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Historical Glossary

There are 39 entries in this glossary.
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Ogden v. Saunders

In 1827 the Supreme Court ruled (4–3) that a state might enact a bankruptcy law granting debtors protection from their creditors for debts assumed after the law took effect, although it added that no state bankruptcy law could offer relief to residents of another state. By distinguishing between contracts already negotiated and the conditions under which contracts might be entered into at future dates, the decision provided a significant exception to the Court's general insistence that contracts were inviolable and beyond the scope of state laws.

Oglethorpe, James Edward

(b. London, England, 22 December 1696; d. Cranham Hall, Essex, England, 30 June 1785)    Having entered Parliament in 1722, Oglethorpe was the principal sponsor of the establishment of Georgia, one of the 20 trustees appointed to oversee its development, and de facto governor (1732–43). He founded Savannah, on 12 February 1733, formed peaceful relations with the Creek Indians, and fortified the frontier. In the war of Jenkins' Ear, he invaded Fla. and repulsed a Spanish invasion. He retired to England in 1743 after being court-martialed, and acquitted, of misadministering his military command. His relations with the Ga. trustees soured and he attended none of their meetings after 1749.


The treaty of Paris (1763) ceded Ohio to Britain. It was the scene of Dunmore's War. As British allies, its Indians raided the frontier in the Revolutionary War. Britain exercised de facto control over the area after 1784 and encouraged Indian attacks from Fort Miamis. The first permanent white settlement was founded at Marietta on 7 April 1788 and in December Cincinnati was settled. Efforts to pacify the Indians failed at St Clair's Defeat but prevailed at Fallen Timbers. The first treaty of Greenville opened about two-thirds of Ohio to white settlement and Jay's Treaty ended British military occupation. By 1800, it had 45,365 settlers (including 337 blacks) and became the 17th state on 1 March 1803. The Indians sold most of their lands by 1810 and the War of 1812 was the last occasion when they threatened the Ohio frontier.
The National Road and canal boom stimulated migration to Ohio, whose population increased by 302 percent from 1820 to 1860. In 1860 it had 2,339,511 inhabitants, of whom 98 percent were white and 14 percent were foreign-born; it ranked third among the states in population, second in the value of its farmland and livestock, and fourth in manufactures. It provided 313,180 USA troops (including 5,092 blacks) in the Civil War, but was also a major stronghold of Copperheads. It was invaded by CSA cavalry in 1863 and was the site of 19 military engagements.
It experienced moderate growth after 1870 and was displaced as the most populous midwest state by Ill. in 1890. In 1900 it had 4,157,545 residents, of whom 52 percent were rural, 98 percent white, and 11 percent foreign-born; it ranked fourth in population among the states, third in the value of its agricultural products and fifth in manufactures. It became a major center of the petroleum, rubber, and machine-tool industries after 1900, but moderate growth led to its decline from the fourth-largest state in 1900 to sixth in 1990. In 1990 it was 79 percent urban and had 10,847,115 people (87 percent white, 11 percent black, 1 percent Hispanic, 1 percent Asian), of whom 2.4 percent were foreign-born. Manufacturing and mining employed 29 percent of its workers.

Ohio gang

This term referred to associates, friends, and cronies of Warren Harding who received high office during his administration. Harding was personally honest, although naive, and many of his scandal-ridden administration's problems orginated with this group's eagerness to enrich themselves through public office.

Ohio idea

In 1867 Ohio Representative George Pendleton advocated using greenbacks to pay the principal of US bonds whose redemption was not required in gold or silver. The Democratic Party's 1868 platform endorsed this “Ohio idea” to inflate the money supply and ease the deflationary burden placed on debtors and small wage-earners by the contraction of the money supply.

oil embargo

Following the outbreak of the Arab–Israeli War on 6 October 1973, Arab oil-producing states (which pumped 85 percent of global oil exports) scheduled monthly cuts of 5 percent in oil exports to the US and western nations until they stopped supporting Israel. The US was importing 35 percent of its petroleum (6,000,000 barrels daily), of which half came from Arab states. Richard Nixon signed the Alaska pipeline Act on 16 November, and the Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act, to institute the rationing of oil within the US, on 27 November. An executive order (4 December) created a Federal Energy Office under William Simon. On 8 November, governors of 29 states reduced speed limits to 50 miles per hour as a conservation measure, and by 2 December, most gas stations were closing on Sundays due to lack of gasoline. On 15 December, the US was placed on daylight saving time year round.
On 23 December, in the first of many such increases, Persian Gulf nations doubled oil prices. By early 1974, the US was about 17 percent short of its normal level of petroleum consumption, gasoline prices were skyrocketing, and lines stretching three miles to gas stations clogged roads. High oil prices and energy shortages contributed to a recession in 1974. On 18 March 1974, the Arab states lifted their oil embargo against the US. The National Energy Act (1978) was the most comprehensive effort to reduce dependence on imported oil by promoting energy conservation and alternate energy sources.

Ojibwa Indians

This term is the proper name for a people who speak one of the Algonquian languages, who inhabited the northern Great Lakes region. It is generally used in Canada, whereas in the US this group is commonly referred to as the Chippewa Indians, a corrupt derivation of the name.


This was a slang name for someone from the dust bowl who moved to Calif. as a migrant worker. About 300,000–400,000 left the southern plains for the Pacific coast, of whom over half were from Okla., and the rest from Tex., Ark., Kans., and Colo. Their main highway west was Route 66. An attempt to restrict their entry was reversed by the Supreme Court in Edwards v. California.

Okinawa, battle of

On 1 April 1945, Lieutenant General Simon Buckner's Tenth Army (183,000 men, including a USMC corps) began landing on Okinawa, held by General Mitsuru Ushijima's 130,000 Japanese; they overwhelmed final enemy resistance on 21 June. Rear Admiral Richmond Turner's task force took heavy losses from kamikaze attacks. US Army losses: 4,336 killed (including Buckner), 15,756 wounded. USMC losses: 3,277 killed, 16,044 wounded. US Navy losses: 4,900 killed, 4,800 wounded, 38 ships sunk, 763 aircraft destroyed. Japanese losses: 107,500 known dead, 7,400 captured, 16 ships, 4,000 planes, at least 70,000 civilians killed. Okinawa's conquest allowed the US to cut Japan's supply lines with Southeast Asia and China, and to reach Japan with medium bombers.


The US acquired Okla. by the Louisiana Purchase. It was settled by the five civilized tribes upon their removal west. Between 1818 and 1839, these Indians were allotted reservations in the eastern half of Okla. No territorial government was created because each tribe was self-governing. The rest of the Indian Territory was reserved for when the Indian population rose to the point at which it needed more land. The Kansas–Nebraska Act resettled many Indians from Kans., where they had been relocated from the midwest, to Okla. Because most of the five civilized tribes, who owned 7,369 slaves in 1860, supported the Confederacy in the Civil War, the US treated them as rebels who had forfeited their right to claim vacant lands in western Okla., and assigned these outlets as reserves for Indians from the southern plains. The plains nations raided Tex., Kans., and Mexico until subjugated in the Red River War.
The first railroad was built across Okla. in 1870–2. In 1889 the US authorized the sale of 9,375 square miles of public domain lands in western Okla. to whites. Following the Oklahoma land rush, Congress created Oklahoma Territory to govern the area sold to whites. In 1900 Okla. ranked 38th in population with 398,331 residents, of whom 91 percent were rural, 92 percent white (including 4 percent foreign-born), 5 percent black, and 3 percent Indian. The Indian Territory ranked 39th with 392,060 inhabitants, of whom 94 percent were rural, 77 percent were white (including 1 percent foreign-born), 9 percent black, and 13 percent Indian. The Indian Territory wanted statehood (as Sequoyah) separately from Oklahoma Territory, but on 16 November 1907, it was merged with Okla. to become the 46th state.
Okla. established a white primary in 1907 and disfranchised most blacks in 1910 by a literacy test (see literacy tests.) The Ku Klux Klan grew rapidly in the 1920s and dominated the legislature. Numerous localities enacted segregation, and by 1964, just 28 percent of black pupils attended integrated schools.
It emerged as a leading producer of petroleum soon after 1900. Between 1920 and 1930, as farmers suffered from falling prices and conditions typical of the dust bowl, 269,400 Okies left the state in the Great Depression. Another 666,000 left from 1940 to 1970. By 1990, when urbanization and industrialization had greatly diversified the state economy, Okla. had 3,145,585 residents (81 percent white, 7 percent black, 8 percent Indian, 3 percent Hispanic, 1 percent Asian), of whom 59 percent were urban and 2.1 percent foreign-born. Manufacturing and mining employed 23 percent of all workers.

Oklahoma land rush

After Congress voted to allow land claims by white settlers on the Cherokee Strip (3,000 square miles) of Oklahoma under the first Homestead Act, it set noon of 22 April 1889 as the opening day for staking claims, which were to be registered in order of filing. A mad stampede by 50,000 hopeful homesteaders staked out all the best land before nightfall. The day's land rush eliminated the last sizeable tract of open land suitable for non-irrigated farming. Smaller rushes were held until 1905, but that day has traditionally been viewed as marking the frontier's end.

Old Deluder Act

(11 November 1647)    This law replaced a 1642 statute that placed the burden of educating children on parents; it required every town with 50 or more householders to appoint a teacher and pay his wages, and required every town with 100 or more householders to set up a grammar school for college preparation. The law's nickname came from its preamble: “It being one cheife project of the ould deluder, Satan, to keepe men from the knowledge of the Scriptures.” The statute marked the start of universal public education for Americans, and by 1671 all New England colonies but Rhode Island had adopted similar measures.

Old Lights, New Lights

The "New Lights" were new religious movements formed during the GreatAwakening and broke away from the congregational church in New England. The "Old Lights" were the established congregational church. 

Older Americans Act

(14 July 1965)    This measure, part of the Great Society, appropriated grant money from the Department of Health and Human Services for state programs to fund public service jobs for retired persons and to organize volunteer programs benefiting the elderly. It also prohibited age discrimination in any programs that accept federal funds. The law established an Administration on Aging to supervise these activities and develop policies for the aged.
olive branch petition

Olive Branch petition

On 5 July 1775, the first Continental Congress made its last major effort at ending the political crisis in Anglo-American affairs and remaining in the British empire. This petition to George III, drafted by John Dickinson, stated terms for reconciliation: a ceasefire in New England, the repeal of the Intolerable Acts, and negotiations to establish safeguards for the rights of Englishmen in America. Since the petition and word of heavy British losses at the battle of Bunker Hill reached England simultaneously, the British government refused to answer it favorably for fear of appearing weak after a defeat. George III instead declared New England in rebellion on 23 August.

Omaha Indians

This Siouan language group split off from the Ponca about 1650; they occupied the Missouri River basin of Nebr. and Iowa in the 1700s. Although often at war with the Sioux, they avoided war with Anglo-Americans. They sold most of their lands in 1854, but then avoided mass-relocation to Okla. and have retained a reservation in Thurston Co., Nebr. They numbered around 2,800 in 1780, suffered heavy losses during a smallpox epidemic in 1802, and were reduced to 900 persons by 1830, but by 1857 had risen to 1,200, about the same number as lived in 1906.

Omnibus Act

(22 and 25 June 1868)    On 22 June, Congress certified that Ark. had met its conditions for Reconstruction, and on the 25th it did so for N.C., SC., Ga., Fla., Ala., and La., all of which resumed their congressional representation. Ga.'s readmission was rescinded after the state expelled every black member from its legislature in September 1868, but was later restored in July 1870.

Omnibus Housing Act (1965)

This measure, part of the Great Society, was the most far-reaching federal housing law since the Housing Act (1949). It provided $8,000,000,000 to build housing for poor and middle-income families and established a rent-supplement program for them. The Housing and Urban Development Act (1968) expanded it.

Oneida Commune

In 1837 John H. Noyes (3 September 1811–13 April 1886) and his “Bible communists” founded this commune at Oneida, N.Y., after fleeing indictment for adultery in Putney, Vt. Noyes had been expelled from Yale divinity school for affirming that sanctified individuals were incapable of sinning. Oneida was a complex, highly structured, and authoritarian society whose purpose was to imitate the communal living of early Christians. Aside from basic personal possessions, there was no private property and no individual incomes. Noyes proclaimed a doctrine of free love, but encouraged his male disciples to be continent, and employed a primitive system of eugenics to plan how pregnancies would occur. A splinter community existed at Wallingford, Conn. (1850–80). Oneida flourished economically, and was the 19th century's most successful utopian experiment. The community abandoned multiple marriage by 1879, when Noyes moved to Canada out of exasperation with internal dissent and the threat of legal indictments. Oneida reorganized itself as a corporation and was highly successful in producing silverware.

Oneida Indians

As one of the Five Nations, the Oneidas lived on Lake Oneida's western shore between the Mohawk and Onondaga Indians. New England Presbyterians made many conversions after 1767 and influenced the nation to break with the rest of the Iroquois Confederacy in the Revolutionary War by fighting for US independence and joining Sullivan's campaign. The 900 Oneidas were confirmed in title to 9,000 square miles by the second treaty of Fort Stanwix, but sold off most of it over the next 25 years. Some moved to Wis. Oneidas now share a reservation with Onondagas at Nedrow, N.Y., and have others at Oneida, Wis., and Southwold, Ontario.

Onondaga Indians

This group of Indians were the Five Nations ' prime diplomats and maintained their council fire near modern Syracuse, N.Y. During the Revolutionary War, they were British allies, fled their villages in Sullivan's campaign, and suffered population losses of about 20 percent. About a third migrated to Canada and by 1790 only 400 lived in the US. Onondagas held 100 square miles in N.Y. in 1788, but by 1820 had sold virtually all of it off. They now occupy a reservation in Onondaga County, N.Y., with headquarters at Nedrow.

Opechancanough's first war

On Good Friday, 22 March 1622, Opechancanough's Powhatan Confederacy launched surprise attacks on Virginia's settlements and killed 347 of the 1,200 colonists. Besieged at Jamestown and unable to plant crops, another 500 died of epidemics and malnutrition that year. The English retaliated with a scorched-earth policy, and destroyed the enemy's villages and foodstocks during the next two winters. Opechancanough and Governor Francis Wyatt signed a peace agreement in April 1623. The war tipped the balance of military power from the Indians to whites.

Opechancanough's second war

On 18 March 1644, Opechancanough's Powhatan Confederacy made surprise attacks on Virginia's outlying settlements and killed about 500 of the colony's 8,000 residents. After Governor William Berkeley burned their villages and winter food supplies, the Indians suffered heavy losses from starvation in the next two years. After Opechancanough was captured and killed in 1645, the Powhatans signed a peace treaty in October 1646 and gave up all land in the tidewater south of York River. This war left the Indians too weak to resist English expansion and Va.'s frontier grew rapidly without Indian interference until Bacon's Rebellion.

open door policy

On 6 September 1899, Secretary of State John Hay sent a circular letter to the British, Russian, Italian, German, French, and Japanese governments, in which he asked each nation to guarantee the other countries “equal and impartial trade” within their respective spheres of commercial influence in China, and also to respect Chinese territorial and political sovereignty. Because no nation rejected his proposal, although none committed themselves to observing it, Hay proclaimed on 20 March 1900 that the major powers had accepted an “open door policy” toward China. The policy nevertheless turned into a hollow expression of principle after the Boxer Rebellion, when outside powers toughened control over their own spheres of influence within China. The policy was undermined further by the Root–Takahira Agreement.

open door policy

On 6 September 1899, Secretary of State John Hay sent a circular letter to the British, Russian, Italian, German, French, and Japanese governments, in which he asked each nation to guarantee the other countries “equal and impartial trade” within their respective spheres of commercial influence in China, and also to respect Chinese territorial and political sovereignty. Because no nation rejected his proposal, although none committed themselves to observing it, Hay proclaimed on 20 March 1900 that the major powers had accepted an “open door policy” toward China. The policy nevertheless turned into a hollow expression of principle after the Boxer Rebellion, when outside powers toughened control over their own spheres of influence within China. The policy was undermined further by the Root–Takahira Agreement.

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