Thursday, April 30, 2009

1818 Letter from Dr. Christopher C. Yates to Jabez Wright

On April 30, 1818, Dr. Christopher C. Yates, an Albany physician, sent a letter to Jabez Wright in Huron Township, which was part of Huron County at that time. (Erie County was formed in 1838.)
In his letter, Dr. Yates discussed Jabez Wright’s health issues, which involved nervous irritability. Jabez Wright seemed to think his medical problems stemmed from a lingering virus, but Dr. Yates did not agree. He urged Jabez not to use patent medicine, stating that once patent medicine is begun “you will never abandon again, it will be as necessary to you as rum to the toper, or tobacco to the sailor.” The letter concludes with Dr. Yates advising Jabez Wright to take his old advice, presumably from a previous visit to the doctor, and not to seek further treatment.

Dr. Christopher C. Yates was a prominent doctor in Albany, New York, the son of Christopher J. Yates and Catharina Lansing. In 1818, he co-authored an essay on bilious epidemic fever. He was married to Emma Willard in 1838, but they divorced in 1843. Dr. Yates eventually moved to Canada, and he died in Nova Scotia in 1848.

Jabez Wright was an early surveyor of the Firelands. He was a justice of the peace in Huron Township, and was also an associate judge, holding court in Huron County as early as 1815. In an address to the Firelands Historical Society on February 22, 1888, Rush Sloane stated that Jabez Wright was one of the first men in the State of Ohio to aid fugitive slaves. The Ohio Historical Society placed a historical marker noting Judge Wright’s home as a station on the Underground Railroad.

You can see several items which once belonged to the Wright family at the Follett House Museum, including an 1825 tea canister and a side saddle used by Mrs. Jabez Wright.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lincoln Funeral Train at Cleveland

Longtime Great Lakes Captain Frank Hamilton donated the above photograph to the historical collections of the Sandusky Library. The Lincoln Funeral Train carried the body of slain President Abraham Lincoln from Washington D. C. to Springfield, Illinois, from April 21 through May 3, 1865. Along the 1,650 mile route, the train would stop at key cities in seven separate states.

After leaving Buffalo, the Lincoln Funeral Train arrived in Cleveland, Ohio on April 28, 1865 at 6:50 a.m. Over 100,000 people filed through Public Square to pay their respects to Lincoln. The catafalque holding Lincoln’s coffin was shaped like a pagoda, and allowed for two lines to pass through simultaneously. Members of the 29th Ohio National Guard and the Veteran Reserve Corps troops stood guard over President Lincoln’s remains. The weather remained rainy the entire day of April 28th. At 10:00 p.m., the casket was closed, and police led the procession to Union Depot. The Lincoln Funeral Train arrived at Columbus, Ohio at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 29, 1865.

Several photographs of the Lincoln Funeral Train in Ohio can be seen at the Ohio Memory Online Scrapbook.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

James W. Taylor: The American That Canadians Loved

James Wickes Taylor was born in Yates County, New York on November 6, 1819. After graduating from Hamilton College and studying law under his father, he moved to Cincinnati. In 1842 he became associated with the law firm of Salmon P. Chase and Flamen Ball.

Turning next to journalistic endeavors, James W. Taylor established the Cincinnati Morning Signal. In 1852 Taylor became editor of the Sandusky Democratic Mirror. He was the Erie County delegate to the Ohio Constitutional Convention, 1850-1851.
From 1852 to 1856 Taylor was the State Librarian for Ohio. During his tenure he took measures to “preserve every pamphlet printed in the State, no matter the topic.” He authored a book on the History of the State of Ohio as well as a manual on the Ohio School System, and several other books and reports.

From 1859 to 1869, Taylor served as a special agent of the U.S. Treasury. In 1870 he was appointed American Consul to Winnipeg. He held this position until his death in 1893. He was a staunch supporter of the province of Manitoba, promoting trade, railways, and natural resources. When he died in April 28, 1893, Queen Victoria directed that the British flag be placed at half mast at Windsor Castle.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Louis Prang, "Father of the American Christmas Card"

Louis Prang, a German immigrant to Boston in the early 1850s, is known as the “Father of the American Christmas Card,” and most notably brought art into the American home as well as the public classroom by way of chromolithographs and school art supplies. He was born in Germany in 1824 and was one of several children. Due to his persistent ill health at a young age, which prevented him from attending school and obtaining a formal education, he accompanied and was apprenticed to his father, Jonas Louis Prang, a French Huguenot, designing, engraving, printing, and dying various mediums from the age of 13 to 18 years old. Perhaps due to his political views, Prang was forced to leave his country and travel throughout Europe. On Nov. 1, 1851, he married Rosa Gerber, a Swiss woman he had met during his travels, in Boston. “Bouquet of Roses,” one of the first chromolithographic prints he created, was fashioned in her honor.

It was the American public’s fascination with Civil War territory disputes, battles and troop movements coupled with the lack of newspapers’ ability to print photographic images which provided Prang with a unique opportunity to put his skills to use. He manufactured some of the first mass produced maps with red and blue lines, which illustrated troop movements and positions of opposing forces on the battlefields. It allowed those on the home-front to track troop advances and retreats through victories and defeats throughout the war. By 1864, the soaring popularity of these maps provided Prang with enough money to travel with his wife and daughter to Europe. Around 1864, he took the concept of well wishing cards from the 1840s and published a series of Christmas themed prints, intended to decorate private dwellings. At the suggestion of a London colleague’s wife in the 1870s, Prang omitted the names and addresses on his popular trade cards and instead inserted seasonal greetings, thus creating the modern Christmas card. The end of the Civil War and Prang’s return to the United States set in motion his efforts to produce commercial art prints replicating the high quality of European art at a semi-affordable price, yet he was unsure of American acceptance and reaction to finer and more expensive art at about $6.00 a print. He produced his first chromolithograph, which he dubbed as “chromos,” in 1866. They were cheaper yet high quality reproductions of original oil paintings he had admired elsewhere. Culture purists and opponents labeled Prang’s reproductions as “frauds” and “shams.” Despite his critics, he won a host of awards on the international scale for his work. In 1898, tragedy struck as his wife, Rosa Gerber Prang, passed away. On April 15, 1900, Louis Prang married long time business associate, Mary Dana Hicks, and the two remained happily married until Louis Prang’s death in 1909 at a California sanitarium. He had been an outspoken advocate for bringing art, previously enjoyed only by the privileged few, into the classroom through the introduction of products like watercolor paints, which immortalized his name for generations of schoolchildren. The Prang Educational Company oversaw these efforts, which were taken on by American Crayon Company upon the merger of the two.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The American Crayon Company


The American Crayon Company, steeped in Sandusky’s colorful history as one of the premier and foremost manufacturers of school art supplies and other industrial products in the nation during its time, originally grew out of the need for a high quality chalk. It soon branched out of a humble kitchen into a national company primarily operated and concentrated in the city of Sandusky. It expanded over time by merging with and absorbing other companies and redirecting its product line focus, and also established itself as a lifetime employer of countless Sanduskians. With the acquisition of Prang’s Educational Company around 1915, the American Crayon Company adopted and incorporated Prang Educational Company’s mission to make art accessible to the common American household and child by way of the public classroom, thus cementing its historical impact on a local and national scale.

In 1835, Dr. Francis F. Field, a dentist in Waltham, Massachusetts experimented with chalk, which was later developed into a commercial product by Parmenter, Powell & Powers Company to become known as Waltham Crayons. Similarly, Marcellus F. Cowdery, the first superintendent of Sandusky’s Public Schools, frustrated by existing chalks constantly scratching slate boards, encouraged his brother-in-law, William D. Curtis, to formulate an improved chalk. In 1850 Curtis began conducting experiments in the kitchen of his small home, located on Hayes Avenue near Polk Street and was able to create a few sticks of pure white, processed chalk. Plentiful gypsum and limestone deposits, used in the production of this chalk, were conveniently located nearby, alongside Sandusky Bay. Initially, the business remained small and was operated out of Curtis’s kitchen, as he peddled the product from house to house. The invitation of John S. Cowdery, Marcellus’s brother into this new business venture, sparked company growth, as by 1869, John Cowdery’s cellar on Columbus Avenue became the center of operations for chalk production for the Mississippi and Ohio River Valley markets. By 1860, the American Crayon Company had made the first tailor’s chalk, the first carpenter’s chalk, and in 1878 created the first railroad chalk. Originally labeled as the J.S. Cowdery Manufacturers the company quickly renamed itself Western School Supply in 1884 after expanding production facilities in 1881 near Hayes Avenue and Polk Street to meet the growing demands for school related products.

In 1890, the Sandusky based Western School Supply Company merged with Tiffin Crayon Company and the Parmenter Crayon Company in Waltham, Massachusetts to officially form and establish the American Crayon Company. On October 4, 1901, a fire destroyed the company’s original Sandusky plant, and a larger one on Hayes Avenue south of the New York Central Railroad tracks was opened in September 1902. The revitalized company began purchasing additional art supply companies in New England and the Midwest.
World War I interrupted commercial trade between many nations including the United States and Germany. Prang’s heavy reliance on German chemicals and products to manufacture its own items was impeded by decreased availability before and during World War I. These circumstances pushed Prang Educational Company and American Crayon Company into a merger in 1913. The combined companies organized their own small independent watercolor factory in Sandusky called Kroma Color Company. American Crayon Company’s complete take- over of the Prang Educational Company around 1915 gave them the rights to use the unmistakable “Prang” trademark of the “Old Faithful” geyser at Yellowstone National Park as their advertising logo symbolizing quality, value, and tradition. The American Crayon Company manufactured a long line of crayons, chalks, blackboards, erasers, watercolors, pencils, paste, cleaners, and other more industrial items, such as chalk for tailors, carpenters, textile mills, and railroad stockyards. The growing success and popularity of the American Crayon Company led to its prosperous operation at the original Sandusky plant through the 1920s to the 1950s.

In January 1957, the American Crayon Company became an affiliate of Joseph Dixon Crucible Company, based in Jersey City, New Jersey. The news was followed by high hopes and promises to continue labor operations in Sandusky and deter little from the existing set up. The unpredictable nature of business and changing economy led to the Bryn Mawr Corporation’s 1984 purchase of American Crayon’s parent company, Joseph Dixon Crucible. Dixon Ticonderoga, established much earlier than American Crayon Company, produced similar products but tended to focus more on industrial supplies. Although predictions and negotiations continued and were meant to reassure the ongoing operation of the Sandusky plant following its acquisition, gradually labor and plant operations along with a host of selected employees were outsourced to Canada and Mexico. Eventually, all the operations were progressively moved out of the original Sandusky plant, and it closed its doors in 2002 after 167 years of service in Sandusky, Ohio as a loyal and long-term employer in the community. American Crayon Company opened a new world of art to young children and provided a major source of employment for the local community, earning itself an important place in Sandusky’s history of development and business.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Reverend Philip Ried, of Castalia

Rev. Philip Ried (sometimes spelled Reid) was the first pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Castalia. Rev. Theodore Stellhorn had taught catechism to some of the young people in Margaretta Township in the early 1900’s, but in the summer of 1901, Rev. Ried was called to minister to three different parishes, those in Mustcash (an area of Western Erie County near Crystal Rock), Groton Township, and Castalia. Rev. Ried traveled between the congregations on horseback and taught catechism classes in his home.

A building fund was started in 1905, and the cornerstone for the Lutheran Church in Castalia was laid on October 2, 1910. Dedication of the new church building was held on August 27, 1911. In February of 1912, only five months after the church’s dedication, Rev. Philip Ried died. He had been attending a session of Luther League in Toledo, when he was suddenly was taken ill. Rev. Ried had been well respected in the community. His obituary, from the front page of the February 6, 1912 Sandusky Daily Register reported that Rev. Reid was “a faithful worker and an excellent preacher as well as a man whose advice and counsel was sought in affairs of citizenship as well as religion, the Rev. Mr. Reid had none but friends. There were many manifestations of sorrow when the announcement of his death was received at Castalia.”

Rev. Philip Ried’s parents outlived him by many years. At the Castalia Cemetery, there is a striking monument on the Ried family plot. The cross is inscribed with the words “Simply to thy cross I cling.”
At the base of the Ried monument is the Ried surname, formed in the shape of tree branches.
A booklet marking the 75th anniversary of the founding of Grace Lutheran Church provides a history of the church. It is found, along with many other church histories from Erie County, at the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sandusky's Community Song Book

In April, 1922 the Sandusky Chamber of Commerce published a song book which sold for fifteen cents. Local song leader George W. Wiles wrote in the preface that the intention of community singing was “to inspire good fellowship.” He stated that the real worth of community singing “lies in its power to lift all classes out of sordid and selfish thinking, and to create an atmosphere of courage, good cheer, and receptivity.”

Many patriotic songs were included in the song booklet, as well as traditional songs and regional favorites, such as “Dixie” and “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.” Comical songs were also included, in which new lyrics were sung to a well-known tune. For example, “The Old Family Toothbrush” was sung to the tune of “The Old Oaken Bucket.”
George W. Wiles served as the Erie County Treasurer from 1918 through 1923. It was said that during his campaign, he literally “sang himself into office.” During World War One, George was active in leading community singing, and he voice was greatly admired. After leaving office, Mr. Wiles was associated with the Zerbe-Wiles Real Estate Agency. On June 6, 1927, at the age of 45, George W. Wiles took his own life, after becoming despondent over a lingering illness. He was missed greatly by his family and friends. He had been a member of the Elks Lodge, Eagles, Loyal Order of Moose, Independent Order of Foresters, Perseverance Lodge, and the Sandusky Kiwanis Club. Burial was in Oakland Cemetery. An obituary for George W. Wiles is found in the 1927 Obituary Notebook in the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Program Announcement: Sanduskians Discuss The Great Depression


Join us on Sunday, April 19, at 2:00 p.m. for "instant oral histories," as community members speak of their memories and family stories of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Join in the conversation with your own memories or family stories, or just listen and learn about this difficult era in American history and the lives of Sanduskians during that time. Registration is requested. To register, call the Library at 419-625-3834.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Program Announcement: Fashions of the 1930s


Join Museum Curator Maggie Marconi at the Follett House Museum on Saturday, April 18, at 2:00 p.m. and explore how news stories, trends, culture, and more influenced fashion during the 1930s, and examine some of the fine examples from the Museum's collection. Registration is requested. To register, call the Library at 419-625-3834.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ladies in Hats -- Mrs. Jay C. Butler and Daughter Elizabeth

Pictured below, in their fancy hats, are the wife and daughter of Jay C. Butler, a prominent Sandusky businessman. In the 1880’s Jay C. Butler and his brother George had a business at the southwest corner of Water and Decatur Streets. They manufactured doors, sashes, blinds, and other building materials and office furniture. Jay C. Butler had served as a Lieutenant in Co. B of the 101st Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War. He died in 1885, when he was only forty years of age.
Jay C. Butler’s wife was Elizabeth Hubbard, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Watson Hubbard. (She is on the right in the photograph above.) Elizabeth Hubbard Butler was born in Michigan on April 23, 1852. She resided at 429 Wayne Street, and lived to be 91 years old, passing away in 1943. Mr. and Mrs. Butler’s daughter, also named Elizabeth, (on the left in the photo) was born in 1884. Elizabeth Butler married Frederick Harten. In 1932, Fred Harten was the president of the Harten-Brooks Motor Company, at 424 Huron Avenue in Sandusky. In the 1930 Census, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Harten had two adopted children. Also living in the household were a nurse, a cook, a butler, and a chauffeur.

It appears that Elizabeth and Fred Harten may have divorced, as they are not buried in the same location. At Oakland Cemetery, Mr. and Mrs. Jay Butler are buried in Block 61, along with their daughter Elizabeth Butler Harten.

In 1930, Watson Hubbard Butler, the son of Jay C. Butler published a book of his father’s letters written during the Civil War. You can find the book Letters Home, by Jay Caldwell Butler, at the library of the R. B. Hayes Presidential Center. An obituary for Jay Caldwell Butler was carried in the 1888 issue of the Firelands Pioneer.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Program Announcement: Photography of the 1930s (Brown-Bag Lunch Series)


Bring your lunch and join us in the Library Program Room (Terrace Level) as we explore topics in local history. On Wednesday, April 15, at 12:00 noon -- Photography of the 1930s. Dr. Andrew E. Hershberger, Associate Professor of Contemporary Art History and Chair of the Division of Art History at BGSU will discuss Social Documentary Photography: The Farm Security Administration. The FSA, one of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs, employed photographers to capture daily life during the Great Depression. The resulting photographs speak volumes about Americans from every corner of the country, with an emphasis on rural citizens and American farms and small towns. Join us as we look back at a selection of iconic photographs from the 1930s and explore photography through the lens of renowned Depression-era photographers. Registration is requested. To register, call 419-625-3834 and press 0 to speak with a switchboard operator (9-5, Monday-Friday) or press Option 6 to leave a message.

(The above photograph, "Eighteen Year-old Mother from Oklahoma, Now a California Migrant," by Dorothea Lange, is from
Documenting America, Library of Congress)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Victorian Trade Cards from Graham Drug Store

Reaching a peak of popularity in the late nineteenth century, Trade Cards were used to advertise products and services. Often the cards were distributed by the manufacturer, and the name of the local merchant selling their product was stamped on the card.
A trade card advertising Dr. D. Jayne’s Expectorant and Vermifuge features a little girl and a dog, with the message on the back assuring customers that the remedies of Dr. D. Jayne were safe to use.
The card which pictures two hunters let area residents know that W. A. Graham was happy to supply medicines to both English and German speaking customers.
Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound was one of the best selling patent medicines in American history. Graham Drug Store carried this popular remedy.The Graham family operated a drug store in Sandusky from 1845 until 1926. An article in the Sandusky Register of March 15, 1915 reported that W. A. Graham “was one of the best known and best prepared druggists in this part of the state.” W. A. Graham had taken over his father’s drugstore in Sandusky. The Graham Drug Store building is featured in the newly published Downtown Architectural Walking Tour of Sandusky, Ohio, which lists 1868 as the date the building was constructed. (Daly’s Pub now occupies the building at 102 Columbus Avenue.)

To learn more about Victorian Trade Cards, here are three excellent online exhibits:

Victorian Trade Card Exhibit, from Miami University Libraries

The 19th Century American Trade Card, from Harvard’s Baker Library

Emergence of Advertising in America, 1850-1920, from Duke University’s Digital Collections