If you’ve been following us on Facebook or Twitter, you have probably noticed the posts containing passages from Bishop Milton Wright’s diaries, 100-years-ago-today style. The passages are very short and usually comprise the entirety of that day’s diary entry. (Very few of the Bishop’s diary entries are longer than a few sentences.) Despite their brevity—or perhaps at times because of it—the entries drum up a little intellectual curiosity. They practically tease the reader with a sentence or two on events that sounds rather interesting but then give no additional details.
The Bishop’s diary entries for February 10-12, 1914, provide an example of this:
Orville and Katharine go to Cincinnati to see Mr. Jung, an Oberlin student. He is the author of the School law which was “amended.”
The papers publish of Orville’s and Katharine’s visit. Arrangements are made for a company to go to Columbus tomorrow to see Governor Cox about extending the privilege to the legislature to Amend the school law.
Seventeen men and women go to Columbus and see the Governor, who refuses to interfere. Orville and Katharine are among them.
These entries prompt a lot of questions but no answers: Who was this “Mr. Jung”? What was “an Oberlin student” doing in Cincinnati? What was this “School law”? And, perhaps most importantly (to us anyway), what was the interest of the Wright family in this law?
A bit of hunting around, some help from the State Library of Ohio, and a bit more hunting around yielded the answers to these questions.
Theodore Carl Jung (1877-1921) was a 35-year-old bachelor attorney in Cincinnati when he was elected in 1912 as one of three Senators from the First District to serve in the Ohio Senate that 80th General Assembly (1913). The New Bremen native had graduated from Oberlin College in 1898—the same year as Katharine Wright—and attended law school in Cincinnati. Shortly after his election to the Ohio Senate, Jung married Katherine Roberta Davy, a school teacher, which probably contributed to the fact that public education was one of Jung’s particular interests as a legislator.
In 1913, Jung was primarily responsible for an education bill that was popularly known as the Jung Small School Board Act (officially Senate Bill No. 95). The bill stipulated the size of a city school district’s Board of Education based on the population of the city. After the initial bill was signed into law by Governor James Cox on May 2, 1913, a number of amendments were proposed over the next several months but it is unclear whether any of these amendments were ever actually enacted. The law was even brought before the Supreme Court of Ohio and was upheld in June 1914.
It was one of these proposed amendments that took Orville and Katharine Wright to Cincinnati to speak with Mr. Jung—who was almost certainly already known to Katharine, as they had graduated in the same year at Oberlin College—and to Columbus to speak with Governor Cox in February 1914. A change to the law had been proposed that would affect its application in larger cities including Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo, but not Dayton. Apparently, if Dayton were included, it would have been permitted to adopt the small school board plan, thereby allowing it to reduce its existing board of 14 people.
It is not surprising that Katharine Wright would have been interested in matters affecting Ohio’s public education system. Katharine had been a school teacher herself, teaching English and Latin at Dayton’s Steele High School for 10 years, before leaving her teaching job in Sept. 1908 to be at Orville’s side after he was injured in a crash. And if Orville were not already interested in the matter of his own accord (which is hard to know), it is not difficult to imagine that Katharine might have convinced him to lend his attention and influence to the situation.
A small delegation (newspapers say 11-20, the Bishop says 17) of influential Daytonians, including Orville and Katharine Wright, visited Governor Cox in Columbus on Thursday, February 12, asking him to recommend that Dayton be included in the current amendment. Cox listened to their requests but ultimately refused to intervene, saying that any change might endanger the whole bill.
Again, it is unclear whether this bill was ever actually enacted into law either. (It was difficult to locate an official record of this, and searching the un-indexed newspapers without precise citations is like looking for a needle in a haystack.)
But, in a general sense, the original questions prompted by the Bishop’s diary entries have become at least a little (and in some cases, a lot) less cloudy: Who was this Oberlin student Mr. Jung? What was his School law? And what did this have to do with the Wrights?
As a matter of interest, Theodore C. Jung later moved to Denver, Colorado, where he was in poor health for a number of years before dying August 31, 1921, at the age of 43. (Learn more about Theodore C. Jung in Ohio Legislative History, 1909-1912, Vol. 1, on Google Books; see p. 521.)
Special thanks to Kristin K. at the State Library of Ohio for her assistance in identifying Mr. Jung’s first name for me, as well as locating the original text of “Jung Small School Board Act” (Senate Bill No. 95 in 1913).