One Hundred Years Ago, The New Year Began With . . . A Fox Hunt?

While several hundred Milford residents joined the hunt, the remainder of Cincinnati’s residents were apparently nursing hangovers.

Bright and early on New Year’s Day 1923, several hundred residents of Milford, Ohio, gathered on Tealtown Road for a fox hunt. The hunters were not decked out in full regalia for an English-style romp, once described by Oscar Wilde as “the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.” No, these were sturdy township yeomen, farmers out to protect their poultry. According to the Enquirer [28 December 1922]:

“Union Township is thickly infested with foxes and some real sport is assured. Foxes to be taken alive.”

Only the hunt captains were allowed to ride horses; the rest of the hunters marched on foot. No firearms were permitted, only clubs used to beat the bushes, and there were no dogs baying at the scent. Still, the Milford hunt netted six foxes captured alive and auctioned (for fur? pets?) at prices ranging from $9.50 to $18.75.

Despite two years of Prohibition, hangovers were abundant in Cincinnati on New Year’s Day 1923, as bootleggers learned new methods for supplying their customers.

From Cincinnati Post 1 January 1923 Image extracted from microfilm by Greg Hand

The remainder of Cincinnati’s residents were apparently nursing hangovers. Despite the imposition, two years previously, of Prohibition, and despite the ubiquitous presence of liquor-control agents, it is obvious that the flowing bowl ran unimpeded. The whole of Downtown was an outdoor party, according to the Cincinnati Post [1 January 1923]:

“The New Year was given a tremendous ovation, so to speak. Clanging of bells, blowing of whistles and discharging of firearms seemed louder than ever before. Automobile horns added to the din. Long before midnight those unlucky ones who had failed to make table reservations at hotels started to parade the streets. Theater crowds added to the throng.”

Police reported multiple incidents of people shooting pistols, rifles and shotguns. One of the few arrests that night was Charles Nichols, apprehended at Fifth and John streets firing a handgun loaded with blanks. Mary Daugherty, a widow living at 1715 Vine Street, suffered a mysterious wound in her right hand that police believe was caused by a falling bullet.

Adding to the din was a massive explosion on Vine Street at Fourteenth, which sent a sewer lid thirty feet into the air, returning to earth with a resounding clang. Investigators rushed to the scene and determined that fumes in the subterranean tunnels had ignited to create the blast.

With all the obviously lubricated revelry surrounding them, it is surprising that police made very few arrests for liquor violations. A 12-year-old boy was found unconsciously inebriated in a vacant lot in the West End. Police transported him to the hospital and initiated a search for his supplier and for his mother, who was nowhere to be found. William Rockey, the village smithy of Loveland, was hauled in on charges that he was supplementing his ironmongering by distributing moonshine by the gallon. Norwood’s arrests amounted to a single tosspot, who was provided with a cell in which to sleep it off.

There was less liquor to go around on New Year’s Eve 1922 because prohibition agents had raided two 100-gallon stills, one in Mount Airy and one in Avondale. It appeared that both stills were operated by the same gang of bootleggers. In addition to the stills, agents confiscated 35 barrels of mash and 50 gallons of finished product.

The big excitement in town on New Year’s Eve was out in Price Hill, where a gang of Cleveland auto thieves raised a ruckus at the Warsaw Avenue police station. Harry Forthoffer and Harry Legoy robbed a Cleveland clubman and drove to Cincinnati to meet up with Forthoffer’s brother, John. The trio were arrested for speeding in Price Hill and taken to the station (the old District Three building).

There, the Forthoffers were brought inside for booking while Legoy sat in the stolen vehicle under police guard. In the lobby, Harry Forthoffer pulled a gun from under his coat and waved it at the officers, who backed away. Abandoning his brother, held by police at gunpoint, Forthoffer burst through the front doors. As he made his break, Legoy saw that the police guarding him were distracted. He punched the gas and sped off. Forthoffer, now on foot, made a dash for Dempsey Park where he was able to evade his pursuers. Legoy was stopped a few blocks away and hauled into the station where, under questioning, he revealed the address of the flophouse in which the trio were hanging out. Police forced Legoy to drive to that address and hid themselves in the hallway and alleys. When Forthoffer saw Legoy sitting in the getaway car, he ran outside and jumped into the vehicle. Immediately surrounded by lawmen, his only complaint to the police was, “You got us too soon.”

Judge Charles W. Hoffman, of Cincinnati’s divorce court, reported a significant drop in marriage dissolutions during 1922. Judge Hoffman heard only 1,057 divorce cases in 1922, compared to 1,201 in 1921. Of the 1,057 cases in 1922, women won 608 decrees while husbands won only 289. Most of the remainder were denied and a few were suits for alimony only.

Overcome with post-war optimism, a columnist for the Cincinnati Post predicted that 1923 might herald the discovery of psychic powers allowing Earthlings to communicate with Martians by mental waves.

From Cincinnati Post 17 January 1924, image extracted from microfilm by Greg Hand

Amid all this excitement, the Cincinnati Post predicted brighter days ahead, illuminated by psychic energy. In an editorial [1 January 1923] the paper forecast interplanetary telepathy in language that would fit right into any pulp science fiction novel of that decade:

“Shall we, in 1923, talk with Mars or Venus by radio or mental waves? Shall we discover new psychic powers that have been lying dormant in us, waiting until Destiny is ready for us to use them? All of us have been vaguely conscious that such latent powers exist. Occasionally they are manifested by mysterious happenings that no one can satisfactorily explain. The World War, titanic struggle, was the forerunner of something new and tremendous. Great spiritual or psychic forces shook civilization to its foundations. Leading up to – what? We may know, before the end of 1923. Forward, across the threshold of the unknown.”

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