by Jessica Gardner
Travel to the eastern edge of Ohio and you will find the industrial town of Steubenville, situated along the Ohio River where Pennsylvania and West Virginia meet the Ohio border, about thirty minutes outside of Pittsburgh. Founded in 1797, this town is one of the oldest in Ohio.
Originally founded around Fort Steuben, Steubenville became a booming town during the Industrial Revolution. The steel mill drove and supported life in Steubenville, all the way through the 1980s. Mrs. Mannerly takes place in 1967, a time when Steubenville exemplified small town American life. During this time, he steel mills are still a source of work for many of the town’s men, including Jeffrey’s father.
In 1967, when the play takes place, Steubenville appears largely as an island of calm, unaffected by Vietnam War protests and the counterculture movement sweeping most of the nation. Steubenville is a city of murals, and one look around reveals the pride felt towards the city’s history. The town celebrates one of its most famous residents, renowned crooner and Rat Pack member Dean Martin, with a huge mural depicting his life, family and friends. In a town of that size, Dean’s successes, as well as his continued love for his hometown, made him the stuff of legends.
With a population of only about 20,000 people, it isn’t hard to imagine how close knit the community would have been at the time that Jeffrey was growing up, which makes the mystery surrounding Mrs. Mannerly (a.k.a Helen Kirk) all that more enticing. In a city where everyone knows everyone else’s business, Helen Kirk stands as an enigma—she has a past that no one seems to know and one Jeffrey seems determined to uncover.
2010 U.S. Census