Monday, March 30, 2020

A Trade Show in Sandusky, Circa 1951

Several pictures from a Trade Show in Erie County, probably from 1950 or 1951, are on file in the historical collections of the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center.

Representatives from the Singer Sewing Machine Company demonstrated their sewing machines which sold for as low as $89.50 in the fifties. Singer ads stated that a lifetime of savings could be appreciated if clothing and home furnishings were created by the homemaker instead of purchased. In the early fifties, the Singer Sewing Machine Company was located at 171 East Washington Row, and the company sold sewing machines, vacuum cleaners, and other small home appliances.

Sandusky Lumber & Supply Company, on East Perkins Avenue off of Milan Road, featured a special on Curtis Quality Kitchen Cabinets for $184.00 at the Trade Show.

Hohler Furnace and Sheet Metal Company, at the corner of Decatur and Water Streets, showed a variety of oil and gas heating unites and a gas fired incinerator.

In the display below, Modernfold Doors promised that they could save space and add beauty to the home. An interesting robot model was constructed from Devoe paint cans.

Visit the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center to view these and many more vintage photographs from Sandusky and Erie County.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Mary Elizabeth Seibert Fernau

Below is a tintype of Mary Elizabeth Seibert, who was born in Sandusky about 1865.

By 1904, Mary Elizabeth Seibert had become the wife of Henry Fernau, who was a painter and interior decorator. They lived at what is now 620 East Adams Street.

Descendants of Mary Elizabeth and Henry Fernau donated several family photographs to the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center, allowing us to have a visual record of Mrs. Fernau throughout several years.

The funeral card for Mrs. Fernau, who passed away on January 6, 1925, features a touching poem.

A precious one from us has gone
            A voice we love is stilled:
A place is vacant in our home,
            Which never can be filled.
God in his wisdom has recalled,
            The boon his love had given.
And though the body slumbers here
            The soul is safe in heaven.

An obituary for Mary Elizabeth Fernau, found in the 1925 Obituary Notebook at the Sandusky Library, stated that she was “a woman of estimable traits and many relatives and friends will mourn her departure.” Funeral services for Mary Elizabeth Fernau were held at the family residence on Adams Street, and burial was in Oakland Cemetery.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Sandusky and the Great Influenza of 1918

As we are living through a world-wide pandemic today, so were the people living in 1918. What is often called the Great Influenza struck the nation, and the world, briefly in the Spring of 1918, and returned with a vengeance in the early Fall. In all, between 50 million and 100 million people died worldwide as a result of the flu, with both the old and the young as its victims. In fact, except for children under five years old, the death rates were highest for people between age 25 and 50. 

The people of Sandusky, and all over the United States, faced multiple challenges at that time: first, a world war that began in 1914, with Americans joining in 1917, and then, as that war was waning, a new war against a killer virus. Sanduskians fought both wars.

Many of the nation's earliest victims were soldiers sent to training camps for the war. (It is believed by some experts that Ground Zero for the 1918 outbreak was in Kansas, probably spreading to a military base there.) The high concentration of soldiers on bases and in transport to battle zones allowed the virus to travel at great speed. And soldiers returning home often unknowingly brought the influenza with them.

Sandusky and Erie County faced a large outbreak, responding in many ways that our similar to our response today. Many events were cancelled and businesses were ordered to close; some that could stay open were under strict rules regarding personal contact. A temporary emergency hospital was opened in the newly constructed Elks Lodge on Adams Street.

The exact number of Erie County residents who died from the flu in 1918-19 is uncertain, but it was at least in the hundreds. The influenza hospital operated for about two months, serving 95 patients with 19 deaths (a mortality rate of 20%). By the Summer of 1919, about 32,000 Ohioans died from influenza, about 25,000 more than would have been expected. Nationally, about 675,000 Americans died from the Great Influenza. 

Of course, we hope the current pandemic will not compare to 1918, but we will need to be vigilant. To keep abreast with the Coronavirus in Ohio, follow

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Yvonne Fievet, Sandusky Businesswoman

Yvonne Fievet was born on March 8, 1891 in Fostoria, Ohio, to Pierre and Hyacinth (Desgain) Fievet, both natives of Belgium. By 1930, she lived on Central Avenue in Sandusky, Ohio, with her widowed mother and the family of her brother August Fievet. 

From 1929 to 1965, Yvonne Fievet was the owner and operator of Yvonne’s Hat and Gift Shop in Sandusky. In the early years of her business, the shop was located at 139 West Washington Street. A newspaper advertisement from the September 27, 1935 issue of the Sandusky Register, advertised “Smartest Fall Hats” for the miss and matron, with prices beginning at $1.95. In 1943, she moved her shop to 161 Columbus Avenue in downtown Sandusky.  An article in the March 7, 1951 issue of the Sandusky Register Star News reported that besides hats, Yvonne sold “a dazzling array of costume jewelry and a growing display of miniature Hollywood dolls.”  She also carried handbags, cosmetics, hosiery, aprons, and toiletries for men. Hat styles carried in the spring of 1951 featured off-the-face hats, bonnets, and sailor and chignon styles. One of the brands in Yvonne’s shop was Gage and D’Youveille Original.  

In March of 1952 Miss Fievet participated in the Dale Carnegie Course in effective speaking, leadership and training. A poem dedicated to Yvonne Fievet in the course’s handbook read:

The reason firm, the
     temperate will,
Endurance, foresight,
    strength and skill;
A perfect woman, nobly
To warn, to comfort and

On October 5, 1992, Yvonne Fievet died at the age of 101. Funeral services were held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and burial was at Calvary Cemetery. She was survived by three nieces, Yvonne and Lillian Fievet, and Monica Amburn. The younger Yvonne Fievet, not only shared her aunt’s first and last name, but she looked similar in appearance to her aunt. Yvonne Fievet (1909-2000) worked at the Sandusky Library for several years, and also was an accomplished musician. The younger Yvonne Fievet can be seen in the picture below; she is the last person on the right in the back.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Emily Skillman and Her Brother Alva Halt

Emily Johanna Halt was born in 1889 to Frederick and Louisa Frey Halt. Sadly, Emily’s father was killed in a railroad accident when she was just a child.  Emily marred Harry Hickman Skillman on October 16, 1907. They were married for over 50 years, until Mr. Skillman died in 1965. She lived to be 94 years of age,  passing away in Milan on March 10, 1983. Mrs. Skillman was survived by a daughter, Lois Skillman. She had outlived her husband and two sons and grandson.

Emily Skillman’s brother Alva Halt, often  known as Al or Alvie, was a well known professional baseball player. Alvie played for the Brooklyn Tip Tops, of the Federal League, in 1914 and 1915, and with the Cleveland Indians during the 1918 season.  He is pictured below with Sandusky’s BPOE Elks Baseball Team in 1910. (Unfortunately, we are not sure which one he is in the picture.)

After the death of Harry and Emily Skillman, family members donated a microfilmed copy of the papers of Harry’s uncle, Isaac Skillman, to the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center. Isaac Skillman served as a Sergeant and later as a Second Lieutenant with the Third Ohio Cavalry during the Civil War. His papers include diary entries and personal recollections of his war experiences. Isaac Skillman died in 1925, and he is buried in Oakland Cemetery.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Trench Coats Were Popular in Sandusky in 1917

Inspired by military apparel, trench coats were sold by the Wilcox Company in Sandusky in the fall of 1917. An ad from the Fram read, in regards to military and trench coats for girls:

Here’s to the High School Girls that Want to be Thrifty,
Here’s to Those Who Like to Look Nifty,
Here’s Where We Sell at Less Than Fifty.

The Manhattan Men’s Outfitters carried trench coats for men, as seen in the ad below from the November 30, 1917 issue of the Sandusky Star Journal.

The Michaels-Stern trench coat carried by the Manhattan store featured “warmth without weight” and the “snap and zip of a military garment with the comfort and freedom of an ulster.” Read more about the rise of the trench coat in a Smithsonian article.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Michael A. McAdams, Musician and Printer

Michael A. McAdams was born in Quebec, Canada in 1856. He came to Sandusky, Ohio in 1891 to play with the Cedar Point band. He can be seen with his tuba in the back row of the Ackley Band at Cedar Point in the picture below; he was a member of the band for more than twenty years.

During the winter seasons, Mr. McAdams traveled as a musician with several theatrical groups, including Howe and White’s Circus, the Buffalo Bill tent show, and Bailey & Myers tent show. 

Besides being a popular musician, Michael McAdams also was employed as a printer for several years by the Register Publishing Company. Around 1918 his eyesight began to fail. An article in the March 13, 1924 issue of the Sandusky Register featured an article about a benefit concert performed on his behalf by the Ackley Band. The article stated, in part, “From the moment the conductor raised his baton for the first note of the Sousa March ‘Fairest of the Fair’ till the echoes from the last notes of the ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ died away in the final offering, the program was one of artistic portrayal and mastery of detail.” Mr. McAdams surprised the audience by coming onto the stage and playing a tuba solo, “My Old Kentucky Home,” and “Asleep in the Deep.” This was his first appearance in a public concert in a number of years, and the audience was delighted with his performance. The Register article said that McAdams showed “old time expertness that always made him a favored player in the days of Sandusky’s crack bass bands.”  

On April 18, 1928, Michael A. McAdams died at the Union Printers’ Home in Denver, Colorado.  An obituary, found in the 1928 Obituary Notebook at the Sandusky Library, stated that McAdams had remained friends with E.B. Ackley and other Sandusky musicians throughout the years. The printers’ union as well as several benefit band concerts for Mr. McAdams, aided in making his last days more comfortable.

Monday, March 09, 2020

The Building at 604 West Washington Street Has Served Many Roles

Before the Erie County Chamber of Commerce moved to its location at 604 West Washington Street, this building was home to the Frey-Groff Funeral Home for several decades.

According to the Ohio Historic House Inventory for Erie County, in 1906 R.E. Schuck, a partner in the Gilcher and Schuck Lumber Company, built a house in the 900 block of Washington Street (later the 600 block of West Washington Street, after street numbers changed in 1915). He had the former Spencer-Phelps home razed in order to make way for his fine, sturdy house built from limestone. After the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Schuck in 1910, publisher A. J. Peters resided in the former Schuck home. Later, Herbert Farrell, founder of the Farrell-Cheek Steel Company lived at this address. 

Fred Frey, Jr. moved his funeral home from Market Street to this location in the mid-1920s. F. Leo Groff joined the business in 1939, and in 1973 the name changed to the Frey-Groff Funeral Home. Now the later generations of the Groffs operate the Groff Funeral Home on East Perkins Avenue. The former downtown chapel is now home to the Erie County Chamber of Commerce. 

This old hitching post reminds us of the early days of this building and before, during the era of horse-powered transportation.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Laura Jones, Sandusky Businesswoman

From 1935 until her retirement in 1970, Mrs. Laura Jones was the owner-operator of a dress shop located at 162 Columbus Avenue in Sandusky, Ohio. Laura Jones was the daughter of Martin and Mary (Pulch) Helget. She married Earl Jones in 1917. After only a few years of marriage, Mr. Jones was killed on February 28, 1923 in an electrical accident while he was at work at a manufacturing facility in Youngstown, Ohio. 

Mrs. Jones started out operating a dress shop at the same location as Emma Hansen’s hat shop in downtown Sandusky. An article which appeared in the August 13, 1935 issue of the Sandusky Register reported that she and Miss Hansen were on a buying trip in Detroit, Michigan. While there, they attended the fall style show at the Hotel Statler. By 1952, Mrs. Jones was the sole proprietor of the Laura Jones Dress Shop.

In the mid-1950s, Laura Jones was a member of the Retail Merchants Association of Sandusky, Ohio. This group was the successor to the merchants’ division of the Sandusky Chamber of Commerce.

In 1962, Mrs. Jones had several items on sale in honor of George Washington’s birthday.

Mrs. Laura Jones retired from her dress shop in 1970. She died in September, 1987 at the age of 92. This hat box from the Laura Jones Dress and Hat Shop is now in the historical collections of the Follett House Museum.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Amy Ruth Kelly, Biographer of Eleanor of Aquitane

An article about Amy R. Kelly appeared in the June 9, 1911 issue of the Sandusky Register. While on faculty at Wellesley College, she and Laura E. Lockwood edited the book, Letters That Live.

Over one hundred fifty letters appeared in the book, representing seventy authors, including Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll and Emily Dickinson. The New York Times covered the book in its “Review of Books” section on May 7, 1911.

Miss Kelly is best known for her book, Eleanor of Aquitane and the Four Kings, published in 1950 by the Harvard University Press.  It was the first New York Times bestseller for that publisher. Even though it was written over fifty years ago, many maintain that Miss Kelly’s book it is still the best written biography about Eleanor, mother of Richard the Lionhearted; it has been republished multiple times through the 1990s, and remains in print.  While doing research for the book, Amy Kelly made six trips to Europe to retrace Eleanor’s steps. Her research was meticulous. Time Magazine carried an article about the book in an article “The Greatest Frenchwoman” published in June, 1950.

Amy Ruth Kelly was born in Port Clinton, the daughter of Judge Malcolm Kelly. Judge Kelly was a judge of Erie County Common Pleas Court from 1892 to 1897. He also had served in several offices in Ottawa County (including a term as Mayor of Port Clinton), and was held in high esteem by the Bar Association. (He was a grandson of William Kelly, builder of the Marblehead Lighthouse.) Amy’s mother was active in women’s suffrage activities in Erie County; she donated this “Let Ohio Women Vote” poster to the historical collections of the Sandusky Library.

Amy Kelly lived the last years of her life with her sister Elizabeth “Bessie” Kelly  in Miami, Florida, where she died in February of 1962.