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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Corwin And The Use Of "O.K."

Dallas Bogan on 4 September 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

A tale told of the famous Harrison campaign of 1840, was recreated in the "O.K. House" on Spring Grove Hill, a mile or two beyond the Pennsylvania House in Springfield.
General J. Warren Keifer, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, was born and reared and spent a great deal of his life of nearly a century near Sugar Grove Hill.
He recalled the legendary days of the stagecoach era and the intriguing struggle in which log cabins and hard cider became triumphant over early extravagance in the White House.
Many years ago General Keifer related the following narrative.
"In the fall of 1840 during the campaign for Harrison and Tyler, a farmer drove into Urbana with a team of horses drawing a large wagon filled with neighbors and friends among whom were a number of women and children. In those days a political procession was an event in the humdrum monotony of a pioneer's life, and everyone turned out.
"Many banners of various devices and inscriptions enlivened the parade. Our farmer, wishing to proclaim as widely as possible the principles of the Whig party to which he belonged, devised a motto which would emphasize the idea that the Whig party was in truth the 'people's party.'
"Although the evil day of spelling reform had not arrived, with true phonetic instinct our farmer not only devised his motto, but the spelling thereof as well and so in bold relief his banner read: 'The people is Oll Korrect.'
"As this was in a day when correct spelling was yet regarded as an evidence of culture, the opposing party took it up, and pointing the finger of scorn at the banner, cried out: 'There is a sample of Whig intelligence.'
"The story was repeated and printed in Democratic newspapers, and much was made of it, especially in Columbus. The Whigs, on the whole, believing that discretion is the better part of valor, ignored the taunt, except for an occasional humorist who parried in the same style. In the Circleville Herald, for example, published in October, 1840, the editor paraphrasing the Champaign County Farmer's spelling interprets O.K. as standing for:

'Oll fur Korwine'
'What do you think of old Tip now?
Give way for Ohio Governor's Election'"
Thomas Corwin was stumping the campaign trail for the Whig ticket for Governor of Ohio, pursuing the trail with General William Henry Harrison, who was seeking the election for President of the United States. It should well be remembered that both were elected by massive majorities.
Daniel Leffel, owner and proprietor of "The Sugar Grove House" in Columbus, was a staunch and faithful Whig and seriously took action against the Democrats. He was determined to defend the spelling of his political compatriot.
General Keifer said of Leffel: "Mr. Leffel flung defiance at the Columbus Democrats or any others who should gainsay Whig Spelling."
In order to augment his attitude he rechristened his own tavern and had painted in large black letters above the front door of his hotel the inscription: "Dan Leffel. O.K. House."
The house, near the junction of Valley Pike and the National Road, was well known to the many travelers and passersby.
Soon the story spread far and wide and the letters "O.K." promptly began being used in the vocabularies of the frequenters of the tavern, along with the many business men who passed along the old pike.
Now wherever the English language is known or spoken the letters "O.K." set the imprint of approval upon whatever is said or done.

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This page created 4 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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