From Settlement to Statehood: The Story of Ohio's Growth

By | Tuesday, September 29, 2020 Leave a Comment
Ben Hardy & The Ohio AdventureBen Hardy & the Ohio Adventure was a comic strip by Jim Baker that began running in The Columbus Dispatch starting in September 1952 and running up through the 1970s. It relayed the story Ohio's settlement and rise to statehood. Although it's obviously a very white-washed look at things -- hardly surprising given the culture of the 1950s -- Baker does do an excellent job, I think, combining comic storytelling with education. Many of the attempts at educational/historical comics I've seen rely very heavily on conveying facts and figures. They end up being illustrated textbooks really. But Baker use the Ben Hardy and Tracker Dean characters as protagonists that witness the unfolding events, a method similar to what was later seen in Forrest Gump. I think this makes for an effective technique for keeping the story moving along without bogging readers down with lots of dry facts and figures, though Baker does provide some of that with the accompanying "Border Notes."

Baker himself was born in Kentucky, but raised in Ohio and studied political science and art at DePauw University in Indiana. He eventually settled down in Worthington, Ohio and began working for The Columbus Dispatch in 1947. I can find record of Baker authoring about a dozen books all focusing around the American frontier in the late 1700s/early 1800s, primarily the Ohio and Mid-West regions. These are mostly published under a "Jim Baker's Historical Handbook Series" banner. I can't find a record of Baker's death, but he continued publishing at least through 1976.

The examples below come from a comic book collection of the Ben Hardy strips that Baker self-published under the title From Settlement to Statehood: The Story of Ohio's Growth. The copy I have has a 1965 copyright, but is listed a Second Printing from 1966. It also has a "Book One" notation on the cover, but I believe subsequent books followed a more vertical format and don't convey the book number on the cover, so they tend to appear as stand-alone pieces. Further, they don't appear to reprint the Ben Hardy stories in particular, just the accompanying Border Notes. I've been able to confirm seven additional volumes:
  • Trains of Yesteryear,
  • The Big Ditch: Small Stories of the Ohio Canals
  • The Cabin in the Clearing
  • Frontier Medicine
  • How Our Counties Got Their Names
  • Naming the States
  • The Ways of the Warriors
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