By Maggie Thurber | Ohio Watchdog
Poor Gov. William Allen. Since 1887, his statue has been in the National Statuary Hall — one of two statues donation by Ohio to honor notable persons in the state’s history. His companion is President James A. Garfield who has stood in the Rotunda since 1886.
Allen and Garfield aren’t alone. All 50 states have donated two statues.
But Allen won’t be there for much longer if Ohio legislators have their way.
S.B. 21, scheduled for a second hearing and possible vote Wednesday in the House State Government and Elections Committee, would replace him with a statue of Thomas Edison. Sen. Mark Wagoner, R-District 2, is the bill’s sponsor.
Allen (1803-1879) was born in North Carolina but moved to Chillicothe when he was 16. At 21, he was admitted to the Ohio Bar and began practicing law. His reputation as a debater and public speaker attracted the attention of the local Democratic Party who asked him to run for Congress in 1832. He won, but only served for one term.
In 1837, he was elected to the state Senate where he served for two terms. In 1848 he was asked to run for president, but refused. In 1873, at the age of 70, he won election at Ohio’s governor by 817 votes. He served one term from 1874 to 1876, losing his re-election bid to Rutherford B. Hayes.
During the Civil War, he was an anti-war Democrat critical of the administration of President Abraham Lincoln. It is because of his pro-slavery views, opposing the emancipation of slaves, that legislators want to replace him.
So a committee was created, hearings were held, nominations made, the list narrowed to 10 and votes from nearly 50,000 Ohioans counted. The winner, with 14,833 votes, was Thomas Edison. As the bill states:
Thomas Edison, a native of Milan, Ohio, was a world famous inventor and highly successful businessperson whose inventions, such as the phonograph, the kinetoscope (a precursor to the film projector), and the first practical incandescent light bulb, have had a tremendous impact on the world. In addition to these inventions, Thomas Edison’s service to the United States Government has also impacted world history. During World War I, he consulted for the government, examining inventions submitted for military use and working on defensive devices for submarines and ships. For his service, he eventually was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal by the Department of the Navy. By the time of his death, he had received over one thousand patents.
Thomas Edison also has had a significant impact on the state of Ohio. He established the Edison Steel Company in Cleveland, Ohio, and established one of the first electric power stations in Tiffin, Ohio. His General Electric Company established the first industrial park in Ohio, which has employed hundreds of thousands of people over time. And the Ohio Department of Development sponsors The Thomas Edison Award, which was established in partnership with the Edison Birthplace Museum in Milan, Ohio. The Edison Birthplace Museum also has been instrumental in the issuance of a Thomas Edison stamp and commemorative silver dollar, and has received, on Thomas Edison’s behalf, a posthumously awarded GRAMMY Award.
Thomas Edison’s impact on the world, and, in particular, on the state of Ohio, through his inventions, business endeavors, and government service, merits inclusion of a statue of him in the National Statuary Hall Collection.
S.B. 21 is not expected to have any opposition in the House. There will be no cost to the state for the replacement. The Ohio Statuary Hall Commission is raising private funds to pay for all costs relating to the cost of creating the statue and sending it to Washington.