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Commentary: Innovation Not New To Columbus

Columbus, Ohio is one of those places where new things are always happening. Perhaps that is not such an unusual thing to have happening in the heart of America. Because we have been around as a country for a couple of hundred years, we sometimes come to think of ourselves as something of an “established people.â€? We really are not. We are a people who are constantly reinventing ourselves. And Columbus, Ohio is a good place to see that happening - for more than 200 years. Columbus is a created city. There was no city here until the Ohio General Assembly brought the town into being on February 14, 1812. Yes that is Valentine's Day.

Transportation Led First Boom

Columbus was a town of 2,000 people in 1832. Two years later, we were a city of 5,000. How did that happen? The National Road -US Route 40 - and the Ohio Canal both came to town at the same time. How often does that happen? Not very often. By the end of the Civil War, Columbus was a town of more than 20,000 people. In short order, Columbus, linked by rail to the East began producing shoes, glass, tools and buggies - lots of buggies.

Innovative Buggies

The Iron Buggy Company had gone into business in 1875. The assumption was that many people would like a strong iron buggy. The assumption was wrong. Most people just wanted a good safe cheap buggy. The Iron Buggy Company became the Columbus Buggy Company and produced the good safe cheap buggy everyone wanted. By 1900, the Columbus Buggy company and was making one of every five buggies sold anywhere. Columbus was the “Buggy Capital of the World.â€? Columbus produced its share of bright people with Captain Eddie Rickenbacker and a number of others who won some acclaim during their service in the Great War. After World War I, the Battelle family established the Battelle Memorial Institute to explore the secrets of metals and much of everything else. And Battelle is still doing that as the largest private research organization in the world.

Research Institutions

Next door to Battelle is The Ohio State University. From its early beginnings as at least a figurative “college in a cornfieldâ€? Ohio State has become one of America's best places for teaching and research. And football is played there from time to time as well. Columbus is a place of constant creativity and constructive change. Like many places where good people do great things, Columbus is a city of firsts.

City of Firsts

A few examples. Columbus invented and brought forth the first kindergarten in America, the first major league baseball team in our country, and the first dental school in the world. Columbus is also the home of the first Junior High School in America at Indianola Junior High. In addition, we can lay claim to being the home of the first “modernâ€? shopping center at Town and Country on the east side of the city and people from central Ohio also developed the first truly edible tomato. All of this, it seems to me, is not that bad for a capital city in the heart of America in its first couple hundred years. It gives one pause to consider what we might do in the next two hundred.