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”

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.

CHILDREN’S:

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

Posted in Uncategorized

Remembering Siegfried F. Buerling, Director of Properties Emeritus, Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS)

Message by Kelly Falcone-Hall, President and CEO, WRHS

Dear WRHS family and friends:

 

Today, I am writing to share sad news. Our friend, Siegfried F. Buerling, Director of Properties Emeritus for the Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS), passed away December 30, 2021.  While there are no words to do justice to his memory and life’s work, I’ll do my best on behalf of WRHS, and as Siegfried’s friend, to remember and honor this singular individual who contributed so much to Hale Farm & Village and WRHS.

Siegfried F. Buerling was the first, longest serving and most beloved Director of Hale Farm & Village until his retirement in 1998. He began his career as an apprentice cabinetmaker in Buerling’s Cabinet Shop in post World War II Germany. He worked as a journeyman in cabinet shops in Germany and Switzerland, and later as a furniture restorer in Montreal, Canada.

In 1959, Siegfried took the position of Carpenter-Cabinetmaker at WRHS and before he joined The Hale Farm, as it was known then, he worked on a variety of special projects at WRHS’s headquarters in University Circle. Notably, he led the construction of the Museum Galleries built in the late 1950s that connect the Hanna and Hay Mansions – Western Reserve Galleries I, II, the Central Addition and the Norton Gallery. Soon after, he transferred to Hale Farm and worked on special projects during the farm’s earliest days as a museum. In no time, he rose to lead Hale Farm & Village as its longest and most accomplished Director, retiring in 1998 as the Director of Properties and Special Projects for WRHS.

Siegfried in ABJ April 1985_clip.jpg

Image from feature in Akron Beacon Journal April 21, 1985

No other person is more important to the history and trajectory of Hale Farm & Village than Siegfried Buerling. His leadership contributed to Hale’s success and popularity during its first decade of operations, so much so that he convinced leadership to create a master plan to expand the farm museum into an expansive outdoor living history experience. During the 1960s, Siegfried and his colleagues visited places like the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Michigan, Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. They studied New England and old Western Reserve towns and villages and conducted extensive research in the WRHS Archives toward a vision for a 19th century Western Reserve village at Hale Farm.

 

To create the village, Siegfried established a ‘Preservation through Relocation Program’ that saved certain 19th century Western Reserve buildings threatened by development. These buildings, including the Mary Ann Sears Swetland Memorial Meetinghouse, Goldsmith House, Ephraim Brown Land Office, Benjamin Franklin Wade Law Office, Saltbox House, Jagger House, Jonathan E. Herrick House and others were relocated to Hale Farm and restored to their original beauty and charm around a recreated village green. Siegfried was responsible for identifying and restoring more than half of the museum’s historic structures, the foundation for the Hale Farm & Village experience today. This vision would come to define the experience and put Hale Farm & Village on the map as one of the finest outdoor living history museums in the United States.

 

During his long tenure, Siegfried worked tirelessly and masterfully with philanthropic, business and community leaders, chief among them the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR), which he founded, to further develop The Hale Farm into an expansive outdoor living history museum with 34 historic structures, an agriculture and horticulture program, a calendar of popular programs and special events, and establish the museum as a destination for unique, high quality curriculum-based school programming that continues today.

 

As a skilled cabinetmaker, Siegfried had a special interest in early American crafts and industry, and as a result developed a series of working craft shops and demonstrations at Hale Farm & Village including blacksmithing, glass blowing, pottery, basket, broom and candle making, and spinning and weaving. Once again, thanks to Siegfried’s vision and entrepreneurial mindset, Hale Farm’s renowned Craft and Trade Program started in the 1960s stands as the finest of its kind in the Midwest and the inspiration for WRHS’s Youth Entrepreneurship Education Program for schoolchildren.

 

As Director of Properties, Siegfried led WRHS’s work to restore and build experiences at its properties – Shandy Hall in Geneva, Loghurst in Canfield, the Holsey Gates House in Bedford, and the James A. Garfield National Historic Site in Mentor that was operated by WRHS until 2008.

 

Siegfried’s commitment to WRHS continued long after his retirement. In the 1990s, he managed the restoration of Euclid Beach Park Carousel horses (the Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel was restored to operating condition at the Cleveland History Center in 2014). In 2006, WRHS again engaged him as a Preservation Consultant and Project Manager of Hale’s major, multi-year preservation project to restore and stabilize the site’s collection of historic structures, and this work continues today.

 

For Siegfried, Hale Farm & Village was a labor of love and his life’s work. The Buerling family – Siegfried, his late wife Heidi, and his sons Bruce (deceased), Peter and Curt Buerling lived at Hale Farm.  In 2008, to celebrate Hale Farm’s 50th anniversary as a museum, Siegfried was the first person to receive the Hale Farm & Village Legacy Award, and WRHS created a fund at the Akron Community Foundation in his name.

 

Friends, it is not possible to recount or begin to adequately describe Siegfried’s impact on Hale Farm & Village and WRHS in a single communication. To know Siegfried was to love and respect him and recently, I had the privilege of visiting with him, his son Curt Buerling, and Hale Farm & Village Director, Travis Henline. During this special visit, we made plans to host a holiday party with Siegfried, his family and close friends and decided after to celebrate Siegfried’s 90th birthday on January 29, 2022 at Hale. I am ever grateful to Curt for giving us the opportunity to visit with Siegfried, to reminisce and express to him how important he is to Hale Farm, to WRHS, and to so many of us personally.

On behalf of WRHS, I offer our sincerest condolences to Siegfried’s family and friends and pledge to continue his work to preserve and safeguard Hale Farm & Village and his story for the benefit and enrichment of generations to come.

 

Thank you, Siegfried.

Kelly Falcone Hall Full Signature.jpg

Siegfried and Heidi Buerling,

HFV Legacy Award Benefit 2008

Kelly Falcone-Hall, Curt Buerling and Siegfried,

at Hale Farm 2021

Please share your memories, stories, and photos of Siegfried with us using the digital Share Your Story page.

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: https://supersimple.com/article/homemade-guitar-craft/

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.

Classmates

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.
Cleveland!
That’s the title of this ditty,
Cleveland!
It’s the famous Forest City,
Cleveland!
Where they’ve got the ammunition,
Cleveland!
To prohibit prohibition,
Cleveland!
Praise the Lord and sing Hosanna,
Cleveland!
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.

Remembering Margaret R. Barron

AAAA logo

Remembering Margaret R. Barron

President Emerita, African American Archives Auxiliary of WRHS

 

From Kelly Falcone-Hall, President and CEO of the Western Reserve Historical Society and Raymond A. Weeden, President of the African American Archives Auxiliary

 

On behalf of the Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS), we honor the life and legacy of Margaret Barron, President Emerita of the African American Archives Auxiliary (or, Quad A) and Lifetime Member of WRHS. Margaret’s leadership of the African American Archives Auxiliary for two decades transformed this all-volunteer auxiliary organization that provides support and guidance for the development of the African American Archives. Among Margaret’s many notable achievements, she worked at Tri-C Metro Campus as a Librarian with Dr. Booker T. Tall, Director of the Black Studies Program, and a founder of the auxiliary that would become so dear to Margaret.

 

Margaret’s exemplary leadership elevated Quad A, the work of the African American Archives, and the preservation of African American history in Cleveland and the region. We at the Western Reserve Historical Society express our deepest condolences to the family. We honor Margaret’s memory, and our work continues to be guided by her shining example.

Tribute written by Sherlynn Allen-Harris, former AAAA President

After a friendship of twenty-five years, it is difficult to find all of the words to express what Margaret Barron meant to me. To me Margaret Barron was larger than life. She was a deep thinker with a keen intellect, and an all-around problem solver.
 
When I was appointed to the QUAD A board of trustees in 1994, Margaret had not yet been elected President of the Board, but she was

a go-getter who knew how to pull Board members together to complete required tasks.
 

Indeed, she played a big role and was one of the main inspirations behind the numerous programs QUAD A organized and implemented.
 

I still remember when she was sworn-in as President of the Trustee Board. It was a nice day with sunshine, and Margaret wore a beautiful corsage on her dress. Margaret hit the ground running. She, in fact, presided over some of the most important programs and celebrations launched by QUAD A, including the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. commemorative celebration; which featured some of the most iconic figures in Civil Rights history as keynote speakers.
 

When illness caused Margaret to curtail her activities, she eventually selected me to serve as Interim President of the Board. I was honored that that she had faith in my ability to fill that role; although no one could truly take Margaret’s place.
 

Over the years, Margaret made herself available to me as an advisor on any number of issues related to QUAD A; indeed, she was like a big sister to me. She had a good listening ear. She listened to me, encouraged me, and kept me uplifted.
 

Margaret served as President Emerita of QUAD A from 2009 until her passing. She was a gem to all of the members of QUAD A and the Western Reserve Historical Society in general. Margaret was loved and respected by many throughout the Greater Cleveland community—including her organization, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., of which she is the founding member of the Greater Cleveland Chapter.
 

Margaret and I failed to connect with each other during the last weeks of her life. We missed each other’s phone calls several times. Even though It’s sad that we didn’t catch up with each other, Margaret, nonetheless left 25 years of  leadership, service and memories to be cherished. I will hold fast to those precious memories.

 

 

Photo circa 1998-99; Front Row (L-R) Sherlynn Allen-Harris, Elaine Williams, Margaret Barron
Second Row: Unknown, Barbara Brown, Bob Render, Gladys Bankston, David Reynolds, Ruby Terry
Third Row: Sam Dickerson, Kenneth Redd

Prepared by Regennia N. Williams, PhD

Distinguished Scholar of African American History and Culture

 

Western Reserve Historical Society is saddened by the passing of Margaret R. Barron. She was a long-standing member of WRHS and selflessly served many years as president of the African American Archives Auxiliary (AAAA or Quad A). Most recently, she was awarded the title “President Emerita” for AAAA.

 

President Barron held a bachelor’s degree from Cleveland State University and a graduate degree in Library Science from Case Western Reserve University. She served with distinction as a Librarian and Associate Professor at Cuyahoga Community College and was the chapter founder and chartering president of the Greater Cleveland Chapter of the Coalition of 100 Black Women.

 

Under the leadership of President Barron, AAAA has, among other things, presented excellent Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Commemorative Celebrations and guest lectures that engaged inter-generational program planning committees and attracted diverse audiences.

 

President Barron often allowed other AAAA volunteers to take center stage. Beginning especially in the 2008, she delegated many of her presidential duties to other trustees, giving them new and expanded opportunities to lead and serve the auxiliary. While allowing others to play a more central role, she continued to support planning, programming, and outreach efforts by participating in the June 2015 “Afternoons in the Archives” membership meeting, the February 2020 planning meeting, and contributing a “Reflections on Leadership” article for the February 2020 program newsletter.

 

Even in the midst of the current COVID-19 global pandemic, she found time to participate in the virtual AAAA membership meetings, taking care to remind participants of the importance of their work. President Margaret R. Barron continued to represent servant leadership at its best.

 

She will be truly missed.

 

From Colonel to Keepsake

Nearly a century ago, a young man flew repeatedly across the length and breadth of North America with a lion cub in his cockpit for company. Largely a character of his own creation, ‘Colonel’ Roscoe Turner became a household name during a period when aviation was evolving as a viable method of international transportation, and the dashing pilots of the day became instant public heroes.

Unlike today, where celebrities are ‘famous for being famous’, the luminaries of the 1920’s and ‘30s actually were required to achieve something specific, especially the pilots, by extraordinary accomplishments and feats of daring. Altitude records, speed records, distance records, trans-oceanic flights; all were qualifiers for aviators willing to risk it all for a moment in the sun.

For World War I veteran Turner, his love of flying held the promise not only of notoriety, but a viable means of survival in an economically uncertain world. A master of self-promotion, Turner understood that an instantly recognizable persona was required to capture and hold the public’s attention, and he used his military-inspired uniform, diamond-studded pilot’s wings, waxed moustache, and lion mascot to great effect.

One of the West Coast’s largest oil refiners, the Gilmore Oil Company, became one of Roscoe’s early sponsors, and the aircraft he flew (and eventually raced) sported the company’s cream, red, and gold livery, while the brave little lion cub, who had his own custom parachute, was christened ‘Gilmore’.

A rapid way to achieve fame (and some fortune), was in the arena of air racing, with participation in popular events such as the Bendix Cup, Thompson Trophy, Schneider Cup, MacRobertson Trophy, and the Pulitzer Trophy. In North America, arguably the most prestigious venue was the National Air Races, held at the Cleveland Airport from 1929 onwards. During the week-long activities, hundreds of thousands of spectators from around the nation would gather to watch their heroes, like Roscoe Turner, defy death hurling their powerful racing planes around a ten mile course with fifty foot high pylons marking the turns. Some of the pilots did indeed perish pursuing victory, reminding all who participated that the stakes were incredibly high.

Turner, always striving for a competitive edge, struck a deal with Jimmy Weddell, a Louisiana racing plane manufacturer for one of his Weddell-Williams Model 44’s, a low-wing monoplane design powered by a Pratt and Whitney Hornet radial engine. The Model 44 was a proven design, having achieved a second place finish in the Thompson Trophy in 1931. Registered as NR61Y, Turner’s Model 44 appeared in Gilmore Oil colors for the 1932 Thompson, and eventually placed third, behind two other Model 44’s. 1933 saw Turner claim the top spot in the cross-country Bendix race, a first place in the Shell Oil Speed Dash, and a disappointing sixth in the Thompson after winning, then being disqualified. 1934 brought ultimate victory for NR61Y and Turner with an outright win in the Thompson Trophy, the climax of three years of hard work and innovation. The plane was repainted in the all-gold color scheme it wears today. The following year, Turner and the Model 44 took second in the Bendix Trophy, and by 1937 the aircraft was handed over to pilot Joe Mackey, as Turner was developing a new racer. NR61Y would continue to soldier on into 1939 where it continued to compete respectably in the Thompson.

Fast forward eighty years, when in 2019, the Hallmark Company produced a Christmas Ornament-sized replica of Turner’s Model 44, now registered as NX61Y, as it appeared in the late ‘30s. The miniature plane is part of the ‘Sky’s the Limit’ series of ornaments, and does a creditable job of depicting even the tiniest details of the original. It is fascinating that an aircraft that thrilled crowds so long ago remains in the public consciousness. The real Weddell-Williams Model 44, number NX61Y, is displayed prominently in the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum, hanging from the ceiling in the attitude of banking around a racing pylon. She remains the only original Model 44 in existence, representing a page from the ‘Golden Age’ of air racing we’ll never see again.

New Exhibition | A Stitch in Time: The Cleveland Garment Industry | Opening November 6th

New Western Reserve Historical Society Publication & Exhibition tells story of “the rag trade” and the immigrant entrepreneurs who left their mark on the region.

A new, illustrated history of the Cleveland Garment Industry tells the stories of the immigrant entrepreneurs and workers who made “the rag trade” part of the city’s economy. A Stitch In Time: The Cleveland Garment Industry, written by Associate Curator for Jewish History Sean Martin, Ph.D., and published by Western Reserve Historical Society, is now available.  A companion exhibition developed in collaboration with Barrie Projects will open at the Cleveland History Center in University Circle on November 6, 2015.

The garment industry, concentrated in the Warehouse District and along Superior between East 19th and East 25th Streets, left its mark on the city in many ways.  Throughout the 20th century, Cleveland was one of the nation’s leaders in the garment industry.  Small shops established in the 19th century by immigrant entrepreneurs grew to become leading manufacturers.  Companies based in Cleveland made dresses, blouses, sweaters, cloaks, and suits for men, women, and children. Successful manufacturers became prominent philanthropists, helping to turn Cleveland into the best location in the nation, and immigrant workers built lives as Americans.  Workers earned the money to get an education and start their families. The industry declined in the late 20th century, but its mark on the city remains.

The publication A Stitch in Time: The Cleveland Garment Industry is available for purchase now through November 5, 2015 at the Cleveland History Center Museum Store for a special preview discount of $25.00.  Following the opening of the exhibition, A Stitch in Time, on November 6th, the book will be sold at the Cleveland History Center and through other book dealers throughout Northeast Ohio for a retail price of $34.95.

The publication was made possible through generous funds from the Stone Rand Philanthropic Fund, Ruth G. and Sam H. Sampliner Fund, Adler Family Foundation, and the William & Barbara Klineman Philanthropic Fund. Martin explained the origins of the project, saying “A Stitch in Time was inspired by the efforts of Marc Frisch, whose family owned Frisch Knitting Mills, and Gary Rand, of Ohio Knitting Mills. Their desire to learn more about the industry their families were involved in motivated WRHS to tell the story of the industry and of companies such as Joseph & Feiss, Richman Brothers, Work Wear, Bobbie Brooks, and Dalton. Garment manufacturers helped immigrants find their way in a new country and contributed significantly to the growth of the city and region.”

The exhibition A Stitch In Time: The Cleveland Garment Industry will open November 6, 2015 and run through 2016 at the Cleveland History Center in University Circle at 10825 East Boulevard.  Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and Sunday noon to 5:00 pm.  Admission is $10 adults; $9 seniors (age 62+); $5.00 students (age 3-12). WRHS members and children 2 & under receive free admission.  Group rates are available.  For information call 216-721-5722 or visit www.wrhs.org.

stitch in time cover v2