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John B. Ballinger Collection

Identifier: Mss. Coll. Ballinger

Scope and Content

The collection begins with letters that John Ballinger wrote to his son, Horace, while Horace was a student at Miami University. Letters sent early in Horace's freshman year discuss expenses associated with attending school and advice to Horace not to join a fraternity or participate in flag rush so that he can concentrate on his studies. After Horace requests that his father send him several books from home, his father suggests in a letter written October 4, 1904 that "there must be some way of using the library to advantage. I think you will find there are classified catalogues of the books to assist you in finding what you want. Sometime when you have time you ought to investigate, and try to find how to use it." After telling Horace how much the family appreciates his letters and what a comfort they are to them, Ballinger takes the opportunity to praise his composition, but asks Horace to "please accept a kind word of caution: Do not allow bad spelling to mar an otherwise excellent manuscript. I know you may be short of time and compelled to hurry, especially when writing letters, but recollect that habits of careless spelling contracted in writing letters may sometime mar a more important and valuable document. But we are very glad for all the letters you have time to write. It is the only substitute we have for your own presence at home, and we are all interested in knowing what you are doing and what is going on about you, and we appreciate the pains you take in telling us." (October 12, 1904) In this same letter of October 12, 1904, Ballinger continues about appreciating the advantages of attending college. "The opportunity to see and hear 'distinguished visitors,' and men of various kinds of learning and accomplishments, will add much of value to your experience. The mental training, the knowledge of how to study, together with your experience and special knowledge gained, will give you strength that you can feel when you once run up against the knotting and embarrassing things that one encounters out in the world. It was the fond dream of all my early years to obtain such an educational training as the best schools could give, and never realized it in its fullness; if I could see you obtain my coveted prize it would make amends to some degree for my own disappointment. To that end I am ready to make any sacrifice that, in justice to myself and the rest of the family I can afford to make, if you make good use of the opportunity." When Horace injured his arm, his father observed that "it illustrates the doctrine that I have long held, that there is nothing more than a little local glory in physical contests of any sort, but injury often results. The fact remains, however, that a Bantam rooster is always ready for an encounter no matter what the size of his antagonist." (November 1, 1904) After reading an account of the laying of the cornerstone of Hepburn Hall, his father writes on November 8, 1904, "This was another new scene for you to witness and perhaps, for aught I know, take part in. But it is only a single unit in one long drawn out experience which goes to make up the training which you are now receiving. I hope you have already had enough of this experience to make you realize and appreciate its value; and that you will ever kindly cherish a memory of us for having made it possible for you to start upon such an extended course of training at as early an age as you have; and that the recollection of our own zeal and enthusiasm for this same cause of yours will be a never-failing inspiration to you, filling you with high hopes, and impelling you on with renewed industry and a determination that knows no defeat to achieve everything possible that can contribute to the purity, nobleness, and usefulness of character. A thorough preparation for a life of highest usefulness and honor, with the knowledge of having thereby brought happiness to your nearest friends and secured their appreciation, will amply, even doubly repay you for the greatest effort you can make." Reflecting on the good influence of teachers and friends, he writes on November 18, 1904, "Every good influential friend you gain advances you one step farther on the road to success. The confidence of these same men in your ability and integrity means a position of trust and profit to you in the end. I hope you remember the substance of all my teaching, for it is correct, viz.: that your industry, capability, and integrity, is the combination that unlocks the door for your advancement. I can fell all the emotions of my youth rise up in me when I contemplate the opportunities that confront you, and I cannot express the height of my desire that these opportunities bear fruit abundantly and of the purest quality. And to this end may the counsel of Him who is above us all guide you and help you." After being exposed to a case of scarlet fever in his dormitory and a resulting quarantine in December 1904, Horace is affected by follicular tonsillitis in January 1905. Hearing this news, his father writes on January 18, 1905, "Take good care of your health first, and then do the best you can with your work." After two months of illness, Horace recovers, prompting his father to write the following words of advice on March 16, 1905: "I want you to simply do the very best you can, and that may be better than you think. Do not get uneasy and disturbed and lose your bearing. Keep cool and work judiciously, not forgetting to rest enough to keep your mind clear. I know that I have been reasonably successful in efforts of a like nature when I was almost ready to give up in despair beforehand. You may not pass as good an examination as you did at the end of the first term; it is likely you will not; you have had much to contend with. But I still hope that you will do well enough to keep your place in your class. I hope you have already made and will continue to make a heroic effort to accomplish that. I assure you I sympathize with you, and fully appreciate your situation, and would be glad to help you, if such were honestly possible, but I can do no more than encourage you and express my confidence and interest in you; and I hope that with your own efforts and the prestige you had gained the other term will be sufficient to take you through." The Ballingers then decide whether Horace should continue in school or teach next winter. On May 10, 1905, Ballinger writes Horace that the family agreed that he should go to school. "I am willing to undertake my side of the risk and if you keep well I think you can pay out without making me any trouble. You have enough encouragement before you to stimulate you to make a heroic effort and to do excellent work, and that will afford us much pleasure at home." When Horace works in Middleboro, Kentucky during the summer of 1905, his father asks him not only to write home often, but also not to be annoyed by their concern about him. In a letter dated June 29, 1905, he writes, "I hope you will do your best to avoid keeping us in suspense. For we know just enough about conditions down there to make us uneasy and not enough to give us confidence." Continuing on July 1, 1905, he writes of his fears about the social and moral conditions of the miners in Kentucky. "I hope you will take every precaution necessary to make yourself safe....Look out for your own safety, preserve your honor and self-respect at any cost." When Ballinger hears that Horace is smoking, he writes the following on October 8, 1905: "The information came in such a way that we feel obliged to entertain it until satisfactory explanation is given. It sent a thrill through my body that took away my ease, and a sadness has settled upon me, that all the cheerfulness of this bright day could not dispel. I never expected such a thing of you. You have been taught by precept and example not to use tobacco. Why should you shatter our confidence that you would follow your house teaching, by acquired a vile habit that often leads to harm?....Think not that I am a 'fogy,' but simply that I am older than you and advise you from the standpoint of more extensive opportunities for observation. Must a college student possess some noxious habit or other to be in good standing among his fellows? Have you not the moral courage to repel every inducement to acquire pernicious habits, or in any way to depart from the principles of the highest and most perfect manhood as these principles have been taught you in the home? However great or slight the error on your part that set this report afloat, can you not assure us that tobacco stains or any other unsightly marks will not be allowed to remain upon your record? We hope you will prefer to follow our example in habits and morals rather than the practice of the multitudes of the world which is almost without limit or guide." Acknowledging Horace's response about the smoking matter, Ballinger writes on October 13, 1905 that he is satisfied with the response and admires his admission and the "manly assurance" he gave of his future intentions. "Such a resolution in regards to all questionable or harmful habits will place your character-ideal high above that of the multitudes around us who maintain that it is not so particular what we do so many are doing the same. This little occurrence however shows how important it is 'to avoid even the appearance of evil,' lest someone will misunderstand, or seize upon it with intent to do us evil. May you ever find strength to follow the highest ideals." When business takes Ballinger to Columbus, Ohio, he has the opportunity to hear Washington Gladden, a prominent minister in Columbus at the time, preach on the subject of the religion of the student, but could not. Writing on November 2, 1905, Ballinger says that he read a newspaper account of Gladden's sermon and that he "showed in a very reasonable and plausible way, the effect of religion on the college student. He condemned the brutality of football and other athletic sports...the reckless, and luxurious spending of money, and showed how religion would affect these things. He said it would lead to honesty of purpose, a spirit of fairness and devotion to duty and work." When Ballinger hears of Horace meeting with an accident involving a stone on a sidewalk, he writes on January 31, 1906, "There surely must be something lacking in your watchfulness as to yourself and where you place yourself. It is something strange to me that you lived so long with me without accidents and with very little sickness, and so many things must happen to you in so short a time down there. If matters do not take a different turn soon, I will surely feel it necessary to advise you to come home as a matter of safety." When Ballinger takes a business trip to Chicago, he sends Horace descriptions of sightseeing he is able to enjoy. For example, on May 21, 1906, Ballinger writes of what he saw while visiting Lincoln Park, the zoological garden, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Marshall Field Museum. On May 31, 1906, Ballinger congratulates Horace on being appointed as associate editor of the Miami Recensio. "It matters much you know how things are done," he writes. "Sometimes the lightning strikes, not the tall towering tree, but an unobtrusive one that simply happened to be in the path of the shaft. For aught I know you may have been only a "squatty elm" that happened to stand in the line of greatest attraction. If instead however your efforts have gone out in concentric waves until they affected the official instruments set for the correct measurement of human endeavor, then I am the more pleased. For surely the contrast between the heights of human attainments and the depths of human depravity grows in my eyes day by day." Similarly, when Horace reports on the outcome of college elections, his father responds on May 10, 1907, "I appreciate the honor shown you in them, not that I value the positions so much, or feel so much like courting popular approbation, but simply as indicating to some degree that you have been faithful to us and to yourself. I would have been glad to have seen you have the Editorship of The Student because it would have been a valuable experience for you along a line that you may prove to have some taste, and I hope ability for. But I have no doubt you counseled the wiser heads among your friends before you declined to run. I presume it would have been of more value to you than any other position you mentioned, even including the Presidency of your class. Mere honors, of course, do not increase a man's knowledge, though they might be of some material benefit hereafter, but as you are probably one of the youngest men of your class, I hope it is not a case of all 'politics' but an expression of faith begotten by true manliness of character." After Homer joins Horace at Miami, Ballinger frequently writes letters to both of them. In one dated February 24, 1907, Ballinger addresses their interest in singing. "I want you to get what you can of it - reasonably, and I have nothing in particular to say while it is there about school; but I do not believe either of your fortunes depend upon it, and when it comes to going away to some other town to sing I think 'it is paying too much for the whistle.' I think your time will be worth more in Oxford. Were I in your places, I think I would 'cut out' all such juvenile efforts at traveling for exhibition. All this is given as an opinion from a conservative stand-point." The last letter in the collection that Ballinger wrote to Horace is dated March 9, 1908. In it, Ballinger writes, "...I appreciate your assurances of loyalty, your protestation of innocence of any intentional act of ingratitude, your declaration of sincerity and honesty of purpose." He responds to Horace's "branding" him "as one absolutely devoid of feelings" by stating that he is not ashamed of him, or does he think he has ruined his reputation. He recognizes Horace's achievements in his reputation among students, of his hard work in school, and his attention to business, but he criticizes his courtship "which at present appears to me very much needs to be moderated." Concluding by reiterating his efforts to "speak courteously" on the matter, he states that he does not want Horace's ill will. Other correspondence in the collection includes letters to Horace Ballinger from his mother; his siblings, Horace, Mary and George; and one letter from Guy Potter Benton, president of Miami University when Horace was a student there. Invitations to Horace's graduation from Versailles High School on April 22, 1904 and from Miami University in June 1908 can also be found in the collection, together with Horace's one-year teaching certificate from the Darke County Examiners, dated June 25, 1904. Manuscripts in the collection include Homer Ballinger's oration on "Japan's Progress in Civilization" and several papers by John Ballinger, including "The Pulse in Diagnosis and Therapeutics" and "The Medical Paper, Its Preparation and Delivery." Other examples of poetry written by Ballinger can be found here. For example, "In Memory and Appreciation of My Children's Mother," a poem written by Ballinger in August 1935, expresses his thoughts about his wife, who died more than 15 years previously. "Her charms were not begot'n of scholar's art,/But welled-up from a gen'rous human heart," he writes. A birthday verse that Ballinger wrote to Homer in March 1927 is also included in the collection. Ballinger's "The Story of My Children's Ancestors" offers insights into the character and times of his ancestors. It also reveals details of his childhood. The diary that John Ballinger kept from January 1930 to August 1939 provides details of family activities, such as Mary's teaching in Springfield, Ohio and Horace and Homer's work in the lumber business. It also records the occurrence of an earthquake at his home on September 20, 1931; the death of Thomas Edison on October 19, 1931; and the deaths of several friends. He also provides details of Homer's work with the NRA in Washington, D.C., serving as chairman of the executive committee of code authority in setting codes for the retail lumber business of the United States. On August 15, 1935, Ballinger notes the celebration not only of his 80th birthday with his children and their families, but also of the deaths of Will Rogers and Wiley Post. Writing on his 80th birthday on September 8, 1935, Ballinger observes, "I am very thankful for the extent of life that has been granted to me. While a considerable number of people live considerably longer, very, very many do not live to a like age. I feel that I owe this, first, to my Creator; next to a fairly good ancestry, heredity, my father passing 78, my mother 84; on my own account I have determinedly led a strictly temperate life, eschewing intoxicating drinks, tobacco, and to a large extent tea and coffee. How much my strict habits have added to my life I have no means of knowing. I surely think they have been to my advantage, at any rate I feel that it was a duty I owed to Him who gave us life, and I confidently commend such a course of life to anyone who may chance to read these lines." In his diary, Ballinger also notes the deaths of Senator Huey Long, King George V of England, and Rudyard Kipling, as well as the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, listening to the entire proceedings on the radio. Ballinger's last diary entry, written on August 27, 1939, records a trip he and Mary took to Indian Lake, where they ate dinner and explored the surroundings in Mary's automobile. The collection concludes with a genealogical and historical sketch of the Ballinger family, including the derivation of the Ballinger name from the French word "Boulanger," or "baker."


  • 1904-1939

Language of Materials

The records are in English

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open under the rules and regulations of the Walter Havighurst Special Collections, Miami University Libraries.

Biography of John Ballinger

According to the items contained in this collection, John B. Ballinger was a doctor in Bradford, Ohio. He and his wife had five children: Horace, Homer, Mary, George, and Helen. He was born on September 8, 1855 and died December 18, 1939.Alumni directories indicate that all five Ballinger children graduated from Miami University. After serving as president of his class, Horace Ballinger graduated from Miami in 1908. He taught math and science at a high school in Nelsonville, Ohio in 1908 and 1909. He was principal of a high school in Arcanum, Ohio in 1909. Later, he worked as a lumber merchant in Greenville, Ohio.Homer Ballinger graduated from Miami in 1910. Later, he managed Clark County Lumber Company in Springfield, Ohio. Mary Ballinger graduated from Miami in 1915 and taught in Springfield, Ohio. After graduating from Miami in 1919, George Ballinger worked in the lumber trade in Springfield, Ohio. Helen Ballinger graduated from Miami in 1923.


1 cubic feet


This collection includes correspondence of the John B. Ballinger family between 1904 and 1908, essays and poetry written by John Ballinger, invitations to Horace Ballinger's graduation from Versailles High School and Miami University, John Ballinger's diary kept between 1930 and 1939, and other family documents.

Statement of Arrangement

Series I: CorrespondenceSeries

Subseries I: Correspondence from John B. Ballinger to Horace Ballinger

Subseries II: Correspondence from Mrs. John B. Ballinger to Horace Ballinger

Subseries III: Correspondence from Homer Ballinger to Horace Ballinger

Subseries IV: Correspondence from Mary Ballinger to Horace Ballinger

Subseries V: Correspondence from George Ballinger to Horace Ballinger

Subseries VI: Miscellaneous Correspondence to Horace Ballinger

Series II: Manuscripts

Acquisition Information

This collection was donated by Mrs. Rachel B. Clarke of Pasadena, California on October 18, 1992. Mrs. Clarke is the granddaughter of John Ballinger and daughter of Horace Ballinger.

Related Material

The Miami University Archives has correspondence between Ballinger and Guy Potter Benton.

Guide to the John B. Ballinger Collection
Finding aid prepared by Betsy Butler
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Walter Havighurst Special Collections Finding Aids Repository