Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Remarkable Career of Fremont Ross’ Bob Shaw

The Remarkable Career of Fremont Ross’ Bob Shaw

Bob Shaw at The Ohio State University
Courtesy of Sportsmen's Blog

Fremont Ross has always had a legacy of developing superb athletes. I learned more about one of the greats from Mike Gilbert at this fall’s History Roundtable. It was Bob Shaw! Born in 1921, Shaw was a natural, who enjoyed a remarkable career that began with the Little Giants. He was not only a player in high school, college, and the NFL, but also served as a coach at all levels.

At Ross, he lettered 3 times each in football, basketball, and track. He was First Team All-Ohio in football and basketball and won the shot put and discus at state. Six foot four and 270 pounds, he went on to play right end both on offense and defense for Ohio State. In 1942, Shaw, under the legendary Paul Brown, helped the Buckeyes win their first NCAA National Championship. He also played on the track team that won OSU’s first Western Conference crown. In 1990, he was inducted into the Ross Sports Hall of Fame and in 1996 the OSU Athletic Hall of Fame.

Shaw served in WWII, but before heading overseas, he married Mary Katherine Hawkins. He fought in Europe with the 104th Infantry Division where he earned a bronze star. Bob later completed his education at Otterbein University.

Bob Shaw’s NFL career began in 1945 when the Cleveland(Los Angeles) Rams drafted him. In his rookie year, the Rams won the championship. He later played for the Chicago Cardinals, becoming the NFL’s leader in receiving touchdowns with 12 in 1950. Bob Shaw was the first player to catch 5 touchdown passes in a single game. He was All-Pro and played in the NFL’s first Pro Bowl. He went on to play for the Calgary Stampeders and the Toronto Argonauts before retiring in 1953.   

Shaw served as a receivers coach with the Baltimore (Indiana) Colts, Chicago Bears, the 49ers, and Buffalo Bills. He was with the Baltimore Colts in 1958 when they beat the New York Giants to win the NFL championship, which many have called “The Greatest Game Ever Played.”  

Shaw appeared in Brian’s Song, the movie telling of the deep friendship between Hall of Famer Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo, who died from cancer in 1970. He was part of the first coaching staff of the New Orleans Saints. He was head coach of the New Mexico Military Institute. In the Canadian Football League, Shaw coached the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Toronto Argonauts, and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats when in 1976 he was awarded Canadian Football Coach of the Year.

At the close of his professional career, Shaw and his wife and two children returned to Ohio’s Otterbein University, where he served as head coach from 1985 – 1987. He passed away in 2011 in Westerville, Ohio. Despite his extraordinary successes and many tributes, Shaw never lost sight of reality. He once said, “You know, you have to have a good sense of humor and you have to have humility in this business…”

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Plenty Coups Meets the "Great Father"

During the 19th century, tribal delegations traveled to Washington, D. C. to visit the president at the White House. The purpose of these visits was to negotiate new treaties and to impress tribes with the progress of America’s civilization. One of those who visited was respected warrior Plenty Coups, a representative of the Crow nation living in what is today Montana.  Because Plenty Coups could speak English, the tribe knew he could help them understand the negotiations. Later, Plenty Coups told about his visit in 1880 with President Hayes.

Plenty Coups wrote, “The President said that he had sent for us to talk concerning the future of our people. He said the he wanted us to send our children to school and that they would build a house and barn for each of us. He wanted us to learn to farm. He said they were going to build a railroad through the Yellowstone Valley, but that they wanted us to make peace with the other tribes in our part of the country.”

President Hayes asked Plenty Coups and his people to leave Montana and move to land in North Dakota.

Plenty Coups

“I refused because we did not wish to leave our country.  When the President asked my reasons, I said that in North Dakota the mountains are low and that I wanted to live where the mountains are high and where there are many springs of fresh water … I said that he had asked us to do many things, but that before we could give him our answer, we would like time to talk it over among ourselves.”

The Crow leaders felt they were being held hostage until they agreed to a “yes-treaty.”  While delayed, they visited Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home.

“I was one among many visitors at Mount Vernon that day, and yet there was no talking, no noise, because we were thinking of the great past and the unknown future. When people think deeply they are helped, and in the silence there I sent my thoughts to the Great White Chief in that other life. I spoke to him, and I believe he heard me. I said: “Great Chief, when you came into power the streams of your country’s affairs were muddy. Your heart was strong, and you led them through the war to the peace you loved … As you helped your people, help me now, an Absarokee chief, to lead my people to peace. I too, have a little country to save for my children.”

After two months, Plenty Coups went home. The Crow compromised and sold some land to the U. S. government, but refused to let the railroad or telegraph lines come through their hunting grounds. Plenty Coups visited Washington many times. Through his diplomacy and strong leadership, Plenty Coups preserved the Crow nation’s land.

This image (dated February 29, 2016) is courtesy of Arlington National Cemetery. Plenty Coups' headdress is being prepared for display at the Arlington National Cemetery's Memorial Amphitheater Display Room by Curator Roderick Gainer (left), and, Brent Orton (right), Chief Plenty Coups removed this war bonnet from his head and placed it on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on November, 11, 1921, in tribute to the Unknown.
Chief Plenty Coups was selected as the sole representative of Native Americans for the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He gave a short speech in his native tongue in honor of the soldier and the occasion. He placed his war-bonnet and coup stick upon the tomb. They are on display in a case there to this day.

Friday, October 18, 2019

The Arrow: Lake Erie's Steam Passenger Vessel

Charles E. Frohman Collection

The “Arrow” was built in 1895 by the Detroit Dry Dock Co. of Wyandotte, Michigan. She was built for the Sandusky & Island Steamboat Co. of Cleveland, Ohio, who maintained ownership for nearly 30 years.

The steel passenger steamer was lighted with electricity and accommodated 900 passengers. She made trips to many locations on Lake Erie: Kelleys Island, Put-In-Bay, Lakeside, Sandusky, Middle and North Bass Islands, Marblehead, Cleveland, Detroit, Toledo, and Port Clinton.

Arrow, with full load of passengers
Charles E. Frohman Collection

Ownership transferred various times over her approximately fifty-year lifespan. In 1923, the North Shore Steamboat Co. of Chicago, Illinois took ownership and rebuilt the vessel. She burned on the Chicago River in April 1932, however the company maintained possession until 1934.

 Arrow's crew on Lake Erie
Charles E. Frohman Collection

Two years later Chester W. Armentrout of Monroe, Michigan purchased her.  He converted the "Arrow" to a barge in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin in 1936. Benjamin O. Colonna of Norfolk, Virginia bought her in 1938. For the next five years, she operated on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterways between Norfolk and Savannah, Georgia.

In the midst of World War II, H. G. Williams of Jacksonville, Florida, bought her and converted the "Arrow" into a cargo vessel. Her name was also changed to “H-165” in that same year. She served continuously during the war, carrying cargo and assisting the U.S. Maritime Commission in salvage operations.

Finally, McCormick Shipping Corporation of Panama bought her and used her as a cargo vessel in the banana trade. The "Arrow" met her demise on August 9, 1948 when she wrecked on the Barrier Reef near Hunting Cay Light, Honduras.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Jacob Souder Holtz: Seneca County Ohio Civil War Soldier

Letter by Jacob S. Holtz, 164th ONG to his Mother
22nd June, 1864
Jacob Souder Holtz, son of Jacob P. and Susannah (Huss) Holtz of Pleasant Twp. Seneca County, Ohio, attempted to enlist in a volunteer regiment for Civil War service. Due to a heart condition, he was rejected until May 2, 1864.

As General Ulysses S. Grant came east to command all of the Union armies, he strengthened his forces with the seasoned Union soldiers garrisoned at the forts defending Washington, D. C. 

Grant called up national guard units to serve as replacements at the forts. Holtz enlisted on May 2, 1864 in Company H of the 164th Ohio National Guard. He was mustered in May 11, 1864 at Camp Cleveland. The 164th was composed of the 49th Ohio National Guard from Seneca County, Ohio and the 54th  Battalion, Ohio National Guard from Summit County, On the 14th of May, Holtz was sent with the 164th to defend FtWoodbury, a part of the Arlington Line. The regiment arrived on the 17th of May. Others from the 164th defended Forts Smith, Strong, Bennett, and Haggerty

While stationed at Fort Woodbury, Holtz suffered from typhoid fever. He died July 1, 1864 in the hospital at Fort Strong, Virginia. His father brought his body home for burial in the family plot at Pleasant Ridge Cemetery, north of Tiffin, Ohio.

                                                                                              Fort Woodbury, VA June the 22 1864
                                                                                              Dear Mother

I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know that I am grunting a little with a cold but it is getting better. I do not know how I got it for I am very careful what I do. I think I will be all right in a couple of days. We are getting along very well. It is very warm and dry. There is not much news here now. It is one thing every day but I am willing to stand it if they leave us here  till our time is out. It is half out. It does not seem a great while since we left home. If I keep as well the rest of the time as I did the time that is gone I will be satisfied. A fella being here will have some little spels that is shure but if a fella takes care of him self it will not last long. I hope you folks are getting along well with the work. when you write  I want you to write how you are getting along with the work. I thought I would get a letter to nigh but did not. I gues I will tomorrow. I have nothing more to write. Write soon.

                                                                                           From your Son
                                                                                                      J. S. Holtz
                                                                                           My Love to all J

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Atkins Papers: Proposals for Constructing the Bridge Across the Carrying River at Woodville, Ohio,

List of Bids Submitted for Constructing the Bridge across the Carrying River at Woodville, Ohio

The scanned documents are part of the Quintus F. Atkins Business Papers recently donated to Hayes by Mr. Harry Wilkins on behalf of the Tabor Historical Society of Tabor, Iowa.  They were preserved by Martha Atkins, who graduated from Oberlin College where she met her husband John Todd. Before moving to Tabor, Martha and John  were active in Oberlin’s anti-slavery and temperance movements.

Martha’s father, Quintus F. Atkins was appointed by the state of Ohio as Superintendent of the Maumee and Western Reserve Road that passed through the Black Swamp.  Having discovered the description of the Atkins Papers held by HPLM, Wilkins and the Tabor Historical Society believed that Tabor's Atkins Papers could be better utilized if it were merged with those located here at Hayes Presidential.

A portion of Tabor's Atkins Papers includes proposals sent to Atkins from Sandusky Countians, hoping to gain the contract to build a bridge across the Carrying River” (i.e. the Portage River) where the road passed through Woodville, Ohio.

Atkins listed the names of bidders, their sureties, amounts proposed, and expected dates of completion. The eleven proposals listed in the first document were written during the spring of 1825. Tabor's Atkins Papers include a total of 18 proposals. Below is that of Thomas Miller. Thomas and Harriet Miller owned a tavern at the site where the Portage River (Carrying) crossed the Maumee and Western Reserve Road (now Rte. 20) as early as 1825.

Proposal Submitted by Thomas Miller

Unfortunately, Tabor's Atkins Papers do not provide evidence of who was awarded the contract. A Sketchbook of Woodville, Ohio: Past – Present, written in 1986 for the village’s sesquicentennial, states on page 14 that the “first bridge over the Portage River in Woodville was a covered wooden bridge. It is not known just when it was built.” The latest date proposed by a bidder was August of 1826. The requirements stipulated that the bridge should be capable of withstanding ice, flooding, and driftwood for a period of three years. The wooden bridge did all that and much more; it was not razed until 1878 when it was replaced with an iron bridge. 

Bidders were:
John P. Rogers
James Birdseye
Josiah Rumery
Ezra Williams
S. B. Collins
James Justice
George J. Moore
Jacques Hulburd
Joseph Wood
Seth Doren
Jonathan H. Jerome

Friday, July 19, 2019

Founding of the Ames Dental Laboratory

During the late 19th century, dentistry was becoming a distinct profession. Rather than serving apprenticeships, future dentists were attending actual schools where they learned from educators, chemists, and physicians. Sandusky Countian William Van Bergen Ames was one of those, graduating with honors in 1880 from the Ohio Dental College in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Dr. William V. B. Ames

It wasn’t long before Dr. Ames headed to Chicago where he researched, lectured, and patented new techniques at a time when dentistry was rapidly turning from extracting to saving decaying teeth. Eliminating the decay and filling the remaining cavity posed numerous problems. Dentists needed a substance that was at once both hard (to withstand chewing) yet pliable enough to be molded.
Dentists used resin, molten metal, mercury, zinc, and gold, but each had its drawbacks.

Through his research Dr. Ames developed a cement or composite that was hard, easily molded, and long lasting. Most importantly, it had no side effects for the patient. Dr. Ames lectured on numerous topics to young dentists and then helped found the school of dentistry at Northwestern University.

A short time later, he opened his own laboratory to produce what became known as Ames Dental Cement. His success with the new composite led to other products, including the development of gold inlays. Dentists throughout the United States used his cement and other products with great success. Eventually, dental supply houses from around the world purchased Ames Dental Products.

Storefront Displaying Ames Dental Products

Dr. Ames benefitted greatly and soon became a millionaire. With his new found wealth, he purchased Briar Ridge, a dairy farm near Libertyville, Illinois, that he and his wife dearly loved. Always generous, Dr. Ames also helped friends and family gain an education.

By 1906, his laboratory had outgrown the Chicago facility. It was then that Ames’ thoughts turned, once again, to Fremont and his two sisters, Jane and Nell. Still living in the family home on High Street, they helped their brother produce the composite on a small scale. Dr. Ames proposed converting the barn behind the residence into a modern laboratory. He placed his sisters in charge. The number of employees grew and other Ames products were manufactured at the laboratory. Eventually, the company found a new site at 137 Adams St. (see nearby photo) where it existed until as late as 1965!

137 Adams Street Fremont, Ohio

Dr. Ames and his wife began to look for a warmer place to spend their retirement years. South of Phoenix, they purchased land from the state of Arizona and began construction of what was described as one of the “oddest and most unique homes ever built in the west.” In reality, Ahwatukee, as it became known, was truly modern, convenient, and finely constructed. Still in existence, the house originally featured 17 rooms, seven bathrooms, and four fireplaces. The exterior utilized both Spanish and Hopi styles of architecture. There were quarters for servants and guests. The couple moved in during Thanksgiving of 1921. But there was little time for Dr. Ames to enjoyhis retirement home. In poor health, he passed away only three months later.                                                                                                                            .      

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Kellogg Brothers of the 68th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Sgt. Thomas Kellogg

Courtesy of L. M. Strayer

 Thomas Kellogg, a young man of 18, was one of nearly 3,000 Sandusky Countians to serve in the Civil War. Thomas and his younger brother Collin were the sons of Elijah Kellogg who had emigrated from Canada in 1840 to settle and raise a family in Woodville, Ohio. Elijah was a Union man who strongly opposed the South’s secession. When war broke out, it was only natural that his two sons would join the Union cause.  They enlisted in the 68th Ohio.

Thomas, a true patriot like his father, had little knowledge of the South and slavery. As the war continued and the march of the 68th took them deeper and deeper into the South, the conflict and all its horrors brought not only disillusionment, but also changed attitudes toward the South.
In his nearly 80 letters to family and friends back home, Thomas tells of conversations with prisoners, deserters, and local residents.   Near Oxford, Mississippi, he found the locals “so short of provisions that we had to give them rations to live on. One place we left a half barrel of molasses.” At Vicksburg, Kellogg wrote his father back on the farm in Woodville, “I tell you that there is some very large plantations on the Mississippi. The negroes are coming in by the hundreds and as soon as they come they are put right at work digging” [the canal to Lake Providence]. Kellogg “no longer opposed the arming” of the slaves, and wrote that the “rebs thought they could gobble up what negro soldiers we had.”  Instead, “the sesech found the ‘black yankees,’ as they called them,” credible fighters.

Siege of Vicksburg

by Kurz and Allison

Following the Union victory at Vicksburg on the 4 th of July 1863, Thomas escorted hundreds of prisoners to Clinton, Mississippi. He discovered that “nearly all of them seamed to be tired of the war”… and some of them “declared they were done fighting and ready to take the oath. There were a great many Mississippians and border state men among them.”

To Thomas Kellogg, no longer were these men hated enemies. His conversations with Confederate soldiers, deserters, and the wounded softened his attitude to toward the South. Escaped slaves who fled to safety behind the lines of Grant’s army gained his respect as both workers and fighters for the Union and for their freedom. Seeing their plight firsthand, Thomas sympathized.   

Fort Pickering at Memphis, 1858

The ravages of war took a toll on the Kellogg brothers. After continuous fevers and days of sickness, Collin wrote his father, hoping he could come to the hospital at Fort Pickering and take him home. He wrote, “I would be very glad to get home if I could for it seems like I can never get well here.” Collin did receive a medical discharge and Elijah Kellogg left Woodville and headed to Memphis to bring his son home. Collin survived the war, but suffered for the remainder of his life. Thomas was not so fortunate. A year later, afflicted with consumption, Sergeant Thomas H. Kellogg, aged 21, died at Vicksburg.   

Letter from Sgt. Thomas Kellogg to his parents, Elijah and Barbara Kellogg 

of Woodville, Ohio

Providence, Louisiana
Feby 23rd 1863

Dear parents as I now have an opportunity and not knowing when I might have another I shall write a few lines to let you know where we are. we left memphis on the morning of the 21st and landed here this forenoon. it is a miserable looking place and if it was not for the levy it would be no place at all. the soldiers that are hear are verry busy digging a cannal from the river to lake Providence a distance of six hundred yards. the river at the present time is sixteen feet higher than what the lake is. the outlet of this lake empties into Red River and so you see if the thing works right we can move our transports below Vicksburg.. for my part I don't see how it can help but work. they tell me that it is 75 mi from here to Vicksburg. I think it all of that and if any thing more. 

there has not been any fighting in this vicinity. they had  a skirmish a day or two before we came and I guess if the truth is known its not a verry dangerous place. the negroes are coming in by the hundreds and as soon as they come they are put right at work digging. I tell you there is some large plantations on the mississippi. I saw some of Gen Price's plantation. on the arcansas side. some places there is a bank or levy thrown up for miles and at the present time the water in the River is several feet higher than the bottom land. I have been down to see the lake. it is a small thing but still I can say I have seen a lake. 

Coll was left back at memphis. his is jackson block Ward D. so if you want to write to him you direct as above mentioned. I can assure you he will have good care so you kneed not fret as to that. I tried to go and see him but it was out of the question. I got permission one afternoon while we were on the boat to go and find what hospital He was in. I went all through Adams Block. I could not find him but ran on Henry Harpel. He was glad to seem me and before I all through there it was night & I went to the boat without seeing him but one of the boys in co. K has a brother in the same hospital. He saw his brother and he told me He saw colls bunk but coll had just gone out so I am certain He is there. we drew two months pay after we got on the boat. I drew coll which was 13 Dolls and shall send it to him. and as he is not a valetudinarian He will soon recover. 

since I commenced this we have moved out on the lake shore  and are camped in a large cotton field put up our tent and got a good floor in it but I tell you the way the old man's house had to suffer was a caution. it don't make any difference how nice a house is if the boys want lumber to sleep on they tear the house down. the house our division tore down was worth not less than five thousand dollars. I tell you it looks barbarous to see how we tear up things but all I have got to say is they had no business to [?] I will send ten dollars in this letter. 

In writing to coll don't put the company or the Regt on the letter. no more this time from your son Thos. H. Kellogg

Friday, June 28, 2019

Spring's Mayflies are a Good Sign

Recently, some mayflies once again appeared in Lake Erie’s western basin. Sometimes called Canadian soldiers, shad flies, fish flies, or June bugs, these harmless insects are official known to scientists as Hexagenia. They live most of their lives in burrows in Lake Erie’s soft bottom. From late May to late August, whenever the water temperature is just right, they emerge, molt, swarm, mate, lay eggs, and die - all within 48 hours!

Their reappearance signals a healthier Lake Erie. While it’s great for the perch and channel catfish, it’s not so great for tourism. In fact, the size of the hatch in June 1996 caught residents of Port Clinton and other shoreline communities off guard. Suddenly mayflies were everywhere - covering everything! Picnic tables, cars, boats, porches, docks, sidewalks, and streets were piled high with them.

Attracted to bright lights, mayflies swarmed at an electrical substation near Lake Erie. They were so numerous that they began conducting electricity across insulators, causing brownouts throughout Northwest Ohio. When streets became dangerously slick with their smelly little carcasses, city workers posted warning signs, then rolled out the plows and scooped up 38 dump-truck loads!

The hatch of 1996 may have seemed large, but it was small when compared to the hatch that occurred on the evening of July 22, 1951. The following morning biologists at the Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island began making some calculations. They rated the density of mayflies on lawns at Put-in-Bay as 2,650 mayflies per square foot. Twelve bushels, weighing 38 pounds each, were scooped up from behind a single window of the laboratory. One pound was found to contain 8,100 mayflies. Therefore, the single pile was estimated to contain 2,380,000 mayflies. According to Dr. Thomas H. Langlois’ report, much larger swarms had accumulated around two lampposts on Middle Bass Island on the same night. He estimated conservatively that two tons or 32,400,000 mayflies lay under each lamp post! This quantity had emerged from only 50 acres of Lake Erie’s bottom.

Franz Theodore Stone Laboratory
Gibraltar Island, Lake Erie

The following year, mayflies met with disaster. By the mid-60s, they had disappeared from Lake Erie. Excessive algae growth resulting from high levels of phosphorous in the water hastened the rate of decay, consuming so much oxygen at the lake bottom that the mayflies could not survive. Little did we know that the ever-present green scum and rotting masses of algae could virtually destroy tons and tons of mayflies that had been part of Lake Erie’s ecosystem for thousands of years. So, when those pesky mayflies descend, TRY to give thanks for a healthy Lake Erie.

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!