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City of Toledo - Early Administrative Documents Collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS-328

Scope and Contents

The collection is divided into two series: Series 1, Toledo city charter and amendments; and Series II, Miscellaneous early administrative records.

Series I, Toledo city charter and amendments, documents the creation of the laws by which the city of was governed during much of its early history. It is arranged in chronological order. Prior to 1912 and the institution of home rule in Ohio, all charters for cities had to be approved by the legislature and signed by the Secretary of State. Included is the founding charter as submitted and approved by the Ohio House of Representatives in 1837. Also included is a printed version of the charter and by-laws dated January 7, 1837, which includes numerous handwritten and typed amendments. At the back of the printed document is a handwritten list of those appointed to various city committees and the names of aldermen during the tenure of Mayor Hezekiah D. Mason (1839).

In addition to complete versions of the charter, the collection contains various drafts of amendments proposed to the charter dating 1845 and 1851. A complete amended charter bearing the signature of Ohio Secretary of State Samuel Galloway dated February 27, 1846, is also included.

In 1852, the state legislature passed a new law governing the incorporation of cities and villages, which significantly changed the governance structure of cities, thereby negating the city’s charter, and the city operated under what was known as the “Paine Revision of the Municipal Code” until 1914.

In 1914, the city voters approved a new charter under the provisions of home rule, and this version is also included. The collection also contains documentation of the 1928 amendments to the charter that were prepared by a charter commission. Additional material related to the 1928 charter includes a letter from the Mayor W. T. Jackson vetoing an early version of that proposed amended charter. The letter is direct and stinging in its criticism of the commission that drafted the revisions. Letters from other individuals and organizations voice support or opposition to the amended charter.

Series II, Miscellaneous early administrative records, includes files documenting other aspects of early governance of Toledo. This series is arranged in alphabetical order. Most significant of these is the poll book for the township of Port Lawrence dated October 11, 1836 (predating the founding of the city), which records the names of each of the 226 individuals living in the township who were authorized to vote. It is assumed that these were the voters who were eligible to vote in the city’s first election for mayor, which was held on March 6, 1837. The poll book was certified by John Baldwin, Marcus Baldwin, and Cornelius Shaw, who were appointed judges for the election, and prepared by clerks James McWhitney and George H. Rich. The list of voters includes names important to the city’s history, including John Berdan, Benjamin Stickney, and Two Stickney.

Also of interest to the early history of the city is a printed copy of the laws, rules, and regulations pertaining to the powers of the Board of Health dated 1850. This is important given the frequent devastating epidemics that swept through the city in its early years. This document shows how city government was attempting to regulate behavior to reduce such public health issues.

Other files pertain to paving of streets and assessing taxes to pay for the streets, the resolution on the adoption of Toledo’s official flag which details the elements of the flag (1909), and a lengthy history and supporting documents on a controversy related to the Woodville Railroad from the 1870s. Also included are several tax record-keeping books that record taxes owed and collected dating from 1841-1843. Additional files include leases, ordinances, and election results. A 1907 book includes all the existing laws for the city at that time, and appears to be an effort of the city to codify the laws.

Several items are related to the University of Toledo. One appears to be a statement of the trustees of the Toledo University of Arts and Trades expressing their desire to donate the assets of the Jesup Scott trust that established the university to the city. The document is dated April 27, 1874. While the trustees wanted to donate the assets of the university to the city, and subsequent records of City Council indicate the city was prepared to accept the gift, no final action by the trustees to execute this gift was taken. In 1878, the Toledo University of Arts and Trades was forced to close for lack of funds. It was not until 1884 that the surviving trustees finally donated of the assets of the university and the Scott trust to the city of Toledo. This established the institution as a municipally-supported school, a status it retained until 1967 when it became a state-supported university. Scattered annual reports of Toledo University and financial reports are also included.

In a recent addition to the collection with dates spanning from 1837 to 1951, materials comprise of Toledo city tax records from 1837-1847, to correspondence written by members of the Toledo community addressing their concerns to the Clerk for the City of Toledo (1906-1949).


  • Creation: 1837-1948

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials may be accessed by request at the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections on the fifth floor of the William S. Carlson Library on the main campus of the University of Toledo. Materials do not circulate.

Conditions Governing Use

In most cases, the Canaday Center does not own the copyright and literary rights to items in its collections; it is the responsibility of the researcher to adhere to U.S. Copyright and Fair Use laws, including seeking permission from the copyright holder and payment of any royalty fees, in the reproduction and use of archival materials.

Providing copies or scans does not constitute a license to publish or reproduce images in print or electronic form.

Biographical / Historical

Although the United States had acquired the territory in the late 18th century, the land around present-day Toledo remained unwelcoming to settlers for decades. In 1817, the Port Lawrence Company platted land for a settlement on the Maumee River but a national financial crisis in 1819 caused the enterprise to default. In 1832, the village was re-established with greater success. A year later, in 1833, Major Benjamin F. Stickney founded a rival settlement of Vistula in what was then the Michigan Territory.

After the Michigan-Ohio boundary disputes of the Toledo War of 1835-36, the villages of Port Lawrence and Vistula merged to create the city of Toledo. In 1837, Toledo was officially incorporated and its first mayor, John Berdan, was elected.

The fledgling city of Toledo grew rapidly, its population increasing from less than 100 in 1836 to 1,222 by 1840. The city would continue to grow throughout the 19th century, and this collection contains some of the earliest documents related to Toledo’s founding and governance.


9.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


City of Toledo - Early Administrative Documents Collection, 1837-1948
Barbara Floyd; Jeff Hammye
August, 2017; December, 2019
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections Repository

2801 West Bancroft Street
William S. Carlson Library, Fifth Floor
Toledo Ohio 43606 United States