Monday, June 3, 2019

President Rutherford B. Hayes' 1878 Journey to Minnesota and Dakota Territory

President Rutherford B. Hayes and First Lady Lucy Hayes and their presidential entourage in Dakota Territory, 1878

Guest Post by
Vince Godon  
Several years ago, I came across a story about President Rutherford B. Hayes visiting the Oliver Dalrymple bonanza farm near Casselton, Dakota Territory (now North Dakota) in 1878. At the time, I was writing a book (Reshaping the Tornado Belt: The June 16, 1887, Grand Forks/East Grand Forks Tornado) about a tornado that struck the city where I live and work. A president visiting a small territory back in 1878 was a big thing, so I thought there may be some photographs taken of the trip. Needless to say, when I found that the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums had a photograph of the occasion, I was thrilled. I received permission from the Hayes Presidential Libary and Museums to use the photograph in my book, which included a generic section on bonanza farms. Since I was not looking into why President Hayes was visiting Dakota Territory, it ended my research into that topic.

I love history, architecture, historical brickmaking, and live in the Upper Midwest. For those reasons, I also maintain a website called Minnesota Bricks ( On this website, I have compiled information on Minnesota brickyards, brick manufacturers, and historical buildings. When conducting research into these topics, I constantly come across other interesting information. For those of you who love history, you know how easy it is to get off track. Rather than discard these other interesting stories, I decided to combine my love of history with my expertise in making videos. I have made nearly a dozen historical YouTube videos to date, mainly about Minnesota history.

Recently, I came across a story that mentioned President Rutherford B. Hayes had visited the Minnesota State Fair. Again, I knew that a state fair getting a presidential visit would have been a big thing. Then I noticed that the year of the visit was 1878. I remembered my earlier story about Hayes visiting the bonanza farm in 1878, and was hooked. Coming across the same story twice makes you feel like you were meant to research a topic. The result was learning many interesting things about 1878, President Hayes, Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the Minnesota State Fair. Rather than trying to explain them all here, check out my historical video at:

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Discovering an Ancient Superstitious Practice

Child's Well Worn Concealed Shoe

Demons, ghosts, fairies, spirits, and witches have been part of the world’s history from the earliest of times. Spells, chants, charms, potions, and particular customs have been used by the superstitious to ward off evil spirits and protect them and their loved ones from demonic activities. Some took to using special customs to call up help from friendly spirits to bestow fertility or increase the family’s prosperity.  

At a recent event at Hayes, Sandy Riojas told about a little farmhouse located in Oak Harbor, Ohio that her husband and she own. Built in 1910, the house is now occupied by their daughter. Recently, while her husband was replacing an outside door, a child’s shoe (pictured nearby) fell down. It seems rather unusual at the time. But while sharing this occurrence with a friend, she learned that sometimes people placed old shoes above doorways to bring good luck.

Upon further research, Sandy learned that there is an actual name for this practice. It is called “concealed shoes.” She shared her research with us. Shoes have been found hidden away since the 1300s in buildings throughout Europe and around the world, including the U.S. They have been found in chimneys, around doorways and windows, under floorboards, above ceilings, and in roofs. They have been discovered in country houses, homes, schools, hospitals, palaces, pubs, a Baptist church, a monastery, and even Charlie Chaplin’s old movie studio! More than a thousand concealed shoes have been found in Western Europe alone!

The Northampton Museum in England has created a concealed shoe index, reaching nearly 2,000 entries. Here is a little of what they have learned. Most shoes were placed at the time of construction. Generally only one shoe is concealed. Folklorists theorize that by concealing a single shoe, demons would not steal it.  Almost all shoes discovered are worn. Perhaps people could not afford to use new shoes?  Most were made of leather, but wooden clogs and rubber galoshes have been uncovered. There are more left shoes than right. Many of the shoes belonged to children. 

According to a Wikipedia article, there has always been a connection between shoes and fertility. We have all heard the nursery rhyme “The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” (who had so many children she didn’t know what to do.)  And many of us recall seeing old shoes trailing from the bumpers of newlyweds’ cars. The Northampton Museum thinks that the significance of shoes rests in the fact that they are the only item that takes on the shape of the wearer.  The museum also notes that a side benefit to their “condealed shoes” collection is that they have learned what common people wore hundreds of years ago.     

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Howard Levan: Daredevil of the Skies

Howard Levan: Daredevil of the Skies

Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1894, Howard Levan grew up in a quiet household. His father worked for the local theater and his mother served as a laundress for nearby families. At the age of 16, Howard took a job in a hotel as an elevator operator.

Little wonder that young Levan soon left Allentown for more exciting prospects. Late in 1910, he found himself in Toledo, Ohio, selling postcards for oil magnate and local entertainment promoter Charles Strobel. Strobel owned the Toledo Mud Hens, sponsored boxing bouts, and experimented with early biplanes. It wasn’t postcards that attracted Levan, but the excitement of being around those first aviators that Strobel employed at his Strobel Airship Co.

Before long he was helping in the construction of biplanes and then learned to fly. Fellow aviators thought he was a natural. There was no doubt he was a bold and adventurous young man. Strobel soon sent him aloft in his Curtiss Jenny. Touted by Strobel as the youngest aviator in the world, Levan barnstormed at the age of 17. He flew at county fairs, festivals, and air shows throughout the country and in Hawaii and Cuba. The accompanying photo was taken at the Sandusky County Fairgrounds by professional photographer Leroy Fachman, who had studios in Port Clinton and Elmore, Ohio.
Levan became something of a local hero when he returned to Allentown and thrilled spectators by flying 30 miles in 25 minutes against formidable wind currents! But in July 1911, Levan suffered serious injuries when his “Red Devil” crashed at an exhibition in Pittsburgh. In 1912, Levan, after several more dangerous crashes, parted ways with Strobel. He planned to retire, but the “flying fever” soon hit again.

Levan noted that he and other aviators were often upstaged by balloonists, who parachuted from dirigibles.  He soon signed on with E. R. Hutchinson Aerial Company who made his own balloons. He provided ascensions and parachute drops for fairs and amusement parks. But on Levan’s first jump at Lawrence, Massachusetts before thousands of people, his chute failed to open.   From a height of 1200 feet, he plummeted to earth. Finally, as he reached 200 feet, Levan’s parachute opened! His life was spared.

He eventually settled down in Dayton, Ohio, where he married and had a daughter. He owned an amusement park and worked as a concessionaire. Marrying a second time, Levan moved to Georgia where,despite his many close calls with death, he lived out a long life. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Oak Harbor Glass Factory, Oak Harbor, Ohio

Oak Harbor Glass Factory, ca. 1929
Arch Street, Fremont, Ohio
Melinda Keller Hofacker (center)
Courtesy of John Liske,
Oak Harbor Library Local History & Museum Center 

On a recent visit to the splendid Oak Harbor LibraryLocal History and Museum Center, I admired the display of glassware. The more I looked, the more I recognized pieces that resembled several of those in my cupboard. I remembered that my pieces were supposedly Heisey Glassware, but none bore the distinctive “H” within a diamond. I recalled that one of my late aunts had worked at the Oak Harbor Glass Factory. After discussions with John Liske who is knowledgeable about “all things Oak Harbor,” I learned that indeed a glass factory had once existed on Houghton St. north of town. Mr. Liske showed me the notes he had acquired from Connie Bahs who researched the history of the factory and interviewed several of the former employees. Her work is published in the History of Ottawa County, Ohio and Its Families.

Originally known as the “Brilliant Cut Glass Company,” it began operations in 1919 with Jacob Neipp as president and John H. Fisher, a glass cutter formerly of Libbey Glass, as manager. The following year, the “Liberty Cut Glass Company” of Egg Harbor, New Jersey purchased the plant, retaining Fisher as its manager. Within the year, Fisher became the president and owner of what was then named the “Oak Harbor Glass Factory.”

No glass was blown or molded at the factory. Blanks were shipped from Cambridge and the Heisey factory in Newark, Ohio as well as Egg Harbor. The “Oak Harbor Glass Factory” employed 30 to 40 women as etchers. Their wage was 30 cents per day. Skilled etchers from Libbey Glass taught the women the proper technique of hydrofluoric acid etching. They practiced on broken or imperfect pieces known as “chards.” Sometimes samples were given to the women, who then created their own designs. Variations also occurred as each woman worked to perfect her technique.  Other “chards” were tossed out the window onto a heap behind the factory. Villagers often salvaged some of these less than perfect pieces.

Women worked in lots of a dozen pieces, using a grinding wheel to apply a single design to each piece. Once completed, they etched a second design (leaf. stem, or bud). on each of the same blanks until the entire design was complete. There were at least eleven designs. Some were known as dahlia, aster, forget-me-not, daisy, grape, poppy, vesta, and mystic.

Oak Harbor Glassware

The women wore heavy aprons to prevent burns from the lime water sprayed onto the grinding wheels to keep them from overheating. They etched a myriad of pieces: glasses (a dozen sold for $1.50) plates, compotes, cordials, sherbets, pitchers, sugar and creamer sets, cake plates, candlesticks, syrup containers, vases, and candy dishes. Even lamps, and mirrors were etched. Not all were crystal clear. There were blue, green, pink and even rare amber pieces.

Ms. Bahs states that the “Oak Harbor Glass Factory” sold “vast quantities of the finished product to Kresge’s and Woolworth’s.” The Lion Store, Hudson’s, and Crowley’s were just a few of the department stores that carried Oak Harbor glassware. Locally, grocery stores gave them away as premiums.

On a cold night in February 1928, fire destroyed the factory. Crossed electrical wires were believed to have been the cause. Fisher estimated the loss at $40,000. The company continued in business above the Oak Harbor fire station and then in 1929 moved to the north end of Arch Street in Fremont, Ohio. A victim of the depression, the Oak Harbor Glass Factory went out of business the following year. Stop in at the Oak Harbor Library. You too may find that you have some Oak Harbor Glassware!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Emancipation Proclamation Celebration, Fremont, Ohio, 1879

Celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation

Fremont, Ohio, 1879

The nearby broadside, printed in Fremont, Ohio, publicized the celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States and the West Indies. The date, August 1st 1879, was chosen by the organizers as it was on this day in 1838 that full freedom from slavery was enacted  throughout the British Empire It had taken England four years to implement the act. Because England “ruled the waves” with its powerful navy, it was necessary for all its ships to comply with the proclamation as it sailed to many of the country’s colonies where slavery had existed for decades.

Locally, Reverend Edward Claybrooks took charge and served as president of the event. Born in Tennessee some fifty years earlier, he had come to Fremont, married Sarah Ann Curtis, and ministered to many of Sandusky County’s African American families at the A. M. E. Church. Orlando Curtis, T.G. Reese, Jacob Reed, George Taylor, Robert Keyes, and John Floyd were just a few of the event organizers.. 

For whatever reason, the celebration was postponed until the 9th of September. Locals met Rev. J. W. Lewis of Toledo, J. P. Green of Cleveland, and other distinguished guests at the railroad depot as the morning trains arrived. The procession, numbering more than 200, formed in front of the courthouse. 

The Clyde Band led off the parade followed by the speakers of the day. Behind them came wagons and carriages filled with both locals and out-of-towners. They wound their way through Fremont’s major streets and then headed for the fairgrounds. There, they gathered in the grandstand, eating picnic lunches as they listened to the speakers.

Rev. Claybrooks read letters of regret from President Hayes and the Honorable Charles Foster. A reading of the near-sacred Emancipation Proclamation followed. Then J. P. Green took to the stand and declared to all that “knowledge is power” and “we must educate ourselves.” He explained that he was firmly against the emigration of freedmen to Africa. Green declared that we are all Americans. We helped “cut away the forests, build canals, railroads, and cities, and fought for the Union.” While opposed to emigration, Green believed in the settlement of the West.  They had helped and would continue to help make the country what it is - the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

After Green’s uplifting speech, Prosecuting Attorney John Garver spoke on behalf of the town.  The Clyde Band “serenaded” the visitors who then gave three cheers for the mayor and the city council. That evening a large festival was held at the city hall where former mayor Homer Everett addressed the crowds.  To cap off the celebration, everyone enjoyed a grand ball at the Opera House.   


Thursday, December 27, 2018

York Twp. School Class Photograph, Sandusky County Ohio

York Twp. Class Photograph, Sandusky County, Ohio

Although the date of this class photograph is unknown, the names of the students appear below. Eathel Haff Van Doren, teacher, was born in 1882. She was educated in Ada, Ohio and taught school in York Twp. in the Colby Schools and on the North Ridge. If you know the date or the name of the school where this class photograph was taken, we would be pleased if you would share it with us.

Front Row: L - R Ed Mincer; Bill Mincer; Stella McHarlan, Fred Richards, Irma Hughes, Harold Van Doren, and Foster Wilbert 
Back Row: L - R, Clara Comstock, Karl Richards, Ethel McHarlan, Eathel Haff Van Doren (teacher), Stella Miller, Charles Needham, James Needham

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Art Highlights Experiences of Local Veterans

View local veterans' stories of serving in wars dating back to World War I through original artwork to be featured in the special exhibit "Experiencing Veterans and Artists Collaborations," opening November 11 in the Hayes Museum.

EVAC is a national project that pairs artists with veterans to create an original piece of art based on their experiences.  The goal is to bridge the gap between civilians and veterans by educating the public about military life. For this special exhibit at the Hayes Presidential Library and Museums, EVAC founders Professors Lee Fearnside and Joe Kerkhove partnered with HPLM's Northwest Ohio Veterans Oral History Project..

Through the oral history project, Associate Curator of Manuscripts Julie Mayle meets with local veterans and records their stories, scans their photos and important documents, and preserves them in the Hayes Presidential Library and Museums Local History Collection. The veterans also receive a digital copy of their interview ad records.  Mayle then places the interview recording on YouTube and Historypin.

Associate Curator Julie Mayle with Veteran Dick Willer

In the case of veterans who have died, Mayle conducts the interviews with family and scans and saves photographs and documents. "When the Northwest Ohio Veterans Oral History Project was first started, we always had intentions of utilizing the material in a variety of ways,. So it's very exciting to see this exhibit become a reality," Mayle said. "We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with the EVAC organization on the unique project."

Co-Founder of EVAC Professor Lee Fearnside
The artwork in the EVAC exhibit features 12 to 15 pieces created using stories of veterans Mayle interviewed. Artists use a variety of printmaking  techniques, including etching, serigraphy, relief print and lithography to create unique and original artwork. Veterans also receive a copy of the art created based on their experiences.

They're all different, " Mayle said of the pieces. "They're all up for interpretation."

Veteran Participants Receiving EVAC Artwork 

The exhibit will be in the museum rotunda and opens to the public at noon on Veterans Day, Sunday, Nov.11. An exhibit opening reception for HPLM members and veterans' whose stories are featured in the artwork will take place on Saturday, Nov. 10. Members and veterans will receive an invitation through the U.S. mail or email.

The exhibit will be on display through Thursday, Jan. 31. It is sponsored by Beck Suppliers/Friendship Food Stores. 

Wife and Daughter of Veteran Leonard Dentinger

Some of the pieces in this exhibit will eventually be on display at other locations throughout the country. EVAC has placed other exhibits at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport; Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C.; Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD; and the Army Transportation Museum at For Eustis, VA.