Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Miss Jessie Wilcox, Cultural Leader

Jessie Martha Wilcox was born in Sandusky, Ohio in April of 1861, the same week that the Civil War broke out in the United States. Her parents were Rollin M. Wilcox and the former Martha Ellen Newton. For many years, Jessie’s father was a partner in the R.M. and C.B. Wilcox Company, a popular department store in downtown Sandusky. 

When Jessie was just a toddler, her mother Martha passed away at age 28. 

Jessie graduated from Sandusky High School on June 27, 1879; her niece, Esther Sloane Curtis, donated her aunt's high school diploma to the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center. 

In 1884, she graduated from Wellesley College in Massachusetts. After graduation, she taught school in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, before moving back to her hometown of Sandusky, where she also taught school. 

From 1904 to 1937, Miss Wilcox was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Sandusky Library, serving for a time as President of the Board. She was also a member of the Nineteenth Century Club, the Martha Pitkin Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and Trinity United Methodist Church. 

On August 12, 1937, Jessie Wilcox died suddenly at her home on Franklin Street in Sandusky. Funeral services were held at the home of Jessie’s niece, Mrs. Worth Curtis, with the Rev. Roy Smith of Trinity Methodist Church officiating. Burial was at Oakland Cemetery. An obituary in the August 12, 1937 issue of the Sandusky Star Journal reported that Jessie had been one of the area’s most prominent women, and she had been a leader in the cultural life of Sandusky. The Sandusky Library closed from 2:30 to 3:30 on Saturday, August 14, 1937, during the funeral service, in honor of her many years of service to the Library.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Pearl of the Sea by Karl Merz

In 1878 Karl Merz wrote the sheet music for a waltz entitled Pearl of the Sea. It was published by S. Brainard & Sons in Cleveland, Ohio. The sheet music was sold in Sandusky in the late 1870s at Hammond’s Music Store on Columbus Avenue. 

Karl Merz had been born in Germany in the 1830s. He learned how to play the organ and violin while quite young. In 1854, he emigrated to the United States, and by 1861 was was on the faculty of the Oxford Female College in Oxford, Ohio (later incorporated into Miami University). In 1882, he was asked to organize the music department at the College of Wooster. While at Wooster, he also wrote a column for Brainard’s Musical World. Eventually he became the editor of this publication. 

As a prolific composer, many of his musical pieces are preserved at the Library of Congress. During the summer of 1888, when Mrs. P.A. Follett operated a Summer Musical Institute, she arranged for  Merz to give a series of lectures at the Sandusky High School. Merz often visited Sandusky to pay a visit to his son, Dr. Charles Merz, and family. Dr. Merz was a leading Sandusky physician, and he was also an expert on Masonic history. 

Karl Merz's grandson, who was also named Charles Merz, was the editor of the New York Times from 1938 to 1961. 

Karl Merz died from pneumonia on January 30, 1890. The March 1890 issue of Brainard’s Musical World was dedicated to the memory of its former editor. An obituary honoring the memory of Karl Merz appeared in the February 1, 1890 issue of the Sandusky Register

Karl Merz was greatly missed by the musical community. A beautiful monument honoring the memory of Karl Merz was unveiled at the Wooster Cemetery on Memorial Day in 1894.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

The Sloane House Annex in 1969

The Sandusky Library Archives Research Center collections have several pictures of the Sloane House Annex from June of 1969. The Annex was a building on West Washington Row adjacent to the Sloane House hotel for several years. In 1949 the LaSalle store opened next door, on the site of the former Sloane House hotel. The Parkview Barber Shop and the Kubach and Buderer pharmacy were at the street level of the Sloane House Annex  in 1969. You can see a portion of the Beecher House on the left side of the picture below. In the 1960s, the Beecher House was the home of the American Legion. (The small structure between the Sloane House Annex and the Beecher House was unoccupied at the time this picture was taken.)

On the east wall of the building was a sign advertising free downtown parking. Note the classic Volkswagen beetle parked on the street. 

Today the Erie County building is at the corner of West Washington Row and Columbus Avenue, where the Sloane House hotel once stood. First Federal Savings-Lorain is at the site of the former Sloane House Annex, and two businesses are in operation at the Beecher House. Visit the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center to see these and hundreds of other historic images of Sandusky and Erie County.

Monday, March 22, 2021

E.W. Altstaetter, Mayor of Sandusky

After having served as City Commissioner of Sandusky during the early 1920s, Edward W. Altstaetter was Sandusky’s Mayor from 1926 to 1930. Mr. Altstaetter issued several proclamations during his years as Mayor. In 1926, He made a Proclamation of Art Week from April 11 to 18, which was published in the Sandusky Star Journal on April 10, 1926. 

The proclamation indicated that an appreciation of art would result in “better and more artistic homes, more harmonious and attractive dress, and a more beautiful city and community.” An article in the Sandusky Register of November 9, 1927 printed an Armistice Day issued by Mayor Altstaetter. A portion of the Armistice Day read: 

An interesting proclamation issued by Mayor Altstaeter on January 30, 1929, was his endorsement of “Brake Test Week.” In this proclamation, the Mayor called on the citizens of Sandusky to test the brake equipment of their automobiles, and have faulty brakes adjusted or repaired, to reduce the number of traffic accidents in the city. The Mayor also issued a proclamation urging local citizens to attend the ceremony of the opening of the Sandusky Bay Bridge, which was a huge accomplishment at the time. This proclamation appeared in the Sandusky Star Journal on January 30, 1929. During Mayor Altstaetter’s term as Mayor, the Jackson Junior High School was opened, as well as the Post Office, which for many years stood at the intersection of Central Avenue, Washington Street, and Jackson Street.

Of course E.W. Altstaetter was also Mayor when the Stock Market crashed in October of 1929. When Mr. Altstaetter passed away in 1970 at the age of 91, he was the oldest insurance agent in the city of Sandusky. His concern for the well being of the citizens of Sandusky was definitely evident by the words of his many proclamations during his tenure as Mayor.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Charles W. and Alberta Walker French, a Family Tragedy, and Questionable Business Practices

Portraits of Charles Walker French and his wife, the former Miss Alberta Walker, were donated to the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center by a relative of Mrs. French. The photos were taken in Mansfield about 1902.

Charles W. French was born near Wakeman, Ohio in 1862. A lengthy biography of Mr. French appeared in the book A Centennial Biographical History of Richland County, edited by A. J. Baughman in 1901. In 1888, Mr. French worked in Sandusky, with an excavation contracting business. Alberta Walker was private secretary and bookkeeper for the business, which was operating in an upstairs floor of a building on Columbus Avenue. 

Tragedy struck the family on Thanksgiving morning, November 29, 1888, when Alberta’s father, Albert Walker, was killed in an explosion. Mr. French’s firm had been given a contract to excavate the cellar of the Odd Fellows building under construction on Washington Row. 

Mr. Walker was the foreman for the job. Albert had picked up six sticks of dynamite from Mr. French’s dynamite storage house on Perkins Avenue, and placed them on the stove of the office to thaw out. When the paper on the outside of the sticks of dynamite caught fire, Albert Walker rushed four of the sticks to the washstand to try to put out the caps. In the process, the dynamite exploded and Albert Walker was fatally injured. Mr. Walker died while on the way to the hospital.

On June 27, 1889, Charles W. French married Alberta Walker. By 1900, Mr. and Mrs. French were living in the Mansfield area, where he worked with several short line railroads (many of which failed), as well as serving as president of the Baker Stone Company; Mrs. French was the secretary of the company. 

About 1902, Charles and Alberta French moved to California, where Charles promoted a steel company and a railroad. He was involved with several schemes that did not come to fruition.  A New York Times article from August 25, 1921 reported that he was being investigated for securities fraud, and the September 3, 1921 issue of the Sandusky Register reported that he was arrested for fraud as a result of his failed schemes. He had been implicated in a widespread mail fraud scheme.

Mrs. Alberta French passed away in California in 1929, but to date we do not know when Charles W. French died. An article from the Los Angeles Times on August 31, 1921 stated that “Charles W. French is a financial hypnotist, wielding a strange, compelling power over a wealthy man, able to talk thousands of dollars out of a man against his own better judgment.”

Thursday, March 18, 2021

The Lamb Brothers and Their Many Businesses

The business ventures of three Lamb brothers graced the cover of the 1880-81 Sandusky City Directory. G.W. C. Lamb stated that he was a consulting engineer and a mechanical expert. He was proprietor of the Lamb Steam Plow and Company. A Lamb mower took first premium at the Sandusky County Fair in 1877, according to an article in the Ohio Practical Farmer from October, 1877. In the late 1890s, G.W. C. was instrumental in designing several steam canal boats for use on the Miami Canal, between Cincinnati and Toledo. 

Brothers Anson C. Lamb and Virgil M. Lamb advertised their sign painting and decorating business, also on the cover of the 1880-81 Sandusky City Directory. The ad stated that the Lamb brothers were sign writers and fresco artists. They also did house painting and paper hanging. 

Anson C. Lamb saved several thousand dollars that he earned while working as a painter and decorator in Sandusky, and eventually became a successful stock broker. Embarking on yet a third career, he served as President of the Federal Casket Company. One of his patents was for a casket that looked like a couch, but when closed, became a fully functional casket. 

He hoped to “avoid, insofar as is reasonably possible, the usual background associated with the presence of death, and to retain with appropriate dignity the normal atmosphere of the household.” 

Anson C. Lamb lived to the age of 93, dying in 1949; he was buried in Riverside Cemetery in Cuyahoga County. Virgil M. Lamb had passed away at the age of 73 in 1933. Though the Lamb brothers did not in Sandusky their entire lives, they were quite productive when did live here. Below you can see the listings for the Lamb surname on page 62 of the 1880- 1881 Sandusky City Directory.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Bay Shore Manufacturing Company

This receipt from the Bay Shore Manufacturing Company in Sandusky, dated March 31, 1908, indicates that John Feick purchased 1452 feet of select poplar 4 x 4s from the company at a cost of $72.60. According to an annual report from the Ohio Secretary of State, the Bay Shore Manufacturing Company filed articles of incorporation on April 2, 1909. A brief notice in volume 31 of the American Bottler stated that the Brewers’ Bottle Case Association had purchased the Sandusky business of the Bay Shore Manufacturing Company, and was moving its operations to Cincinnati, Ohio. The company made cases for all kinds of bottles.

Another reference to a company known as the Bay Shore Manufacturing Company was mentioned in the December 30. 1914 issue of the Sandusky Register

The article explained that the “Always Full Grocery Cabinet” was going to soon be put on the market by the company. The Sandusky Sash, Door and Lumber Company had a contract to make the cabinets that Bay Shore designed. The “Always Full Grocery Cabinet” was patented by former Sandusky residents George W. Maley and Fred Schweinfurth. Below is a page from their patent:

Though these two companies existed and evidence of that fact is found in books and newspapers, there is no listing for the Bay Shore Manufacturing Company in any Sandusky City Directories dated between 1908 and 1914. Perhaps they were not in business long enough to appear in local directories. Many aviation and automobile companies also failed in the early twentieth century, as technology was changing so rapidly.

Friday, March 12, 2021

The Rengalle Family: From France to Sandusky (and Back - to a Convent)

On October 20, 1894, Gustave Camille Rengalle, his wife Clara, and their daughter Helena (sometimes shortened to Hena) arrived in New York City from their former home in France on the ship La Touraine.  A portion of the Rengalle family’s passenger record, available free from the Ellis Island website, is shown below. Their final destination was shown to be Sandusky, Ohio.

In the 1898 Sandusky City Directory, G. C. Rengalle and Hena’s occupation was listed as watchmaker, while Mrs. Clara L. Rengalle was a French teacher. Both the home and the business address of the Rengalle family was 511 Market Street (between Hancock and Wayne Streets).

One summer night in 1901, Hena told her parents that she was going for a walk, but she did not come back. She had left Sandusky to go back to France to join a convent. Her parents were heartbroken. A story about Hena Rengalle’s running away even appeared in the New York Times, which reported that Mme. Clara Rengalle planned to go across the ocean to try to find her daughter, and persuade her not to join the convent.

According to Clara Rengalle’s obituary, which appeared in the May 14, 1913 Sandusky Register, Madame Rengalle and her daughter did reconcile, though Clara was always sad that her daughter Hena had joined the convent.