

Ex post facto reference : Where can I find the Dayton Journal?

I love looking at the list of “search engine terms” in the stats section of this blog. It is a list of the phrases that people typed into search engines that led them to some section or other of this blog. You can view this information in various time increments, including today, yesterday, this week, etc. For instance, the “all time” most popular term to lead people here has apparently been “post mortem photography.” Geez, do I really talk about photographing dead people that much? Oops. Sorry! More likely, that is simply a topic I have written about that has been of interest to the broadest number of people.

But, getting back to my title. Sometimes, I look at the “search engine terms” list and wish I had a way to contact the person because it sounds like they have an interesting research topic. Or, they have searched for a topic on which I know I could have helped them find some great primary source materials — maybe something in the archives where I work! Hopefully, that’s what led them to my blog, and hopefully, I said enough in whatever static page they viewed, that they found those resources eventually anyway. But it still makes me wonder.

I’ve often thought about writing posts in response to search terms I read on my list, especially when the “term” was phrased as a complete sentence, as a sort of ex post facto reference transaction. (If they looked for it once, maybe they’ll do so again. Or maybe someone else will, at least. And this will ensure that next time, that person finds at least one answer, if they didn’t before.)

So today, I’m finally going to actually write one of those ex post facto reference responses.

One of yesterday’s search terms was : “Where can I find the Dayton Journal?”

First a tidbit of history : The Dayton Weekly Journal was published in Dayton, Ohio, from 1826-1904. (There were also some earlier editions of various “Journal” newspapers in Dayton as well.) A daily edition of the Dayton Journal newspaper was published from 1847 until 1949. In 1949, the Journal merged with the Herald and was published as the Journal Herald until 1986, when the paper combined with the Dayton Daily News (which is now the only “main” newspaper in Dayton, Ohio).

Daily Dayton Journal, 14 Apr 1861

An original paper issue of the Daily Dayton Journal, 14 Apr 1861, announcing the attack on Fort Sumter, South Carolina.

The Journal was the Republican newspaper for much of its lifetime, whereas the Dayton Empire, Dayton Daily Democrat, and Dayton Daily News leaned towards the Democrats. This info about political affiliation might be pertinent, depending on the nature of the research to be conducted in the newspaper. For instance, the Journal might have been more likely to report the activities of a Republican political candidate—unless, of course, those activities were scandalous, in which case they might get more press in the Democratic paper! (If you are researching politics, it would probably be best to check both, no matter what. In any event, the politics of newspapers is something that should be kept in mind.)

Now, back to the original question : Where can you find the Dayton Journal?

The most complete run of the Dayton Journal available anywhere can be found a the Dayton Metro Library (where I work). We have a complete run of microfilm from 1862-1949, as well as many scattered earlier issues on microfilm.

Microfilm of the Dayton Journal at the Dayton Metro Library

Microfilm of the Dayton Journal at the Dayton Metro Library

We also have original paper copies for much of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (However, for preservation reasons, use of the originals is discouraged, and researchers are asked to use the microfilm instead.)

Bound volumes of the Dayton Journal at the Dayton Metro Library

Bound volumes of the Dayton Journal at the Dayton Metro Library

According to Guide to Ohio Newspapers, 1793-1973 (edited by Stephen Gutgesell, 1974), the Ohio Historical Society has quite a few issues of the Journal as well, and a few other places appear to have a smattering of issues. You can also check newspaper holdings online — and this works for newspapers across the country, not just the Dayton Journal — at the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America U.S. Newspaper Directory. For instance, here are the results of a search for “Dayton Journal”. Note that the database lists each individual masthead — every variation of the newspaper’s title — as a separate entry, which, while perhaps being the correct way to catalog it, does complicate the results page a little.)

Now, hopefully, that has rather thoroughly answered the question of “Where can I find the Dayton Journal?”

I could probably stop right here, but since as an archivist, I have a bit of a passion for manuscripts — and for telling people about them — I have to do you one better.

I’ve already told you that the Dayton Metro Library has an extensive collection of issues of the actual Dayton Journal newspaper — as well as the other newspapers I mentioned, the Empire, Democrat, and Daily News (and a whole host of others I didn’t mention).

But if you’re interested in the men behind the newspapers, you might also be interested to know that we have manuscript collections for both William D. Bickham (MS-017) (editor of the Republican Journal for 30 years in the late 19th century) as well as his counterpart at the Democrat, John G. Doren (MS-011, unprocessed), of the same era. For some reason, I find it a bit hilarious that Bickham’s and Doren’s papers are stored within a few feet of one another, when the two no doubt spent years engaged in politically-charged media sparring.

[Dayton Metro Library doesn’t have any of Daily News editor James M. Cox’s papers, so if you’re interested in him, you’ll want to check out MS-2 at the Wright State U. Special Collections & Archives.]

All in all, I suppose that was a really long way of saying, “You can find copies of the Dayton Journal at the Dayton Metro Library, OHS, and a few other places.” But if I haven’t made at least a handful of statements that start off “you might also be interested in…,” then I’ve only done my reference job halfway.