Friday, December 15, 2006

Scenes of Christmas in Sandusky

Some scenes from past Christmases in Sandusky. . . . The children above are opening their presents in 1938.

These Christmas trees were from around 1900. It looks like the child was enjoying her Christmas. (I think Santa Claus was, too.)

A Christmas tree from 1905, and another from 1938.

A view of Columbus Avenue in downtown Sandusky, circa 1935.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas Traditions in Sandusky

Sandusky, like much of the United States, did very little to celebrate Christmas and the winter holidays in the early part of the 19th century.

Ohio became a state in 1803, and the City of Sandusky was platted in 1818. In 1818, and for many of the following years, Sandusky was still on the edge of the wilderness, gradually becoming an established city. Sandusky grew along with the nation, and as the nation grew, it established holiday traditions.

These traditions have certainly evolved over time. An 1818 resident of Sandusky wouldn’t recognize our holidays of today, and vice versa. Christmas in the early 19th century was usually just another day, perhaps marked by a visit to church, or reading a few passages from the bible. No holiday decorations were put out, or special meals prepared. However, as the 19th century progressed, so too did the celebration of Christmas.

A study of the Sandusky Register and ads and announcements related to the Christmas holidays (or the lack thereof) offer insight in to how Sanduskians marked the day. In 1822, 1824 and 1825, the papers on Christmas Eve Day and Christmas Day are like the papers preceding and following—no mention of Christmas whatsoever. No newspapers from the 1830s are extant, however no mention of Christmas appears in the 1840s until Christmas Day 1849, when an announcement in the Sandusky Clarion stated “We wish you all a Merry Christmas.” This is also the first time that advertisements for holiday gifts appear in the newspaper: suggested by the advertisers are feathers (from a milliner), books and toys. These ads are small and one must read through the entire paper to find them.

In 1851, a lengthy ad mentioned a variety of book titles that would make suitable gifts Another long ad proclaimed “We beg leave to call the attention of the Ladies of Sandusky City and vicinity to our stock of Fancy goods just received from New York.”

Also in 1851, we find a mention of Santa Claus—“Santa Claus Head-Quarters! At the Music and Variety Store!” A few years later, in 1853, the paper published a short story entitled “TOPPS FASHION’S Christmas Eve Adventures,” which was written expressly for the Sandusky Register. An ad later in that paper suggested several different items for Christmas including silver plate tea sets, coffee urns, cake baskets, sugar and butter dishes, fish knives and forks, candlesticks and more. Paper mache items such as work boxes, backgammon boards, glove boxes and ink trays were for sale, along with rosewood cases, Parian marble statues and figurines, terra cotta ware, porte monnaies in silver, gilt, pearl, velvet silk and more. A wide variety of games were advertised, many of them unknown to us, including Uncle Tom, Peter Abroad, Sham Fights, bell and Hammer, What do you Buy, Fox and geese, lots, domino’s mansion of happiness, reward of virtue, doct. Busby, Tivoli boards, puzzles, magic lanterns, flags of all nations, dissecting maps, ninepins, backgammon boards and more. In addition, ads mentioned tea trays and cutlery.

An 1852 ad from William Burnet announces the latest selection of French and German toys. While most of these are familiar to us today, it’s unlikely to find many of these items on a 21st century child’s Christmas list.
Magic Lanterns
Building blocks
Butcher shops,
Noah’s Arks
Horse and Drays
Bows and Arrows

By 1908, holiday editions of the Sandusky Register of packed full of advertisements meant to catch shoppers’ attention. J. Mertz’s eye catching ad, surrounded by holly and topped off with St. Nick proclaims “This store is asparkle with hints for Xmas Gifts. Our goods are selected with a forethought to your needs, arranged with consummate skill for easy choosing, priced with rare business judgment for quick selling. A few dollars will buy more solid comfort and real enjoyment now than was ever known since the first coming of “Kris Kringle” Other ads shout out “Only 20 shopping days left between now and Xmas” just as they do in modern times!

Friday, December 01, 2006

E.B. Ackley — Musician, Bandleader

In Sandusky, E.B. Ackley is fondly remembered as a band leader. He led a rich life that took him all over the country before finally settling in Sandusky. He was born November 1, 1871 in Illinois. Ackley came from a musical family, and took up the cornet at 12. He studied with Carl Kaltenborn of New York who had been the solo cornetist with Gilmore’s famous band for 12 years. At one time, Ackley enjoyed the reputation of being one of the best B flat cornetists in the country.

Before arriving in Sandusky, Ackley traveled the continent with different groups. He spent a season with the Hattie Bernard Chase Company and a season with the Great Eastern Show, a season with the Floyd Concert Company. He spent a season in Omaha, Nebraska with the Farnham Street Theater, as well as a season in Youngstown at the Grand opera House. When he came to Sandusky he spent several seasons at the Nielson Opera House.

As a young man, he worked for the Gorman Minstrel Show and traveled all over the country. Fred Baumann, of the Great Western Band, heard Ackley Perform and brought him to Sandusky. This was shortly before the Great Western Band dissolved. Ackley then created his own band. He arrived in Sandusky in 1893 and worked as the director of music at Cedar Point and as the instructor of the Sandusky Band and Orchestra. He wrote the Cedar Point March in 1902, the first piece of music dedicated to the resort.

In 1898, Eugene Ackley joined Professor Leon’s Military Band of Toledo and took part in the inaugural exercises in Columbus at the State Capital for the inaugural exercises of the second term governor Asa Bushnell.

E.B. Ackley married Ida Frohman in 1904. For many years, he ran a successful billiard parlor equipped with twelve tables. At the time of his death in 1957, he was the chairman of the board of the Western Security Bank. He is buried at Oakland Cemetery.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Announcement: New Local History Photograph Book

A new local history book, Erie County and the Erie Isles: A Pictorial History of the Early Years, has been published (just in time for the holidays) by Pediment Publishing. Presented by the Sandusky Register and the Sandusky Library, the book contains hundreds of images of scenes of life in Erie County before 1940, from photographs in the library's collections and from contributions of local residents.

A great coffee table book, Erie County and the Erie Isles is available for purchase ($39.95) at the Register or at the library's gift shop -- or you may order it online via the Register's website.

Join us in the Library Program Room on Sunday, December 10 at 1PM for a book release celebration, where you can purchase copies of the book, learn about how it came together, and see original copies of some of the images in the book (some more than 100 years old).

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

As many of you might remember learning in grade school, the first "official" Thanksgiving was proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln during the height of the Civil War, in 1863, in honor of the first Thanksgiving held by the pilgrims in Plymouth during the 17th century. But even before President Lincoln made Thanksgiving a holiday, it was traditionally celebrated by many people. The first letter below is evidence of that:

In this letter, Judge Samuel Caldwell of Sandusky has invited Samuel Butler and his wife Clara to his home for Thanksgiving dinner. (We know pumpkin pie was on the menu!) The date of the letter is November 23, 1846, nearly twenty years before the national holiday was observed. (It is also interesting to note that even then Thanksgiving was celebrated on a Thursday in November -- nobody seems to know for sure why this day was chosen.)

The second letter is from Eliza Follett, the wife of Oran Follett, requesting contributions from local residents to provide Thanksgiving food to the wives and children of soldiers serving in the Civil War. Mrs. Follett was very active in community service and charitable work, as can be inferred from this letter.

Have a happy Thanksgiving. . .

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Football Season!

In commemoration of the big football game coming up this weekend (no, not Manchester United v. Chelsea -- that's later in the month; I mean the one between those schools on US 23) , I thought I'd show some scenes from early football in Sandusky.

The image above is of the very first Sandusky High School football team in 1901. (Did you know that SHS had a basketball team before it had a football team?) The 1901 team went 2-1, defeating Cleveland West (16-5) and Norwalk (10-5), but losing to Toledo Scott, 34-0.

The 1906 SHS team (pictured here) was Sandusky's first undefeated team, winning all five of its games without allowing a single point. They defeated Fremont twice, Lorain Senior twice, and Norwalk.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Helen M. Hansen, 1902-2006

Helen Hansen, a former curator of the Follett House Museum, died Sunday morning, after a long and rich life. She was 104. The photo above shows Mrs. Hansen while at work in the museum, holding a copy of an original plat map of the city of Sandusky. She served at the museum beyond the age of 90.

As many know, Mrs. Hansen was a dedicated local historian; with Virginia Steinemann, she wrote a series of history-related articles for the Sandusky Register for several years. These articles were the foundation for a two-volume book series, From the Widow's Walk. Additionally, Mrs. Hansen was the author of At Home in Early Sandusky, a book about the histories of early homes in Sandusky and their occupants. In her many years of service at the Follett House Museum and as an independent historian, Mrs. Hansen was instrumental in preserving and promoting the history of Sandusky, through her curatorship of the historical collections and her extensive historical research. The collections of the museum and the Archives Research Center substantially reflect her contributions.

The community owes a deep debt of gratitude to Helen Hansen for her contributions to preserving its history.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Dr. McMeens Inducted into Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame

Dr. Robert R. McMeens, who served in both the Mexican War and the Civil War, was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Columbus on Thursday, November 2.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1820, Dr. McMeens received his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1841, and migrated to Tiffin, Ohio shortly thereafter. He settled in Sandusky in 1849. During his medical practice in Sandusky, he treated many of the victims of the several cholera outbreaks that struck the city (in 1849, 1852, and 1854). (A report he wrote on cholera for the Ohio State Medical Society in 1857 is excerpted in Peeke's book, A Standard History of Erie County, Ohio, available in the library.)

As a soldier, Dr. McMeens served as a surgeon in the Mexican War of 1846-48. Back in Sandusky, in 1851, he founded and commanded the Bay City Guards, a local militia. Upon the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, Dr. McMeens returned to active duty, again as a surgeon, in the Third Regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He died while serving at the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky on October 30, 1862. The Firelands Pioneer of January 1888 quoted a letter written by a fellow surgeon on the day after Dr. McMeens' death: "He has fallen while nobly working at his post; although suffering greatly from disease, he refused to abandon his work, and performed several important surgical operations only a few hours before his death."

Sandusky resident Dr. Robert Bartholomew, who was instrumental in garnering this recognition for Dr. McMeens, accepted the award in Dr. McMeens' honor at the induction ceremony.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Some Gave All . . .

As I hope you know, Veterans Day is commemorated on November 11 in recognition of the armistice that ended World War I, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Millions of lives were lost in that war, including more than 125,000 American soldiers. Sandusky and Erie County suffered its share of losses, with around 40 men dying in service. The Sandusky Library Archives Research Center holds material relating to the lives and deaths of two men of Erie County who gave their lives in the First World War.

John A. Michel was born in Cleveland on November 24, 1892, the son of William and Caroline Michel. He lived with his parents in the family home on Huntington Avenue in Sandusky, and worked for the Hinde and Dauch Paper Company before entering the war. Drafted into the Army, he was inducted on May 26, 1918 and sent to the European battlefield for the final offensive at Meuse-Argonne. Private Michel was killed in battle on November 8, 1918 -- three days before the end of the war; one of the last Sandusky men to die in the war.

The first man from Sandusky to die in the First World War, was Corporal Elmer A. Reese of the U.S. Marine Corps. Born in Niles, Ohio on August 12, 1896, he volunteered for service on May 19, 1917, and was sent to Quantico for training on August 1, 1917. While in Quantico, he wrote a letter to the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, offering thanks for the gifts they sent and describing life at camp. (This letter is part of the archival collections at the Sandusky Library; you can read it online here.) He was shipped to France on February 12, 1918 with the American Expeditionary Forces. On June 18, 1918, Corporal Reese was killed in the battle of Belleau Wood. His body was returned to Sandusky in 1921, and he was buried in Oakland Cemetery.

To see a photo of Elmer Reese and most other men and women from Erie County who served in World War I, see the book, Honor Roll of Ohio, 1917-1918, Erie County Edition, which is available in the genealogy department of the Sandusky Library. (I had intended to post Corporal Reese's picture in this entry, but . . . let's not talk about Blogger again.)

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Honoring Our Veterans

In honor of all veterans, in commemoration of Veterans Day on November 11, we offer a tribute to a World War I veteran from Sandusky. Wilford Schleicher was born in Sandusky on October 30 (or 31), 1895. A sales manager for the American Crayon Company, his life changed dramatically in 1917, when he was called to service when the United States entered the Great War that had been going on in Europe since 1914.

Wilford Schleicher was enlisted into the United States Army on September 20, 1917, and assigned to Company K of the 329th Infantry, 83rd Division. He was trained at Camp Sherman in Chillicothe, where most of Sandusky's recruits went for training. In June of 1918, he and his fellow soldiers departed the United States for the war zone of Europe. By October of that year Corporal Schleicher had been promoted to sergeant. After honorable service in the French war zone, he returned to his native land on January 31, 1919 and received his honorable discharge about two weeks later.

Like most other men who served (unfortunately not all), Wilford Schleicher returned to his normal life, back home in Sandusky. He went back to work at the American Crayon Company, and worked there for nearly fifty years; he was a member of the Trinity United Methodist Church, the American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He lived on Polk Street with his wife, Gladys, who died in 1974. Mr. Schleicher died in November 1982, at age 87.

The Sandusky Library Archives Research Center is privileged to have two scrapbooks compiled by Mr. Schleicher. One scrapbook (two pages of it are shown above) contains photographs of his military adventures, along with mementoes such as postcards, military passes and other official documents, and a wrapper for a candy bar from the Red Cross Canteen. The other scrapbook consists of newspaper clippings describing the war and local soldiers. Additionally, the archives holds many other items relating to the First World War, a war little understood by most Americans.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Harry Van Stack and the Convict Ship Success

It was 43 years ago this month that the writer Harry Van Stack died in Sandusky. Born in South Africa, he was a world-traveller, and made his name by writing about his journeys in newspaper columns and in books. He wrote a column for the Sandusky Register from the mid-1940s to the early 1960s.

His longest "journey" was aboard the prison ship Success, where, from the 1920s to the 1940s, he frequently spent time travelling throughout North America, presenting lectures about the ship and its history and legends. According to one of those legends, the Success was built in Burma in 1790, and was used to transport convicts from England to the newly-settled land of Australia. Although it was in fact built in Burma, the real story is that the Success did not come into existence until 1840. All available evidence indicates that the ship was actually built in 1840 as a merchant ship sailing the Indian Ocean; from 1847 to 1852, it transported emigrants from England to Australia. In 1852 the Australian government purchased it for use as a prison, and later for ammunition storage. The Australian government used it for these purposes probably until the mid-1880s. (It was not used to transport English convicts to Australia, as some legends claim.)

Alexander Phillips purchased the ship in 1890 and soon began using it for travelling exhibitions, presenting exhibits and lectures on crime and punishment. (This is probably when the fictitious stories became popular.) The cells of the ship were opened for viewing and various articles of punishment were displayed on the decks -- only some of which might have been actually used on the ship during its prison days. For example, the "iron maiden," displayed on the ship, certainly was not used as a means of punishment in 19th-century Australia, and is possibly simply an artifact of legend.

In 1943 the ship sank while moored in Sandusky. In 1945 it was refloated and towed to Port Clinton, where the then-owner lived. This owner (along with vandals) began stripping the ship for its valuable items. After long neglect, the Success burned to the water line in July 1946, in a fire of mysterious circumstances. Perhaps fate directed this result because, with the demise of the Success near Sandusky, Harry Van Stack also ended his journey and settled in Sandusky for the remainder of his life.

The Sandusky Library Archives Research Center holds materials relating to the ship Success during the time it was a travelling exhibit site, including books and pamphlets on the history (both real and invented) of the ship, souvenir catalogs, announcement brochures, and a set of roughly 75 photographs taken by Harry Van Stack during a voyage from Portland, Maine to Chicago for the 1933 World's Fair. Additionally, the library owns a collection of Harry Van Stack's writings and papers, including many of his newspaper columns and personal correspondence. Unfortunately, Blogger has once again refused to cooperate and allow image of some of these artifacts to be posted with this entry. If you are interested in researching any of these materials (or others) at the library, feel free to contact us or just stop in.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Political Campaigns in Sandusky

As election day is approaching, it's a good time to talk about political campaigns that passed through Sandusky. I know it's not a presidential election year, but let's talk about some candidates for President of the United States who made campaign visits to Sandusky.

Possibly the earliest campaign visit to Sandusky by a presidential candidate was in 1840, when William Henry Harrison, the Whig Party candidate, came to town. To commemorate his visit, several women of Sandusky (including Mrs. Eleutheros Cooke) created an embroidered banner in honor of the campaign (shown above in a b&w photo). The banner, showing a log cabin on one side and an eagle on the other, is on display at the Follett House Museum. This story behind this banner is related on page 13 of the October 1896 issue of the Firelands Pioneer, available in the Genealogy section of the Sandusky Library.

During his successful 1908 presidential campaign, William Howard Taft spoke at the Ohio Soldiers' and Sailors' Home (now the Ohio Veterans Home). The photo below shows the soon-to-be President-Elect with a group of local dignitaries outside of the Soldiers Home. Taft was a close friend of Sandusky resident Edward Marsh, and apparently visited the area several times for social occasions.

Taft's former political ally, Theodore Roosevelt, became his political opponent during the 1912 presidential campaign. Believing that Taft betrayed the progressive principles that formed the core of Roosevelt's beliefs, "TR" ran for president that year as the candidate of the Progressive Party (often called the "Bull Moose" party, in honor of a popular nickname for Roosevelt). In May of that year, Roosevelt gave a whistle-stop speech at the foot of Columbus Avenue to a large crowd of Sanduskians. Here is one of several images of that event from the library's photo collections:

In the 1916 election, Charles Evans Hughes was the Republican candidate for president, seeking to unseat President Woodrow Wilson from his position. In September 1916, Hughes gave a speech in front of the American Crayon factory on Hayes Avenue. (Unfortunately, that photo will not post properly on Blogger.)

Another interesting local story of presidential campaigns can be found in the November 11, 1940 issue of Life magazine. In an article titled "The People's Choice," the publishers used Erie County, Ohio as a microcosm for the nation, with images of local residents and descriptions of why they chose to vote the way they did. You can read the article, and see photographs of local residents of the time (as well as a picture of candidate Wendell Willkie in Sandusky), in the Sandusky Library. Ask a reference librarian for that issue of Life magazine from closed storage.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Sandusky City Ordinances

You never know what interesting things you can find in a book -- and it doesn't always have to be a novel or history book (my preference), either. You can find some interesting reading in the Revised Ordinances of the City of Sandusky of 1887 and 1906. (Copies of each are in the Archives Research Center and local history collection at the Sandusky Library.)


For example, on the first page of the 1887 ordinances is "an ordinance to regulate ale, beer and porter houses, to aid in the preservation of peace and good order of the City of Sandusky and to abate the nuisance arising from offensive practices prohibited by this ordinance." The first section of this law stated that "it shall be unlawful for the keeper or proprietor . . . of any saloon . . . to employ any female in the supplying of or waiting on customers in furnishing ale, beer, porter, or intoxicating liquors of any kind whatever . . ." (although they did make exceptions for women who were married to the owner or were his daughters). The penalty for violating this ordinance was up to fifty dollars. (This rule was still in effect in the 1906 laws.)

In 1889, a law was passed outlawing the playing of music in saloons.


Another law, on page 6 of the 1887 ordinances, stated "it shall be unlawful for any person, in a unclothed and naked condition, to go into or bathe in the open waters of Sandusky Bay, within the corporate limits of the city, at any time after the rising of the sun and before dark." Nighttime skinny-dipping was okay, apparently.

Keep Your Cows off the Sidewalk!

In 1887, it was "unlawful for the owner or owners or any person having the custody or control of any horse, mare, mule or other beast of burden, or of any ox, steer, heifer, cow, calf, or of any swine, sheep, goat or goose, to suffer or permit the same to run at large, upon any sidewalk, street, alley, park, common or public ground, within the corporate limits of the city of Sandusky." (I hope it is still unlawful today!)

No Dressing Fish in the Summer

Also in the 1887 laws, it was forbidden "at any time between the 25th day of May and the 1st day of September of each and every year, to receive into any fish shanty, store room, store house or any other building, any fresh fish, for the purpose of dressing or salting the same."

Only a Little Gunpowder

In 1887, residents of Sandusky were prohibited from storing more than 28 pounds of gunpowder on their property, and nobody was allowed to sell gunpowder at night.

Watch Your Speed!

By 1906, it was necessary to have some laws regulating that new invention, the motorized automobile. For example, Section 397 of the 1906 city ordinances stated that "No person, driver or operator in charge of any automobile or motor vehicle shall move or permit the same to be driven, operated and moved at a rate of more than eight miles per hour within the limits of the city."

Friday, September 29, 2006

Program Announcement: Author Visit

On Wednesday, October 4, at 7PM in the library's program room, author M. John Lubetkin will present a talk on his book, Jay Cooke's Gamble: The Northern Pacific Railroad, the Sioux, and the Panic of 1873. (The book will be available for purchase at the program.)

Jay Cooke was a native of Sandusky, born here in 1821, the son of Eleutheros Cooke, and one of the first children born in the new settlement. Although he left Sandusky at a young age, he returned to the area regularly throughout his adulthood. The image above shows Cooke and his family at their summer home ("Cooke Castle") on Gibraltar Island, near Put-in-Bay (now the site of the Stone Laboratory research station of the Ohio State University). He is perhaps best remembered as "the financier of the Civil War," when, as a banker in Philadelphia, he helped to secure loans from leading bankers to help pay for the war; through his influence, the goverment was able to raise millions of dollars from the sale of treasury notes. After the war, Cooke became an investor in the Northern Pacific Railway. Learn more about this period in Jay Cooke's life at John Lubetkin's book talk this Wednesday.

Update: Oops . . . this may not be Jay Cooke's house on Gibraltar Island. Although the original image in our collection is labelled the Cooke House, we have strong information from a researcher with extensive knowledge of the house on Gibraltar that the architecture in the image does not match that of the Gibraltar house. The image may be of the C.C. Keech house, on the site of the original Providence Hospital.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Welcome to the Sandusky History Weblog

Welcome to a blog about the history of Sandusky, Ohio and the surrounding area -- A service of the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center.

In this blog, we will present views of Sandusky and Erie County history, using sources from the local history archives of the library, and offer opportunities for discussion of historical events and artifacts. You will see samples from the library's local history collections, learn more about the collections and the history they represent, and have an opportunity to share your thoughts and knowledge about the history of the region. Although the primary focus will be on the history of Sandusky, we will also occasionally include discussions on historical topics relating to Erie County, the Lake Erie Islands, and the Sandusky Bay region.

One of the regular features of this blog will be the category of "History Mystery." Many of the items in the Sandusky Library Archives have an unknown story behind them -- sometimes the people or place are unidentified, or we don't know much about the event in the picture. We plan to post items like this, with the hope that some of you might have the answers to these mysteries -- or at least some thoughts about them.

Please note: This blog is not a replacement for the reference department at the library -- if you have a reference question about local history, please click here. For all other questions, contact Reference Services, or call 419-625-3834.

(This message is reposted occasionally to keep it on the main page.)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Program Announcement: Collision of the Morning Star and Cortland

On this Wednesday evening (September 27) at 7PM in the Sandusky Library program room, we will have the fourth in our series of fascinating presentations of Great Stories of the Inland Seas, presented by Georgann and Mike Wachter. Wednesday's program will be about the collision of the Morning Star and Cortland in the middle of Lake Erie in 1868. Of course, all are invited to attend this program.

Coincidently, just recently, divers from the Cleveland Underwater Explorers (CLUE), with support from the Great Lakes Historical Society, retrieved the bell from a ship believed to be the Cortland, in Lake Erie, near Lorain County. The story of this recovery was in the August 23, 2006 issues of the Lorain Morning Journal and the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Join us this Wednesday to learn more about the Cortland and the Morning Star, and their last journey on the lake.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Kurt E. Boker, 1920-2006

One of this region's most honorable citizens passed away this week. Kurt Boker, of Kelleys Island, died Monday evening at his home. (An obituary is published in the September 13 issue of the Sandusky Register.)

Born in Germany, Mr. Boker came to the U.S. at the age of four, and lived nearly all his life on Kelleys Island. After service with the U.S. Army in World War II and his graduation from The Ohio State University, Mr. Boker taught at Kelleys Island school for 25 years. He also was a devoted member of his community, serving in several community organizations, and was dedicated to preserving the history of Kelleys Island.

Products of Kurt Boker's lifelong historical research and service, covering a variety of subjects -- including the geology of the island, businesses, churches, family histories, and the Kelleys Island School he served for many years -- are preserved in the Kurt Boker Collection of Kelleys Island History in the Archives Research Center at the Sandusky Library. Copied of these documents are also available for study at the Kelleys Island branch of the library.

We at the library and in the community continue to be grateful for Mr. Boker's service and support.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Underground Railroad in Ohio -- Another Perspective

I should have mentioned this sooner (I was reminded about it in a message I received yesterday). . . .

The Ottawa Citizen newspaper in Canada sent a reporter to travel through Ohio this summer, following a route through cities and towns believed to have been part of the Underground Railroad. The reporter, Chris Lackner (along with photographer Malcolm Taylor), began his journey in northern Kentucky in June, and arrived in Sandusky on August 21. You can read more about this reporter's journey here; he also wrote a daily blog on the trip, which is here.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Do you know where this is? Part Two

Here is the latest in our series of "guess the location" photos. . . This is a road in Erie County that still exists, but looks quite different today.

The answer is posted in the comments section.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Labor Day

In honor of the working men and women throughout the history of our community, this post commemorates Labor Day. Labor Day was first celebrated in 1882 in New York. It was made a national holiday in 1894.

The men in the picture on the left (below) are workers at the Bay View Foundry (which operated from around the beginning of the 20th century to the 1930s), at Shelby and Water Streets, circa 1905; the photo on the right (above) shows the women workers (and their male supervisors) at the Jackson Underwear Factory, North Depot and McDonough Streets, circa 1906. The Jackson Factory operated from 1899 to around 1933.

If you have historical documents describing the activities of working people in Sandusky and Erie County -- documents such as: labor union records; photographs of people at work; personal letters and papers; business records; etc. -- please consider donating those documents to the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center. Contact the Archives Librarian via email or at 419-625-3834.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Clubs and Organizations in Erie County

For better or worse, social clubs and community organizations are not as popular as they once were. With the advent of movies, television, the Internet, the automobile, and many other developments in technology and culture, clubs and organizations play a smaller role in the community than they did, say, in 1897, when the Daughters of the American Revolution, Martha Pitkin Chapter, was founded in Sandusky. (An excerpt from the D.A.R. secretary's book is shown above.) In the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth century, the role of clubs and organizations in the community was dominant. For an analysis of this development in society, you might want to read Robert Putnam's book Bowling Alone (in our library collection at 306.0973 PU) -- but don't take my world for it, since I haven't read the book yet.

It does seem clear, however, that studying the history of local clubs and organizations will help you understand the culture and society from which they come (or at least that portion of society represented by the members of that particular club). The Sandusky Library Archives Research Center holds records and documents from several local clubs and service organizations, including: the Daughters of the American Revolution, Martha Pitkin Chapter; the Erie County Federation of Women's Clubs, and the Sandusky Federation of Women's Clubs; the Art Study Club; the Men's Literary Club; the Sunyendeand Club; the Nineteenth Century Club; the Sandusky Concert Association; and others. Thanks to the help of our summer archives intern, we have new and updated finding aids describing many of these documents and collections, for those interested in researching this aspect of our history.

For those of you involved in a local organization or who owns the records of local clubs from the past, we encourage you to consider depositing those records with the Archives Research Center, to preserve these documents for future generations. We will be glad to explain how we will store and record your donation in the library as a record of our community. For more information, call (419-625-3834) or email the Archives Librarian.

The photo above is of a costume party given by the Art Study Club (probably circa 1920), where guests came dressed as famous literary characters. (From the Library's historic photo collection -- CLUB-047.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Do you know where this is?

It looks a lot different today, but it's an intersection in Erie County.

The answer is in the comments section.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Edwin Lincoln Moseley -- Teacher, Scientist, Scholar

One of the most interesting characters to contribute to Sandusky's history is Edwin Lincoln Moseley, a science teacher at Sandusky High School, and later one of the original professors on the science faculty at what is now Bowling Green State University.

Edwin Moseley was born in Michigan in 1865 and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1885, the youngest in his class. He joined the faculty of Sandusky High School in 1889, after he returned from participating in a scientific expedition that took him across the Pacific to Hawaii, the Philippines, China, and Japan. (Here is SHS class of 1912, with faculty. E.L. Moseley is in the back row.)
While at Sandusky High School, Moseley was perhaps most admired for inspiring his students to learn through direct observation and to develop independent thinking.
He used both the school laboratory (one of his SHS physics classes is shown here) and field trips to teach his students -- he frequently brought his students on scientific explorations of Sandusky Bay and the Lake Erie Islands, to study the geology and flora of the region. While a teacher at SHS, he operated a natural history museum in the school building, managing a collection of about 17,000 specimens (an exhibit area of the museum is pictured below).

While in Sandusky, his reputation as a scientist and a scholar became so great that, in 1914, he was invited to become the founding science faculty (yes, faculty -- he was the only science professor when he started there) at the new Bowling Green State Normal College (now Bowling Green State University). He continued his research and teaching in Bowling Green until his retirement in 1936. He died in 1948, leaving a legacy of strong scholarship and devoted students.

For more information about Professor Moseley: Relda E. Niederhofer and Ronald L. Stuckey have produced a book that may be the definitive biography of the professor, Edwin Lincoln Moseley: Naturalist, Scientist, Educator; the book is available in the Biography section of the Sandusky Library and as a reference book in the Genealogy department.
The Sandusky Library Archives Research Center has a small collection of papers and publications by and about Professor Moseley, including many of his scientific publications (such as: Sandusky Flora; Trees, Stars, and Birds; Lake Erie: Floods, Lake Levels, Northeast Storms; and others) and a small number of letters and documents he wrote. A finding aid to the collection is available; contact the library reference department (419-625-3834) or the Archives Librarian for more information. Additionally, The Center for Archival Collections at Bowling Green State University holds a collection of Edwin Lincoln Moseley papers, primarily covering his time in Bowling Green.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Ohio State Fair in Sandusky, 1858

As many of you probably know the 2006 Erie County Fair begins on August 8, and has been held annually for more than 150 years. (Be sure to see the online exhibit, Celebrating 150 Years of the Erie County Fair on the Library's website.) But did you know that Erie County once hosted the Ohio State Fair?

The first Ohio State Fair was held in Cincinnati in October 1850. In its early years (1850-1874), the site of the fair was rotated among cities throughout the state. In 1858, it was Sandusky's turn to host the fair. The Ohio State Board of Agriculture selected Sandusky over Toledo, Zanesville, and Cleveland after a committee of local community leaders, led by F.D. Parish, made the case for Sandusky during meetings in December 1857. The Board wanted to hold the fair in the northern part of the state that year, and Sandusky was selected because of its central location and easy accessibility by railroads from all over the state. The Sandusky fair was held September 14-17, 1858.

Much preparation went into developing the grounds and exhibition halls. The fairgrounds were placed on what was then the southeast outskirts of town -- Huron Avenue and Hancock Street were the main thoroughfares into the fair. The Sandusky Commercial Register (August 5, 1858) noted with pride that "[s]even hundred stalls [for livestock] are to be erected on the Fair Grounds -- fully three hundred more than have been provided at any State Fair in Ohio." Additionally, there was a Farm Implement Hall, Mechanic's Hall, Floral Hall, and other exhibit buildings and tents, as well as a horse racing track. The Dining Hall, according to the Register was "an almost interminable structure . . . capable of feeding an almost indefinite number of persons." Sanduskians expected thousands would come to the fair, and hotels and steamboat were prepared to accommodate the visitors. The West House, a huge hotel for the time, was opened in time for the fair. (One newspaper article estimated that around 16,000 people visited the fair on its busiest day, although that might be exaggerated.)

Along with the usual livestock and produce competitions, and displays of new farm implements and household devices, an interesting event was the "Female Equestrianism" competition. The first prize award was a "Side-Saddle, Bridle, and Martingal [sic] made by F.H. Francisco of Sandusky." Women who wanted to enter the competition were allowed to register "incognita." The newspaper article describing this event noted that '[t]he most celebrated physicians have declared their opinion that nothing contributes more to the development of health, bodily vigor, blooming beauty, and that grace of action which is impossible without strength of muscle, in which our American women are too deficient, than riding on horse-back."

Aside from some rain on a couple of the fair days, it appears that the Ohio State Fair in Sandusky was a success.

The Sandusky Library Archives Research Center holds a copy of the fair's regulations (shown above) and a catalog of cattle and horses to be exhibited, as well as a "diploma" issued to E.J. Messer for a threshing machine.

(I was hoping to have a couple more graphics for this post, but as is all-too-common, Blogger has failed to cooperate. Sorry.)

Friday, July 28, 2006

Bay City Guards

. . . No, not the Scottish pop band from the 1970s (that was the Bay City Rollers). . . .

The Bay City Guards were a volunteer infantry militia formed in Sandusky in the mid-nineteenth century. Led by a Sandusky physician, Captain R.R. McMeens, the Guards were organized in the Fall of 1851, with 62 men serving as original members. A retrospective article about the Bay City Guards in the July 23, 1875 Sandusky Register stated that the members of the guard were all native-born American citizens; the Sandusky Yager Rifle Company, another militia formed at about the same time, consisted exclusively of German-born American citizens. Also operating at that time was a company called the Sandusky Artillery. It is not clear exactly when these militias disbanded, but the same Register article mentioned above noted that the Yager Company was the only group still in existence at the outbreak of the Civil War.

The Sandusky Library Archives Research Center holds a "petit ledger" that was opened on March 13, 1854 to record financial transactions for each member (the last transaction looks to have been in 1857). It appears that the men paid dues, from which they received payments for expenses. The page shown above records the transactions of John Holland, who was a sign painter by profession, and who was the last surviving member of the Bay City Guards before his death in 1924 at age 99. Here is his photograph from the W.A. Bishop portrait collection, circa 1900.

Now that you have seen the preserved records of a military veteran, why not help to record and preserve the history of our veterans today? The Veterans History Project needs your help. This project, sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted locally by the Sandusky Library and the Ohio Veterans Home, seeks to record the stories of living veterans through oral history. We need your help, to interview veterans and record their stories for future generations. It's not difficult -- and will even be fun and rewarding! You can record your conversations with veterans on your own, or you can make arrangements to use the facilities provided at the Ohio Veterans Home. Your contribution will help to preserve the stories of our veterans for future generations. For more information, contact the Sandusky Library or the Ohio Veterans Home.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Sandusky Library's Stained Glass

Have you ever paused to notice the stained glass in the doors, transom and windows in the Adams Street entrance to the Sandusky Library? Tracking down the artist who designed them revealed quite a history.

The windows were designed by Jessie May Livermore. Jessie May was born and raised in Chicago, but her mother was a Carpenter from Bloomingville. When the library was under construction, Jessie May's father, Darius Livermore, a Chicago decorator, won the contract for the stained glass in the library. The local papers commented that it was appropriate that a woman designed the windows, as the library was such a labor of love for the women of Sandusky.

In her early life, Jessie May made her living as an artist. She took a four year course in architectural and mechanical drawing and continued her studies at the Dearborn Seminary, from which she graduated in 1889. In 1901, it was said that her designs had been used in some of the largest decorative contracts that have been given out in the country. She competed with seven leading designers to obtain the contract to design the decorative elements for the Gougar home in Lafayette, IN. Mrs. Gougar was a nationally known suffragist. Jessie May designed a six pane oriole window that depicted all the seasons in a single scheme. She also designed an apple blossom scheme for one room. In addition to art glass, she also designed frescoes for the interior of the house. The house still stands today in Lafayette, where it is a funeral home.
For reasons unknown, Jessie May gave up her career as an artist, and became a teacher in the Chicago Public Schools, where she worked for 37 years, until being forced into retirement at age 65. She didn't receive a pension, and her retirement assets had suffered during the Great Depression.

Her father was a homesteader in Oklahoma, which is where Jessie May spent her summer and holiday vacations. She had hoped to start an artistic dude ranch. In the cellar of the home were rows of saddles, hand painted china, party favors, and chairs, as well as cases of fancy foods, all meant for the dude ranch she was never able to open.

Her health suffered dramatically after being forced into retirement and she died in December, 1935. She is buried in the family plot in Oakland Cemetery. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Freedom Fighters

It has been only relatively recently that the service of African-American soldiers in the Civil War has been adequately recognized. In the Sandusky area during the war, fifteen African-American men volunteered for service in Company I of the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The men were mustered into service in May and June of 1863 at Camp Meigs in Readville, Massachusetts.

In January 1863, Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts received permission to recruit an African-American regiment to fight for the Union. The 55th was a sister regiment to the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, whose heroic service in the war was featured in the movie, Glory. This second unit was formed due to the overwhelming response from men who sought to serve in the 54th. A total of 222 men from Ohio served in the Massachusetts 55th.

Among the Sanduskians who served, William H. Johnson was killed in battle on July 2, 1864 at James Island, South Carolina. Morris Darnell and Elijah J. Brown
returned home to Sandusky after the war, and are buried in Oakland Cemetery; Frank Gardner, Joshua Cole, and Thomas Robinson are buried at the Ohio Veterans Home.

African American soldiers comprised over ten percent of the Union Army, and over 18,000 African-American men served in the Navy. You can read an article about the Sandusky recruits in the June 2, 1863 issue of the Sandusky Daily Commercial Register, available on microfilm in the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center. Military records from the Civil War and other wars may be found on the Ancestry Library Edition research database, which can be accessed from within the library.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Mysterious People

The Sandusky Library Archives Research Center has a collection of about 10,000 photographic images documenting many facets of the history of Sandusky, Erie County, the Lake Erie islands, and the Firelands region. Nearly all of these pictures have been donated to the library over the last 100+ years by local residents, former residents, and the historically-minded. However, some of these images have lost their 'stories' -- the names of the people in them have been long forgotten, the event depicted has been lost from memory, or we aren't sure anymore where or why the picture was taken. Nevertheless, these images are still important to us in helping to describe the early days of the community and culture.

The names of the women pictured above are unknown to us. What we do know about this image is that it was taken by the C.A. Cross studio in Sandusky. Charles Cross operated a photography business on Columbus Avenue in Sandusky from about 1880 until the late 1890s. We don't know the ladies' names, but they still can tell us things about life in the late nineteenth century. Does this photo tell you anything?

The Archives Research Center has a number of cartes-de-visite, which were used as photographic calling cards in the early days of print photography. (The peak years of the carte-de-visite were roughly from around 1860 to the 1880s.) Here is a sample of cartes-de-visite from the library's collections. Again, the names of the people and the story of their lives is unknown, but their images still can tell us something.

Both of these images were taken at the Wetherell Studio in Sandusky, probably in the mid-1880s.

(We will have more about the early history of photography -- and mystery photos -- in later entries.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Featured Site

Our featured site in history is the Emrich Brothers Apothecaries, later known as the Emrich Drug Store. It was located at 118 Columbus Ave., on the west side, between Market and Water Streets, and operated from the 1850s until the first decade of the twentieth century. Born in Bavaria, James Emrich opened his store in Sandusky probably around 1853; his brother Phillip came to Sandusky and joined him in the business in 1863. However, Phillip died in 1876, of "hemorrhage of the lungs," at the age of only 38.
Here is a portrait of James Emrich, taken probably when he was in his sixties or early seventies (in the 1890s):

(Photo taken from the W.A. Bishop Portrait Photograph Collection.)

James Emrich ran his pharmacy for over fifty years, closing down the store only a few weeks before his death at age 80 in 1909. The Sandusky Library Archives Research Center possesses documents from the business, including ledgers from the 1860s and 1870s, and a folio book containing handwritten formulas for medicines and other products. Here is a sample of a page from one of the ledgers (notice the orders for whiskey for medicinal purposes):

You can find other life stories in the historical collections at the library.