Ohio History: 1900 – Present

During the final years of the 1890s, the Ohio government was badly plagued by a political corruption scandal, involving various officials from the Ohio government and from the major cities of the state. As a result of this political scandal, major government reforms were carried out during the 1900s. In this decade, the Wright Brothers – one of them, Orville, a native of Ohio – would fly numerous pioneer flights in the state..

In 1913, major floods — the worst in state history — hit Ohio. They caused about 350 deaths, and damages estimated at 100 million dollars. Because of this, the state legislature instituted a conservation program in 1914, to prevent future floods from causing so much damage. Numerous levees and dams were built throughout the state during the 1910s and 1920s. The federal government also built 20 other levees and dams. Warren G. Harding became the seventh and last Ohio native to assume the presidency of the United States in 1921.

The First World War accelerated the growth of the state economy, thanks to the great production of war material. Growth continued through the 1920s, albeit unevenly — manufacturing was prospering, while farms faced increasing difficulties from deflation and increased competition from other countries in the international marketplace. This led to an increase in emigration from rural areas to cities, and by the end of the decade, more people lived in cities than in rural areas.

The agriculture and manufacturing-based economy made Ohio one of the states hardest hit by the effects of the Great Depression. Unemployment rates rose dramatically, to more than 35% among urban workers, while the drastic fall in overall products caused many farms to go seriously into debt, causing many to lose theirs. The federal government and the state government soon instituted numerous social and economic assistance programs.

In 1934, for example, construction began on a flood control project in the Muskingum River Valley, having been inaugurated in 1938 – but not before it had been unintentionally tested in a “litmus test” (in 1937, this system, not yet completed, prevented sudden large floods on the Ohio River from causing great destruction to nearby cities.)

The effects of the Great Depression ended with the United States’ entry into World War II, when the state began to produce a large quantity of war material for the war. After the end of the war, various government agencies set up research and testing centers in the state, especially in the fields of nuclear energy and the aerospace industry. The opening of the St. Lawrence Canal went on to provide an efficient expressway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes, and Ohio’s port cities benefited greatly from the opening of this canal.

Various provincial programs encouraged industrial growth, such as tax cuts, financing the construction of industrial centers, and the supply of low-cost electricity. In the late 1960s, Ohio was the nation’s fourth largest exporter of industrialized goods. The industrial growth of the state continued until the early 1970s.

Abbreviated as OH, Ohio went through a severe economic recession during the 1970s and 1980s, due to sudden increases in fuel prices, increasing competition from foreign industrialized products in both the international and domestic markets, and because of the relocation of factories from Ohio to southern states of the nation, where costs are lower, or even to other countries.

This recession caused population growth to stagnate, and it only ended in the late 1980s, when lower fuel prices, as well as their increased abundance, stimulated the industrialization of the state. The relocation of factories to other regions where costs are lower, however, continues.

In 1971, the Ohio government introduced an income tax, obtaining the state 373 million dollars the following year through its collection. Due to the financial crisis that began in the 1970s, the government gradually increased this tax. In 1995, the income tax collected in the state generated more than 4.5 billion dollars, which represents a growth of more than twelve times in a period of two decades, a period in which the population growth of the state stagnated and the population remained stable.

In 1990 George V. Voinovich was elected, who promised in his program to reduce taxes and public spending. He managed to reduce public spending, mainly through cuts in socio-economic assistance services to those in need. Instead, Voinovich increased spending on education. With the improvement of the state’s economy in the early 1990s, Voinovich was reelected in 1994.

Because of the strength of the industry in the region, Ohio, since the late 19th century, suffered from severe pollution, both atmospheric and river, caused by the many factories owned by the state and dependence on coal plants for electricity generation. In 1985, the people of Ohio approved in a referendum the investment of 100 million dollars in a research program that tried to create a “clean” coal plant.

In 1993 the first of these plants was inaugurated. That same year, the population of the state approved in a referendum the investment of 200 million dollars for the improvement and expansion of the state system of parks and nature reserves. The state has also joined forces to clean up its rivers and lakes.

Ohio history