The history of Ohio is intertwined with business
and manufacturing. Even before statehood in 1803, businesses were established
in the region; in 1793, a Cincinnati tannery became the first manufacturing
venture northwest of the Ohio River. By 1900, Ohio was described as the
"Gateway of the Midwest." Today, Ohio
stands as one of the country's great manufacturing centers and a leader
in the world of business and enterprise.
Despite the importance of business to Ohio,the
records of business activities are often overlooked as important sources
of our history. However, if we understand that business records can be
a way of documenting not only the history of the company but also that
of the community, then we can see the importance of the collection and
retention of business records.
Records created by
Ohio businesses reflect the interaction and inter-association of various
segments of the community. Correspondence, minutes of meetings, administrative
papers, financial records, in-house publications, photographs and other
records document many important aspects of a company's origins, growth,
and development. Companies that understand the service to their communities
and to research that their archival record offers realize also that the
preservation of corporate history is part of contemporary corporate responsibility.
Researchers studying Ohio history benefit
from the documentation of ideas, events, and processes contained in business
Moreover, researchers are better able to appreciate the role
of business in America's growth and development if the materials outlining
its participation are readily available. Should business records be ignored,
then the documentation for a vital portion of Ohio history will be lost.
The Ohio Historical Society has long recognized
the importance of business in the history of the state and advocates the
collection and retention of business records. With well over 100 collections
-dated from the early 1800s through the 20th Century- related to business
among our holdings, we are dedicated to working with Ohio businesses looking
to establish their legacy and historical record. Recent examples of OHS
working with two Ohio corporations in this fashion:
The White Castle System, Incorporated Collection, and the Dominion
East Ohio Gas Company Collection.
Other Business Collections at the Ohio Historical
The Society's approach to business records
is twofold: first, an active collection policy enables the Archives/Library
to seek out business record collections and work with potential donors
to ensure that the conditions for housing and use of the collection are
to the donors satisfaction. Secondly, the Archives/Library is prepared
to assist Ohio businesses with building their own archival collections
through advice and instruction and workshops designed to address the fundamentals
of archival practice.
To better coordinate this approach, the Ohio Historical
Society has established The Business Heritage Program. Designed to reach
out to Ohio businesses large and small, The Ohio Business Program is a
cooperative effort between the Archives/Library Division and the External
Relations Department of the Society.
With it, OHS will expand their contact
with businesses of the state with the objective of founding long-lasting
relationships that will enrich all parties involved and further the preservation
of corporate history in Ohio.