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1900s Northwest Ohio Business and Recreation

Northwest Ohio reflects the American experience. Native people found the Great Black Swamp, a land prone to seasonal flooding with areas of standing water and clouds of mosquitoes. They left it sparsely inhabited and it served them as a natural game preserve until white settlers determined to take advantage of the rich soil and claim the area for farming. As these groups struggled to see who would ultimately control the territory, political conflicts from the wider world also affected the region.

As the swamp was drained and farming became more profitable, northwest Ohio benefited from the construction of a system of canals for transportation. Railroads soon followed and the area eagerly joined in on the national political questions of the early 19th century and the region supplied thousands of federal troops for the Civil War.

While agriculture remained the basis of the region's post-war economy, industry came to the area with the gas and oil boom. Petroleum fueled the growth of the glass industry, bringing fame to such northwest Ohio communities as Toledo and Fostoria. At the turn of the 20th Century, the automotive industry provided jobs for thousands, and with increased factory employment came the growth of labor unions. Changing ideas about the importance of education led to the establishment of colleges and universities throughout the state.

During this period, Ohio played a pivotal role in American politics, as women won the right to vote, and the United States took a more prominent part in world events. World War I firmly established Ohio as an agricultural and industrial power, but just as the region seemed to be sure of this identity, the Great Depression saw the collapse of the economy.

Prosperity returned with the victory of the Second World War. Since that time, heavy industry has given way to trade and technology as the region's economic foundation.

This exhibit features Northwest Ohio photos, as well as quotes from the Wood County Democrat, which offer a fascinating snapshot of Bowling Green just a century ago.

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