Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Ohio moments

Charles P. Taft helped shape politics, culture

On Dec. 31, 1929, Charles Phelps Taft - an influential newspaper publisher, politician, baseball team owner and arts patron - died at his Cincinnati home at age 86.

In 1873, Taft bought a newspaper called the Spirit of the Times. In 1880, he merged this with the Chronicle and the Evening Star to create the Cincinnati Times-Star. As editor and publisher, his was a powerful voice in shaping politics and popular culture.

Born in Cincinnati, he became a lawyer and served in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1871-73. Taft was elected to Congress as a Republican and served from 1895-97.

In 1905, he financed the purchase of the Chicago Cubs for $125,000 by former Cincinnati Enquirer sportswriter Charles Murphy. Taft, the last Cubs owner to win the World Series (1907 and '08), assumed sole ownership in 1914 and sold the team in 1916.

He and his wife, Anna Sinton Taft, acquired some of the finest art in the world. They bequeathed this and their Pike Street mansion, which is now the Taft Museum, to the citizens of Cincinnati. They created the Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts in 1927 to endow the museum and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Rebecca Goodman

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