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January 31, 2012

Ernest J. Bohn Political Memorabilia

Ernest John Bohn was always especially proud of two of his achievements: he wrote and obtained passage of the Ohio Public Housing Act, the first in the nation; and he was the first director of the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA), the first housing authority organized in the United States. He was often referred to as "the father of public housing," a distinction based not only on his work in Cleveland and in Ohio, but also on his prominence on the national scene, his lobbying efforts, especially for the 1937 U.S. Housing Act, and his involvement in every housing advocacy group of consequence. At his retirement in 1968, he could claim credit for presiding over the building of 10,684 units of "decent, safe and sanitary housing...for low income and elderly families" and for planning for 1,885 more. He was clearly and proudly dedicated to the cause of housing.


Born in Sannicolau Mare, Romania, on May 12, 1901, Bohn immigrated to America with his widowed father in 1911. In 1919 he graduated from East Tech High School in Cleveland and went on to graduate from Adelbert College of Western Reserve University (WRU) in 1924 and the WRU Law School in 1926. He practiced law in Cleveland from 1926 to 1938.

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Campaign button for Cleveland’s progressive (and Democratic) mayor Tom L. Johnson belonging to Bohn. Johnson died in 1911, the year young Ernest J. Bohn immigrated to America. “Tom L. Johnson & 3 cent Fare. circa 1907. 3.5 cm diameter” Johnson inspired reform candidates from both political parties

Before he found his life's work in the housing problems which confronted Cleveland in the great depression, Bohn was active in Cleveland and Ohio politics as a highly visible and often quoted Republican Party organizer and candidate. Among his papers is his usher’s pin and ribbon for the republican national convention, held in Cleveland in 1924. Early in his career he was elected to a term in the Ohio House of Representatives [1928], and from 1930 to 1940 he was elected to successive terms on the Cleveland City Council.

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A cherished memento: Usher’s pin with ribbon: “Usher. Republican National Convention. Cleveland Ohio 1924. 12.5 cm (h) with white ribbon”

Bohn never lost sight of his goal to further the cause of public housing and though he remained devoted to the Republican Party he accepted the reality of politics which dictated that he work with politicians and government officials of all stripes in order to succeed.

As the Special Collections Research Center nears completion of an updated guide to The Ernest J. Bohn Housing and Planning Library we offer images of selected political memorabilia from the collection.

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Campaign pins for Republican presidential candidates from left to right: “War in Europe. Peace in America. God Bless Wilson. circa. 1916. 2 cm. diameter”; “Keep Coolidge. circa. 1924. 1.5 cm. diameter”; “For President. Herbert Hoover. circa. 1928. 2 cm. diameter”; “Landon. Deeds Not Deficits. circa. 1936. 2 cm. diameter”

For additional information about the Ernest J. Bohn Housing & Planning Library contact the Special Collections Research Center in the Kelvin Smith Library at Case Western Reserve University.

Posted by exo2 at January 31, 2012 10:25 PM

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