Monday, March 29, 2010

W. H. Dilger, Vaudeville Entertainer

William H. Dilger was born on July 23, 1880 in Sandusky, Ohio. His father, also named William H. Dilger, was a landscape gardener and florist in Sandusky in the 1880’s and 1890’s. The book Sandusky of Today credits William H. Dilger, Sr. with beautifying the city parks of Sandusky. By 1900 William H. Dilger, Sr. had moved to Michigan, where he continued work as a landscape gardener.

The younger William H. Dilger was in show business for many years. He lived for a time in New York, but then moved to Sarasota, Florida, and later to Miami, Florida. In correspondence with former Follett House curator, Helen Hansen, Mr. Dilger wrote that he had appeared in illusion shows at Cedar Point, and performed an original illusion entitled “The Moth and the Flame” at the Biemiller Opera House in Sandusky in 1910. He claims to have originated many magic tricks and illusions for professional magicians when Vaudeville was at its height. W. H. Dilger performed in Vaudeville from about 1908 through 1913.

The following article, from the April 1909 issue of Popular Mechanics, illustrates the remarkable “Safe Escape Act” of W.H. Dilger.
According to the Social Security Death Index, William H. Dilger passed away in Florida in June, 1968. You can read an article written by W. H. Dilger in the February 21, 1963 issue of the Sandusky Register, in which W. H. Dilger details his father’s career as a florist, landscape gardener, and consultant.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Charles M. Keyes, Military Historian

Charles M. Keyes was born in Peoria, Illinois on Oct. 28, 1840. His family moved to Ohio when Charles was a boy, and his father served as the keeper of the Marblehead Lighthouse from 1853 to 1858. By 1860, the family was living in Sandusky, Ohio.

During the Civil War, Charles M. Keyes was a private in the Eighth Ohio Volunteer Infantry from April through August of 1861. On September 8, 1862, Charles enlisted in Company G of the 123rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He was promoted to Second Lieutenant on December 8, 1863, and to First Lieutenant on February 23, 1865. He mustered out on June 12, 1865 at Camp Chase, Ohio.

In 1874, C. M. Keyes authored a book entitled The Military History of the 123rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Army, published by the Register Steam Press in Sandusky, Ohio. (This title is available full text at the Internet Archive.)

In the preface, Mr. Keyes stated, “It is not expected that this book will be of interest to the general reader; to those only who participated in, or followed with loving eyes, its fortunes, will the dry details, which must necessarily often enter into its composition, be interesting, and without apology to the officers and men of the 123d Ohio Volunteer Infantry, this book is offered as a true record of their soldier life.”

Recruiting for Company G of the 123rd Infantry was done in Sandusky, and the majority of the soldiers in that unit were from Sandusky. Mr. Keyes tells of camp life, the sorrow of losing men in battle, and how ill soldiers were nursed back to health by kind volunteers, one of which was the sister of Stonewall Jackson. One night when the men of Company G were short of blankets, two soldiers huddled in a wagon and covered up with a bundle of hay. A stray mule soon took their makeshift coverings for himself. Letters from home were “devoured” by the soldiers. Keyes points out that many of the boys were away from home for the very first time, and with the thought of possibly never seeing home again, the letters meant a great deal to the soldiers. C. M. Keyes was imprisoned for a time at the Libby Confederate Prison. He tells of performances put on by the “Libby Burlesque Troop,” which consisted of songs, dances, and readings. While in prison, a Mr. Johnson, a fellow prisoner who was a man of color, would wash the prisoners’ clothes and provide shaves and haircuts for a small fee.

After the Civil War, Charles M. Keyes returned to Erie County. He married Emma Quimby in 1873. From 1880 through 1887, C. M. Keyes was the Postmaster of Sandusky. During the years 1896-1897, Keyes was the Erie County Auditor. He stepped into that office after the death of Thomas McFall. The last public office held by Charles M. Keyes was at the Hospital for Epileptics in Gallipolis, where he was the steward of the facility.

In 1902, Mr. and Mrs. Keyes moved from Gallipolis back to Sandusky, Ohio, where Charles was in partnership with his nephew W. L. Lewis in a grocery business. On the evening of March 3, 1902, C. M. Keyes was stricken with a heart attack, and died while taking his evening walk. A lengthy obituary for Charles M. Keyes is found in the March 5, 1902 issue of the Sandusky Register. His obituary reads in part, “Charles Mortimer Keyes has been a prominent figure in the public, political and social life of Sandusky and Erie County. He was widely known throughout the state… Colonel Keyes possessed those qualities that make abiding friendships. He was whole-souled, warm-hearted, genial, hopeful, always loved life as he found it, took a deep interest in all public matters.” The funeral for C. M. Keyes was held on March 6, 1902 at the Masonic Temple, and burial was in Oakland Cemetery.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Early Photography

In the 21st century, a professional photographer’s studio contains no windows. Light is a carefully manipulated element of each image, altered using a host of modern tools. Before electricity and the electronic flash, a 19th century photographer relied on the power of the sun to light his subject. In Sandusky and across the nation, photographers’ studios were often located on the top floors of buildings, the better to take advantage of natural sunlight. 
This unusual view of C.J. Pascoe’s Sandusky photography studio gives a modern viewer insight on the tricks of the photography trade in the late 1800s. The rooftop skylight is filtered using a gauzy white cloth. Large white boards mounted on movable stands were used to bounce light on the subject. A decorative backdrop is at the rear of the studio. Several different chairs are located around the studio, along with an ornate footstool and a plush rug on the floor. A decorative pedestal is stowed in the left rear corner of the studio. If you look carefully on the left side of the studio, you will see three floor mounted stands. Early film required a long exposure, and these stands helped a subject keep still while holding a pose. You’ll notice that two of the chairs have padded armrests, which also helped the subject remain still during the exposure. On the right side of the studio, there is a large wood burning stove, used in the days before central heating. Near the center of the image is the tool of the trade—the camera. This appears to be a larger format glass plate camera which is mounted on a wooden tripod. Glass plates produced remarkably clear and detailed images.
C.J. Pascoe’s photography studio was located in downtown Sandusky, on Columbus Avenue. Charles James Pascoe was born December 23, 1854 in Ontario, Canada. He married Mary Jane Gilbert in Detroit in 1872. He died May 12, 1933. He worked as a photographer in Fremont, Sandusky, and Toledo.
Here is an interesting example of a portrait subject in the studio. You can see the hand-painted backdrop with a military scene behind this soldier. Photographers often had a variety of backdrops with different scenes to match the mood sought in the photograph. The large tree stump serves not only as a decorative prop, but also as a stabilizing device to to help a person steady himself for long exposures (at least several seconds; sometimes as long as a minute or more). At his feet, you can see a trace of the stand used to attach a stabilizing brace to the back of his head, to help keep his features from blurring in the image.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Woman’s Relief Corps No. 48

Following the Civil War, the Woman’s Relief Corps was formed as an auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization whose members were Union Veterans of the Civil War. The purpose of the Woman’s Relief Corps was to aid and assist Union veterans, as well as the widows and orphans of Union veterans.
In Sandusky, the McMeens Corps, Woman’s Relief Corps, No. 48, served as an auxiliary to the McMeens Post of the G.A.R. The women of the W.R.C. helped provide food, entertainment, and a listening ear to the residents of the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Home in Sandusky, now known as the Ohio Veterans Home. In 1913, a monument which honored the Civil War dead was unveiled at the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Home. Members of the W.R.C. throughout the state spent two years raising money for the monument. A photograph found on Lake Erie’s Yesterdays shows several members of the Woman’s Relief Corps at a Memorial Day ceremony held at the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Home in 1914.
Emogene Niver Marshall was a member and past president of the Woman’s Relief Corps, No. 48. She also was a past president of the Ohio W.R.C. Following her brother’s death in a Civil War prison camp, she devoted her life to patriotic work. The residents of the Soldiers and Sailors Home called her the “Angel of the Home.”
On February 11 and 12, 1896, a charity opera under the auspices of the Woman’s Relief Corps in Sandusky was held at the Nielsen Opera House. The opera, entitled “Egypta,” was based on the life of Moses. It featured a huge cast of local adults and children as well as many musical numbers. The program is several pages long, and can be viewed at the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Annual Reports of the Sandusky Water Works

An ordinance for the establishment and construction of a Water Works for the City of Sandusky was passed January 11, 1875. In the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center, the Annual Reports of the Water Works for the City of Sandusky have been bound into a large volume, covering the years 1875-1900. The Water Works was considered one of the major projects of the city in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Contaminated water was one a major factor in the outbreak of cholera in 1849. In 1876 the Water Works began filtering and pumping water to most homes and business in the city of Sandusky. Hewson L. Peeke wrote in his 1916 book A Standard History of Erie County, that the water works plant had a capacity of 17,000,000 gallons daily, and service was provided to every part of the city of Sandusky as well as to the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home and the Erie County Infirmary, which were outside the city limits.

Pictured below is a stereograph image, created by A. C. Platt, of the standpipe under construction, on Meigs Street about 1875.

In the First Annual Report of the Trustees of the Sandusky Water Works, published in 1877, appears a breakdown of the contracts awarded for the building of the various components of the water works system. Mr. Vincent Kerber was awarded the contract for building the smoke stack. The annual report stated that Mr. Kerber “exhibited great care and perfection of workmanship in its construction.”In the report of the chief engineer from the First Annual Report, the exact dimensions and length of pipe distribution throughout Sandusky was itemized. Fire hydrant locations as well as the names of the manufacturers of the hydrants were listed on pages 35 through 37.

Included in the annual reports are financial statements, balance sheets, and a listing of expenses paid out through the previous year. For example, in the Sixth Annual Report, from 1881, I.F. Mack was paid $30.85 for blank books, C.M. Thorpe was paid $124.47 for coal, Louis Zistel was paid $5.30 for the use of his boat, and mats and a duster were purchased from E.H. and R.M. Wilcox for a total of $3.50. In the combined 1894-1895 Annual Reports, William Thom was paid $9.00 for horse shoeing services, and dynamite was purchased from J. J. Butts for $248.08. It is interesting to see the names of local businesses with which the city of Sandusky contracted.

The standpipe of the Water Works was seriously damaged during the 1924 tornado. By the fall of 1940, a new water works plant was built at Big Island, located at the eastern end of First Street. It was built during the depression with the aid of a federal grant.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Invitation to the Inauguration Reception of President Ulysses S. Grant

Mrs. George J. Anderson received an invitation to the Inauguration Reception of President Ulysses S. Grant, which was held at the United States Treasury Building on March 4, 1869. (Presidents were not inaugurated in january until 1937.) Listed on the General Committee for the Inauguration Reception is H. D. Cooke, who was the son of Sandusky’s first lawyer Eleutheros Cooke.
Mrs. George J. Anderson’s maiden name was Emily Coan. She was the daughter of Peter and Abigail (Camp) Coan. Mr. and Mrs. George J. Anderson were the parents of George F. Anderson, who was active in the Sandusky Philharmonic Orchestra. The granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. George J. Anderson was college professor Dr. Marjorie Anderson, who was considered an expert in Chaucerian literature.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Lester S. Hubbard House

Sandusky businessman and banker Lester S. Hubbard built the lovely stone house at the southwest corner of Wayne and Adams Streets in 1852. Helen Hansen wrote in At Home in Early Sandusky that the house was originally on an L-shaped lot, and a large barn and barnyard were located at the rear of the lot. Lester S. Hubbard and his wife, the former Jane Patterson Livingston, had a family of ten children.

A Hubbard descendant, Mrs. Garcia Denig Shaw, wrote in 1958 that six generations of the Hubbard family had lived in the Hubbard house, as the home had remained in the family for almost one hundred years. After the death of Jean Hubbard Denig, the home was purchased by Dr. V.A. Killoran a Sandusky physician who lived next door to the Hubbard house. Mrs. Hansen noted in her book that though Dr. Killoran converted the home into apartments and offices, he “preserved the original charm of its outward appearance.”

Here are two interior views of the Hubbard house, taken in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

The Hubbard house has been named to the List of Registered Historic Places in Ohio. In the biographical files of the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center is a letter by Mrs. Lester Hubbard in which she describes the death and funeral of her husband’s business partner, William Durbin. Mr. Durbin died on May 21, 1863, though he had the “untiring attention of devoted friends.” His coffin was taken to the library of Hubbard house, and it remained there the entire weekend. The funeral for William Durbin was held at the Hubbard residence on Sunday morning, May 24, 1863. Several members of the extended Durbin family stayed with the Hubbard family for several days at the time of Mr. Durbin’s death.

See Ellie Damm’s book Treasure by the Bay to learn more about the architectural history of the Hubbard house. Helen Hansen’s At Home in Early Sandusky features several articles about the Hubbard family and many other early residents of the city of Sandusky.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Program Announcement: Ice Harvesting in Sandusky (Brown-Bag Lunch Series)

Bring your lunch and join us in the Library Program Room (Terrace Level) as we explore topics in local history. Join us on Wednesday, March 10, from 12:00-1:00 p.m. as we take a look back at Sandusky's days as Ice Capital of the Great Lakes. Jim Miller, local historian, and Maggie Marconi, Museum Administrator, will share photographs and stories of this seasonal industry that spanned several decades. This program will be held in the Library Program Room. Registration is requested. To register, call 419-625-3834 and press 0 to speak with a switchboard operator (10-5, Monday-Friday) or press Option 6 to leave a message.

J. Jay Barber, Artist

John Jay Barber was born in Sandusky in 1840, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Barber. He usually signed his name as J. Jay Barber. In the 1860 U.S. Census for Erie County, J. Jay Barber was listed as a law student. According to a biographical sketch of J. Jay Barber in the book Artists in Ohio, 1787 -1900, he entered the Bar in 1862, and he served briefly as a soldier in the Civil War. After the war, Barber focused on his love of painting. His specialty was landscape scenes including cattle. By 1871, J. Jay Barber had an art studio in Columbus, Ohio, where he pursued his craft and he also worked as a bank clerk. According to the Genealogy of the Breck Family, in 1871, J. Jay Barber married Amy Breck in Newton, Massachusetts. The couple had a daughter named Jessie in 1874.

Paintings by J. Jay Barber were usually set in Ohio. Mr. Barber’s sketch in Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900, states that the cows painted by J. Jay Barber were not “ordinary run-of-the-herd animals, but well known individuals like Pride of Eastwood, a Jersey cow, better known as Fannie.” J. Jay Barber won several awards for his artwork, including several awards from the Ohio State Fair. He exhibited his works at the National Academy of Design in the 1880’s. In 1882, Rutherford B. Hayes purchased a painting of a cow painted by J. Jay Barber. An image of the painting can be seen at the Object Catalog of the R. B. Hayes Presidential Center.

A sepia print signed by J. Jay Barber can be seen at the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center. (Ask Reference Services staff for more information.)
A large oil painting of four cows and a calf by J. Jay Barber can be seen at The Follett House Museum. Historical notes from our files indicate that it is thought that the scene was painted from a scene at Big Island, near Cedar Point.

Amy Breck Barber passed away in 1889, and she is buried in Greenlawn Cemetery in Columbus. After the death of his wife, and then his daughter, J. Jay Barber became despondent. Sadly, he took his own life on November 27, 1910. He is buried near his wife in Greenlawn Cemetery. An obituary for J. Jay Barber is found on the front page of the November 29, 1910 of the Sandusky Register.