The Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum Celebrates 80th Anniversary of the Collection in 2023!

1910 Duryea automobile. black open carriage. on display at Crawford Museum

While the famous statues on Cleveland’s Lorain-Carnegie Bridge have served as guardians of transportation since 1932, the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum has served as a guardian of transportation history since 1943. That’s when Crawford namesake Frederick C. Crawford opened the Thompson Products Auto Album at Chester and E. 30th in Cleveland.

Fred started collecting cars in 1937, when–as president of automotive parts maker Thompson Products (the precursor to TRW)–he had the company purchase a 1910 Duryea that had been on display at the Great Lakes Exposition in Cleveland.

From that initial purchase, the collection grew quickly. When Thompson Products’ traveling salesmen would come across interesting old cars in fields, garages and barns, they would wire Fred, who would authorize the purchase and shipping of the vehicle back to Cleveland. It could easily be argued that Fred was one of the original buyers of “barn finds,” which are now a big deal in the car collecting world.

As cars were acquired, the collection began to take up more storage space at the Thompson Products factory on Clarkwood Road in Cleveland. That growth, coupled with the start of WW II and the need for Thompson Products to expand production of aircraft and automotive parts, led to a new, dedicated museum in a former Cadillac showroom at the corner of E. 30th and Chester. The museum, known as the Thompson Products Auto Album, opened for business on August 13, 1943, making it one of the first car museums in the country.

Brochure for Thompson Auto Album

Fred donated the Thompson Products Auto Album to the Western Reserve Historical Society in 1963, and the collection moved into a newly constructed (and its current) home in 1965. The collection now features nearly 200 vehicles, including cars, trucks, motorcycles and airplanes.

The WRHS will celebrate the 80th anniversary of Fred Crawford’s amazing collection throughout 2023. To stay up to speed on our 80th anniversary events, follow the Crawford on Instagram at To learn more about the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum’s history, visit

Forest City Park

By John Frato, Carousel Operations Coordinator, Cleveland History Center


Opening in 1883 twelve years before the first customer walked through the entrance gate of Euclid Beach, Forest City Park was originally named Beyerle Park after its first owner George William Beyerle. It was located in the area of Cleveland identified today as Slavic Village in the southeastern section of the city. As with many parks that opened during this time period, the plan was to create a summer resort. Beyerle Park was a place where people could get away from the hectic city life and enjoy themselves without traveling outside the city. During its initial years of operation, no amusement rides were added. The park’s landscaped grounds featured picnic areas, a manmade lake with a boathouse, baseball grounds, an entertainment pavilion, and even a small zoo.

Beyerle Park Lake and Overlook Bridge. Photo Nagode Collection


The name of the park was officially changed to Forest City Park when A.B. Schwab and his partners took over the operation of the park on May 5, 1895. The change in ownership and name change occurred a mere six weeks before the newly built Euclid Beach Park’s inaugural opening day on June 22, 1895. Forest City Park continued to operate as a summer resort offering its patrons alcohol, questionable games of chance, and often risqué side shows and vaudeville acts. The next significant change in the park’s operation occurred in 1902. Only a year after taking over the management of Euclid Beach Park, the Humphrey Family took over the management of Forest City Park. The two parks were comparable in size at approximately sixty five acres. As with Euclid Beach, the bawdy attractions as well as alcohol sales were eliminated in favor a much more family friendly atmosphere. The two parks were managed under the same guidelines. All immoral or questionable influences were eliminated. Guests were expected to dress and conduct themselves appropriately. Those patrons who acted inappropriately were forcibly removed. In place of these questionable forms of entertainment, The Humphrey’s added family friendly attractions which included a shooting gallery, theater, carousel, and a “switchback” roller coaster. It has been suggested, but remains unverified that the Armitage Herschell Carousel (track machine style) and Switchback Railway roller coaster originally installed in 1896 at Euclid Beach were recycled by the Humphrey Family to Forest City Park when they were replaced with more modern attractions.

Armitage Herschell Carousel at Euclid Beach. Photo courtesy of EBPN.
Armitage Herschell Carousel at Euclid Beach. Photo courtesy of EBPN.
Track Machine Operational Design Patent. Photo courtesy of EBPN.
Switchback Railway Roller Coaster at Euclid Beach. Photo courtesy of EBPN.


As with Euclid Beach admission to Forest City was free with patrons purchasing tickets for food, rides, and attractions. Under their management the two parks operated under a ticket system called the “Humphrey Park Plan”; multiple tickets were purchased rather than tickets for particular rides. Tickets could be used interchangeably at either park and they never expired.

The Humphreys’ management formula of offering numerous attractions and a family friendly atmosphere which worked so well at Euclid Beach did not have the same result at Forest City. Despite all of their efforts, park attendance lagged. The lack of alcohol was definitely a contributing factor. While it is true the Humphrey’s stepped away from direct management after a few years, it was still operated up to their standards. The working class neighborhood the park was located in would have been more supportive of the park if alcohol would have been available along with perhaps more adult themed entertainment. For anyone other than neighborhood locals it was easier to commute to the much larger Euclid Beach Park or Luna Park particularly as automobiles became a popular way of traveling to the parks. Euclid Beach and Luna had provisions for automobile parking, Forest City did not. An argument can also be made that quickly improving road system to outlying parks like Cedar Point and Geauga Lake contributed its downfall. Forest City closed its doors forever after a devastating fire in the late teens. Today, the park is a mere footnote in history. As for the land, a portion was sold for industrial use and the remainder of the valley the park was located in including the manmade lake was eventually filled and used to build housing.

Shady Lake Park – Then and Now

By John Frato, Carousel Operations Coordinator, Cleveland History Center


After Euclid Beach Park closed in 1969, the rides were disposed of in three different ways. Rides that would have been extremely costly and difficult to transport to a new location were razed. The Flying Turns, Thriller, Racing Coaster, and Over the Falls all fell into this category and were demolished. Other attractions were sold. A prime example of this category would be The Grand Carousel, which was sold to a ride broker in Pennsylvania and was quickly purchased for use at Palace Playland outside of Portland, Maine. The Humphreys kept a number of the rides for their own use. Almost all the rides from Kiddie Land most of which were located inside the Colonnade, along with the Rotor, Flying Scooters, Sleepy Hollow Train, Dodgems, Antique Car Ride, and Turnpike Ride were held back. A tract of land was purchased in Streetsboro along State Route 14 shortly before the Park closed, and the family planned on opening another amusement park there. Shady Lake, as the new park would be named, was developed slowly from 1969 to 1978.

The entire infrastructure of roads, pathways, sewer, electrical, and water service needed to be installed. A number of key maintenance employees were kept on, and the work began as soon as Euclid Beach closed, with the dismantling of the rides that were being kept, salvaging of much of the iconic green steel fence along with electrical boxes, switches, plumbing fixtures…just about anything that could be used at the new location.

When the park opened in 1978, an Arch quite similar to the one at Euclid Beach had been erected, a Wild Mouse Ride had also been installed in addition to the familiar rides transplanted from the old park, Although the park was located far from the shore of Lake Erie, there was a small lake on the property. Not surprisingly, Shady Lake Park had a very “Euclid Beach” feel to it. Many of the signs, the park benches, and even the ticket booths were transplanted to Streetsboro. Shady Lake had only a short life span. It closed in 1982 due to a family conflict over whether or not the Humphrey Family should stay involved with the amusement park business. After Shady Lake closed many of the rides were purchased by Old Indiana Family Fun Park outside of Indianapolis, Indiana. Old Indiana operated through 1996 when a tragic accident involving the Sleepy Hollow Train forced the park to close. An auction was held in February 1997 and the rides from Euclid Beach were scattered across the country and beyond. The Shady Lake Arch remained standing until 2004, and today the property is home to the Shady Lake Apartments and a Fifth Third Bank. It is a truly ironic twist that apartment buildings were built on the sites of both Shady Lake Park and Euclid Beach Park.

From Prince to King: A Historic Visit to the Cleveland History Center

By John J. Grabowski, Ph.D.
Krieger Mueller Associate Professor of Applied History CWRU. Historian/Senior Vice President for Research and Publications, Western Reserve Historical Society
This photo was taken on October 20, 1977 when Prince Charles came to Cleveland.   The picture shows him coming to the front door of the Crawford where he would attend a dinner.   After dinner he attended a concert at Severance Hall.

My wife Diane and I were engaged to be married at that time and we came to see Prince Charles enter the Crawford and later we went to the concert at Severance which he attended and which, if I recall correctly, was conducted by Sir Michael Tilson Thomas.  Our companion during the evening was Anthony Phelps — Tony was British and an expert on heraldry and worked in the WRHS library.  Tony was a dear friend and groomsman at our wedding the following May.

The picture was given to me afterwards and for many years, hung on the wall of my office in the library.
Here’s a synopsis of the entire visit:

The 28-year-old Prince Charles, heir to the British throne and the future King Charles III, and Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, spent a full day touring Cleveland as a guest of E. Mandell de Windt, Chairman of Eaton Corporation. They stayed the night at Eaton House, 282 Corning Drive, on October 20, 1977. The stay incurred a high level of security, including boats on Lake Erie.

The eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II arrived at Burke Lakefront Airport at 10:30 a.m. He then visited the Republic Steel Corporation district plant and the Cleveland Clinic. President Walter B. Waetjen and the trustees of Cleveland State University gave a luncheon for the Prince. Following the luncheon, the prince participated in the dedication of the university’s new Cleveland Marshall Law Building at Euclid Avenue and East 18th Street.

A group of major northeastern Ohio industrialists with interests in the United Kingdom hosted a dinner for the prince at the Frederick C. Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum of the Western Reserve Historical Society. Following dinner, the prince attended a Cleveland Orchestra concert at Severance Hall with a reception following. The prince departed Cleveland from Burke Lakefront airport the next morning at 8:45 a.m.

What Would the Automotive World Have Missed If Porsche Had Killed the 911?

This 1988 Porsche 959 is one of just 292 road-going cars built. With a top speed of 199 mph, it was the fastest production car in the world at the time.


By Dan Davis


The Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum will answer that question with a new exhibit–Porsche 911: The Evolution of an Icon— that opens November 17, 2022.

Porsche has had a strong presence in Northeast Ohio since 1957, when Charles A. Stoddard, a former automotive engineer at Thompson Products (where Crawford Museum namesake Frederick C. Crawford was president), opened Stoddard Imported Cars (SIC) in nearby Willoughby, Ohio.

As one of the first Porsche dealers in the country, SIC grew rapidly as people discovered the pleasures of driving the small German sportscars. The introduction of the 911 in 1963 further bolstered the success of Porsche and dealers like SIC, yet that success was threatened when Porsche decided to cease production of the 911 in 1981.

Fortunately for cars enthusiasts around the world, then-new Porsche CEO Peter Schutz–the first American to run the company–stepped in to save the day. In 2013, Schutz wrote in Road & Track magazine about how he saved the 911.

As far as the company was concerned, the 911 was history. But I overturned the board’s decision in my third week on the job. I remember the day quite well: I went down to the office of our lead engineer, Professor Helmuth Bott, to discuss plans for our upcoming model. I noticed a chart hanging on his wall that depicted the ongoing development trends of our top three lines: 911, 928, and 944. With the latter options, the graph showed a steady rise in production for years to come. But for the 911, the line stopped in 1981. I grabbed a marker off Professor Bott’s desk and extended the 911 line across the page, onto the wall, and out the door. When I came back, Bott stood there, grinning.

“Do we understand each other?” I asked. And with a nod, we did.

Porsche has built nearly 800,000 911s since 1981, and the Crawford Museum’s exhibit will feature several variants of the model that would never have seen the light of day if Porsche had killed the car in 1981. All of the cars in the exhibit come from private collectors in Northeast Ohio, including the two rare cars pictured here: a 1988 Porsche 959, and a 1991 Carrera Cup Car.

The 959, one of just 292 road-going cars built, was Porsche’s first supercar. With a race-derived twin-turbo flat-six engine, all-wheel drive, adjustable suspension and a six-speed gearbox, the 959’s top speed of 199 mph made it the fastest production car in the world at the time.

The 1991 Carrera Cup Car is one of just 120 built and has significant competition history. It raced successfully in the Porsche Carrera Cup series in France from 1991-1994, and scored class wins in 1993 and 1994 at the prestigious 24 Hours of LeMans.

This 1991 Porsche Carrera Cup Car is one of just 120 built, and scored class wins in 1993 and 1994 at the prestigious 24 Hours of LeMans.

Porsche 911: The Evolution of an Icon will offer Crawford Museum visitors a look at what would not have been had Porsche killed the iconic 911 41 years ago. This collection of rare and beautiful Porsches will put a smile on the faces of Porschephiles and casual observers alike. We hope you’ll join us between November 17, 2022, and April 2, 2023, to view this exhilarating exhibit.

Ohio’s Rich Amusement Park History

By John Frato, Carousel Operations Coordinator, Cleveland History Center


The Euclid Beach Park Company was incorporated on October 23, 1894, by John Flynn, John Irwin, Albert E. Thompson, Jerome B. Burrows, and Hylas B. Gladwish. Their business prospectus stated: “The lncorporators are convinced that a Summer Resort within easy reach of Cleveland properly appointed and conducted, will be both popular and profitable.” It goes on to state that estimates of admissions for a day’s outing in Cleveland proper and the surrounding communities were made. The estimated total spent by patrons annually was $455,000.00. The owners reasoned that a park like Euclid Beach, with its great lakeside location and superior amenities would garner a large share of that total.


When Euclid Beach first opened to the public on June 22, 1895, approximately 30 amusement parks were operating in Ohio, with even more opening after the Park’s inaugural year. Keeping in mind how much more difficult travel was 125 years ago, the vast majority of these parks posed no direct competition, but it is surprising to see how many amusement parks dotted Ohio’s landscape so early in the development of the amusement park industry. What makes the list even more impressive is that it does not include a large number of picnic groves/resorts that were also in operation.


Euclid Beach’s life span of 74 years pales in comparison to a number of other parks in the Cleveland area.  Chippewa Lake in Medina opened in 1878 and operated until 1978 hanging on to celebrate the park’s bittersweet centennial year.


Geauga Lake in Aurora also got an earlier start than Euclid Beach.  Opening in 1888, Clevelander’s enjoyed the thrills of its many rides and attractions until 2007.  One of the notable differences between Euclid Beach and Geauga Lake had to do with management.  Euclid Beach was owned and operated by the Humphrey Family 69 of its 74 operational years and the family’s management style did not change very much over the years.  A trip to Euclid Beach was like visiting an old friend.  There might be some new rides or attractions, but the park had a familiar “feel”.   Geauga Lake was owned by a number of groups during its lifetime.  Differing management styles resulted in changes that made the experience of visiting the park quite different over the years.


Idora Park, which operated in Youngstown, had a life span similar to Euclid Beach, operating from 1899 to 1984.  Puritas Springs Park located on Cleveland’s west side operated a few years fewer than the Beach.  The fun times and thrill of the Cyclone delighted park goers for 60 years until its closure in 1958.


Of all the amusement parks that operated during Euclid Beach’s lifetime, Luna Park located at East 110 Street and Woodland Avenue provided the stiffest competition to the Beach.  Glitz and glamour was the keynote for all of the rides and attractions.  Luna was more of an “adult” place for Clevelander’s to enjoy with risqué side shows and alcohol available for sale.  The park opened with much fanfare in 1905 and closed its doors in 1929 the victim of the economic hard times. Euclid Beach struggled during this period of time, but was in a better position to survive because it was not impacted by Prohibition and the loss alcohol sales.


Other parks came and went so quickly that they are mere footnotes in history.  White City was located a mere one mile east of Euclid Beach on Lake Shore Boulevard.  The two parks even shared the same street car line.  Unlike Euclid Beach with its free gate, White City charged an admission fee.  The park opened in 1902 and a short five years later closed its doors forever in 1927 due to a devastating fire.


Only two amusement parks that opened their doors in the Cleveland area are still operating today.  The first season at Cedar point was in 1870.  It opened twenty five years before Euclid Beach.   Unlike all of its contemporaries, it has not only survived but thrived over the years.  A small part of Euclid Beach lives on among the myriad of roller coasters that operate there.  It is not a”high ride” but an attraction some have described as a “carousel on steroids”.  Derby Downs (formerly The Great American Racing Derby at Euclid Beach) is a classic carousel that riders can race four abreast on hand carved wooden horses.


What is often referred to as a hidden gem here in Cleveland is the Memphis Kiddie Park.  Stuart Wintner opened the five acre park in 1852 on Memphis Avenue in Brooklyn on Cleveland’s west side.  He never envisioned Memphis Kiddie Park as being in direct competition with the other much larger amusement parks in the area, but felt a children’s park would be successful.   His vision was correct.  Over the years the little park has not only survived but thrived delighting generations of Clevelanders. Like Euclid Beach there has never been a charge for admission or parking.


There is not just one reason to the question for the closure of all of these amusement parks.  The answer is multifaceted with fire, storm damage, competition, Great Depression, World Wars, Prohibition, and changing social times all playing a role.



  • Avon Park-Girard, OH – (1897 – 1920s)
  • Brady Lake Park-Ravenna, OH – (1891 – 1944)
  • Casino Park – Toledo, OH (Dates??)
  • Cedar Point, OH-(1870 – Still operating)
  • Chippewa Lake, Saville, OH – (1878 – 1978)
  • Cleveland Zoo Kiddie Park- Cleveland, OH-(1950’s)
  • Crystal Beach Park – Vermillion, OH – (1884 – 1965)
  • Crystal Lake Park – Akron, OH (Dates??)
  • Euclid Beach – Cleveland, OH – (1895 – 1969)
  • Forest City Park – Cleveland, OH – (1883 – mid 1920s)
  • Geauga Lake – OH – (I 888 – 2007)
  • Gordon Gardens-Cleveland, OH – (1922 – 1927)
  • High Bridge Glens – Cuyahoga Falls, OH – (1882 – 1920s)
  • Kiddie Playland-North Randall, – (1950’s)
  • Idora Park-Youngstown, OH – (1899-1984)
  • Johnson’s Island – Sandusky, OH – (1894 – 1897 & 1904 – 1907)
  • Lake Erie Park-Toledo, OH – (1895 -1910)
  • Lakeside Park -Akron, OH – (1912? – 1917)
  • Lincoln Park- Rocky River, OH – (1906 – 1920’s)
  • Luna Park-Cleveland, OH – (1905-1929)
  • Merrimack Park – Aurora, OH (Dates??)
  • Mentor Beach Playland – Mentor, OH (Dates??)
  • Memphis Kiddie Park1 – Brooklyn, OH – (1952 – Still operating)
  • Meyer’s Lake Park- Canton, OH – (1902 – 1974)
  • Mother Goose Land – Canton, OH (Dates??)
  • Old Orchard Park- between Cleveland & Akron, OH – (1927 – 1933)
  • Pera’s / Erieview Park- Geneva on the Lake, OH – (1946 – 2006)
  • Playland Park – Akron, OH (Dates??)
  • Presque Isle – Toledo, OH (Dates??)
  • Puritas Springs Park-Cleveland, OH – (1898 – 1958)
  • Riverside Park- Findley, OH – (1930s – mid 1970s)
  • Riverview Park-Cuyahoga Falls, OH – (1921 – 1932)
  • Riverview Park – Akron, OH – (1919 – ?)
  • Sandy Beach – Akron, OH (Dates??)
  • Sea World Ohio – Aurora, OH – (1970-2000)
  • Scenic Park – Rocky River, OH – (1900 -1906)
  • Shady Lake Park – Streetsboro, OH – (1978 – 1982)
  • Silver Lake Park – Akron / Cuyahoga Falls, OH – (1876 – 1917)
  • Springfield Lake Park – Akron, OH – (1914 – 1920s)
  • Summit Beach Park-Akron, OH – (1917 – 1958)
  • Toledo Beach-Toledo, OH – (1907 – 1930 & 1962 – 1970)
  • Vollmar’s Park- Bowling Green, OH – (1900- 1948 & 1963 – 2001)
  • Walbridge Park-Toledo, OH- ( 1888 – late 1950s)
  • White City- Cleveland, OH – (1897-1907)
  • White City-Toledo, OH – (1907 – ?)
  • Wildwater Kingdom – Aurora, OH – (2005-2016)
  • Willow Beach Amusements – Toledo, OH – (1929 – 1947)
  • Willough Beach Park – Willoughby, OH – (1907 – 1926)
  • Wonderland -Toledo, OH (Dates??)
  • Woodland Beach Park-Ashtabula, OH – (1884 – 1952)

Opening Day: First Roller Coaster in the USA June 16, 1884

By John Frato, Carousel Operations Coordinator, Cleveland History Center

What is recognized as America’s first roller coaster type ride is the Gravity Railway located in Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania.  In the 1950’s, the town’s name was officially changed to Jim Thorpe after the famous Olympic athlete. Then In 1827, the Mauch Chunk and Summit Railroad was constructed to carry coal out of the mountain mines located there down a nine mile stretch of rugged mountain area.  The rail line was not only carried coal down the mountainside, but also miners returning to their homes.  A more efficient rail line was built in 1872 and the line was purchased by the Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ) in 1874.  Seeing the commercial value of offering rides to the general public, Theodore and H.L. Mumford leased the line from the CNJ and operated the railway as a tourist attraction until the Great Depression forced their closure in 1932.  America’s first roller coaster “thrill” ride began taking on passengers in 1874 and was an immediate success.  A young talented inventor rode the ride and his life path changed. That young man’s name was LaMarcus Adna Thompson. He was born in Licking County, Ohio on March 1, 1848 and is often referred to

as “the Father of the Modern American Roller Coaster”. Throughout his lifetime, he held over thirty patents relating to roller coaster technology. The original Switchback Railway built at Coney Island in 1884 was designed by Thompson working off of another inventor’s patent that was filed in 1878. Richard Knudson called his version of a gravity roller coaster the “Inclined Plane Railway” and it is strikingly similar to Thompson’s final design. The Switchback Railway that debuted at Coney Island on June 16, 1884 holds the distinction of being the first roller coaster type ride designed and built for the purpose of amusement rather than an existing rail line converted for that purpose. The ride consisted of two sets of parallel tracks descending in opposite directions from elevated towers. To complete their round trip riders had to get out of their cars after they came to a stop and ascend a second fifty foot tower to board cars to head back. The novelty of the new ride far surpassed any problems riders had with exiting their cars, re-boarding, or climbing the second set of stairs to the top of the tower to return.  Initially riders were not seated directly in front of one another as they are on modern roller coasters, but were seated in benches parallel with the track facing outward.  Even with all of its shortcomings, the ride was immensely popular and reportedly paid for itself during its first month of operation.

The original cost for the heart pounding six mile per hour ride that lasted one minute was five cents.  Thompson’s later rides were often referred to as Scenic Railways since they gave riders a panoramic view of the landscape as they traversed the tracks from one end to the other. His later designs had elaborate backgrounds of exotic foreign locales painted along the length of the tracks. The immense popularity of the new ride led to the formation of the L. A. Thompson Scenic Railway Company that oversaw the construction of rides across the country. It should come as no surprise that when rides were first added to Euclid Beach in 1896 a LaMarcus Thompson Gravity Roller Coaster was built. The Switchback Railway at Euclid Beach had a little over one thousand feet of track. Riders climbed stairs to the top of the tower where they boarded a car that was manually pushed out of the loading platform and hopefully gravity took the passengers to the opposite end of the tracks where the other tower was located. There they would disembark and the ride operators would push the car up to the loading platform in that tower. Once they were again seated, they would be pushed out onto the track for the return trip to the first tower…a truly exhausting amount of labor for a six mile per hour trip. The ride was dismantled and removed from the Park when the Figure Eight was installed in 1904.

The big question…can you still ride a Switchback Railway today? The answer is sort of…a modern version of the ride with a lift hill opened at a small amusement park located between San Antonio and Austin Texas in the small town of Seguin in 2015.

The Famous Switchback Railway was designed by the Ohio based Gravity Group for ZDT’s Amusement Park and is the first new wooden “shuttle coaster” built anywhere in the world in more than a century. Like the old Switchback at Euclid Beach it reverses course mid-way. Unlike the ride at the Beach it retraces its way back to the loading station backwards rather than forward. The “new” Switchback begins with a sixty three foot tall lift hill rather than a friendly push by Park employees, reaches speeds up to forty five miles per hour, and ascends a sixty four foot tower before rocketing back to the station along 1,980 feet of track (actually only about 1,000 feet of track but you travel it twice). A brake run at the bottom of the lift hill along with a section of switch track allows the coaster to safely operate two trains.



Celebratory Noise: Seeking a Safe and Sane Fourth of July

In August 1905, William P. Palmer, a resident on the “Overlook” in Cleveland Heights sent a letter to Mayor Tom L. Johnson complaining about the fireworks being set off during the Feast of the Assumption in Little Italy, located just below his house.  Johnson sent the letter to his police chief, Fred Kohler.   Kohler investigated the situation and replied to Palmer, noting that nothing could be done as the fireworks were set off just beyond the city limits.  He promised, however, to work with the community to try to quiet things down.

Interestingly, Palmer was the head of American Steel and Wire in Cleveland and also would become the president of the Western Reserve Historical Society to which he left an outstanding collection of material relating to the Civil War and the abolitionist movement.

Palmer’s issue with fireworks reflected a larger concern in Cleveland and other urban areas during the early Twentieth Century.   It was not only the noise, but the danger posed by fireworks.  The “Safe and Sane Fourth of July” movement began in Cleveland in 1908.   It followed on several major local firework related disasters.  In 1903 a fireworks manufacturing company located on Orange Avenue (near today’s main Cuyahoga Community Campus) suffered a massive explosion.  It destroyed twelve buildings and resulted in three deaths.   Later a display of fireworks for sale at a local Kresge store exploded when a spark from a sparkler set fire to a flag and then the counter.   Many people were burned and five were trampled to death as shoppers fled the inferno.    That resulted in the movement to ban fireworks and, indeed, in 1908 Cleveland prohibited fireworks in the city.  It was the first community in the nation to do so.

Nevertheless, the Safe and Sane ordinance allowed for professional displays and banned powerful or dangerous devices from sale.  Local noise or nuisance ordinances also impinged on the personal use of fireworks, but busy police departments had little time to enforce the laws.  One local policeman who did enforce the ordinance ended up shooting off the confiscated fireworks in his own back yard (which was adjacent to the author’s childhood home).  The cacophony of explosions were to continue on the Fourth of July with little interruption  — and, indeed, it accelerated in the past several decades with the appearance of fireworks “wholesale” sites alongside many state highways.  The only caveat was that the buyer had to sign a paper indicating that the devices would be used outside the state.

With so many loopholes, the state has just passed a law this year allowing for the legal use of certain fireworks – provided that local ordinances do not prohibit their use, and that they be used on specific holidays, including New Year’s Eve and Day, Chinese New Year, Cinco de Mayo, Juneteenth, on and around the Fourth of July, Labor Day, and for the Hindu Festival of Diwali.

The new law reflects not only the difficulty of banning fireworks, but also our desire to celebrate heritage and history with noise, color and light – a propensity that has expanded with the growing diversity of the nation.   It’s hard to imagine what Mr. Palmer would think if he were living on Overlook Road today — the Feast of the Assumption continues, as does the Fourth of July — and on the Lunar New Year and Diwali, Case Western Reserve University joins in the celebration with professional fireworks displays that honor the heritage and holidays of many of its students.

Local History and Global Connections: Members of the WRHS Staff and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Fulbright Association Support CCWA’s Seminar for Visiting Fulbright

By Regennia N. Williams, PhD

(Left to right) Dr. Yusrah Schweikn, Dr. Regennia N. Williams, Dr. Medha Bhattacharyya, and Dr. Richard Feinberg are pictured above at the opening reception and networking event for the May 2022 seminar. (Emanuel Wallace, Photographer)


Members of the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Fulbright Association joined the Cleveland Council on
World Affairs (CCWA) in welcoming more than 80 visiting Fulbright scholars to “Preparing for and
Mitigating the Effects of Climate Change.” This May 2022 Fulbright Enrichment Seminar was held at the
Global Center for Health Innovation in Downtown Cleveland.

According to the organizers, the participants hailed from more than 40 different countries, and
the seminar offered “an introduction to climate change issues in Cleveland, Ohio, and provided a local
perspective on this topic of global importance.” Beyond the basic introduction, the seminar also
explored “climate change and environmental issues through a lens of environmental justice” while
examining “the impact of climate on public health, natural resources, and infrastructure.” In keeping
with information in the seminar packet, “Multi-disciplinary keynotes, panel discussions, breakout
sessions, and site visits [focused on] Cleveland’s unique environmental history, present day challenges
related to the impact on underserved communities, and efforts to ensure a sustainable and resilient
community for decades to come.”

Dr. Regennia N. Williams, the Western Reserve Historical Society’s Distinguished Scholar of
African American History and Culture and president of the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Fulbright
Association, offered words of welcome during the seminar’s opening reception and networking event.
For Williams, “The seminar provided local Fulbright alumni with invaluable opportunities to network
with scholars from around the world, exchange information about common research interests, consider
the possibility of future collaborations, and find out more about local tourist attractions—including
“Open Road: The Lure of Motorcycling in Ohio,” a special exhibit that is on view at WRHS through
September 2022.”

“Interestingly enough,” said Williams, “it was during my 2010 Fulbright Fellowship in Nigeria
that I rode a motorcycle for the first time in my life and came to appreciate the beauty of many rural
areas that were most easily, affordably, and quickly accessed by motorcycle.” This statement sparked
several interesting discussions with other Fulbrighters about motorcycles as the preferred mode of
transportation in many Asian and African countries.
Northeast Ohio Chapter members Dr. Edward Sivak and Dr. Suzanne Ondrus, who held Fulbright
appointments in Finland and Burkina Faso, respectively, spoke during the seminar’s closing session. Like
their visiting colleagues, local Fulbrighters found the seminar be both engaging and enlightening.
This seminar was newly re-activated Northeast Ohio Chapter’s second major event of the
current program year, and quarterly meetings and the spring 2022 elections have also taken place. For
more information on past and upcoming events, please visit the Chapter’s website.

About the Host Organization

(Left to right) Attorney Carter E. Strang, Board Chair for the Cleveland Council on World Affairs (CCWA), is pictured here with Kelly Falcone-Hall, President and CEO of the Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS) and member of the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Fulbright Association; and Carina Van Vliet, CCWA’s Chief Executive Officer. (Emanuel Wallace, Photographer)

“The Cleveland Council on World Affairs (CCWA) is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1923 to
promote dialogue on world peace. Since then, CCWA has evolved to offer an array of programs that
inspire engagement in international affairs and world cultures. CCWA engages with our community
through our Speaker Series, Model United Nations, Maura O’Donnell-McCarthy Center for Global
Understanding, and Exchange Programs. In 2020-2021, CCWA hosted over 300 international visitors
through in person and virtual programming, organized 25 public speaker programs, and engaged with
877 students through our Model United Nations program.” (Source: Seminar Information Packet)

WRHS Celebrates the Life of Edward Jay Pershey, PhD

Tribute to Edward Jay Pershey, PhD

by John Grabowski, PhD

Photo: Dr. Edward Jay Pershey at his retirement party, 2020

In the late 1990s a group of WRHS staff led by Dr. Edward Jay Pershey toured museums around the country to get a sense of “best practices”. A highlight was a children’s exhibit at the Minnesota Historical Society – it was highly interactive and featured a tall slide with a series of child-sized tunnels. Ed tried it out! He squeezed through the tunnels! He was probably the first, and perhaps the last adult to give it a test run.

That story epitomizes the verve, imagination and enthusiasm of Ed Pershey, who died on May 17. He was an historian, a consummate museum professional, and a beloved colleague who brought boundless energy, incredible ideas, and an infectious joy of life to the Western Reserve Historical Society.

A native of Joliet, Illinois (and immensely proud of his Slovenian family roots) Ed earned his Ph.D. in the history of technology at Case Western Reserve University writing a doctoral dissertation on the history of Warner and Swasey telescopes. He would go on to work briefly at the Dittrick Museum and then move to New Jersey to serve as curator of the Edison National Historic Site in West Orange. Later he founded and directed the Tsongas Industrial History Center in Lowell, Massachusetts. Sponsored by the National Park Service and the University of Massachusetts, Ed helped develop the site (centered on the Boott Cotton Mills) into an accessible, interactive interpretation of the early American textile industry.

Photos above: Dr. Edward Jay Pershey and Monica Gordon Pershey, Ed.D., CCC-SLP having fun at WRHS events
Top: Dressed in 1960s Theme, 2012;
Bottom: Dr. Pershey dressed as Thomas A. Edison with Dr. Gordon Pershey also in costume, 2013


Ed’s career at WRHS began in February 1995 when he became head of its educational program. As he had done in Lowell, he worked to make that program more interactive and engaging. He would remain at WRHS until his retirement in January 2020, assuming a variety of leadership positions. Given his wide interests as an historian and experience at major national museums – and his exuberant enthusiasm – he was capable of almost anything. He oversaw exhibits in every department and location of WRHS, was central to planning new galleries and museum ventures, and was always focused on creating new, attractive and well-grounded historical experiences. It is not an overstatement to say that Ed was central to making WRHS a more enjoyable, interactive, and historically “conscious” institution.

Photo: Dr. Edward Jay Pershey driving baseball Hall of Famer, Bob Feller at Jacobs Field, 2004
Courtesy of Ken Hall

His work and reputation also resounded beyond WRHS. He oversaw a major project related to the Austin Company’s “design-build” work in 1930s Soviet Russia. It would result in a trip to Russia for Ed and several WRHS staff to see the “Workers City” that Austin had built and to meet with their Russian counterparts. He also traveled frequently in the US on behalf of the American Alliance of Museums to assist other museums in strategic planning and collection assessment. And just prior his retirement he was the central researcher for the Cozad-Bates Underground Railroad Interpretive Center in University Circle. His expertise was highly valued and the experience and insights he garnered beyond the Western Reserve Historical Society helped WRHS and its staff gain new viewpoints for its own operations.

Yet, above all, it was Ed’s personality that really resonated with the staff who worked with him. He had an infectious “can do” attitude and a deep humanity that encompassed family, friends, and his beloved four-legged companions. He took adversity in stride and despite any difficulties, he saw beyond them.

Ed Pershey had a true joie de vivre. He will be missed, but his legacy will endure.

Dr. Edward Jay Pershey celebrates the opening of the 2014 exhibition “1964: When Browns Town Was Title Town”

Preserving Pride in Cleveland

By John J. Grabowski, Ph.D., Historian/Senior Vice President for Research and Publications, Western Reserve Historical Society

When the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History (ECH) was published in 1987 it was a landmark publication in a number of ways.  It was the first modern encyclopedia of a city and it was the first major work to include a history of Cleveland’s LGBT community and a number of the institutions within that community.   It was a small step, but an important one.

Equally, if not more important, was the formal establishment of a program to collect archival records and publications relating to Greater Cleveland’s LGBTQ community at the Western Reserve Historical Society in 1991.  It was created in partnership with the LGBT Community Center.  Aubrey Wertheim, who at that time directed the Center, played a pivotal role in getting the archives started.

Now over thirty years after these initiatives began we can measure their growth and, indeed, their success.   The number of collections relating to the LGBTQ+ community held at WRHS has grown immensely.    In 2014, the collections were central to the creation of an exhibit at the Cleveland History Center on the local LGBTQ community which ran during the Gay Games held in Cleveland that year.  Most importantly, the collections continue to serve the needs of researchers in the WRHS Library.

At the same time the Encyclopedia also continued to grow.  A second edition was published in 1996 to honor the city’s Bicentennial, but most importantly, the ECH went online in May 1998, making it the first urban encyclopedia accessible on the World Wide Web.   Moving online also made it possible for staff to quickly update the ECH.  The number of entries relating to the LGBTQ+ community has grown thanks to a number of authors including CWRU student interns and members of the community, most particularly John Nosek and Leon Stevens.   This summer, WRHS will host a CWRU student intern, Sidney Negron, who will process and catalog archival materials from the LGBTQ+ collections and write new articles for the Encyclopedia.   It’s an ideal combination, one that brings together these two important aspects of preserving Pride in Cleveland and one which also elicits a great deal of pride among those of us who have long worked on the Encyclopedia and at WRHS.

May 5, 1862: A Battle to be Remembered

By John J. Grabowski, Ph.D., Historian/Senior Vice President for Research and Publications, Western Reserve Historical Society

Photo courtesy of, taken by Chuck Hoven

Today Cinco de Mayo is an occasion to celebrate the cultures and history of Mexico.  It is not, as some people think, Mexican Independence Day (which falls on September 16), but rather a commemoration of the Battle of Pueblo where a small force of Mexicans fought off a French invading army.  The Mexicans, many of indigenous or mixed ancestry lost 200 dead and the French, who retreated, lost approximately 500. That battle sparked Mexican resistance to the French who finally withdrew from Mexico in 1867.

Today, that victory is celebrated in Mexico and wherever Mexicans live and is a time of great cultural pride.   It was likely remembered by the first groups of Mexicans who came to Cleveland during the 1910s, again a time of turmoil in Mexico, sparked by a long draw-out revolution.   When they arrived in Cleveland and other parts of northeastern Ohio they joined a wide variety of immigrants who worked in the area’s mills and factories and, like those other newcomers, sought to preserve their culture in a new land.   One of the ways they did so was to establish a club.  Club Azteca was founded in 1932 with Felix Delgado as its first president.   It quickly began to coordinate the community’s celebration of both Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence Day.  By 1951, with a growing membership and increased donations, Club Azteca bought a building at 5602 Lorain Avenue and renovated the structure and decorated it with motifs reflecting Mexican culture.    For many years the building housed a variety of events.  It was a landmark on Lorain Avenue, but then another battle ensued.

Unused for several years the building became a prime target for developers on the near west side seeking to build new upscale residences.    That was the start of what one might consider another “battle”.  A coalition of Mexican and LatinX organizations pushed back on the project and while the structure itself could not be saved a compromise of sorts was achieved.   It was engineered by the Azteca Coalition which included Club Azteca, Inc., Comité Mexicano de Cleveland, Young Latino Network and the Mexican American Historical Society, with support from the Cleveland Foundation.  This plan will see to the preservation of various artifacts and artwork from the building along with other materials that relate to the Mexican and LatinX communities.  In some ways this echoes the victory at the Battle of Pueblo – it was one battle that would eventually lead to a larger victory five years later.   So, perhaps five years from now we will be able to see the fuller preservation and recognition of the roles that Mexicans and the LatinX community have played in building our nation and city.


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Ten Short Years Ago

By John Frato, Carousel Operations Coordinator, Cleveland History Center

The groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Carousel Pavilion took place on the lawn in front of the Cleveland History Center at the corner of East Boulevard and East 108th Street on Tuesday April 17, 2012.  Just ten short years ago, the appearance of the Cleveland History Center was transformed forever as the construction of the Pavilion to house the iconic Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel began.

It was a long journey for the Carousel to that pivotal day.  When the laughter and good times that became synonymous with a visit to Euclid Beach came to an end on September 28, 1969, the business of demolition and ride disposal became the focus.  A number of the rides including the Colonnade’s many “kiddie” rides, the Flying Scooters, Dodgem, Sleepy Hollow Train, and Rotor would again operate under Humphrey management at Shady Lake Park in Streetsboro.  The reprise was short lived with the park operating a few short years from 1978 to 1982.  The Thriller, Racing Coaster, Flying Turns, Over the Falls, Laff in the Dark, and Surprise House would all fall victim to the wrecking ball.  The Grand Carousel along with a number of other rides was sold.  The Carousel was purchased by a ride broker and re-sold almost immediately to a small sea side amusement park outside of Portland, Maine called Palace Playland.  By the summer of 1970, the Carousel was operating again at its new home.  It operated there until 1996, when financial difficulties forced its sale.  Through a community based effort, the auctioneer was persuaded to conduct the auction in Cleveland.  On July 19, 1997, the winning bid by the Trust for Public Land brought the Carousel “full circle” back to its home on the shore of Lake Erie.  Over the next fifteen years a number of locations were suggested, Public Square, East Ninth street pier, Shaker Square, and even the State Park where it was originally located.  For a number of reasons, each site lacked the support to move forward.


In 2010, a group of community members who understood the impact the restoration and return to operation of this beloved symbol of what was arguably Cleveland’s most famous amusement park would have to the region, founded Cleveland’s Euclid Beach Park Carousel Society.  The April 17th ground breaking was a direct result of the successful collaboration of the Carousel Society with the Western Reserve Historical Society and Euclid Beach Park Now (a community organization formed in 1989 to honor and preserve the memory of Euclid Beach Park). The Carousel Society and Euclid Beach Park Now proposed the partnership with WRHS after determining University Circle was the best location for the Carousel.  At the time of the ground breaking ceremony, former WRHS President & CEO Dr. Gainor B. Davis was quoted as saying: “The timing is perfect and exciting,”  “We refer to the current renovations at the Cleveland History Center as a “transformation,” because it will completely transform the look, feel and amenities of the facility.  Add to that project a glass jewel box housing a carousel on our corner to entice visitors inside, takes the Cleveland History Center even one step further in being a family-friendly destination in Northeast Ohio.”









John Frato

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Inventing Annie

By Robyn Marcs, Grants Manager at the Western Reserve Historical Society

Legend has it that in 1894, two wealthy Bostonians told each other that it would be inconceivable for a woman to ride a bicycle around the world in 15 months (and raise $5,000 on her own).  The two men bet each other $20,000 against $10,000 that it couldn’t be done.  Little did they know that Anna “Annie” Kopchovsky, a Jewish immigrant and young mother of three, overheard this gentlemen’s bet and decided to take actions into her own hands.  However, this may have been one of the sensational fictions Annie invented to sell her reason for circumnavigating the globe on a bicycle. As they say in the Netflix show Inventing Anna, “This whole story is completely true. Except for all the parts that are totally made up.”

Annie Londonderry with a Columbia bicycle,1894. Image courtesy of

Anna Cohen was born in Latvia in 1870 and emigrated to the United States with her Orthodox Jewish family five years later.  When she was 18, she married Max Kopchovsky, a clothing salesman, and lived in Boston.  Within the next four years they had three children together.  Anna didn’t really take to her routine as housewife and mother, and she wanted something more out of life than selling advertisement space in Boston newspapers.  She later said that she “did not want to spend her life at home with a baby under my apron every year.”


Mrs. Kopchovsky seemed an unlikely candidate for being the first woman to ride a bicycle around the world solo, but her natural charm and determination garnered her several sponsors for her trip.  The Londonderry Lithia Spring Water Company paid her $100 (about $3,000 in today’s money) to go by the name “Annie Londonderry” during her travels.  This offer was gratefully accepted by Anna Kopchovsky who wanted to hide her Jewish identity to combat anti-Semitism that was running rampant throughout the country.  It was in this manner that Anna Kopchovsky became Annie Londonderry.


Age 24, Annie set out for her bicycle trip around the world from Boston on June 25, 1894 with a bike donated by the Columbia Bicycle Company.  She later revealed that she had only learned to ride her bike three days prior. Annie quickly learned that riding a bicycle in cumbersome skirts was not going to work.  She started to wear bloomers on her trip to make it easier for herself, a decision that was somewhat scandalous at the time. On September 3, she had biked to Cleveland with The Plain Dealer announcing that “Miss Londonderry… will remain in this city until this afternoon, when she will start westward…”  By September 24, the petite 5’3” and 100-pound Annie had lost 20 pounds and only had 3 cents to her name by the time she reached Chicago.  With winter on the horizon and facing crossing the Rocky Mountains solo in harsh weather, Annie bicycled back to Boston and planned to set out on her trip again – but this time heading out from the east.  She did stop in Cleveland a second time and gave a talk at the Cleveland Wheel Club and visited the Cleveland Athletic Club according to The Plain Dealer.  On November 24, Annie set out for France from New York City on a steamer armed with a new bicycle and determination.

Annie as depicted in an illustration that accompanied her first-person account of her trip published in the New York World on October 20, 1895. Image courtesy of


Annie’s new bike, courtesy of the Sterling Bicycle Company, was a men’s bicycle.  She stitched her bloomers into tighter-fitting pants – something that definitely made the newspapers and caught everyone’s attention.  She also began to embellish her story, telling the European public that she had gone to medical school, graduated from Harvard, was attacked by robbers (but also robbers were gentlemen and would never hurt her), she was an orphan – and even an heiress.  She claimed to speak German and Swedish, although she really only knew English and Yiddish.  Interestingly, Annie did not mention her husband and children during her travels, giving the impression that she was an eligible single woman.  However, her fame was on the rise and she gained sponsorship after sponsorship.

Annie Londonderry, in the final incarnation of her bicycle riding costume, 1856. Image courtesy of Jewish Women’s Archive.

Annie’s charm, charisma, and natural showmanship helped her popularity and tales spread on her way towards Asia.  She even spun a tale about how she found herself on the front lines of the Sino-Japanese War, a fun story albeit a fictitious one.  She set foot on American soil again in San Francisco on March 23, 1895.  Annie even asked a couple of men on a roadside she was passing near San Francisco to pose as robbers in a publicity stunt so she could tell thrilling stories of escape and adventure to those she met along her journey. She pedaled her way through the “Wild West,” making stops in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Iowa before making it to Chicago and completing her trek in Boston on September 14, 1895.  It had been one year, three months, and one day since Annie Londonderry set off on her bicycling adventure.

Map of Annie Londonderry’s travels, created by Mera MacKendrick. Image courtesy of


Upon returning to Boston, Annie moved her family to New York City to pursue a journalism career. Interestingly, she never bicycled again after her circumnavigation of the globe, which is understandable as she probably had enough of it for one lifetime!   Miss Annie Londonderry settled back into life as Mrs. Anna Kopchovsky, gradually fading into obscurity after her world tour and trying several business adventures in New York and California.  She passed away in 1947 and is buried beside her husband Max who had died the year prior.  Her epitaph simply reads “Beloved Mother.”


In an article about her bicycling adventures written for The New York World, Annie wrote “I am a journalist and ‘a new woman,’ if that means that I believe I can do anything that any man can do.”  And she certainly did, even though she massaged the truth on occasion, it doesn’t take away from her remarkable achievement.

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Highlighting Jewish Heritage in the Western Reserve: Agudath B’nai Israel

By Sean Martin, Ph.D., Associate Curator for Jewish History at the Western Reserve Historical Society

May is Jewish American Heritage Month, but here at WRHS we work throughout the year to collect materials related to the Jewish heritage of Northeast Ohio. Thanks to the generosity of local Jewish leaders with a keen sense of history, the Cleveland Jewish Archives were established at WRHS in 1976, with the cooperation of the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland. Since then, we have worked to help tell the stories of Jewish Cleveland by preserving original materials and making them accessible to the public.


We’re proud now to be able to say that over a hundred photographs from Agudath B’nai Israel, a Jewish congregation in Lorain, are now available online. These photographs, many including past leaders and congregants, were part of the materials donated to WRHS by ABI Trustees in 1983. We were able to put them online because of the initiative and support of Nat Fields and Ron Alpern, and we look forward to continuing to work with them to make even more materials from ABI accessible in the near future.

Agudath B’nai Israel in Lorain was formed in 1925 through the merger of Agudath Achim and Beth Israel, two existing Jewish congregations in Lorain, and a B’nai B’rith group about to establish a third congregation. Agudath B’nai Israel agreed on Conservative services, and met in the Fifteenth Street Synagogue built in 1905 for Agudath Achim. Soon after the merger, attention focused on building a new temple to accommodate the merged congregation. In addition to the main sanctuary, the new building opened in 1932 housed a lodge room for meetings, a gymnasium with a stage, a kosher kitchen, and classrooms, enabling it to serve as a hub for all kinds of social and cultural activities. In the late 1960s the congregation moved. The current building on Meister Road was dedicated in 1969.

The help of many ABI members, past and present, ensured the photographs are well identified, so those connected with the congregation can find friends and relatives and remember the years gone by. WRHS is most grateful to Esther Merves, Sheila Evenchik, and Sue Frankle for the help they provided Ron Alpern in identifying the members of the Sisterhood, Couples Club, youth groups, and other organizations. Thanks also go to Mark Jaffee as well as the ABI Officers and Board of Trustees for their support of this undertaking.

The photographs now online represent the entirety of the photographs that make up Picture Group 295 Agudath B’nai Israel Congregation Photographs, one of the collections in the WRHS Library. But there are many more materials—anniversary books, programs, brochures, and other items—that are part of a larger collection in the library at WRHS (Manuscript 3976 Agudath B’nai Israel Congregation Records). As always, WRHS is interested in collecting more materials as well. If you have items related to ABI, the Jewish community in Lorain, or any other local Jewish story, please contact, Dr. Sean Martin, Associate Curator for Jewish History, at

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When Away Becomes Home – New Beginnings

By John J. Grabowski, Ph.D., Historian/Senior Vice President for Research and Publications, Western Reserve Historical Society
Receipt of payment to join the Ohio Emigration Association, 1855. Image courtesy of the WRHS Library.
Most of us, when considering our family history, often focus on the story of an ancestor who went from there (Asia, Europe, the American South, Mexico, and other places around the globe.) to here – northeastern Ohio. Using the records we find in a library like that of the Historical Society, or on-line sources, we try to reconstruct the story of the person who made the journey and then attempt to imagine how they felt when the left the familiar for someplace new.  The “prize” in that research is locating that person in time and space – where did they live before, when did they come, how did they come, who came with them? It’s an intriguing task, not unlike putting a puzzle together. But there’s always a piece or two missing.

Once focused on “founders” and prominent figures, genealogy expanded beginning in the 1960s to encompass the multiple ethnicities, those groups whose arrival in northeast Ohio created the multi-cultural community and region we know today.  So the stories of “from there to here” are now more diverse than ever –ranging from those which relate to a distant ancestor who came from the British Isles, to those of people whose grandparents may have come more recently from India or Turkey – and, indeed, to those whose ancestry dates back to this continent for thousands of years, for Native Americans are part of this chain of movement to our region.

Slovenian family in the 1900s. Image courtesy of the WRHS Library.

Yet, even though we may know who was the first in our family to come to Greater Cleveland, there is something we can not often know with certainty.  Even if we have letters or memoirs of a migrant or immigrant ancestor, it is still difficult to understand the feelings and emotions of leaving an old home and arriving in a new, often very strange place. We can speculate and imagine what it was like – but the only person who would know with certainty is the ancestor.  Intimate, intricate, and complex emotions are often bound up within ourselves.  It’s that elusive piece of the puzzle.

The important thing to grasp is that each of us has a story of a move to a new beginning,  and why not?  Noted immigration historian Dirk Hoerder has written that migration and immigration (or if you will, movement) is one of the common factors that binds us together as human beings – we’ve been moving from place to place throughout time.    If one wants to be Biblical –ever since Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden.

While it is important and satisfying for each of us personally to find our place in the history of migration, or simply to understand the scope of this global movement, it is more critical that we empathize with those who are seeking a new beginning today.  Doing so honors our own pasts.   Every upheaval in the world has echoed and will continue to echo in Greater Cleveland.   In the years after World War II, homeless refugees found their way to our community.  Again, after the collapse of South Vietnam we became a new home for those who fled the new regime.   Today we are welcoming those who are fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan.  And now, with the horrific invasion of Ukraine, we will again be a haven for Ukrainians – just as we were after World War II.   We cannot live in the past and ignore the present.

Americanization Institute 1910s. Image courtesy of the WRHS Library.

Perhaps, rather than seeking the almost impossible – coming to know exactly what our ancestors felt when they left the familiar for the new  — we should meet, assist and come to know those who are arriving now.   Their stories need to be heard and understood.   And in those stories we might better sense our own history.

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If You Build It, They Will Come

By Robyn Marcs, Grants Manager at the Western Reserve Historical Society

“It’s like the constitution, the institution of dear old baseball.”
Ragtime the Musical

With the recent name change of the Cleveland Indians to the Guardians, one may want to reflect on how far our team has come since its founding in 1901.  The American League Cleveland team has called three ballparks home: League Park, Cleveland Municipal Stadium, and Progressive Field (also known as Jacobs Field to those of us who grew up with that name).

Cleveland Indians home opener, 1927. Image courtesy of the WRHS Library


League Park: 1891-1946

Originally the home of the Cleveland Spiders, our city’s National League team featuring the great Cy Young, from 1891-1899, League Park is located on the corner of E. 66th and Lexington.  The Cleveland Bluebirds (the original name of the 1901 American League team) took over the park upon their founding.  The Bluebirds’ first game was played there on the April 29, 1901.  There was much buzz in the city as they welcomed their new team, but according to that day’s Plain Dealer, “We do not care to march our players through the street like circus animals,” said the team’s owner, Jack Kilfoyl.  However, private celebrations were held throughout the city to commemorate the new American League Cleveland Bluebirds.

League Park was also the scene of a perfect game, which was pitched by the famed Addie Joss on October 2, 1908.  Baseball legends like “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Napoleon Lajoie played there during the glory days in 1910s.  Most significantly, it was the site of the Cleveland Indians’ first World Series win in 1920.  Game Five of this Fall Classic saw several firsts, including the only World Series unassisted triple play by Bill Wambsganss.  The Cleveland Buckeyes won the Negro League World Series there in 1945. This historic ballpark saw its final game on November 24, 1949, which was a football march between Western Reserve University and Case Institution of Technology.  While the majority of the park was demolished in 1951, today the ticketing building and part of the left field wall remains.  The field and the ticketing building serves as the home of the Baseball Heritage Museum.

Fans at League Park on Opening Day 1930, Image courtesy of the WRHS Library



Cleveland Municipal Stadium: 1946-1994

The mood during the Cleveland Indians’ first game in their new ballpark on July 31, 1932 is best told by the following day’s Plain Dealer article by John W. Vance:

The Cleveland Indians game home to the $3,000,000 stadium yesterday and found 80,184 friends and relations standing on the figurative steps to cry them welcome, to set a new world’s record for baseball crowds and to toss the [Great] Depression, yelping feebly, over the wall into Lake Erie. … You who said the Cleveland Stadium would never be filled can paste the figures in your hats, eat them in alphabet soup and stencil them on the bed room [sic] ceiling so you’ll dream about them at night.


Clevelanders had been seeking a new stadium for years, especially since League Park was constructed in 1891 and had seen better days.  Between 1932 and 1946 the Indians would still play at League Park periodically.  The Indians would play their home games of the 1948 World Series at the stadium but would eventually win the series in Boston.

One notable event that those of a certain age may remember was the infamous Ten Cent Beer Night on June 4, 1974.  Due to the rambunctious and intoxicated fans, the Indians eventually had to forfeit the game to the Texas Rangers.  The following year, the Indians hired Frank Robinson as the first Black manager of a Major League Baseball team.  Cleveland saw another perfect game when Len Barker pitched one at the stadium in 1981, the last one for our team to date.  Since it’s baseball season, we don’t need to dwell on Red Right 88 and The Drive, but these Browns events also took place at Cleveland Stadium.

Over the next sixty years, Cleveland Municipal Stadium began to show its age.  Fans were ready for a new ballpark, and the last MLB game was played at the old stadium on October 3, 1993.  However, a new age of Cleveland Indians baseball was on the horizon.


Len Barker winning his perfect game, 1981. Image from Sports Illustrated


Progressive (Jacobs) Field: 1994-Present

All of us have driven past the fabled corner of Carnegie and Ontario and/or walked across the indoor bridge connecting Tower City to Progressive Field.  In 1994, Clevelanders finally were awarded a new stadium, Jacobs Field.  According to The Plain Dealer, “Cleveland baseball fans accustomed to cold, cavernous Cleveland Stadium will be positively floored by [the] conveniences at Jacobs Field.”  Then-President Bill Clinton threw out the first pitch at the new stadium to Sandy Alomar, Jr. on April 1, 1994 during an exhibition game.  The first official game was held on April 4 with the Tribe defeating the Seattle Mariners 4-3.

The Indians broke the forty-one-year World Series drought in 1995 as the American League champions, falling to the Atlanta Braves in six games.  In 1997 the promising AL Champs lost to the new Florida Marlins team in a devastating disappoint to city caught in a long drought.  We don’t need to talk about Jose Mesa.  Despite falling short of a Fall Classic win, the ‘90s Indians were a team to reckoned with, featuring the likes of Jim Thome, Sandy Alomar, Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, and Manny Ramirez.

In 2007, the stadium was renamed Progressive Field, and the following year Asdrubal Cabrera completed his legendary unassisted triple play, only the 14th in MLB history.  Growing up, my favorite players were Robbie Alomar during his stint on the Tribe, as well as Travis “Pronk” Hafner and Shin-Soo Choo.  Yours truly was also in attendance at Progressive Field during the live streaming of Game 3 of the 2016 World Series, where the umpires tried time after time to give the Cubs the game, but the Indians ended up winning 1-0.

Now the Cleveland Guardians are in another “rebuilding” stage, and we’ll see where the seasons ahead take them.  Progressive Field (it will always be “The Jake” to me) remodeled once more in 2014/15, clearing seats in the right field for a spectacular new Cleveland restaurant dining area that is well-received by locals and out-of-towners alike.

As George Stephanopolous said on the Jacobs Field home opener, “The president was saying what a beautiful place this is. I was proud. It’s always great to be home.”

1997 Cleveland Indians stars, image courtesy of The Athletic
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Womens History Reading Recommendations

Interested in learning more women’s history? There are many titles available for purchase now on our web store and in the Cleveland History Center Museum Store.  Scroll through this curated list of recommended reads and continue shopping here. 

Damsels in Design: Women Pioneers in the Automotive Industry, 1939–1959

In the mid-1950s, an innovative group of women at General Motors (dubbed the Damsels of Design by marketers) and their counterparts at Ford, Hudson, Studebaker, Packard, and Tucker changed automotive history forever. Read the untold story of the women who excelled in the Mad Men era of automobile and industrial design!

Deeds Not Words: Celebrating 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage

Twenty-nine award-winning textile artists from across the United States each crafted a quilt celebrating women’s suffrage. These dazzlingly varied, sometimes troubling, always inspiring artworks reflect the long and continuing fight for equal rights for all. Introductions summarize the history of women’s suffrage, an even more complicated subject than you might think, then dozens of art quilts continue the learning.

Flora Stone Mather: Daughter of Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue & Ohio’s Western Reserve

This is the biography of one of Cleveland’s leading philanthropists. In 1881 Flora wed her neighbor, Samuel Mather, a marriage that united two of Cleveland’s―and the nation’s―wealthiest and most influential families. The region and city still benefit from her generosity, compassion, and foresight. be important reading for students of women’s studies and the history of philanthropy as well as those interested in Ohio’s Western Reserve and its people.

Often condemned as a form of oppression, fashion could and did allow women to express modern gender identities and promote feminist ideas. Einav Rabinovitch-Fox examines how clothes empowered women, and particularly women barred from positions of influence due to race or class. A fascinating account of clothing as an everyday feminist practice, Dressed for Freedom brings fashion into discussions of American feminism during the long twentieth century. A part of our By the Book Author Series! 

Sisters of Notre Dame of Cleveland

Since their arrival in Cleveland in 1874 to serve German Catholic immigrants, the Sisters of Notre Dame (SND) have given their time, skills, and compassion to the people of Northern Ohio and beyond.

The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote

The suffragists face vicious opposition from politicians, clergy, corporations, and racists who don’t want black women voting. […][I]n one hot summer, they all converge for a confrontation, replete with booze and blackmail, betrayal and courage. Following a handful of remarkable women who led their respective forces into battle, The Woman’s Hour is the gripping story of how America’s women won their own freedom, and the opening campaign in the great twentieth-century battles for civil rights.

Liberated Spirits: Two Women Who Battled Over Prohibition

A provocative new take on the women behind a perennially fascinating subject–Prohibition–by bestselling author and historian Hugh Ambrose. These two Constitutional Amendments enabled women to redefine themselves and their place in society in a way historians have neglected to explore. Liberated Spirits describes how the fight both to pass and later to repeal Prohibition was driven by women, as exemplified by two remarkable women in particular.

The Woman Suffrage Cookbook: The 1886 Classic

The Woman Suffrage Cookbook was the first of several fundraising cookbooks published in support of the movement behind the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. Edited and compiled by Hattie A. Burr, it features recipes from prominent suffragists as well as from women eminent in their fields: teachers, lecturers, physicians, ministers, and authors.

At once the ideal introduction to Lorain native Toni Morrison and a lovely and moving keepsake for her devoted readers: a treasury of quotations from her work. With a foreword by Zadie Smith. This inspirational book juxtaposes quotations, one to a page, drawn from Toni Morrison’s entire body of work, both fiction and nonfiction to tell a story of self-actualization.


Fight of the Century: Alice Paul Battles Woodrow Wilson for the Vote

The fight for women’s suffrage between women’s rights leader Alice Paul and President Woodrow Wilson is creatively presented as a four-round boxing match in this energetic nonfiction picture book.” Sarah Green’s bright, detailed illustrations perfectly accompany award-winning author Barb Rosenstock’s captivating narrative. Grade Level: 2 – 5

Who Was Ruth Bader Ginsburg?

New York Times bestselling series “Who Was”.  As a young lawyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg advocated for gender equality and women’s rights when few others did. She gained attention for the cases she won when arguing in front of the Supreme Court, before taking her place on the bench in 1993. Reading level grades 3-7

Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem

A lyrical picture book debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author and presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman and #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator Loren Long

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Finding Amelia — In Cleveland

By John J. Grabowski, Ph.D., Historian/Senior Vice President for Research and Publications, Western Reserve Historical Society

A recent story in the New York Times titled “An Amelia Earhart Mystery Solved” was certain to get attention.   Was it “the” answer to the question of where she crashed and perished in her round-the-world flight in July 1937?   No, it was about another mystery related to this noted woman aviator.

It all centered on a leather flight helmet that had been kept in a family for decades and which family tradition claimed that it belonged to Amelia.   It purportedly had dropped during the hubbub that surrounded Amelia’s landing at the National Air Races in Cleveland in 1929 as a participant in a woman’s transcontinental air race.  Even though she came in third she received a huge welcome as people swarmed around her single engine Lockheed Vega airplane – and why not, she was then the nation’s most noted female pilot.

The year before (1928) she had flown across the Atlantic – albeit as a working passenger in a plane piloted by Wilmer Stoltz and Louis Gordon.   This was one year after Charles Lindberg’s flight and it made the headlines – placing Amelia as the first woman to cross the Atlantic.  She soon became a national icon and would do a solo transatlantic flight in 1932.

Her flight to Cleveland was a true test of her skills – indeed, only 11 of the 20 who began the race made it to Cleveland.  In the coming years she would visit the city numerous times, usually at the National Air Races which the city hosted again seven more times in the 1930s.  Her fame continued to grow and in 1933 she and first Lady Eleanor Roosevelt took a plane ride together.  She and Eleanor became fast friends exchanging both letters and ideas.

Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt flying from Washington, DC to Baltimore in 1933, Courtesy of the National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution

She also pushed against the barriers facing women pilots who were usually referred to as aviatrixes  — and indeed, the cross country race was gender nicknamed the “Power Puff Derby” by actor and humorist Will Rogers.  Yet during 1930s she would hone her skills as a flyer, winning races and setting records.  At the same time she used her celebrity to promote the growing aviation industry, and served as a Vice President of National Airways .  But perhaps her most important contribution was being a founder of the Ninety-Nines a group of women pilots who worked to advocate for women in aviation.  She served as the organization’s first president in 1930.

Her ultimate goal was to circumnavigate the globe.  Her flight would not be the first, but it would be the longest, flying roughly along the equator – a total of approximately 29,000 miles.   As we know, that flight in 1937 which began in Oakland, California, would never be completed.   She and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared on July 1st, 1937 while flying from New Guinea to Howland Island – a small speck of land in the South Pacific.   They have never been found – and the search for Amelia goes on today, eighty-five years later.

As to the mystery of the flight helmet which was dropped on the ground when she landed in Cleveland – well, it turns out that the helmet was indeed hers.    Its authenticity was confirmed by using a sophisticated photogrammetric analysis of the helmet compared to one worn by Amelia in images taken in 1928.

Yet, Amelia, like her helmet, really is no longer lost.   Her skills and daring were remarkable and they helped advance the cause of women who sought to fly.  That she often came to Cleveland (and lost her helmet here!) is something worth noting and, indeed, celebrating.   Much of the story of her involvement in the National Air Races is chronicled in the Historical Society’s stunning collection of air race documents and memorabilia – and Amelia is also honored at the International Women’s Air and Space Museum at Burke Lakefront Airport.


1929 National Air Races and Aeronautical Exposition, Courtesy of the WRHS Archives
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Cleveland Changes Baseball History

By Mary Manning, Ph.D., PK-12 Education Coordinator & Youth Entrepreneurship Education (YEE) Project Director (Interim)

In 1946, the Cleveland Indians gained a new owner – Bill Veeck, an enthusiastic promoter committed to making the team the best in baseball at nearly any cost.

In 1947, the team stopped splitting time between their historic stadium, League Park in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood, and moved into Municipal Stadium full-time. Where League Park’s capacity numbered 22,500, Municipal Stadium could accommodate three times as many fans, and Veeck employed imaginative tactics and stadium promotions to fill as many of those seats as he could.

In July of 1947, Veeck signed Larry Doby from the Newark Eagles of the Negro American League and brought him straight to the majors, believing Doby could handle the transition and that a stint in the minor leagues to warm him up would limit the media impact of the signing. With Doby’s arrival in Cleveland, Major League Baseball’s American League was officially integrated—mere months after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.

Then, in 1948, the Indians fielded a roster that included Doby, along with famed former Negro League pitcher Leroy “Satchel” Paige, and won the World Series.

This photograph from WRHS collections shows Doby and Paige at a moment of rest during a game that must be in either the 1948 season or the 1949 season – the only two years Paige played with the Indians. To some degree, it reflects the personalities of the two men. Doby, a known introvert, surveys the scene before him, while Paige, a charismatic, confident man, seems in the middle of speaking.

These two men also represent the kinds of players who made up the first two waves of the integration of Major League Baseball. Doby was 23 years old when he arrived in Cleveland, an extraordinarily gifted young multi-sport athlete who would eventually put together a 13-year MLB career on top of the four seasons he had played in the Negro Leagues. In 1978, he would become the second Black manager in Major League Baseball for the Chicago White Sox (second to the Indians’ Frank Robinson, hired as a player-manager in 1975).

In contrast, Paige remains the oldest player to debut in Major League Baseball—he was 42 years old when he made his first start with the Indians in July of 1948. Yet he had been pitching professionally since 1927 when he began his career with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro National League. In between Negro League seasons, he would barnstorm throughout the Midwest and other parts of the country, including a tour beginning in the fall of 1946 that pitted him against Indians great Bob Feller on a near daily basis. Paige had an uncommonly high number of pitches in his arsenal and accumulated new tricks that helped him maintain his dominant form on the mound as he grew older.

Together, these two very different men would help lead the Indians to first the American League pennant and then to the most recent World Series victory in Cleveland. Both would eventually be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and Doby would be honored in 2015 with a statue in front of Progressive Field. Though Jackie Robinson was the first and most famous player to begin the integration of Major League Baseball, the Cleveland Indians played a crucial role in how baseball would receive players from the Negro Leagues, especially ones as experienced and talented as Paige.