Monday, May 26, 2014

Jim Robenalt Donates Replica of U.S.S. Michigan to the Hayes Presidential Center

Jim Robenalt of Tiffin, Ohio views his replica of the U.S.S. Michigan now on display as part of the Hayes Presidential Center's new exhibit, Privy to History: Civil War Prison Life Unearthed
Photograph by Julie Mayle

The U.S.S. Michigan was the United States Navy's first iron-hulled vessel. She was laid down in 1842 and launched the following year. She operated on the Great Lakes. During the Civil War, she was armed with a 30-pounder Parrott rife, five 20-pounder Parrotts, six 24-pounder smoothbores, and two 12-pounder howitzers. The U.S.S. Michigan provided a level of security against possible invasion by Confederates from the Canadian shores.

Tiffin, Ohio resident built a replica of the U.S.S. Michigan to enhance the Hayes Presidential Center's current exhibit, Privy to History: Civil War Prison Life Unearthed. Through artifacts, documents, letters, diaries, and photographs, the exhibit tells the war time experience of the Confederate officers imprisoned on Lake Erie's Johnson's Island.
March 1864, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles ordered the Michigan to "prepare for active service as soon as the ice will permit." That fall John Yates Beall and 20 Confederates launched their secret plan to free Confederate officers incarcerated at the Union prison on Johnson's Island. The Confederates seized the Philo Parsons and captured and burned the Island Queen, but Commander Carter discovered the plot before Beall could reach Johnson's Island on the Philo Parsons. Beall reluctantly gave up the plan to free the prisoners and fled to Windsor, Ontario where he stripped and burned the vessel.
In 1905, the Michigan's name was changed to the U.S.S. Wolverine.  She was turned over to the Pennsylvania Naval Militia, which she served for 11 years making training cruises in the summer for the Naval Reserve. It was the Wolverine who towed the brig USS Niagara from port to port during the 1913 centennial celebration of Perry's Victory on Lake Erie during the War of 1812. In 1927, the Wolverine was pushed up on  Misery Bay at the Presque Isle State Park. After fundraising for her preservation failed, she was sold for scrap. However, her prow was donated and today, after restoration, she resides at the Erie Maritime Museum.


Friday, May 23, 2014

A Look Back to Memorial Day Sandusky County, 1987

Memorial Day
Sandusky County Ohio
This Memorial Day, we once again remember and honor those who have sacrificed so that we might continue to enjoy America's freedoms. A look back  shows Boy Scouts Randy Witte (top) and Ben Everett (below) with Tom Klyne (reading names) and Charlie Nopper placing the American flag on each veteran's grave at the West Union Cemetery in Gibsonburg, Ohio, May 26, 1987.  These photographs are part of the Fremont News Messenger photographs donated to the Hayes Presidential Center.

Memorial Day
Sandusky County Ohio

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Octagon

The Octagon


Jacob's Folly
East Norwich, Columbus, Ohio
Photograph by Dr. Thomas Langlois

Dr. Thomas Langlois was an Ohio State University professor who served as director of the Stone Laboratory on Lake Erie’s Gibraltar Island for more than two decades. Much of his research, photographs, and published works are today located at the Hayes Presidential Center. A quick glance at the collection reveals that the late Dr. Langlois had many interests far beyond his research of Lake Erie. One of them was octagonal structures. During the1940s, he took pictures of many of these unusual buildings throughout his travels in the U.S. and Canada.
It was President Thomas Jefferson who first designed the octagonal house, but it was Orson Squire Fowler who popularized it some 30 years later. Fowler was better known for his phrenology research, the “science” of reading a person’s character by studying the bumps on an individual’s head. Today, phrenology seems strange beyond belief, but Fowler lectured, wrote, and published extensively on the subject from his New York offices.

He became interested in architecture when he decided to design his own home. It wasn’t long before he grew fascinated with the octagon, claiming it was superior to other forms of architecture in lighting, heating, and ventilation. He soon published plans for octagonal cottages and homes that used scrap lumber and gravel for walls. Fowler believed the octagonal home was more in accord with nature, economical, and healthier to live and work in than other buildings.

In 1958, the Columbus Dispatch Magazine” featured an article with 17 Ohio octagonal structures that Dr. Langlois had photographed and researched. It wasn’t long before readers wrote the magazine to tell about other octagons. Within weeks, six more structures were documented. Today, some 53 Ohio octagonals have been identified. While some have been  demolished, others have deteriorated. Many have been lovingly preserved. There were barns, schools, and courthouses. Of Ohio’s 88 counties, Ashtabula features the most. Many of its early residents were from New York, the state where more octagons exist than any other.  

Researchers across the U. S. have worked to create a website ( Organized by state, they have included articles, drawings, and photographs of octagonals as well as round and hexagon structures. No doubt many Ohioans will recognize or recall some of the octagons that appear on the site. 
I was pleased to make some of Dr. Langlois’ photos available for the Ohio portion of the site. One is featured above. It is his 1946 black and white print of a 20th century octagon built by William Jacobs on E. Norwich in Columbus. Jacobs called his octagon an “experiment” in ventilation without using windows. Others called it “Jacobs Folly.” It featured an early form of air conditioning and a roof and floor made of concrete with a tunnel underneath. After spending nearly $40,000, the walls still “sweat” continuously and heating costs were exorbitant. Jacobs finally sold it in 1937 for $4500. The new owner added a second story and divided it into apartments. Finally, in the late 60s, it was

Below are several more of Dr. Langlois' photographs of octagonal structures.


Octagon Home
Chatham, Medina County, Ohio
 by Dr. Thomas H. Langlois
Octagon Home
Pleasant Home Road, Wayne County, Ohio
by Dr. Thomas Langlois


Octagon Home
Richfield, Summit County, Ohio
by Dr. Thomas Langlois

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Jacob Kuebeler and the Kuebeler Monument at Oakland Cemetery

Erecting the Kuebeler Monument
Oakland Cemetery
Sandusky, Ohio
Charles E. Frohman Collection

When Jacob Kuebeler passed away in the spring of 1904 at his home in Sandusky, Ohio, the local paper heralded the millionaire as its wealthiest citizen. Indeed, he was! Jacob Kuebeler had gained his wealth through years of hard work. One of sixteen children, Kuebeler was born in Herigen Hessen, Nassau, Germany in 1838. At the age of 22, left his homeland, arriving in Sandusky just before the Civil War. The following year, he married Christina Zimmerman. They were the parents of two daughters.

For the next four years he toiled in a Sandusky brewery. After spending a short time in Akron at the Oberholz Brewery, Jacob returned to Sandusky. With his brother August, he founded a small brewery in Sandusky. It was known as Jacob Kuebeler and Company. Only 20 barrels could be produced each day, but Kuebeler’s product was an immediate favorite. Kuebeler had only a single horse and wagon to make deliveries.


Jacob Kuebeler and John Stang
Courtesy of Sandusky History

The business grew and in 1893, stock was issued under the name Kuebeler Brewing and Malting Company. Three years later, Jacob Kuebeler’s brewery merged with the Stang Brewery with Jacob Kuebeler as its president. The Kuebeler brewery was one of the largest businesses in the city and later became part of the Cleveland and Sandusky Brewing Company.


Kuebeler also invested in local enterprises. Among them were the Cedar Point Pleasure Resort Company, Diamond Wine Company, Oak Harbor National Bank, Gilchrist Transportation, and others. Kuebeler’s brewery and businesses were responsible for much of the local employment.

According to the Sandusky Register, more than 3,000 people paid their respects at the Kuebeler home. The funeral cortege was a half mile long. It seemed only fitting that this great brewer and businessman should have a monument worthy of his accomplishments. To that end, Joseph Carabelli, the successful Italian sculptor and stone cutter of Cleveland was commissioned to create an appropriate marker for Jacob Kuebeler’s gravesite at Sandusky’s Oakland Cemetery. Sandusky’s cemetery was typical of the park-like cemeteries of the Victorian era that flourished after the Civil War and spread rapidly throughout Ohio

Carabelli, designed monuments for all of Cleveland’s most prestigious families, including that of John D. Rockefeller. For Kuebeler, Carabelli created a magnificent obelisk that weighed 80 tons and was 48 feet high, twice the height of any monument in Sandusky’s Oakland Cemetery.

Above is a rare image produced from a glass plate negative in the Charles E. Frohman Collection. Taken in September 1907, the picture features Joseph Carabelli himself. He and his workmen were about to hoist the Kuebeler obelisk atop the sections that make up the base of the monument. Carabelli, wearing a vest, is pictured standing near the obelisk. Today, Carabelli’s work on the Kuebeler lot still remains the tallest monument in Oakland Cemetery.Below is a photo taken by local commercial photographer Ernst Niebergall.

Kuebeler Monument
Photograph by Ernst Niebergall
Charles E. Frohman Collection

Sunday, May 11, 2014

National Museum of the Great Lakes: A Must See!

Hayes Center Communications and Marketing Director Nancy Kleinhenz and Nan Card, Curator of Manuscripts, with Ohio Magazine staff  at Destination Toledo  (Convention and Visitors Bureau) event held at the new National Museum of the Great Lakes. 

Last November, my blog post featured a fundraiser to support the National Museum of the Great Lakes located at 1701 Front St. (right off 280) on the Maumee River. Well, in late April, it became a reality. 
This past week, Hayes Center Communications and Marketing Director Nancy Kleinhenz and I had an opportunity to visit. It's a must see! The Great Lakes Historical Society can certainly be proud of its accomplishment. Both educational and entertaining, the museum emphasizes the important role the Great Lakes has played throughout our nation's history to the present day.  Designed by Hilferty of Athens, Ohio, its  48 interactive exhibits make use of photographs, artifacts, ships' logs, and documents of the Great Lakes Historical Society.  The videos, photos, and artifacts that make up the displays capture the interest of visitors of all ages.(I wanted to spend more time writing messages in Morse Code!). 

The museum ship S. S. Col. James M. Schoonmaker, once the largest freighter on the Great Lakes, was recently docked just behind the museum. It's impressive!


Community Day at Schedel Gardens in Elmore Ohio

Hayes Presidential Center display manned by Events Coordinator Joan Eckermann and Curator of Manuscripts Nan Card at beautiful Schedel Gardens during Community Day at Elmore Ohio on May 10.
Saturday was weather-perfect for organizations to publicize their events and artists to display their creations. Visitors delighted in the extraordinary natural beauty of the grounds and the lovely Celtic music by the Twisted Strands while  watching featured artist Jan Pugh founder of Packer Creek Pottery create her fabulous ceramic pieces.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Northwest Ohio Veterans Oral History Project: Preserving the Past

Northwest Ohio Veterans Oral History Project
Hayes Presidential Center
              On this Memorial Day...
"As citizens we must listen to our veterans. If we do, we will hear stories of pride and courage, anger and pain, laughter and joy. We'll hear of actions that humble and inspire us. We'll also hear of moments that break our hearts. These stories represent the best of our nation."

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey

 A large part of the  Hayes Presidential Center's mission has been to preserve the letters, diaries, pictures, and objects of past generations. To that end, the Hayes Presidential Center has launched the Northwest Ohio Veterans' Oral History Project. The program has met with immediate success. More than 50 veterans of WWII, Vietnam, Korea, and the Iraq War have shared their experiences and memories. 

The program focuses on recording and collecting the personal recollections of America’s war veterans in order to preserve an authentic record of wartime events from World War II to the present day.
If you or someone you know, is a military veteran or is active military and would like to participate, please contact Julie Mayle, Manuscripts Assistant (, or Nan Card, Curator of Manuscripts (, at the Hayes Presidential Center, 1/800-998-7737 x239. Julie and Nan would be pleased to arrange an interview at a time and place that is convenient for you. We also would encourage participation of U S citizen civilians who were actively involved in supporting the war efforts - USO workers, defense workers, WAVES, medical volunteers, etc.

We are deeply grateful to the following individuals who have helped support our efforts with financial contributions

Ann Cain

Anonymous Donor

Patty D. Pascoe
In memory of her father Christopher Dahm WWII veteran

Glenn Kuebeler

Dorothy Damore
In memory of her father Malcom Taylor WWII veterans

Kristie Miller

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Privy to History: Civil War Prison Life Unearthed

              'Digs' add to prison's history

The Hayes Presidential Center’s latest exhibit - Privy to History: Civil War Prison Life Unearthed – opens May 1, 2014 for a seven-month run. Visitors are presented with new information about the Johnson's Island Civil War Prison, near Marblehead, gleaned during archaeological exploration of the prison site.
Officers housed at the prison were educated and cultured - the elite of Southern gentry. This influenced prison life and the amazing array of artifacts that survive - like this violin.The exhibit, funded by the Sidney Frohman Foundation and the Friends & Descendants of Johnson’s Island Civil War Prison, continues through Jan. 4, 2015. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $7.50/adult, $6.50/seniors age 60+, and $3/children ages 6-12.
Privy to History: Civil War Prison Life Unearthed advances the history of Johnson’s Island with facts uncovered since the 1965 publication of “Rebels on Lake Erie” - the seminal history of the prison written by Charles E. Frohman. Collaboration with David R. Bush, Ph.D. of Heidelberg University’s Center for Historic & Military Archaeology, makes possible the display of numerous artifacts recovered from the site during excavations of the prison latrines. A visual timeline chronicles the prison’s creation, arrival and treatment of prisoners, and diversions POWs employed during their imprisonment - including jewelry making, theatrical productions, and photography. 

An episode of the History Channel’s History Detectives is included in the exhibit. It explores the amazing story of a particular Confederate officer who fashioned a camera from a tobacco box and used oyster tins to produce photographs of his fellow prisoners.