Item #7880 Werden’s Hotel.
Werden’s Hotel.
Werden’s Hotel.

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Werden’s Hotel.

Springfield, [OH]: 1 January 1829. Hand-colored illustrated broadside, 7” x 8.5” on larger sheet (8” x 12.5”), signed in type by proprietor William Werden, with ornamental border. Early ink note on verso reading “Dayton.” CONDITION: Good, old folds, light toning and creasing, one green paint smudge on verso, two small tape repairs on verso at vertical center fold, one 2” separation with bit of loss along fold in left margin (no affect on printed area).

A rare and beautifully hand-colored broadside advertising the latest venture of “the most famous and successful hotel proprietor” in Ohio, with later connections to the Underground Railroad.

William Werden (1785–1869),“the most popular landlord in Ohio,” opened his National Hotel, here termed “Werden’s Hotel,” in Springfield in 1829 on the heels of another big venture: the new “Accommodation” stagecoach line, which he had established two years earlier in partnership with John Satterthwaite (1786–1837), a prominent Quaker, farmer, and businessman from nearby Waynesville (Prince, p. 256). Starting at the National Hotel, the Accommodation Line helped connect travelers to Cincinnati, via Satterthwaite’s “Halfway House” in Waynesville. This broadside’s eye-catching wood engraving of a stage and four links the Accommodation line to Werden’s hotel, whose sign bore the same motif. Both were operations “of a high caliber”: as one local later recounted, “To see [the drivers] about the hotel you would think they were congressmen…They always dressed in the latest fashion and always kept themselves spic and span…” (Andres). The arrival of the coaches at Werden’s hotel was “the event of the day,” with “admiring crowds of spectators” flocking around “swaggering” stage-drivers (Prince, p. 227).

According to some sources, Werden’s hotel became a significant location on the Underground Railroad. Rev. J. R. Scurry, who had apparently been a conductor during the 1850s and ‘60s, noted that “many a weary fugitive found shelter in the hotel’s stables in the back yard off Spring Street” (Part II). Scurry recorded one such incident in a letter published in The Springfield Daily News in 1908:

One morning at the court was a poster reading: “One bright mulatto, can be taken for white woman; one black girl and boy, aged respectively 16 and 18 years. Reward for three persons $1,000; with directions where to write, Paris, Ky.

Not long after, an old time carriage, containing an elderly gentleman, a middle-aged woman, a colored boy of 18 and a colored girl of 16 drove up to the old Werden House. The gentleman registered and claimed to have come from the east for the health of his invalid daughter. Conversing freely about the office that week, he quickly became quite a favorite.

In truth, the old man’s companions were three runaways wanted in Paris, Ky., and the old man was Albert Williams of Cincinnati, one of the greatest of Underground Railroad workers.… (Part IV)

Before opening the National Hotel, Werden—or “Col. Billy” as he was known since his service during the Seminole War—had run “Billy Werden’s Tavern,” a stopping-place for stage coaches and politicians, including Henry Clay and Tom Corwin. Before leaving office, President Andrew Jackson appointed Werden postmaster of Springfield.

OCLC records just one—uncolored—copy of this broadside, held at the Newberry Library.

A rare and appealing broadside for a landmark Ohio hotel.

REFERENCES: Andres, Ed and Adah. The Accommodation Line: Stagecoach Travel from Springfield to Cincinnati in the 1820’s and 1830’s, n.p.; Prince, Dr. Benjamin F. A Standard History of Springfield and Clark County, Ohio, Vol. I (Chicago: The American Historical Society, 1922); Scurry, J. R. “The Underground Railroad: The dangers of cherry bounce” (Part II), Springfield News-Sun online; Scurry, J. R. “The Underground Railroad: A historic cast of characters” (Part IV), Springfield News-Sun online; “The Accommodation line Scenic Byway Corridor,” Friends Home Museum online.

Item #7880


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