March 1, 1803 – Ohio Joins the Union as the 17th State (Sort of)

The settling of Ohio began in 1788 with the arrival of 48 members of an expedition sponsored by the Ohio Company, which purchased more than one and a half million acres of the Northwest Territory from Congress. Within three years, the male population of the area reached 5,000, and the settlers were given the right to elect a house of representatives.

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On February 19, 1803, President Thomas Jefferson signed an act of Congress approving Ohio’s boundaries and constitution. However, Congress never passed a resolution formally admitting Ohio as the 17th state. The current custom of Congress declaring an official date of statehood did not begin until 1812, with Louisiana’s admission as the 18th state.

When the oversight was discovered in 1953, Ohio congressman George H. Bender introduced a bill in Congress to admit Ohio to the Union retroactive to March 1, 1803, the date on which the Ohio General Assembly first convened. At a special session at the state capital, the Ohio state legislature approved a new petition for statehood. A rider, George Murphy, set out from the state capital (then at Chillicothe) on horseback to duplicate the ride of Thomas Worthington in 1803 when Worthington bore the original petition for statehood to the Capitol. Murphy and his steed, however, made part of the trip by motor caravan, according to the March 10, 1953 report in the Marysville (Ohio) Journal-Tribune. Murphy arrived in D.C. six days after leaving Ohio, and handed the petition to the Congressional Speaker of the House.

On August 7, 1953 (the year of Ohio’s 150th anniversary), President Eisenhower signed a congressional joint resolution that officially declared March 1, 1803 the date of Ohio’s admittance into the Union.

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More presidents have come from Ohio than any other state. They include William Henry Harrison, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William H. Taft, and Warren G. Harding. Four of them died in office.

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