LAND Moto and Cleveland CycleWerks Gift Motorcycles to the Western Reserve Historical Society

In March 2020, Cleveland CycleWerks announced their newest technological advances with the launch of the Falcon E Moto.  In 2021, their founder Scott Colosimo spun off this new concept into LAND Moto, changing vehicles name to the District.  LAND Moto is focused on their Distributed Energy platform and E Motos.  With the growth of the LAND brand, it signals Scott’s desire to build LAND’s technology and manufacturing base in Cleveland, Ohio. LAND’s new product and direction represent 12 years of consumer insight, deep industry knowledge, and a unique take on the market that Scott has always had.  The first product, the District is a cross between a bike, moped and motorcycle, which LAND simply calls the “E Moto”.

Scott Colosimo, the founder of Cleveland CycleWerks and LAND Moto explained, “We are no longer bound by the physical constraints of internal combustion. Our platform grows with the rider as their skill and desire for speed increases, it was not possible to bridge the gap with gas, so we are building the electric business under the LAND brand.”

The District represents LAND’s entry into the e mobility and distributed energy space. These vehicles represent a shift in focus from high-volume vehicles to lower-volume, carefully crafted product, and U.S.-based manufacturing. With a localized footprint, LAND is able to vertically integrate in the U.S., enabling them to be more self-reliant and independent. Colosimo says, “The team wants to focus on higher craft, innovative materials, and advanced manufacturing techniques while growing our distributed energy platform.

The District will fit into several different categories from E-Bicycle, E-Moped, to E-Motorcycle.  These vehicles can be digitally customized to fit in several different classes with no physical changes needed; a shift from physical changes to digital makes updates to the vehicle possible even after it is in the consumers hands.

Colosimo formally gifted The Heist land speed record bike, an Ace Scrambler, a Misfit, and a LAND District all-electric bike to the Western Reserve Historical Society at the grand opening of the Year of the Motorcycle, August 19th.  The bikes are now on display as part of the exhibit “A Century of the American Motorcycle”.

Alternative “Entrepreneurs”

As we look at the history of business and enterprise in Greater Cleveland, it is worth noting that there was a collaborative model that focused on shared enterprise and societal good, rather than simply ever growing profits.

Many people will still remember the Cleveland Food Co-Op which was established in 1968 by a group of Hessler Road residents.  It started on a front porch on Hessler Road, and quickly had 50 household members.  By buying in bulk, it reduced costs and made food far more affordable.   Eventually the Co-op would move to a site on Euclid Avenue in East Cleveland, then to a location on Coventry and finally back to a site at 11702 Euclid Avenue in 1984.   Eventually, construction, traffic and the establishment of Whole Foods led to its closure in 2011.

Yet, it was not the first co-op in the city.  Several immigrant groups created their own system of community owned and operated stores that kept prices low and generated just enough profit to pay employees and cover rent.  The Workers Gymnastic Union, a Czech organization established co-ops in the 1930s.  One location, situated in Maple Heights, continued to function into the 1970s.  In 1936 The Gymnastic Union also known as the DTJ (after its Czech language title) also sponsored an alternative Workers Olympiad at its shared rural settlement Taborville in Auburn Township in response to the 1936 Olympics held in Nazi Germany.   Polish grocers also created a joint association in order to allow independent shops the ability to buy produce at the lowest possible price.  For many years a Polish Grocers Association (PGA) store stood at the intersection of Worley Avenue and East 71st Street.

These stories are part of an alternative, but important aspect of business and entrepreneurship in Greater Cleveland.   At times associated with the Socialist movement (which was quite strong in Cleveland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century) they suggested alternatives for affordable products (often in the most difficult of times) rather than a wider profit margin.    Some echoes of this communal ethos are reflected in the farmers’ markets that are held regularly in our area and in many small craft-based shops that provide unique goods and make enough money to support the entrepreneur – these are the “makers” of today who often settle for the quality of their products rather than the quantity of their profit.

Four WRHS Staff join Northeast Ohio Chapter of Fulbright Association

By: Emily Noggle
Marketing Manager at the Cleveland History Center


The Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Fulbright Association recently held annual elections for the Chapter Board. We are excited to announce that Regennia N. Williams, PhD, WRHS Distinguished Scholar of African American History & Culture; John Grabowski, PhD, WRHS Krieger Mueller Chief Historian; and Sean Martin, PhD, WRHS Associate Curator for Jewish History, have been elected to the following positions:

Regennia N. Williams, PhD – President

John Grabowski, PHD – Vice President

Sean Martin, PhD – Board of Directors

Kelly Falcone-Hall, WRHS President & CEO is also a member of the new Northeast Ohio Chapter.

What is the Fulbright Association?

The Fulbright Association is the U.S. alumni organization of the Fulbright Program, which is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U. S. government. They provide grants for individually designed study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs. The Fulbright program allows students the opportunity to meet, work, live with and learn from the people of the host country, sharing daily experiences, with the goal of promoting mutual understanding through cultural engagement and intellectual freedom.

So what does the Fulbright Association do to support the program?

Since their founding in 1946,The Fulbright Association has been making strides to make a difference all over the world. The Fulbright Association acts as a hub for alumni, connecting those who value diversity and international education. Their mission is to continue and extend the Fulbright tradition of education, advocacy and service. According to their website, the alumni represent over 165 countries and contains change-makers in politics, business, science, education, and the arts, including 82 Pulitzer Prize winners, 59 Nobel Prize laureates, 37 current or former heads of state or government, 70 MacArthur Foundation Fellows, and 16 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients.

Our WRHS Fulbright Scholars have taught and/or conducted research in Europe, Asia, and Africa (among other places). Within their new positions, Dr. Williams, Dr. Grabowski, and Dr. Martin have been elected to provide support and create a collaborative environment for the Fulbright Program members and its alumni by creating opportunities for networking, professional development, mentoring, cultural enrichment, and community service. The local Northeast Ohio Chapter will work with visiting Fulbrighters from abroad by introducing them to history and resources of Northeast Ohio and by providing opportunities for them to meet one another while here. Please join us in congratulating the newest members of the Northeast Ohio Chapter Board!

The Guardians of Traffic

By: Pamela Dorazio Dean
WRHS Curator of Italian American History / Director, IAMCLE


What are the Guardians of Traffic?
The Guardians of Traffic are eight large figures sculpted on four Berea sandstone pylons on the
Hope Memorial Bridge, formerly Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, in Cleveland, Ohio. Two sets of
Guardians face the east and the other two sets face the west.

The artistic style can be described as transitional, between a stylized classicism and the
Modernistic or Art Deco style. They were modeled after the Greek god, Hermes. The Guardians
have been proudly overseeing the Hope Memorial Bridge since 1932 and have become iconic in
the city of Cleveland.

Each Guardian holds a different mode of transportation in its hands, including a hay rack, a
covered wagon, a stage coach, a passenger automobile, and four types of motor trucks. The
vehicles represent the progress made in transportation over time. Because of this, they are
sometimes called the Guardians of Transportation. The correct name as given by the designers,
however, is Guardians of Traffic.

Who created the Guardians of Traffic?
Many sources on the history and creation of the Guardians of Traffic credit Frank Walker of the
prominent Cleveland architectural firm of Walker and Weeks as the designer and Henry Hering
of New York as the sculptor. There is also mention of William Henry “Hank” Hope, the father
of famous comedian Bob Hope, who assisted with stone carving and whom the bridge was
renamed for in 1983.

A project of this magnitude and depth, however, requires the work of a team of uniquely skilled
and talented people. A few sources do mention that a crew of workmen helped in the creation
and installation of the Guardians. What they fail to mention, however, is that the majority of this
crew were Italian immigrants who not only “assisted” but proudly and diligently applied their
abilities and talents to bring the statues to life.


Who was on the crew that created the Guardians?
Many of the stone carvers and other workers on the crew who created the Guardians were Italian
immigrants from Oratino, Italy, a small paese (village) in the Province of Campobasso and who
settled in the Little Italy and other Italian neighborhoods of Cleveland.

This is a list of the known names of the individuals who worked on the Guardians of Traffic in
some capacity:

  • Bill Anslow
  • Thomas P. Campbell
  • Antonio Chiocchio, Lead
  • Carmen Chiocchio
  • Gennaro Chiocchio
  • Anthony Cipullo
  • Frank Cipullo
  • Louis Cirelli
  • Anthony Fatica
  • Celestino Fatica
  • Fiorangelo Fatica
  • Gennaro Fatica
  • Pasquale Fatica
  • Sam Gentile
  • William Henry Hope
  • Charles Iafelice
  • Frank Leonardi
  • Domenicantonio Mastrangelo
  • Jack O’Brien
  • Cosimo Palante
  • Celestino Petti
  • Loreto Petti
  • Peter Salvatore
  • Albert Tirabasso
  • Henry Tirabasso
  • Andrew Waddell
  • Charles Waddell

Where were the Guardians of Traffic carved?

The Guardians of Traffic were carved in Little Italy at the Ohio Cut Stone Company which was located at 2066 Random Road in what is currently known as the Singer Steel Building.  The Italians living in Little Italy were very excited and proud of this project.


Henry Chiocchio, related to Antonio and Gennaro, was interviewed for a 1983 Plain Dealer article about his family’s involvement with the pylons. The article states:

Henry said when he was just a little boy living near the stone carving shop in Little Italy, his father and Uncle Jim took him many nights after supper to see the days work. “I remember seeing the heads, the shoulders and the vehicles of the pylons being formed,” Henry Chiocchio said.  “I was very impressed. We Italian people are very proud of what we do, especially in working with our hands.”

Arts, Culture, and a New Oral History Project at WRHS 

By Regennia N. Williams, PhD 

The Western Reserve Historical Society  

Distinguished Scholar of African American History and Culture  

Life Member, The Oral History Association 

The recently accessioned archival collection for Dr. A. Grace Lee Mims (1930 –2019) is providing the inspiration for an exciting new oral history project at the Western Reserve Historical Society(WRHS). Dr. Mims, who was a librarian, soprano vocalist, radio personality, and educator, amassed a treasure trove of items that comprises more than 100 linear feet of manuscript materials, photographs, and audio recording from “The Black Arts,” a program that Mims hosted on WCLV Radio for more than 40 years.

Launched in the summer of 2021, the A. Grace Lee Mims Arts and Culture Oral History project engaged the talents of our project interns: DavidPatrick Ryan, Felicia Haney, Kathryn Oleksa, and Jerica Walls. Each of these college-educated young adults brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to their work. Project outcomes include digital audio and video recordings, interview transcripts, and a handbook based on research in existing secondary sources and firsthand knowledge gleaned from the research teams’2021 experiences in preparing for and implementing this pilot project.

As a historian who frequently chooses to locate her research activities at the intersection of the arts and the humanities, I had the pleasure of creating and directing the project, scheduling the interviews, and working with the interns to collect first-person narratives of artists, educators, and administrators at area institutions and organizations, including those with ties to the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Gospel Music Historical Society.

Our team worked closely with Michael Scharer-Zielinski, the WRHS Digital Access Assistant, to make sure that our remote recording and back-up activities were in keeping with the institution’s current guidelines for the creation and preservation of digital DavidPatrick Ryan, Kathryn Oleksa, Jerica Walls, Regennia N. Williams, Felicia Haney content. WRHS staff member Dahren Phillips-Bey is also working with the team to review and help edit transcripts.

Thus far, the project has benefitted greatly from the Oral History Association’s abundant web-based reference materials, including links to “Remote Interviewing Resources” and “OHA Principles and Best Practices,” as well as the webinar “Oral History at a Distance: Conducting Remote Interviews.”

These oral history interviews are part of the larger body of primary and secondary sources that will inform the research and writing for a book project on the recent history of African American arts and culture in Greater Cleveland. A panel of Cleveland-based oral historians will also share more information on this research and other projects during “Moving Stories in Challenging Times: Narratives from America’s North Coast,” a Roundtable session forOHA’s2021 Annual Meeting.

Over the years, Dr. Mims was interviewed for several oral history projects, including the HistoryMakers®,the nation’s largest African American video oral history collection. It was only in the wake of her passing, however, that I discovered evidence related to her own work as an oral historian. This evidence includes the transcripts of 1975 and 1976interviews of her mother, Alberta Grace Edwards Lee, and these transcripts are now part of the WRHS archival collection.

In both her professional career and through her work as a founding member of the African American Archives Auxiliary of the Western Reserve Historical Society, Dr. Mims did much to shape the narratives about arts and culture in Cleveland’s history. Research for the ongoing A. Grace Lee Mims Arts and Culture Oral History Project is revealing important details about the lasting impact of her work.*All color photographs courtesy of the research team members. Dr. A. Grace Lee Mims hosted “The Black Arts” on WCLV Radio for more than 40 years. (Photo: Herbert Ascherman)

*All color photographs courtesy of the research team members

Make Your Own Guitar

Make your own guitar at home with common household goods.  Just follow the simple directions below.  Make a music video or take a photo of your instrument and share it with us on social media @halefarm.  Be sure to include the following hashtags with your post – #halefarmandvillage and #musicinthevalley.

Guitar Materials:

Empty Tissue box (shoebox with lid or cereal boxes work too–just cut out a hole!)

4-5 rubber bands (best if different widths and colors)

2 wooden popsicle sticks (can use paint stirrers or nail files too!)

OPTIONAL: Long cardboard tube or roll, scissors & tape (IE a paper towel, foil or parchment paper roll)

OPTIONAL: markers, glitter & glue, colored paper or tapes to decorate your box and roll, if you use one.

Start by tearing out the plastic pieces in the tissue opening, then decorate your box however you wish. If you would like it to be more guitar-like, you will want to add the cardboard tube on one end. To do so, hold the tube in the center of one the shorter square ends of the box and trace around it. Cut out the circle, and fix the roll to the box with tape. Finish decorating as you like!

Once your box looks good to you and all paints or glues are dry you will need to add the rubber bands by stretching around the box, making sure they are evenly spaced over the opening of the box. To finish, slide the popsicle sticks under the rubber bands on either side of the opening. You can experiment with the placement and sizes of rubber bands or stack more or less popsicle sticks to increase or decrease the tension on the bands. Explore how the sound can change!

For more step by step instructions and some project inspiration pictures, check out this link:

Working for our Country

Contributed by Patty Edmonson, WRHS’s Museum Advisory Council Curator of Costume & Textiles

Many American women experienced a newfound independence when they could serve our country during wartime. In July, 1942, Congress established the U.S. Navy WAVES, which stood for “Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.” When Clevelander Ann A. Cain joined, she was issued this blue wool uniform for winter, along with a white suit for summer, and in the following years a seersucker ensemble. The fashion house of Mainbocher, known for its crisp construction, designed the uniforms.

WAVES Uniforms, 1942. Designed by Mainbocher (American, 1929-1971). Manufactured by Handmacher (American, 1939-1990). Cain Estate 88.94.3 and 78.113


Not only did wartime service provide individual feelings of independence, but women could feel pride in their patriotism and support of their country. Some posters for WAVES recruitment tapped into this by showing young girls admiring the bravery and commitment of their role model Navy servicewomen. This particular design was printed over 40,000 times as a poster and was made into 45,000 postcards.

Recruitment Poster, 1944. John Falter. Image Courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command

WAVES served at 900 stations throughout the United States. Their role was to perform stateside Navy jobs so that men could serve at sea. Officers worked in areas such as engineering and medicine, while enlisted women served a range of jobs including parachute rigging and clerical work. At its peak, 86, 291 women served as WAVES, although a mere 72 were African American. Other areas of wartime service for women, such as nursing, were more open to diversity: it was Clevelander and Congresswoman Frances Payne Bolton who called for desegregation of the WWII nursing units.

The Consequences of Cleaveland

by John Grabowski, PhD | WRHS Krieger Mueller Historian

On July 4th 1796, on the bank of what is now Conneaut Creek, a group of surveyors led by Moses Cleaveland celebrated Independence Day.  Naming the site Port Independence, they fired off a salute, ate a meal of pork and beans, and drank to six patriotic toasts.   Eighteen days later they arrived at the mouth of Cuyahoga River, climbing up a hill on the east bank (near what is now St. Clair Avenue) to the heights over the river valley.

The river marked the boundary of that part of the Western Reserve to which Native Americans had ceded their claims in the Greenville Treaty of 1795, and it seemed a likely area to begin the exploration and mapping out of the lands now “available” to settlement.  Yet it took several weeks for Moses Cleaveland to decide if the site would serve as the center for the survey party’s work, and what some might call the capital of the Western Reserve.  He made that decision in August.  It was the best possible choice and considered naming the settlement Cuyahoga, but his colleagues convinced him that it should take his name.

This is a quick and far too easy summary of the founding of Cleveland for it misses the broader impact of the event.   When Cleaveland’s surveying crew began to lay out the lines that would define the townships of the Western Reserve, they were imposing a change on the landscape that exceeded anything that had come before.

(Map of English Colonies Bordering on Ohio River 1754)

Moses Cleaveland did not come to an unsettled or unknown land.   The area had seen nearly ten thousand years of human habitation, some nomadic and some permanent.   The Native Americans who were the first settlers made only minor marks on a landscape that had been shaped by geology and time.  They created trails, riverside settlements, and burial mounds.   The mounds were already ancient by the time Cleaveland arrived, yet they signified a deeper history than that which some people commonly assume.

Nor was Cleaveland’s survey party the first “European” group to visit the general area.  Indeed existing maps and narratives helped lead Cleaveland to the site that would bear his name.   French and English trappers had been active in the area – meeting European demands for fur by working with the native population.  And, this activity would have an impact on the ecology of the region reducing species beyond their normal, usual “take.”   The French and British would also begin to map the area, placing their own lines on the landscape in order to claim ownership, and they would go to battle over the trans-Appalachian west and in doing so involve the natives as allies and combatants.  These alliances and new ones would echo in the backcountry beyond the colonies during the American Revolution.

That process was a lead up to what Cleaveland’s surveyors would do.  They would set in motion a more detailed survey and division that would forever transform the land – according to some, for the better, and for others, perhaps, for the worse.

Certainly the New England style town commons, now Public Square, that they laid out in their first maps, indicates their desire to recreate a community like those they knew in New England.  Yet, it is important to remember that Cleaveland was a member of and working for the Connecticut Land Company, what we would today call a “real estate” investment company.  Its interest was in dividing and assessing the land for settlement and profiting by its subsequent sale.  Neither Cleaveland nor most of the other investors had any interest in settling in the area. In many ways this process still resonates today when open land or existing structures are developed or re-developed by companies whose primary interest is in profit.

(Early Drawing of Downtown Cleveland by surveyor Seth Pease)

It would take time, but in the short space of two centuries, indeed, in a mere single century, the lines Cleaveland’s survey team drew on the map of Northeastern Ohio (the Connecticut Western Reserve) to make the land logically marketable would provide the basis for the transformation of a landscape that had seemed eternal to its first inhabitants – a landscape that was heavily wooded, with a number of open streams and creeks, and with abundant wildlife.    It is a landscape that we simply cannot fathom today, except in some parks and rare corners of northeastern Ohio.

It is a story of a transformation that is well chronicled in the archival collections of the Western Reserve Historical Society in documents that provide valuable insights into the settlement of northeastern Ohio and, in some instances, which also record the thoughts of those who saw the eternal slip away.

Perhaps one of most powerful of these documents is in a very small notebook, in which John M. Holley, a member of the Cleaveland survey team, wrote down the words spoken by Red Jacket, an orator of the Six Nations and a sachem of the Senecas at a council between Cleaveland’s party and Native Americans which took place at Buffalo, New York on June 23, 1796.  The meeting was in order to resolve the issue of remaining Native American claims to the Western Reserve.

“You white people make a great parade about religion, you say you have a book of laws and rules which was given you by the Great Spirit, but is this true? Was it written by his own hand and given to you? No, says he, it was written by your own people. They do it to deceive you. Their whole wishes center here (pointing to his pocket), all they want is the money. . . He says white people tell them, they wish to come and live among them as brothers, and learn them agriculture. So they bring on implements of husbandry and presents, tell them good stories, and all appears honest. But when they are gone all appears as a dream. Our land is taken from us, and still we don’t know how to farm it.”

Red Jacket, who had received a peace medal from President Washington in 1792 would gain great fame as an orator.  His lifetime (1750-1830) witnessed enormous change: wars, a revolution, and the division and loss of the lands he and his ancestors had known for ages.  His words and his story prompt us to think not only about our past, as we celebrate the founding of Cleveland in July, but also about our future and the role we continue to play in altering the natural landscape.


by John Grabowski, PhD | WRHS Krieger Mueller Historian

In March 1924, a group of Yale alumni arrived in Cleveland to put on a musical show at the University Club.  They had been invited by two local alums, Elton Hoyt and Leonard Hanna, Jr. who had attended their performance in New York City and convinced the ensemble to reprise it in Cleveland.
The composer of the music was Cole Porter, a member of the Yale Class of 1913 and a close friend of Leonard Hanna, Jr. also a member of that class.

Leonard Hanna, Jr.





Cole Porter


Hanna, Porter, and other members of the group stayed at the Hanna family home on East Boulevard, today part of the Western Reserve Historical Society’s Cleveland History Center, in University Circle.   While there Hanna insisted that Porter write a special number about Cleveland to be added to the show.  As remembered by Warren Corning Wick, ”Leonard said Cole must close himself in his library, where he had a small upright piano moved. The butler was there with drinks and, closing the door, they told Cole he couldn’t come out until he’d written the song. 20 or 30 minutes later, Cole sheepishly asked, “Can I come out now? I have a song.” The song being, ‘Let’s Make It Cleveland.’”

The lyrics, in part, went as follows:

“Come on my dearie, Beside Lake Erie,
We are going to settle down.
Out in Ohio, Oh me, Oh my Oh,
I know the grandest town.
That’s the title of this ditty,
It’s the famous Forest City,
Where they’ve got the ammunition,
To prohibit prohibition,
Praise the Lord and sing Hosanna,
It’s the home of Hoyt and Hanna.
Cleveland! Cleveland! Cleveland!
Cleveland’s such a grand old town,
There’s such real he-men, Y -A-L-E men.

Porter and Hanna’s friendship, which began at Yale, would endure until Hanna’s death in 1957.   During that time Hanna would become one of the city’s most noted philanthropists and Porter would become one of the nation’s greatest composers, creating sophisticated songs for a multitude of Broadway musicals that remain enduring standards.

Their lifestyles were, however, far beyond the “ordinary” particularly during the Depression.  Each had immense wealth – it has been said that they were the two wealthiest young men to enter Yale in 1909.  And each had immense talent, Porter as a composer, and Hanna as a self-taught connoisseur of fine art.   His collection would enrich the Cleveland Museum of Art as would the enormous endowment he left it upon his death.  His largess would also enrich University Hospitals (the Hanna Pavilion) and support the construction of a new Karamu Theater in 1949.

Given their talent and status, they gathered around themselves a coterie of equally talented (if not as wealthy) friends, including Monty Woolley, Gerald Murphy (heir to the Mark Cross Leather Company), and Cleveland columnist Winsor French. They and many others would, at times, celebrate Porter’s first night openings – sometimes at Hanna’s fashionable New York City apartment.   They also traveled together.   In 1940, Cole, his wife Linda, Winsor French, Leonard Hanna, Roger Stearns and Billy Powell took an extended cruise to the South Seas.   And in his later visits to Cleveland, Porter would stay at Hanna’s Hilo estate in Kirtland.

It’s all a fascinating story about classmates who came to live in a wealthy, sophisticated, elegant world.  Certainly, the multiple books written about Cole Porter do an excellent job in depicting the atmosphere of the times.  The best of the books, including William McBrien’s biography of Porter and James Woods’ Out and About with Winsor French, as well as the film De-Lovely also focus on the strong same-sex bonds that underpinned their lives and their friendships.   At times, Porter’s lyrics reflect upon this.  In his song I’m a Gigolo, one line notes, “I’m a famous gigolo.  And of Lavender, my nature’s got just a dash in it.”  And in another song Farming, “Don’t inquire of Georgie Raft, why his cow has never calfed.  Georgie’s bull is beautiful, but he’s gay.”   To those who attended the shows on Broadway, lines such as these raised, perhaps, a knowing smile on members of the audience — and they certainly delighted Porter’s and Hanna’s close friends.  But they also exasperated the censors of the time

Knowing the stories of these classmates opens up a window on our humanity, one that was shaded for many years.  They also prompt the question as to how many other classmates, who lived in far different circumstances during those heavily closeted times before Stonewall, may have shared similar bonds and friendships but were unable to publicly express them, let alone, set them to music.

Learning from a Cleveland Legend: A Conversation with Leon Bibb

By Todd Michney, Ph.D.

Journalist Leon Bibb recently spoke to me about his family roots, his youth growing up in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood, and where African Americans stand in the aftermath of the Trump presidency. Bibb studied journalism at Bowling Green State University, served with distinction in Vietnam (winning a Bronze Star), and worked at the Plain Dealer before starting a storied television career. In 1972 with WCMH in Columbus, he became the first Black news anchor in Ohio. In 1979 Bibb moved back to his hometown to join WKYC, and from 1995-2017 he anchored for WEWS, where he continues as a commentator. Bibb is a longtime resident of Shaker Heights.


Mr. Bibb began by explaining how he came to be born in Alabama in 1944: although his parents arrived in Cleveland in 1940, his mother returned to her ancestral home to give birth to him when his father, who worked for the U.S. Navy Department, was sent to serve in World War II. After initially living with his father’s relatives on East 86th Street in Cedar-Central, Bibb’s parents moved the family in 1947 onto Parkgate Avenue in Glenville. “You’re gonna pay big time to live out there,” their relatives told his father, “You’re going out to the Gold Coast and it’s expensive.” While still a predominantly Jewish area, Glenville was the city’s most up-and-coming Black middle-class neighborhood. His parents went in together on a duplex house with his father’s sister and her husband who was also a veteran; they were attracted by the stately Miles Standish Elementary School across the street and the Cultural Gardens at the end of the block. “We were surrounded by the Black professionals,” Bibb told me, “doctors, an architect, people who owned funeral homes, dentists, teachers, and assistant principals of schools.” As for Glenville in the 1950s, he joked, “if you could not find it on East 105th Street, you probably could live without it.” There were movie theaters, a new car showroom, hat and shoe stores, delicatessens, grocery stores and markets, hardware stores, pharmacies, soda shops and more. There was Scatter’s Barbecue, and nightclubs like the Tijuana and Café Society where the country’s biggest jazz bands stopped on tour. He watched the neighborhood’s demographics shift as he advanced to Empire Junior High School and then Glenville High School; only five white students remained by the time he graduated in 1962. “It didn’t worry me too much,” he recalled, because the people who were moving in were Black people who seemed to be very nice, and we were all very nice.”


“I don’t know how my childhood could be better,” Bibb emphasized. He and his friends spent their time playing Little League baseball at Gordon Park, where they named their teams after the star Cleveland Indians players: the “Colavitos,” “Helds,” and “Dobys.” The City’s Recreation Department and Board of Education kept the playground at Miles Standish open in the summer, even sponsoring crafts classes and other activities; Bibb learned to play the ukulele. Twice a summer the Show Wagon would perform for kids and parents alike, with a band or quartet, baton twirlers, maybe a comedian or ventriloquist. Bibb and his friends even organized track meets for a friendly competition with nearby Pierpont Avenue: “We would have a 100-yard dash, a 50-yard dash; we would have the 200-yard dash, the mile bicycle run. We would have a stopwatch and keep records – and we did this all by ourselves, there were no adults involved.” He felt he had been largely shielded from the hurts of racism, aside from a handful of negative encounters with kids from the Sowinski area, a Polish enclave on the other side of Rockefeller Park.


Mr. Bibb recalled family trips to visit relatives down South, or for funerals, and how his parents instructed him and his sister that they would be avoiding gas stops or bathroom breaks after crossing the Ohio River. On one trip around the time Emmett Till was murdered, his father had made a tense but successful stop in Kentucky for Pepsi-Colas to go. “I know it was hard, because you want your kids to know that they’ve got rights. But they also wanted their son to not be murdered,” he reflected on his parents’ dilemma. “All that is part of what it takes to survive in America and be Black,” he noted in referring to the organizations African Americans have built for self-advancement, notably fraternities and sororities which can now count Vice President Kamala Harris among their members. “Since 1619, we’ve been a strong people who just don’t go away; our strength is in our stick-to-it-iveness, our pursuit of education and dealing with the racism which is always out there.”


Todd M. Michney is a native Clevelander who teaches at Georgia Tech. He is the author of Surrogate Suburbs: Black Upward Mobility and Neighborhood Change in Cleveland, 1900-1980 (University of North Carolina Press, 2017).

Photos: 1-Leon Bibb in 4th Grade, early to mid-1950s. 2-Leon Bibb and his cousin Allen Moreland on Parkgate Avenue. 3-Leon Bibb’s father (Leon Bibb, Sr.) with his sister Shirley in front of the Bibb home at 9122 Parkgate Avenue.


Dawg Pound! Steeler Nation!

Contributed by Robyn Marcs, WRHS Grants Manager.

Back in this era, there was a role reversal between these two teams with the Browns being one of the most winningest teams in football and the Steelers consistently losing games. The Steelers won their first game against the Browns in 1954 to the surprise of all, trouncing Cleveland 55-27 in 1954.

The tide finally turned for the Steelers in the 1970s with their famous Steel Curtain defense, led by “Mean” Joe Greene, L. C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes, and Dwight White. Terry Bradshaw also led the team to victories in 4 Super Bowls during this decade. Meanwhile, the Browns were past their Jim Brown heyday and their successes in the ‘50s and ‘60s. While the ‘70s and ‘80s would see talented players in Brian Sipe and the Kardiac Kids as well as Bernie Kosar and Earnest Byner, there were also infamous plays such as Red Right 88, the Fumble, and the Drive cursing the team.

The Browns won their most recent championship in 1964, while the Steelers have gone on to win six Super Bowls since 1974. The rivalry is strong between these two cities, sometimes in one’s own family!

But hey, at least we have more NBA Championships than Pittsburgh, right?


1964 Browns | Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductees

Five players from the 1964 team have been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Jim Brown, Lou Groza, Leroy Kelly, Gene Hickerson, and Paul Warfield:

Jim Brown (born February 17, 1936) is an American former professional football player and actor. He is best known for his exceptional and record-setting nine-year career as a running back for the NFL Cleveland Browns from 1957 to 1965. In 2002, he was named by Sporting News as the greatest professional football player ever.   He is widely considered to be one of the greatest professional athletes in the history of the United States.  Brown was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.

Paul Warfield (born November 28, 1942) is a former professional American football wide receiver in the 1960s and 1970s known for his speed, fluid moves, grace, jumping ability and hands.  Warfield was a rookie for the 1964 Browns and quickly developed into a go to receiver for quarterback Frank Ryan.  Warfield also played for the Miami Dolphins and was a member of the 1972 Dolphins that went undefeated and remains the only NFL team to do so.  Warfield was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.

Leroy Kelly (born May 20, 1942) is a former American football player. A Pro Football Hall of Fame running back, he played for the Cleveland Browns in the National Football League from 1964-73.  Kelly was a rookie on the 1964 team and provided a different style of running attack along with Jim Brown.  Kelly was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994.

Lou Groza (January 25, 1924 – November 29, 2000) was an American football placekicker and offensive tackle who played his entire career for the Cleveland Browns in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and National Football League (NFL). Groza was professional football’s career kicking and points leader when he retired after the 1967 season. He played in 21 seasons for the Browns, helping the team to win eight league championships in that span. Groza’s accuracy and strength as a kicker influenced the development of place-kicking as a specialty; he could kick field goals from beyond 50 yards at a time when attempts from that distance were a rarity. He set numerous records for distance and number of field goals kicked during his career.  Groza was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974.

Gene Hickerson (February 15, 1935 – October 20, 2008) was an American Football offensive guard who played for the Cleveland Browns in a fifteen-year career from 1958 to 1960 and 1962 to 1973. Hickerson was a six-time Pro Bowler from 1965 to 1970. Hickerson was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

A Different Part of Ohio

Contributed by John J. Grabowski, Ph.D., Historian/Senior Vice President for Research and Publications.

It’s relatively easy to find a good definition of the Western Reserve on various websites (including that of the Western Reserve Historical Society) that detail its origins. Suffice it to say that the Western Reserve is that area of Northeast Ohio comprised of those trans-Appalachian colonial claims that the State of Connecticut “reserved” for itself upon the creation of the United States. Other former colonies ceded land claims in the west at that time, but Connecticut retained about 3.3 million acres stretching 120 miles westward from the Pennsylvania border. If you need a quick detailed overview, read this. But, there is much more to the story of the Reserve other than the legalities of creating “new Connecticut.”

The Western Reserve was, and arguably, still is a “place apart” in Ohio. Given its Connecticut origins, many of its original settlers were from that state or from other states including New York, New Hampshire and Vermont. When they came, they built upon a landscape that had been inhabited for nearly 10,000 years by Native Americans. That original landscape was defined by rivers and trails and not by the logic of the surveyors’ lines that Moses Cleaveland and his party impressed upon the land. Those trails still exist – for example, travel the first segment of the new Opportunity Corridor out of University Circle and you, in part, are following a Native American path that early settlers used to travel from what became Doan’s Corners to the township of Newburgh.

Those early settlers, however, brought a mindset and culture to the area that stood apart from, for example, southern Ohio. It is physically evident in the numerous town squares in the Reserve, including Public Square in Cleveland. In essence the settlers replicated the New England town square where one would find the church (usually Congregationalist or Presbyterian), the meeting hall or courthouse, and numerous small businesses (for a view of a town square that echoes that distant past, drive east on Route 87 and explore Mesopotamia). Their religious beliefs also echoed those of the early settlements in New England and which for a number of early settlers set them firmly against slavery. That is why Cleveland and Oberlin became major stations on the Underground Railroad. But, it is important to remember that opposing slavery did not mean that all or many of that mindset envisioned full equality between Black and white. But compared to southern Ohio, the Reserve was a place apart and one that voted wholeheartedly for Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and 1864. Much of this story is now told in the Underground Railroad Center in the Cozad-Bates House in University Circle.

It can also be argued that the Protestant tradition of stewardship of a community also set the area apart and, perhaps, provided the foundation for a deep, rich, and ever evolving philanthropic tradition of Cleveland and northeast Ohio. Indeed, it is a tradition that expanded and diversified as Cleveland evolved from what was a small, farm-centered mercantile community, into a multi-ethnic industrial city in the years after the Civil War. The descendants of the early settlers, in large part, embraced and prospered because of this change – but the change itself challenged them. For example, there were questions whether railroad travel was proper on the Sabbath, and there were issues when confronted by new ways of celebrating Christian holidays. When the congregants of a German Evangelical Lutheran Church displayed a Christmas Tree in their sanctuary, some Protestants characterized it as a “heathenish custom, this groveling before the shrubs.” Attitudes toward gambling also remained strong – that is until the state took over the lottery business and, of course today, there’s a casino on the Public Square of Cleveland.

Certainly, northeast Ohio is not “new Connecticut” anymore. It is a combination of many groups – some people estimate that nearly 130 “identities” can be found in northeast Ohio, and the region hosts a global set of religious beliefs. But here one could argue that this transformation occurred because the region has held promise for many people over many years – from the first people, to the early settlers, to those who came to work in a burgeoning industrial economy, and today for those seeking refuge, education, or positions in an evolving “med-ed” metropolis.

One could, of course, argue that the past has been totally eclipsed, but that is wrong for history is a cumulative process. Each change depends upon that which preceded it – Native American trails become roads; stewardship becomes philanthropy; and social justice links to a deep history of reform. However, more Interestingly that cumulative process has, in an economic sense, created a new Western Reserve – that being region we today call Northeastern Ohio

Cycles and Cicadas – Patterns of the Past

Contributed by John J. Grabowski, Ph.D., Historian/Senior Vice President for Research and Publications.

The forthcoming emergence of the 17-year cicadas is fast approaching. It’s one of nature’s most incredible cycles – periods of time built around natural rhythms that define our lives.

Indeed, this event is a good occasion to think about how we choose, in many ways, to divide the past into regular spaces of time, and then how we park our memories within those spaces.

Obviously, the earth’s orbit of the sun and the four seasons that accompany it are the natural set of cycles that define our lives. And, of course, within that orbit there are the shifting positions of the stars that form the Zodiac and the astrological links to Capricorn, Gemini, Taurus, et al. that some believe govern our personalities and our fate.

But within that natural cosmic cycle we create and encounter other time nodes to which we link our lives and memories — all of which are based on the calendar that defines the days and years of our journeys around the sun. The school semester, baseball season in spring, and football in fall are markers we sometimes use to chart our lives. Then there are others – every four years a Presidential election, the time in one’s youth of a bar or bat mitzvah, or a first communion are remembered stages in life.

There are longer cycles defined by other cosmic events – Halley’s comet appears every 75.3 years. Mark Twain was born in 1835 during an appearance of the comet. He noted in 1909 “I came in with Halley’s Comet. It is coming again next year. The Almighty has said, no doubt, ‘Now there are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together. ‘” Twain died in 1910 when the comet returned.

This year the cicadas seem to provide us another natural cycle – the emergence of Brood X which will be prevalent in Ohio and Indiana. It is estimated that this will be an occasion when billions of cicadas come out of the ground beginning in May. It happens every seventeen years and things will get a bit noisy and sidewalks and streets a bit crunchy. And it “sounds” like it will be memorable.

Indeed, what do Clevelander’s remember from the last time Brood X emerged? It was 2004 and the Indians would end up in 3rd place – Omar Vizquel was still on the team. The Browns, well forget about it, as it would be only a 4-win season (remember coaches Terry Robiskie and Butch Davis?). But then the Cavs had LeBron on the squad. He had been drafted the year before. Jane Campbell, the city’s first and only woman mayor was still in office and still dealing with the economic issues that followed the “Dot-com” collapse in 2001-2002.

Nevertheless, some of us may wish to link a life event to this natural event this year. Will we someday tell someone that he or she was born in the year of the great Cicada emergence? Perhaps, but, that could get confusing particularly if he or she moves out of the area. Brood X is one of 14 broods of 17- year cicadas, each emerging on its own annual cycle in specific areas east of the Mississippi River. Add to that the three broods of thirteen-year cicadas that emerge at different times, and it’s hard to measure a life event like a birth, wedding or graduation around a noisy spring unless you stay in the same place over time! Indeed, there were and will be only five years between 2013 and 2029 in the Midwest, South, and East Coast that will be absent cicadas.

Irishtown Bend

Photo of Irishtown Bend in Northeast Ohio
When the first Irish immigrants began to arrive in Cleveland in the 1830s, they settled in a neighborhood that would come to be known as Irishtown Bend, which was part of a larger area known as the Angle. Situated along the river east of W 25 th  Street and south of Detroit Avenue, this neighborhood encompassed a total of 22 streets. However, Cleveland’s Irish population quickly outgrew the bounds of the Irishtown Bend neighborhood, particularly with the influx of refugees from the Potato Famine in the late 1840s. By 1853, the St. Patrick Parish was established on Bridge Avenue to help serve the rapidly expanding population, and in 1868, St. Malachi’s Church was established in the center of Irishtown Bend.
Unfortunately, many residents of the neighborhood struggled with extreme poverty and were especially susceptible to diseases such as cholera, scarlet fever, and diphtheria. As families became more prosperous, they began to move away from the neighborhood, seeking to distance themselves from the impoverished area. By 1900, most Irish residents had moved on, and the neighborhood was resettled by Eastern European immigrants. Sadly, the neighborhood began to decline, and by the 1980s, no commercial or residential buildings were left in the area.

History of St. Patricks Day in Northeast Ohio

History of St. Patricks Day in Northeast Ohio
The public celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in Cleveland has a longer history than we once thought. The very first Parade that we know about in Cleveland was organized in 1842 by the city’s third resident Catholic priest, Rev. Peter McLaughlin. Fr. McLaughlin was a proponent of “temperance,” or abstinence from alcohol, and his St. Patrick’s Day celebration began with mass at St. Mary’s on the Flats—the only Catholic church in Cleveland’s city limits at that time—continued with a Parade of the Catholic Temperance Society, and concluded with a banquet attended by friends and family members.
Various organizations have sponsored and participated in the Parade at different times over the Parade’s 175-year history. Sometimes it was organized by explicitly Catholic groups, such as the Fr. Mathew Total Abstinence Society, the Catholic Central Association, or the Ancient Order of Hibernians, a Catholic fraternal organization, whose 19th century membership rosters are housed at Western Reserve Historical Society. At other times, the Parade was organized by groups more specifically interested in the cause of Irish nationalism, such as a local militia known as the Hibernian Guards, the Fenian Brotherhood, or the Irish Literary and Benevolent Association. In more modern times, the Irish American Civic Association organized the Parade from 1935-1957, and the United Irish Societies of Greater Cleveland has managed the Parade from 1958 through today.
The structure of the United Irish Societies was formalized with the sole aim of running the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The concept was, and is, that independent, constituent organizations would come together, headed by an Executive Director, to take mutual responsibility for raising the money for the Parade and for developing and implementing the guidelines for the Parade. At its founding, member groups were the only Irish organizations that were allowed to march in the Parade.
A treasure trove for more recent Parade history can be found in the papers of Raymond “Rip” Reilly (a longtime Parade director and publicist) at  WRHS!

Women Making History | Alta Weiss

Contributed by Robyn Marcs, WRHS Grants Manager

Alta Weiss was born into a Jewish family, the second of three daughters, in Berlin Heights, OH. By the time she was 17, Alta was playing semipro baseball for the Vermillion Independents. She was the only woman on her team, and her male teammates and the manager were at first skeptical about letting her play. After 15 strikeouts in one game, they realized her talent and let her join the team. Each weekend, she made the 127-mile trip from Ragersville, OH to Vermillion to play ball, debuting on the mound in September 1907. Alta quickly earned the name “Girl Wonder” for her pitching prowess. The following year, her father established the Weiss All-Star semipro team, and people flocked from miles around to catch a game featuring the talented lady pitcher.

Alta was a sensation, garnering attention for her skill and poise on the mound. While still on the Vermillion team, Alta was able to play at League Park, now the home of the Baseball Heritage Museum, against future Hall of Famer Nap Lajoie and the Cleveland Naps. A special train was even built to Cleveland just for those who wanted to see Alta play there! Of her skill Nap said: “she looked to me to have as much as many men pitchers … but really, I was surprised to find that she could pitch so well.” Vermillion beat the Indians that day, 4-2.

Alta used her funds from her baseball barnstorming days to good use, and paid her way through higher education. In 1914, Alta graduated medical school from The Ohio State Medical College, the only woman in her class. She continued to play baseball until 1922, when she decided to practice medicine full time. Alta passed away in 1964 and is buried in Winesburg, OH. She truly helped paved the way for women in baseball, and was a local woman in a league of her own.

Women Making History | Margaret Wong

Margaret Wong

Contributed by John J. Grabowski, Ph.D., Historian/Senior Vice President for Research and Publicationsusing resources from WRHS’s collections & archives.

The history of assisting new immigrants in Greater Cleveland is linked, in many ways, to the work of women who have used their skills, as lawyers, agency directors, and volunteers to assist newcomers to our city over the past century.

Margaret Wong and Associates, one of the nation’s foremost immigration-focused law firms had its beginnings, so to speak, in Hong Kong.   That is where Margaret Wong was born. Her father was Hwang Mien Lin, a newspaper publisher and her mother Kuan Kuo Hua, a journalist. Margaret’s goal was to study medicine, and in order to so she obtained a student visa to the US.  She and her sister Cecilia arrived in 1969 with four suitcases, several hundred dollars, and with some rudimentary English. She studied initially at Ottumwa Heights College in Iowa and then graduated from Western Illinois University. However, her plans would change when she decided to, instead, study law. She graduated with her JD in 1976 from the SUNY Buffalo Law School where she was one of only four women in the class.

Her search for a legal position was difficult, made so by biases against women and immigrants.   She persisted and eventually came to Cleveland where she found a position at Central National Bank as a credit analyst. Yet, her desire was still to practice law, and given her own experiences as an immigrant, she wanted to focus on immigration law.   She did so by starting her own law firm in 1978. Today Margaret Wong and Associates is one of the premier immigration law firms in the nation, a feat made possible by Margaret’s incredible work ethic and her desire to assist those who are confronted by an unbelievably complex body of rules, regulations, and case law that today govern immigration to the United States.   Headquartered on Chester Avenue in Cleveland, and with offices in New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Memphis, Nashville, Minneapolis, Columbus, and Raleigh, the firm now has three partners, nine associates, and a number of paralegals. For many immigrants, Margaret Wong’s dedication and that of the members of her firm have provided new, secure lives in the United States.

Margaret Wong’s story is, perhaps the most recent of those that relate to women who have helped immigrants in our city and nation. The history of one of Cleveland’s premiere immigrant aid organizations clearly reflects that connection.

In September 1916, the Young Women’s Christian Association of Cleveland established its International Institute “…for the protection and welfare of immigrant girls.”   Margaret Fergusson would head the Institute from 1926 until 1954 when it merged with the Citizens Bureau to form the Nationalities Services Center. Both institutions had, up to that time, assisted over one hundred thousand immigrants and refugees. Lucretia Stoica, the daughter of Romanian immigrants and formerly a case worker at the International Institute, would become the Deputy and then the Executive Director of the merged agency, serving as its head for twenty-six years until her retirement in 1988. Algis Ruksenas would become director in 1988. Renamed the International Services Center in 1994, it would again be led by a woman, Karin Wishner, after Ruksenas’ retirement in 2006. Karin who had previously worked with the Center’s educational programs would then oversee its merger into the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants in 2016. She would retire in 2019. Today Dylanna Grasinger heads both the Cleveland and Erie, Pennsylvania offices of the USCRI.

Women Making History | Zelma Watson George

Zelma Watson GeorgeZelma Watson George became a symbol of African American achievement in several fields ranging from operatic diva to United Nations diplomat. After moving to Chicago with her family she earned a sociology degree from the Univ. of Chicago and studied voice at the American Conservatory of Music. Later she added advanced degrees in personnel administration and sociology from New York University.

Her journey would bring her to Cleveland to examine the John G. White Collection of the Cleveland Public Library. She would go on to write a musical drama based upon her research, “Chariot’s A’Comin!”, which was telecast by WEWS-TV in 1949. That year Zelma assumed the title role in Gian-Carlo Menotti’s opera, The Medium, at Karamu Theater. She was selected by Menotti himself to repeat her triumph in an off-Broadway revival of the work. As an African American appearing in a role not written for one per se she was likely New York’s first example of non-traditional casting.

In the 1950s Zelma served on several government committees at the national level, culminating in a world lecture tour as good-will ambassador and an appointment as U.S. alternate delegate to the United Nations General Assembly (1960-61). From 1966-74 she served as director of the Cleveland Job Corps. Following her retirement and the death of her husband, she lectured, wrote, and taught at Cuyahoga Community College.

Women Making History | Adella Prentiss Hughes

Adella Prentiss HughesAdella Prentiss Hughes spent her life promoting musical causes in Cleveland and, in founding the Cleveland Orchestra, was able to bring international acclaim to Cleveland. Mrs. Hughes was born in Cleveland to Loren and Ellen Rouse Prentiss. She graduated from Miss Fisher’s School for Girls and graduated with a music degree from Vassar in 1890. She toured Europe for a year before returning to Cleveland, and she devoted herself to the sparse local musical scene, first becoming a professional accompanist. Though she enjoyed playing music, by 1898, she also wanted to bring other musicians to Cleveland. She was married once, in 1904, to Felix Hughes, but they divorced in 1923.

For seventeen years, she brought orchestras, ballets, and operas to Cleveland to perform at Gray’s Armory. In 1915, she established the Musical Arts Association that called upon a group of wealthy businessmen for the funding of cultural projects. Under her leadership and the guidance of Nikolai Sokoloff, the Musical Arts Association founded the Cleveland Orchestra in 1918. Mrs. Hughes was the Orchestra’s first manager for 15 years and held leadership positions at the Musical Arts Association for 30 years. In 1945, Mrs. Hughes only nominally retired, and continued to pursue musical interests until her death in 1950.