Monday, December 25, 2000

A piece of history returns to City Hall

Retiree donates first mayor's cane

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The year is 1819. Cincinnati streets are choked with protesters outraged by a bank closure.

        Into the crowd hobbles Isaac Burnet, the city's first elected mayor, who can't stand without crutches or a cane. With just sharp words, he does what a detachment of soldiers couldn't: He breaks up the mob.

[photo] Retired city employee Jack Haag presents a cane dating to the early 1800s to Mayor Charlie Luken.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        Nearly 200 years later, one of Mr. Burnet's canes has been returned to City Hall.

        Rescued from a trash heap three decades ago by a city electrician, it has been given to the mayor as a kind of Christmas present.

        “I found the darn thing back when we were clearing out the walls to put in air conditioning and heating,” said Jack Haag, who is now 70 and retired after 29 years with the city. “It's a nice artifact and belongs here, not sitting at home in a cupboard.”

        Mayor Charlie Luken agrees, saying the cane should be put on permanent display and that its finder should be rewarded with a city proclamation.

        “It's a real special piece of history,” he said Friday, when he met Mr. Haag for the first time.

        Despite his popularity, Mr. Burnet, who was 72 when he died in 1856, served only a few years as mayor before returning to private law practice. A member of one of the city's prominent families, he was also the editor of Liberty Hall newspaper and on the boards of several businesses.

        He is credited with resolving several riots during his time in office.

        Mr. Luken is considering displaying the cane in City Council chambers.

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