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Ohio and World War I (1914-1918)


Oil refining
Oil refining

With the outbreak of World War I (1914-1918) in Europe in 1914, Ohio’s progressive era came to a close, as concern over international affairs overshadowed domestic issues. Most Ohioans were sympathetic to the neutral stance taken by President Woodrow Wilson early in the war and supported his successful bid for reelection in 1916. However, Germany’s submarine attacks on neutral shipping early in 1917 caused sentiment to shift, and a majority of the state and nation supported America’s entry into the war. Two Ohioans who played prominent roles in the war were Newton D. Baker of Cleveland, who served as Wilson’s secretary of war, and Eddie Rickenbacker of Columbus, who became the leading American combat pilot by downing 26 German aircraft.

The 1920s and 1930s


With the end of hostilities in 1918, Ohio and much of the nation were caught up in an era of reaction against overseas entanglements. When Wilson proposed an international peace alliance, the League of Nations, Ohio Senator Warren G. Harding led the opposition to America’s involvement. Harding was elected president in 1920 with a call for a “Return to Normalcy”; he defeated the Democratic Party nominee, Ohio Governor James M. Cox. Harding’s brief administration, however, was marred by corruption among his friends and advisers, who were known as the Ohio gang. Ohio was at the forefront of the movement to prohibit the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, which became law with passage of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States in 1920.

The American Anti-Saloon League, which organized political support for prohibition laws, was based in Westerville, and its leader, Wayne B. Wheeler, was called “the Dry Boss of America.”Prohibition proved difficult to enforce and was ended with repeal of the 18th Amendment in 1933. The 1920s were marked by economic prosperity and continued industrial growth in Ohio, but the stock market crash of 1929 precipitated the period of nationwide economic hardship known as the Great Depression in the 1930s. More than a million Ohio residents lost their jobs. The Depression was particularly severe in the centers of heavy industry, such as Youngstown, Akron, Toledo, and Cleveland. In those areas, where there was little diversification, it was claimed that one-third of the wage earners were unemployed.

The state government struggled with declining revenues, enacting the first cigarette and sales taxes. Federal funds and construction projects, under the New Deal economic programs of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, provided some relief. By the late 1930s, the state’s economy had begun to recover, helped by development of new businesses to manufacture air conditioning and refrigeration equipment and diesel engines. But full recovery came only with the onset of World War II (1939-1945). "Ohio" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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