A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Our Rich History: Keeping our history interesting and meaningful, meet ORVILLE — and inviting you in

By Paul Tenkotte
Special to NKyTribune

Part 1 of a continuing series entitled ORVILLE (The Ohio River Valley Innovation Library and Learning Enrichment)

Since its inauguration on May 5, 2015, the weekly “Our Rich History” column of the non-profit Northern Kentucky Tribune has sought to present articles of historical significance about Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, and the larger Ohio River Valley region.

As editor of this weekly column, I try to keep current with our readers’ reactions and suggestions. In the past few months, I have noticed how many of our past columns are still being read and cited. In addition, I am receiving more and more inquiries from readers nationwide and even internationally, often with specific questions about topics covered in past columns. This interaction with readers sparks new learning on my own part, demonstrating how all of us contribute to the continuing quest for knowledge.

A past Our Rich History column: The visit of the mysterious magi

On the other hand, in the years since the launching of this column in 2015, we’ve managed to survive COVID-19, a worldwide pandemic that isolated us in profound ways that we could never have imagined. In addition, we have learned that today’s digital media — initially imagined as a unifying force — has actually exacerbated our tribalism. As a nation, we seem more polarized now than at any other time in our history since the end of the Civil War.

In this environment, it seems critical for historians and journalists to engage our readers with the very inclusion of topics that inform us about issues relevant both in the past and in the present. We need an “interface” to help us engage with one another.

According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, an “interface” is defined as “the place at which independent and often unrelated systems meet and act on or communicate with each other.” With that in mind, I latched onto the phrase “Ohio River Valley (ORV)” region, the very area this weekly history column serves. Then, thinking of innovators, my mind danced to the name of Orville Wright, one of the two Wright Brothers from Dayton, Ohio, part of the Ohio River Valley watershed. Orville would make an easy-to-remember acronym, I ascertained. With “ORV,” “interface,” and “Orville” all on board, of course I needed to connect the remaining letters in a genuine and intentional acronym, not simply one that seemed contrived.

Les Brown and Cincinnati’s Doris Day

Being surrounded by friends who are enthusiasts of many hobbies—from steamboats to music to airplanes to the arts, I knew that their enthusiasm was contagious. Over the years, I learned so much from them, especially about the history related to their avocations. So, why not try to connect all of us as learners with enthusiasts? Further, knowing that many organizations representing diverse interests these days are experiencing diminishing membership, I thought that perhaps this weekly “Our Rich History” column could contribute to connecting and informing us in new and exciting ways.

That is the short explanation of ORVILLE (The Ohio River Valley Interface Linking Learners and Enthusiasts). Still a skeleton, ORVILLE needs a lot of fleshing out. It needs a deserving logo, for instance. And we need volunteer enthusiasts to examine topics and opportunities (including, of course, some aspect of history related to their avocation) that they wish to inform others about. As a starting point, please permit me to suggest some of the topics/organizations that deserve further investigation:

• Histories of VFW, American Legion and other posts
• Histories of civic associations
• Histories of swim clubs
• Histories of benevolent associations
• Steamboat history
• Aviation history
• Arts and Crafts history
• Music and Media history
• Literature
• Art
• Athletics history
• High School histories
• Inventors
• For some examples see:

1922 edition of The Everyday Song Book, with music and lyrics of the song “Good Morning to All,” featuring the third verse “Happy Birthday to You.” Source: Wikimedia Commons.

1) Cathedral window recounts the story of the visit of the mysterious magi

2) Cincinnati German beer baron in Civil War; Christian Moerlein and Siege of Cincinnati

3) Kentucky inventors, entrepreneurs, innovations; free workshop at NKU’s Grant Center

4) A tribute to Doris Day, hometown Cincinnati girl who became a legend in Hollywood.

We encourage anyone — or any organization — willing to share their avocation with others to contact me, Paul Tenkotte, at tenkottep@nku.edu.

We want to learn more about the history of your business, church, school, or organization in our Ohio River Valley Region. If you would like to share your rich history with others, please contact the editor of “Our Rich History,” Paul A. Tenkotte, at tenkottep@nku.edu. Paul A. Tenkotte, PhD is Professor of History at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) and the author of many books and articles.

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