Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Sandusky's Montgomery Ward Illustrates the Evolution of Retail

The Montgomery Ward company began in 1872 as a mail-order business selling goods from an annual catalog. Facing stiff competition from its catalog sale competitor, Sears Roebuck, it began opening retail stores in 1926, one year after Sears took this step.

From the 1930s through the 1950s, Montgomery Ward had a store in downtown Sandusky on the 200 block of Columbus Avenue, on the west side of the street. In the picture above, taken in 1938, you can see both the Montgomery Ward store and the J.C. Penney store as area residents enjoy the Northwest Territory Celebration parade. 

The postwar trend to suburban style shopping centers was followed in Sandusky. From about 1964 through the 1970s, Montgomery Ward had a catalog store in a shopping center location at 208 East Perkins Avenue. At this store, you could order or pick up orders from the Montgomery Ward catalog.

Household appliances were also sold at the Perkins Avenue store.

Televisions sold in 1968 were not nearly as technologically advanced as the television sets owned by most Americans today.

Our region joined the shopping mall era when the Sandusky Mall opened in 1977, and Montgomery Ward soon followed. From 1979 until about 1984, the Montgomery Ward store was one of the anchor stores of the Sandusky Mall.

But as with several other large retail chains, Wards began to struggle financially, and in 1984 closed their Sandusky Mall Store. By 1986 the Sears store had relocated from the Perkins Plaza to the Sandusky Mall, in the former location of the Montgomery Ward store. 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Ruggiero Ricelli was a “Man of Many Jobs”

Ruggiero Ricelli was born in Italy in 1879, and emigrated to Sandusky around 1893. Beginning in 1895, he operated a fruit and confectionery cart at the corner of Columbus Avenue and Market Street in Sandusky. Later he ran a store in the Cooke building, and eventually he set up shop at 119-121 East Market Street.

In the early twentieth century Mr. Ricelli served as an advisor to local residents of Italian descent. He helped them write letters to family members back in Italy, and aided them in understanding business conditions of their new town. In the Erie County Common Pleas Court, he served as an interpreter whenever knowledge of his native language was needed. He also was a Notary Public, and by 1911, he was an agent for several steamship lines which traveled from New York to Italy. For several years, he was president of the American Fruit Company, which was located on Water Street

Mr. Ricelli’s first wife was Arcangela Carapetta; they had a son, Orlando C. Ricelli. Dr. O.C. Ricelli was one of the founders of the first Memorial Hospital in Sandusky, along with Dr. Lester Mylander and Dr. Carle Koehler. (Note: in later years, Dr. Orlando C. Ricelli changed the spelling of his surname to Ricely.)  Arcangela Carapetta Ricelli died in 1920 at the age of 32. In 1922, Ruggiero  Ricelli married Minnie Augusta Barnett, and they had two children, John and Jeanne.

Ruggiero  Ricelli died at the age of 66 on September 26, 1945. An obituary for Mr. Ricelli, sometimes spelled Riccelli, appeared in the Sandusky Register Star News on September 26, 1945.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

“A Hero in Rags” Presented by the Social Footlight Club

In May of 1909 the Social Footlight Club presented a play entitled “A Hero in Rags” at the Sidley Memorial Hall in Saints Peter and Paul school. Victor W. Brown was the leading man in the play. Other cast members were: William A. Brune, Carl Swigert, Archie Blainey, Norma Heir, Pearl Roesch, and Ethel Herman. Charles C. Corell served as the musical director for the performance. Special acts were also performed by “The Elmores” and Byer and Moos, an acrobatic team. 

The Social Footlight Club was a theatrical club begun by a group of young men in Sandusky in 1906, with Chester Weis as its first president. Victor W. Brown was connected with a variety of amateur theatrical events in the 1900s to the 1920s

Monday, May 09, 2022

Samuel C. Wheeler, Sandusky Attorney


When Samuel C. Wheeler died at age 79 on February 21, 1908, he was the oldest member of the Erie County Bar Association. For many years, he practiced law in the Cooke Block in downtown Sandusky.

Before the Civil War, Mr. Wheeler was a member of Bay City Guards, a local militia company. During the Civil War, he enlisted in Company E of the 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and he rose to the rank of Sergeant. 

On the occasion of Mr. Wheeler’s seventy-seventh birthday, several of his friends had a celebration. Cyrus B. Winters gave a speech, and a special poster was presented to him. On a large piece of cardboard was a picture of Samuel C. Wheeler and on each side of the poster was a numeral seven, made from the tags of Battle Ax plug tobacco.  

Mr. Wheeler suffered an injury when he fell on the icy sidewalk as he left his office two months prior to his death, and his health failed after the accident. Funeral services were held at his home on Madison Street in Sandusky, under the auspices of Science Lodge, No. 50, F. & A.M. He was buried in Oakland Cemetery. In an obituary which appeared in the February 22, 1908 issue of the Sandusky Register, it was reported that no man “was better known throughout the city and county than he was.”

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Fred Kranz, Sandusky Businessman

Fred Kranz was born in Nassau, Germany in 1841; in 1848 he came to the United States with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Balthasar Kranz. The Kranz family settled in Perkins Township of Erie County, Ohio.  Fred was raised on the family farm, and at the age of fifteen he was trained in the tinner’s trade. 

In the 1860s, he worked for Flood, Geasen and Company, tinsmiths in Sandusky. By 1884, he was the senior partner in the company. The advertisement for F. Kranz below appeared in the 1884 edition of the R. L. Polk & Company’s Marine Directory of the Great Lakes.

A biographical sketch about Fred Kranz, which appeared in History of Erie County, Ohio, edited by Lewis Cass Aldrich, stated that Mr. Kranz had an extensive and well-equipped establishment, and he specialized in lime kiln work. In 1894, he had the contract for Faultless Furman boilers. also that year he installed a heating system in the Edward Jarecki residence on Central Avenue. Before that, in 1884, he installed a heating system at Holy Angels Church. There were two supply coils, and one-half coils under each seat, in a system which was devised by Mr. Kranz. 

By 1896 Fred Kranz was the proprietor of the Sandusky Metal Works.

The advertisement from the 1896 Sandusky City Directory indicated by F. Kranz was a wholesale and retail dealer in plumbers’ supplies; gas and steam fitter; and also did tin, copper, and sheet iron work. he seemed to adapt his skills as the needs of his customers evolved through the years. 

On May 5, 1899, Fred Kranz died at his residence at the age of 55. He left behind a wife, the former Caroline Traub, and four children. An obituary which appeared in the Sandusky Star of May 6, 1899, read in part, “During his long residence in Sandusky Mr. Kranz had won the esteem and respect of all who knew him. His private life and business methods had made many friends who will learn of his death with sorrow.”  To read more about the Kranz family and other Sandusky residents of German origin, see the book Sandusky Then and Now,  housed with the genealogy books at the Sandusky Library.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Publicity Photos from The New Dominion


On April 30, 1903, an amateur production of the play The New Dominion was presented by the Joe Jefferson Club at the Neilsen Opera House in Sandusky. The play was written by Broadway playwright Clay Clement, Sr.  

A.J. Peters portrayed the Baron Franz Victor Von Hohenstauffen. Mr. Peters is pictured below with Adah Kunz, who played Miss Flora May Randolph in the play.

E.L. Marsh played the character of Mr. Marshall Boner. The part of Miss Martha Boland was played by Mrs. G.E. Wilder.

Local photographer W.A. Bishop played Mr. J. Charles McVeigh in the play.

The May 1, 1903 issue of the Sandusky Register reported that the performance was a “flawless production.” A.J. Peters gave a finished performance, and Mr. Bishop was humorous in his love scenes. The Register article stated that “The characters were well cast and showed to the best of their ability, the attention and interest they centered in their accredited parts.” Theodore Taubert’s ten piece orchestra played musical selections between acts. 

Visit the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center to view the complete collection of publicity photographs from “The New Dominion.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Memorial to President Ulysses S. Grant

While we cannot be certain that any Sandusky residents attended the dedication of the Memorial to President Ulysses S. Grant in Washington D.C., Mrs. John T. Mack bequeathed the program from the dedication exercises to the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center. 

Civil War veterans in both blue and gray attended the ceremonies, which took place on the 100th anniversary of the birthday of President Grant, one hundred years ago, on April 27, 1922. Princess Cantacuzene, born Julia Dent Grant, the granddaughter of former President Grant, and her daughter Princess Ida Cantacuzene unveiled the Memorial. A parade made up of soldiers, sailors, and Marines participated in the ceremonies, which included a 21 gun salute and “doves of peace” being released.

According to the April 28, 1922 issue of the Sandusky Register, President Harding addressed a crowd of 15,000 people in President Grant's birthplace, Point Pleasant, Ohio on the former President's 100th birthday, April 27, 1922. President Harding praised Grant as a great hero and military leader.

After President Grant died on July 23, 1885, the city of Sandusky conducted a memorial to the late President on  August 8, the same day as his funeral in New York city. Businesses and private homes in Sandusky were draped with black cloths to pay respects to former President Grant. Flags were at half-mast on boats in the port of Sandusky as well as at government buildings in the city. A parade took place from Market Street to Biemiller’s Opera House; hundreds of mourners were turned away from Sandusky’s memorial service because the Opera House was filled to capacity. I.F. Mack presided at the service, and music was provided by the Great Western Band.

Isaac Foster Mack, 1837-1912

Rev. David J. Meese, of the First Presbyterian Church, spoke about General Grant’s boyhood days. Rev. George H. Peeke, of the First Congregational Church, spoke of Grant as an ideal hero. Rev. F. K. Brooke, of Grace Church, spoke about the peace in the United States as evidenced by those who mourned Grant from both the northern and southern states of the United States. Other speakers of the day included Rev. A. B. Nicholas, A.H. Moss, Homer Goodwin, and F. W. Alvord. When the Honorable Oran Follett spoke, he alluded to Shakespeare as he said in part, “We have met today to praise, not to bury, the man who had the courage and ability to lead us to a great victory.” 

Oran Follett, 1798-1894

The Great Western Band played a final song, and the audience dispersed after the McMeens Post of G.A.R. left in a group.

Great Western Band

Visit the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center to learn more about the history of the former residents and businesses of Sandusky and Erie County, Ohio.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Floyd Churchwell, First African American Police Officer in Sandusky


Born in Tennessee in 1930, Floyd Churchwell moved to Sandusky as a teen, graduating from Sandusky High School in 1947. After having served in the Korean War, he was appointed to the Sandusky Police Department in 1956 as its first African American officer.

By 1965, Officer Churchwell was promoted to Sergeant; he achieved the rank of Captain two years later, on August 16, 1967.

In 1979, Captain Churchwell was appointed to be the Sandusky Police Department's community relations and court officer. 

Sadly, Captain Churchwell died suddenly on October 8, 1980, but he has left a continuing legacy of service to the community. During his brief lifetime, he served in many roles, including as trustee of Ebenezer Baptist Church, a member of the Fraternal Order of Police, past master of Progress Lodge 85, and several others. Sandusky's Churchwell Park is named in his honor, and the Floyd Churchwell Court #8, Most Ancient Prince Hall Grand Court, Heroines of Jericho, was constituted in Sandusky in 1988. 

Monday, April 18, 2022

Nineteenth Century Children's Photographs

Elma and Frank Geib were the children of Frank Geib and Minnie Emrich Geib. Minnie may have been related to the Emrich family from Sandusky, but to date we have not determined a solid connection. Elma Geib married Frederick Schniewind, who was a pioneer in the introduction of by-product coke ovens for use in the manufacturing of illuminating gas. Elma Geib Schniewind’s son, Carl O. Schniewind, was a well known art historian who was head of the Prints Department of the Art Institute of Chicago. Elma Geib Schniewind died in New York City in 1964, and she is buried with her husband at Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery. After her death, she donated works of art to the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum.

Elma Geib, born in Ohio in 1875 is pictured below in a photograph taken about 1881 by Henry Biddle, a Cleveland photographer.

Elma’s brother, Franz Geib, was born in Ohio in 1873. He later went by the name of Frank Geib. He became a physician in Cleveland, and passed away in June of 1956.

It is not known who donated these photographs to the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center, but they show us the style of clothing of two youngsters from Ohio, born to a father who was a native of Germany. Both Elma and Frank grew up to have full lives, and it is interesting to see how they appeared before they started on their journey to adulthood.

Friday, April 15, 2022

The Worthington Nims Homestead in Groton Township

According to the book Pioneers’ Progress: The First 25 Years of Lyme Township and Strongs Ridge, by Adeline Wright(written for the Historic Lyme Church Association), Worthington Nims was one of three brothers who came from Massachusetts to the Strong Ridge area of Lyme Township in Erie County, Ohio in the Spring of 1826. By that fall their father Asa Nims moved to Ohio as well. 

On September 21, 1827, Worthington Nims traveled back to his Massachusetts to marry Betsy Barnard. The newlyweds’ trip back to Ohio took a total of seventeen days, several of them spent traveling on the Erie Canal. During their first winter in Ohio, Mr. and Mrs. Worthington Nims lived in a covered wagon, between the log houses of other Nims families. 

On the occasion of their fiftieth wedding anniversary in 1877, a Bellevue newspaper wrote about the couple: “By industry and wise management on the part of both, Mr. and Mrs. Nims are rightly regarded as wealthy farmers.” The etching of the Nims residence which is pictured above appeared on page 36 of the Combination Atlas Map of Erie County, published in 1874 by Stewart & Page. A home, several outbuildings, and livestock and equipment can be seen in the drawing. 

You can view a copy of the 1874 historical atlas at the Sandusky Library, where you also can find histories of several Ohio towns and counties, including three titles about the history of Lyme Township.