Then & Now | Susan Hall

At Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there are plenty of opportunities to shine, from parties to the induction ceremonies. The Rock Hall’s Director of Community Relations, Ruthie Brown, gave this suit to her colleague Susan Hall, who first wore it to their annual fundraiser in 2001. With its second owner, this suit has attended events, and even traveled to New York for a Rock Hall induction ceremony (although, due to a broken shoe strap, it didn’t make it to the event).

Clevelander Russell Trusso designed the ensemble during the 1990s, when he was still working as both an anesthesiologist and a couturier. He first found fashion success making one-of-a-kind wedding dresses from antique lace, and progressed to couture suits and gowns. Today, Trusso is a full-time jewelry designer, working with gems and enamel, and developing new techniques like his method for embedding diamonds into the surfaces of pearls. His clothes still fill the closets of Cleveland women, and the WRHS costume collection includes a handful of his garments.

Susan believes that “dressing for the occasion is essential,” and although her life’s work is community engagement and documenting Black history, fashion has always been important. Following college, she worked for IZOD Kids in New York City, and when she first moved to Cleveland Susan managed production and models for catalog and editorial work at Remington. She also worked as the Director of Community Relations and a Curator at the WRHS, where she worked on exhibitions such as 1964 – When Browns Town was Title TownThrough the Lens of Allen E. Cole, and Carl & Louis Stokes: From the Projects to Politics. When not working as a historian, Susan is the President of Hall Creative Productions, where she creates public art exhibits, events, strategic marketing, and historical research focused on African American and pop culture history.

(Evening Suit, 1990s. Russell Trusso. Worn in Cleveland, Ohio by Susan Hall (b. 1962)


WRHS Women Making History | Robyn Marcs

Robyn Marcs
Grants Manager for Western Reserve Historical Society


What do you do at WRHS?

I am the Grants Manager for WRHS, including the Cleveland History Center and Hale Farm and Village.

Why is it important?

Finding and securing funding is crucial for WRHS to maintain the Cleveland History Center and Hale Farm and Village.  My goal is to make sure that WRHS is operating for years to come for everyone to enjoy!

Why is history important to you?

I grew up with a history teacher mother and a Civil War buff father, loving history was part of my upbringing!  I love learning about the past, including the lesser known figures in history.  For example, my cat is named after Richard III’s mother, Cecily Neville!  My area of expertise is medieval English history, mostly between the years 1460-1558.

Do you have a favorite figure from history that motivates you?

One of my favorite lesser known figures from history is Nicholaa de la Haye a formidable Englishwoman in the 13th century. Despite being a grandmother at the time, Nicholaa successfully held off raids on Lincoln Castle against King John of England in the 12th and 13th centuries. When France tried to take England for themselves in 1217, the 67-year-old Nicholaa defended Lincoln Castle again the invading armies, and who knows – England may be French today were it not for her valiant efforts!  For her loyalty, King John appointed her as the first female High Sheriff of Lincoln, which is remarkable for a woman, let alone a 60-some year old, at that time!  Her bravery and “unladylike” leadership secured the throne for John’s young son Henry III.  She held her own in the increasingly male-dominated society of early medieval England.
It just goes to show that it doesn’t matter how old you are – you can always make a difference!  I love her tenacity and I picture her as a tough-as-nails older woman who didn’t take sass from anything or anyone.

More Info

Graduated from Miami University in History and English Literature.  My senior thesis was on Harry Truman, who said my favorite quote: “There is nothing better than cake but more cake.”

Then & Now | Denajua

Denajua designer dress

Cleveland-born designer Denajua (which means of the moon) created this dramatic evening suit to intrigue viewers from every angle. An exhibition about armor at the Louvre inspired the silhouette, with its strong shoulders and structured bustle. The designer, who specializes in evening wear, has been creating unique statement-making clothing for almost forty years. It’s never been her goal to appeal to the mass market: in 1991 she told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “I don’t follow trends, I don’t read fashion magazines. I make my own decisions about what the season is going to be, and I don’t care about long and short.”

In addition to the sculptural quality, this suit’s materials serve as evidence of Denajua’s affinity for handwork and unusual fabrics. Detailed embellishment in sequins and lace are accompanied by less commonly found materials, namely VHS tape. The primary textile is woven using the recycled tape, resulting in an extremely light, flexible fabric with a glimmering texture. Denajua’s work over the decades has been fun, whimsical, and sometimes surreal. She created a dress in picnic-perfect red and white gingham decorated with ants; breasts become eyes on an evening gown; guitar picks come together as shoulder straps for a dress in the form of a keyboard. Although her work is unusual, Cleveland’s clients haven’t been scared off: “They seem conservative, but once they put on one of my designs, they light up. It’s really wild.” Browsing through coverage of Cleveland’s society benefits during the 1980s and 1990s, one finds an abundance of Denajua’s work, from clothing to the entire gala decoration.

Her work is not the only place that Denajua seeks individuality. She once said, “I just want the single luxury of being allowed to be me.” In this context, Denajua was referring to her journey to become the woman she is today, figuratively and literally. She began sexual reassignment surgery in 1979 after years of counseling at the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals. Ultimately, she also wanted the rights afforded to her such as a legal marriage to a man and an accurate passport—and she succeeded. Today, Denajua splits her time between Paris and Cleveland, living and designing as her own woman.

(Evening Suit, 2017. Denájua b. 1957.)


WRHS Women Making History | Pamela Dorazio Dean

Pamela Dorazio Dean, MA, CA
Curator for Italian American History at Western Reserve Historical Society


What do you do at WRHS? 

Curator of Italian American History/Director, Italian American Museum of Cleveland

Why is it important? 

Italians are one of the largest groups to immigrate to Cleveland between 1880-1920.  The positive impact they made and continue to make upon the region is significant.  It is important to preserve the history of their contributions as well as educate others about it.

Why is history important to you? 

I believe history is important because it teaches us cause and effect, basically why things happened and what occurred as a result.  This understanding helps us function better in our present lives.  Another aspect about history that I think is important is that it allows us to broaden our knowledge and experience of the world.  Our lives are short, relatively speaking, and our ability to experience different events, cultures, and peoples is somewhat limited.  But with history, you can gain an understanding of the world centuries before you were born.

Do you have a favorite figure from history that motivates you? 

Too many to name.

More Info 

One group of women that motivates and inspires me are the Ursuline Sisters.  I was lucky enough to be educated by them in high school.  They were incredible role models for women.  They ran the school at all levels, from the classroom to the administrative offices, and did it extremely well.  Their dedication to their faith, to the community, and to the education of youth still inspires me to this day.  Particularly inspiring is their outspokenness on social justice issues.  Even when women’s voices were not being heard, they found a way to be leaders in making positive change.

WRHS Women Making History | Whitney Stalnaker

Whitney Stalnaker

Public Programs Manager at Western Reserve Historical Society


What do you do at WRHS? 

As Public Programs Manager for the Cleveland History Center, I am responsible for developing and implementing adult learning experiences based on the WRHS collections. These programs include tours, lectures, panel discussions, classes, workshops, and special events. The bulk of my work over the past year has focused on making these programs accessible virtually so our guests can continue to engage with our museum from the safety of their own homes.

Why is it important? 

Artifacts provide a unique look into the past, and it is our responsibility as museum professionals to present them in ways that best convey their stories to our audiences. Programming is a key part of this effort. Our programs give audiences the opportunity to engage with our experts and go in-depth into our collections, ensuring that the critical lessons of Cleveland history are shared and understood beyond our museum galleries.

Why is history important to you? 

History is most important to me because of the human element. Studying history, it’s easy for us to get so consumed with facts, figures, and theories that we forget the intrinsic humanity of these stories. However, it is this humanity that makes the study of history so crucial. When we learn about a historic event, we’re also learning about the millions of lives that were shaped by it. Understanding this not only helps us realize the gravity of these large-scale decisions but also allows us to better empathize with those who might still be affected by them even decades later.

Do you have a favorite figure from history that motivates you? 

I am most motivated by the women of my family who came before me. I come from central West Virginia, where my ancestors settled many generations ago. Living in rural Appalachia, these women were faced with environmental and economic challenges that demanded they be resourceful, clever, and – most of all – tough. They learned the land, grew and sometimes even hunted the food for their families, and contributed to their small communities as midwives and caretakers. Their stories have greatly shaped how I live my life, and I am inspired to keep their history alive so that future generations may understand the contributions of these remarkable women.

WRHS Women Making History | Patty Edmonson

Patty Edmonson
Museum Advisory Council Curator of Costume & Textiles
for the Western Reserve Historical Society


What do you do at WRHS?

I’m the Museum Advisory Council Curator of Costume and Textiles. I care for a large collection, which means everything from vacuuming storage to bringing in new garments. I act both as a collections manager and a curator, so I conduct a lot of archival research, plan and write exhibits, and do the installation too.

Why is it important?

For me, clothing provides a relatable link to the past that helps make it relevant. It can be transformative and transportive. So while it might seem frivolous to some, working with textiles helps preserve artifacts that remind us of who we were, are, and will be. Clothes open to doors to much larger conversations about class, race, sexuality, and humanity.

Why is history important to you?

Understanding history helps us know who we are, and why. Without knowing about the struggles and successes of the people that came before us, we wouldn’t know why our world is the way it is, for better or for worse.

Do you have a favorite figure from history that motivates you?

I’m inspired by the women who’ve lived in Cleveland before me. I’m currently researching Amanda Wicker, who moved to Cleveland in the 1920s and opened a dressmaking and design school that was successful for six decades. She had to face the discrimination of being a woman and being Black, but did it with dignity and used sewing skills to teach people survival skills, workforce readiness, and a sense of community. I wish I could have met her.

Then & Now | Presidential Inaugurations

Photograph of President Abraham Lincoln's 2nd Inauguration

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

The Western Reserve Historical Society’s collection of political memorabilia is of national significance. Much of it is comprised of campaign material which is often on display during an election period. But it is deeper than the buttons and badges representing candidates and political parties that most people see. As we reflect on the inauguration of a new President it is important to note that that event, a peaceful transition of power –one of the most powerful and symbolic events in our nation, is also represented in the collections. As we move toward this year’s inauguration, it is well worth looking at two other inaugurations – perhaps the most important pair in the nation’s history, for which the Historical Society holds several major and rare items.

Abraham Lincoln’s election to the Presidency in 1860 would, in many ways, eventually reshape the nation, not only because of an ensuing Civil War, but also because it would ultimately bring about the end of slavery. The election of 1860 was a fraught affair. Four candidates representing four parties ran for the office. The controversy over slavery split the Democratic Party and resulted in southern and northern candidates. A third party, the Constitutional Union Party, which opposed secession, tried to bridge that gap. The Republican Party, of Lincoln was the candidate, opposed the extension of slavery, but included a number of people who strongly advocated its immediate abolition. No matter its stance the Republican Party was portrayed by its southern opponents as a “black” or “abolitionist” party. Lincoln would not win a single slave state and no ballots for him were distributed in ten southern states.

Nevertheless he won with 180 electoral votes, but only 40 percent of the popular vote. He received the news in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois, and began to make plans for his inauguration which would take place on March 4, 1861. He was to travel to Washington by train and almost immediately he received invitations to stop at cities along the route. George B. Senter, the Republican mayor of Cleveland sent a letter to Springfield.

The reply to that letter is one of the icons of the Society’s collection. Written by one of Lincoln’s secretaries but signed by Lincoln it confirmed Lincoln’s acceptance of the invitation. The President-elect came to Cleveland on February 15 where he spoke to a large crowd from a balcony at the Weddell House where he spent the night. For many years his room was preserved as a museum at the hotel. When the hotel was demolished, a desk purportedly from Lincoln’s room, became part of the Society’s collections.

One of Lincoln’s last stops on the route to Washington was in Philadelphia. There he participated in a flag raising in front of Independence Hall on February 22. The flag had 34 stars, one being new and representing the admission to Kansas to the Union. His remarks were somewhat hopeful, “… I think we may promise ourselves that not only the new star placed upon that flag shall be permitted to remain there to our permanent prosperity for years to come, but additional ones shall from time to time be placed there….” By this time seven southern states had seceded and Jefferson Davis installed as provisional president of the Confederacy. A rare original photographic print of Lincoln speaking from the platform in front of Independence hall is another piece of Lincoln’s inaugural story held in our collections.

It was during his stay in Philadelphia that Lincoln received reports of a plot to assassinate him when he changed trains in Baltimore to travel to his destination Washington. The reports seemed credible, particularly given Maryland’s status as a slave state and because of the number of threats that Lincoln had received since his election. Detective Alan Pinkerton who had discovered the plot convinced Lincoln to change his travel plans. He did, and in partial disguise, he arrived in Washington safely, but was soon lampooned by the press for sneaking into the capital. It was not a good start in a long difficult journey.

On March 4th he gave his first inaugural address at a heavily guarded Capitol. In that address he tried to convince the South to remain in or return to the Union, but hinted at consequences if it didn’t. Near its end Lincoln said: “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to “preserve, protect, and defend it.” It was, according to one observer an “iron fist in a velvet glove.” James Buchanan, his predecessor as President and who had done nothing to stop the secession of southern states attended the inauguration.

The attack on Ft. Sumter the following month began four years of war, the bloodiest conflict that the nation has ever fought. Near the end of that conflict, Lincoln had his second inauguration. The event in March 1865 was captured by the camera of Alexander Gardner. For many years it was believed that there was no clear image of Lincoln giving his second inaugural address, a short one in which he asked the nation to stay firm and focused at a time when the war was nearly ended. His image was blurred or not fully visible in the prints that were known to exist.

Abraham Lincoln Inauguration

In the early 1970s, Lincoln photographic scholar Lloyd Ostendorf, a noted expert on Lincoln and particularly on photographs of Lincoln, visited the Western Reserve Historical Society to review its collection, which was then being sorted and processed. He came across several images of the second inauguration and found one he had never seen before – it showed a clear, crisp image of Lincoln seated near the lectern at Capitol. The discovery made national news, even appearing in Life magazine. It is, indeed, a treasure of our institution.

Yet, the items we hold relating to Lincoln and his inauguration are not merely treasures – they are evidence of a time when the nation was at a crossroads – free or slave, unified or divided. That crossroads led to a journey that ended up costing hundreds of thousands of lives, including that of Abraham Lincoln who would be assassinated a mere six weeks after his second inauguration, and after the rebellion in the South had been defeated. In December of 1865 the Thirteenth Amendment which ended the unspeakable practice of slavery was passed and two further amendments would begin to reshape the rights of all Americans. It was a difficult time, one considered by historians as a second American Revolution. But it was one that helped and continues to help shape our nation. As we watch the inauguration this year, we should remember that the past never fully repeats itself, but it bears many lessons for the present.

Then & Now | Inauguration Balls

Presidential Inaugurations are parties to celebrate a new leader but also a place for the country’s movers and shakers to see and be seen.

Contributed by Patricia Edmondson, Museum Advisory Council Curator of Costumes & Textiles, using resources from WRHS’s collections & archives.

George Washington celebrated his presidency with a ball, and the first official inaugural ball took place in 1809, honoring James Madison. In 1913, Woodrow Wilson cancelled the party, considering it too extravagant. Unofficial events continued until 1949 when Harry Truman revived the tradition. Some presidents choose to hold several small balls, and others accommodate thousands of people in one night. Bill Clinton holds the record with fourteen balls for his second inauguration. Many Clevelanders have attended these celebrations, treasuring both the clothes and the memories that come with them.

Inaugural Ball Gown, ca. 1868. Gift of Lucy and Olive Moody 42.4270

Mary Kirtland Mansfield of Poland, Ohio wore this dress to Ulysses S. Grant’s first inaugural ball. Both of Grant’s balls were relative disasters. In 1869, the small venue left little room for dancing and the coat check clerks lost several items. Grant constructed a larger, temporary building for the 1873 ball, but the lack of insulation forced guests to wear coats, eat cold food, and watch caged canaries freeze to death.

Evening Dress, 1980. James Galanos (1924-2016). Gift of Lindsay J. Morgenthaler 93.27.1

Presidential Inaugurations are parties to celebrate a new leader but also a place for the country’s movers and shakers to see and be seen. Clevelander Lindsay Morgenthaler purchased this ensemble for Ronald Reagan’s 1981 inauguration, and the festivities that year were slated to be elaborate. Proceeds from ticket sales, merchandising, and donations totaled about $6 million to cover the costs of the parade, events, and coverage of the inaugural day.  Although the country was in the wake of economic depression, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies requested semi-formal attire (rather than the standard politician’s business suits), even specifying colors and details to be considered. Later that evening, with guests in formal attire, there were no other rules.  Lindsay’s dress is made from a shimmering silver silk satin, and reveals an open back beneath the jacket. The lace topper makes a statement with powerful padded shoulders and swinging layers of lace. In choosing the American designer James Galanos, Lindsay supported her country’s artists and gave a nod toward the First Lady—who loved Galanos and also wore one of his designs to the ball.


Equal Rights Amendment Pennant, 1980. Gift of Deborah L. Neale 2017.19.2

Cleveland lobbyist Debbie Neale attended Reagan’s 1981 inaugural ball at the height of the struggle to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. The amendment would have secured equal rights for men and women, along with methods for Congress to enforce them. Neale carried this pennant with her to the Swearing-in Ceremony on the West Front of the Capitol, but was required to leave it at the entrance. She made sure to retrieve it when she left Capitol Hill.


Then & Now | Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Cleveland 

Contributed by John J. Grabowski, Ph.D., Historian/Senior Vice President for Research and Publications, using resources from WRHS’s African American Archives.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Cleveland on numerous occasions.   He first came to the city on August 7, 1956. At that time he was the leader of the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott and he reported on it before the National Negro Funeral Directors Convention held at the Hollenden House Hotel.

During the 1960s his visits became more frequent. He spoke at a number of churches, including Antioch Baptist, St. Paul’s Episcopal in Cleveland Heights, and Cory Methodist Church.   When he appeared at Cory on May 14, 1963, a crowd of 10,000 to 14,000 lined the streets as he arrived.   The church could only seat 5,000, so extra appearances were soon set up.   While many of these visits focused on Civil Rights actions in the South, by the mid-1960s his appearance in Cleveland focused on issues in the city. In 1964, a week after winning the Nobel Peace Prize he came to Cleveland to lead a “march on the ballot box”. Other visits that year continued a focus on voter registration.

He returned to Cleveland a number of times in 1967 and these visits focused again on local issues relating to Civil Rights, the treatment of the Black community, and again voter registration.   He played an important role in getting voters to register during Carl Stokes’ mayoral campaign that year.   His last appearance that year in the city took place on December 16 when he participated in a debate with James C. Davis, President of the Cleveland Bar Association on the topic of civil disobedience.

In 1968 he returned to speak to a small group on the east side early in the year.   He was scheduled to return to the city on April 10th.   That would not occur – he was assassinated on April 4th. Robert F. Kennedy, who was scheduled to speak at the Cleveland City Club the following day did so, with great sadness.   His speech was titled “On the Mindless Menace of Violence” and within his prepared remarks he noted “This is a time of shame and sorrow” and also focused on the issues facing poor people in the United States, referring to that situation as “another kind of violence” which resulted in “the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books, and heat in the winter.”   In two months Kennedy would also be the victim of an assassin.

The Western Reserve Historical Society is fortunate to have in its collections a number of images of Dr. King during his visits to Cleveland. Many of them were taken by Max Schoenfeld , a labor, peace and Civil Rights activist.   He was also a member of the executive board of the United Auto Workers Local 45.   His large collection of negatives document not only Dr. King’s visit, but also protests in Cleveland led by the United Freedom Movement. Maintained in the Society’s secure negative vault, they form an extraordinary document of the 1960s a time of change that has yet to see its complete fulfillment.

Then & Now | Martin Luther King, Jr.

Contributed by Patrice Hamiter, African American History Archivist, using resources from WRHS’s African American Archives.

This Martin Luther King Jr. Day seems particularly poignant against the backdrop of recent events that seem to chip away at the “dream“ that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned. This is currently evidenced by the insurrection on our nation’s capital, the rise of racist subversive groups, voter suppression, the ravaging effects of the coronavirus on black communities, police killings of black men and women, and violent protests and riots.

No one can argue the significance of Dr.’s King’s legacy; living a life of activism that has generated monumental strides for equality, and reach far beyond the civil rights movement. In just over a decade he accomplished what few could in a lifetime, but it was only the beginning.  We continue to face the challenge of gaining civil rights for all, and like Dr. King, we have to understand the impact of working together to push for one common goal.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and an iconic activist who led marches and protests for black people’s civil rights, right to vote, desegregation, and labor rights. One of his first and most notable acts of activism was leading the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott. When on December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white a man on a city bus.

The boycott lasted for 385 days, and became so intense that Dr. King was arrested and his home was bombed. The boycott ended on December 20, 1956 and resulted in the United States District Court ruling in Browder v. Gayle that ended racial segregation on all Montgomery public buses. The boycott transformed Dr. King into a recognizable activist and leader during the civil rights era, and in 1957 he rose to national prominence by becoming the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

The SCLC practiced nonviolent protest tactics, and though there were many stand-offs with segregationists and police that sometimes turned violent, Dr. King the son of a minister, remained committed to advancing civil rights through non-violence and civil disobedience. He was inspired by his religious beliefs, and the non-violent activism of Mahatma Gandhi. Ironically, the FBI labeled Dr. King a radical, and made him the object of many investigations trying to link him to communism.

As the head of the SCLC, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the most visible spokesperson in the civil rights movement.  In addition to helping organize non-violent protests, he was arrested and jailed for ignoring an Alabama state court injunction against demonstrating. It was during this time in jail that he penned his now famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail, which was in defense of non-violent resistance to racism. Later that year, four young African American girls died in a racially motivated church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama at the 16th Street Baptist Church. Dr. King delivered the eulogy for three of the slain girls.

In 1963 Dr. King helped organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, or as it’s most commonly known, the “March on Washington.” The march made specific demands to help end racial segregation in public schools, address civil rights legislation, employment discrimination, and protection of civil rights workers from police brutality.

The march was criticized because it was originally conceived as a forum to air grievances about the desperate condition of southern blacks and to publicly denounce the federal government’s failure to safeguard the rights and safety of civil rights workers and blacks. Some felt that organizers gave into pressure, and criticized the march as being too sanitized. Malcolm X dubbed the march the “Farce on Washington”, and the Nation of Islam forbade its members from attending the march.

Despite the tensions and criticisms, at the time the march was the largest gathering of protesters in Washington, D.C.’s history. With more than 200,000 people attending the peaceful event, Dr. King delivered his now famous I have a dream speech. The march, along with Dr. King’s speech, which is regarded as one of the finest in the history of American oratory, helped to put civil rights reform at the forefront of the United States agenda, and facilitated passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Dr. King’s non-violent approach was not universally accepted by some members of the black community who were angry at the violence against blacks.  Malcolm X, accused Dr. King of working “to keep Negroes defenseless in the face of an attack.” And black psychologist Kenneth Clark called the philosophy of loving one’s enemy “psychologically burdensome.” Nevertheless, on October 14, 1964 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize for his commitment to achieving racial equality through nonviolent actions, and his activism and leadership in the Civil Rights movement.

In 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. led marches in Selma, Alabama to call attention to it’s history of using violence to prevent African Americans from voting.  Due to the marches, seven months later President Lyndon B. Johnson sent a voting rights bill to Congress that would expand the 14th and 15th amendments.  The bill banned race based restrictions, making discriminatory voting practices illegal. It was quickly adopted by Congress and signed into law as the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, and is considered to be one of the most far-reaching pieces of Civil Rights legislation.

Dr. King was killed on April 4, 1968 during a trip to Memphis, Tennessee to support striking sanitation workers, but he didn’t die in vain.  There has been progress and people of color contribute to almost every facet of society. More African Americans have professional and political positions, access to higher educational opportunities, the black middle class has grown, there are more black millionaires, and more persons of color have significant roles in the television and movie industry. Among the greatest accomplishments was the election of Barack Hussein Obama in 2008, as the first African-American President of the United States.

But, despite these strides, African American still face inequalities which prevent them from assuming their rightful place in this country, a country they built.  Outright racism, policies that don’t effectively address systemic racism, and a complete lack of attention to important issues continue to create large disparities within education, health-care, employment, and fair treatment within the justice system.

This only means we have more work to do. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only federal holiday appointed as a national day of service to motivate and inspire everyone to volunteer to help improve their communities.  This is a creed that all Americans should be striving for and carrying with them every day to honor Dr. King and his legacy, so that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can be within every American’s reach.


Then & Now | 1942 White M2 Half Track

(1942 White M2 Half Track. Crawford Auto-Aviation Collection.)
Since 1867, volunteers have contributed to the operations of the Western Reserve Historical Society. By sharing their stories, knowledge and skills, WRHS can continue to fulfill its mission of inspiring people to discover the American experience by exploring the tangible history of Northeast Ohio.
The CAAM volunteers have undertaken the extensive restoration and refurbishment of a White Half Track, an American armored personnel carrier widely used by the Allies during World War II and in the Cold War. The M2 Half Track and its variants were produced by many manufacturers including Cleveland’s very own White Motor Company.
The organization has had the vehicle in its collection since 1999. Upon inspection it was noticed that the vehicle had a magnitude of issues including engine, driveline and incorrect body parts. What started out as a minor rebuild increased in scope as more incorrect parts and damaged driveline items were discovered.
WRHS, along with the help of volunteers, has completely rebuilt the entire rear track assembly and brakes on the vehicle. The front floor and all the front sheet metal was removed due to corrosion and improperly fabricated components from its past life. WRHS will continue to fabricate, rebuild, restore or purchase what is necessary to return it to fully functioning status. The process is a tedious one as not many parts are available almost 75 years after production. There is a dedicated team of approximately 6 volunteers who work solely on this project bringing it back to its former glory.

Then & Now | Ruth Franklin Sommerlad

(Photograph of Ruth Franklin Sommerlad and Frederick C. Crawford.)
Ruth Franklin Sommerlad (1912-2003), known professionally as Ruth Franklin, was one of the first female curators of an auto-aviation museum. She was born in Byesville, Ohio in 1912, and graduated from Heidelberg College with a Master of Arts degree in 1932. In 1942, she joined the personnel department of Cleveland’s Thompson Products Company. Three years later, she became the Curator of the Thompson Products Auto Album. Ruth Franklin would assist Thompson Products president Fred Crawford in expanding and defining the collection through its transition to the Western Reserve Historical Society in 1963 and was named director of the Frederick C. Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum when it opened in 1965.
Ruth Franklin was renowned through America because of her antique car expertise. She participated in nation-wide Glidden Tours of antique cars since 1946, and was the first woman on the board of trustees of the National Antique Automobile Club of America. She was also a member of the Women’s Advertising Club of Cleveland, and the American Association of Museums. By the time Ruth retired from WRHS in 1971 she had seen the collection grow to over 100 automobiles, a number of aircraft, and a variety of other vehicles and artifacts.

Then & Now | Remembering Snow

Well, Cleveland had a truly white Christmas several weeks ago. It was not the usual holiday with rain, sleet, sunshine, or a wisp of snow. It was a good foot plus for much of the city and it did tend to tie up holiday traffic, such as it was during the Pandemic. But, how did that recent holiday snow stack up to some memorable winter weather events?

As heavy and widespread as the snow was, it was certainly not a blizzard, but rather one of the sometimes heavy snow events that hit the city and the eastern suburbs, particularly when the lake is not frozen over and “lake effect” snow results. Just ask the folks in Lake and Geauga county about heavy snows – it’s hard for them to remember a winter when there was not one. That said, the real “test” of a city is a blizzard which is defined by the National Weather Service as a storm with winds or gusts 35 mph or higher along with blowing snow or considerable falling snow that causes visibility to be less than a quarter of a mile.

Given those parameters Cleveland has had three major blizzards during its recorded weather history. They occurred in 1913, 1950, and 1978. The first in 1913 was the second weather disaster to hit the city (and the state) that year. It was preceded by the “Great Flood” of 1913 which began on March 21st and then over five days dropped more than 11 inches of rain of the state. It was the disaster that put what remained of the Ohio and Erie Canal out of commission forever. The blizzard of that year began eight months later on November 9 and lasted until the eleventh. Over 22 inches of snow fell with 60 mile an hour winds. Shipping on the Great Lakes was severely hit. Thirty-two ships were lost or damaged and 277 sailors perished.

The next blizzard is still within living memory. It occurred in 1950 and also in November. It began on the 24th and lasted for five days, and is remembered as the Thanksgiving Blizzard. Cleveland was at its peak population of over 900,000 at that time. Over 22 inches of snow fell and high winds created huge drifts. Roads were blocked with over 10,000 abandoned cars and the National Guard was called in to help dig the city out. In the end, 23 people died. Digging out of the storm cost the city over one million dollars. For students, it was fairly good news – Cleveland schools closed for the entire week after the blizzard.

The last major blizzard to hit the city took place in January 1978. It was the third major storm to hit the city that winter and it began on Thursday, January 26. The barometer fell to a record 28.26 as the temperature dropped 36 degrees in 6 hours. Wind gusts were clocked at 82 miles per hour while the sustained wind speed was 53 mph. One estimate indicates that the wind-chill reached -100 F! Snow fall was minimal – 8 inches, but again it drifted. Mayor Dennis Kucinich was in Washington when the storm began and could not return to the city. His finance director, Joseph Teagreene served as acting mayor. All major highways, excluding Interstate 77 were closed and over 110,000 people in the Greater Cleveland area suffered power outages. For a time, the entire Ohio Turnpike was closed and once again, the National Guard was called upon for assistance. This is the “blizzard” that many in the area still remember and it is also the winter that sticks in local memory given that, at the time, it was the second “snowiest” in the city’s history.

Many of us will likely recall our snowy holiday season this year – it may have caused inconvenience, but it certainly did seem to match the season. For a brief period at the end of a difficult year, northeastern Ohio looked pleasantly different as the snow created a new landscape, and along with holidays it helped take our minds off the other pressing issues of the times.

Then & Now | Buying a Car


What better way to usher in the coming year than with the purchase of a brand new car? Hypothetically, let’s say you are shopping for a new Ford for example. Now, to have some fun, let’s say you were shopping for a new Ford exactly 100 years ago. What would be on offer, and what would the experience for today’s consumer be like? Let’s listen in on the conversation… ‘C’= Customer, and ‘D’=Dealer.

‘D’: ‘Good morning little lady, what can we do for you?’

‘C’: (With a slight frown), ‘I’m interested in buying a new car, and I see you’ve got plenty on hand.’

‘D’: ‘Sure do Miss, fresh off the assembly line in Detroit. We’ve got whatever you need; a Sedan, a Coupe, a Roadster Pickup, a Runabout, and a top-of-the-line Touring, all courtesy of Mr. Henry Ford.’

While other auto makers wanted to design luxury cars, Henry Ford designed a car that anyone could afford. Here he is standing by that very car. From the collections of The Henry Ford and Ford Motor Company.

‘C’: ‘Are these the famous Model T’s I’ve heard so much about?’

‘D’: ‘Sure are Miss; reliable as the sunrise, comfortable and affordable too! Why, just since 1908, we’ve sold five million of ‘em. All those customers can’t be wrong!’

‘C’: ‘That little convertible looks very nice over there.’

‘D’: ‘Yep, that’d be the Runabout, a two-seater that has plenty of pep, and even has electric headlights! I hope you’re a pretty good driver, as this little beauty can hit 45 miles per hour, and keep at it all day long!’

‘C’: ‘I think I can manage. The black paint is certainly very shiny, but does it come in any other colors?’

‘D’: ‘Nope!’

‘C’: ‘How about the other models in the line-up?’

‘D’: ‘Nope! Word is that Mr. Ford got a good deal on a volume purchase of black paint!’

At this point in history, most car buyers appreciated value and affordability, regardless of available body colors. In 1921, nearly 57% of the automobiles sold worldwide were Ford Model T’s! Ford was a genius at integrated assembly as well. Outside parts suppliers were required to use a certain type of wood for the part’s shipping crates. The wood was recycled into building the wooden framework for the car’s bodies, and the leftovers were turned into charcoal briquettes, marketed under the trade name ‘Kingsford’.

‘C’: ‘The interior looks pretty Spartan. I don’t see any air conditioning’.

‘D’: (Blank look)

‘C’: Well, does it have a heater at least?’

‘D’: ‘Nope’.

‘C’: ‘What do you do in the winter time?’

‘D’: ‘Dress for the weather!’

To reduce overall price, the Model T was pared down to the bare essentials. The options and equipment we consider standard today were just a pipe dream back then. Climate control, heated, cooled, and massaging seats, GPS navigation, radio/stereo, turn signals, electric windshield wipers, tire pressure sensors, remote locking and starting, automatic transmission, leather upholstery; all were unavailable.

‘C’: ‘Well, I guess I’m still interested in the Runabout. What sort of money are we talking about?’

‘D’: ‘Including the electric starter option, which I highly recommend for a young lady like yourself, we are looking at right around $400.00 out the door. Since West Virginia is still the only state in the union with sales tax, you won’t have to worry about that.’

‘C’: ‘$400.00 a month seems pretty pricy for that bare bones car’.

‘D’: ‘A month?! Lady, that’s the price for the whole car! I hope you can pay in cash, as we don’t finance here.’

Henry Ford was dead set against buying a car on credit, which he referred to as ‘morally reprehensible’. Instead, Ford dealers could act almost like a savings bank, accepting regular deposits from customers until they could pay for the vehicle entirely. General Motors, forming their own financial branch for consumer loans, began to chip away at Ford’s near-monopoly of the car market, until Ford was forced to follow suit.

‘D’: ‘Well Miss, it’s been a pleasure! I think you’ll really enjoy your new Ford, and look pretty snazzy behind the wheel! Remember, she’ll run on gasoline, kerosene, or methanol, so you’ll never get stuck on empty!’

The Model T was one of the first true ‘Flex Fuel’ vehicles in America, a real advantage since many were put to use in rural environments, where gas stations were few and far between.

Let’s return to our own time, back to the spacious, modern Ford dealership, where our purchase is being concluded.

‘D’: ‘Thank you and congratulations Ms. Smith for the purchase of your new Ford SUV. I’m sure you’ll love it!’

‘C’: ‘Of course. By the way, I’m interested in one of those factory roof racks. How much extra would that be?’

‘D’: ‘Right around $400.00, plus tax.’


Today, we are living in something of a new ‘Golden Age’ of automobile production, from 300 mph hyper-cars to a mind-boggling array of sport utility vehicles, available to consumers across the financial spectrum. In the early 1920’s, Cleveland’s car buyers were also afforded a wealth of choices from domestic and foreign automakers. Around fifty American automobile companies (down from 253 in 1908) provided everything from utility to pure luxury vehicles. Detroit had surpassed Cleveland as the epicenter of automobile manufacturing, but names like Jordan, Cleveland, Peerless, Chandler, and Winton kept the flame alive in the Western Reserve.

*Ford dealership photos courtesy of Ford Model A Club of America
*Henry Ford and Model T photo courtesy of

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day | Book Recommendations

Below you will find a series of books related to Black History in Northeast Ohio that are available now in the WRHS Museum Store and online:


image from Change Sings 

Then & Now | Christmas comes Twice a Year

Sometime in the 1880s, Greater Cleveland began a new holiday tradition – a “second” celebration of Christmas. As immigration from southern and eastern Europe increased, individuals of the Christian Orthodox faith arrived in the city. Their religious rites followed the Julian calendar (which was first adopted in 46 BC) whereas the Roman Catholic Church adopted the Gregorian Calendar which was promulgated by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. Protestant churches began to follow the Gregorian calendar in the early 1700s. By the time of the arrival of the early Orthodox immigrants in Cleveland, the two celebrations of the birth of Jesus were separated by well over a week.

As the Orthodox population grew, various national churches were established in Cleveland. The first two were St. Theodosius in 1894 (Russian) and the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, established by fifteen Greek immigrants in 1912. These congregations continue today in magnificent structures in Cleveland’s Tremont area. Over the years they been joined by another twenty-eight Orthodox churches and two monasteries in the Greater Cleveland area.

Yet, today, not all of the Orthodox faith celebrate Christmas as per the Julian Calendar. In the early 1920s the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople decided that a revised Julian calendar (that matched the Gregorian calendar) should be followed for Christmas, but not for Easter. Yet, some national churches, the Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian and Egyptian Orthodox Copts, still follow the old Julian Calendar. However, Ukraine has also made Catholic Christmas a national holiday.

This year the Julian December 25th equates with the Gregorian January 7th and on that date, Cleveland will see a second celebration of Christmas. Our best wishes to all who will celebrate and continue the rich traditions of our diverse community.


(Photograph: St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox,1970s. WRHS Collection.)

Cellist Donald White: Making History While Making Music

Written by Dianna White-Gould
Guest Contributor

Cellist Donald White and his wife Dolores White, a pianist, composer, and educator.

Monday, October 7, 1957, was the day Donald White, a young African American cellist, had envisioned for a lifetime. He was on his way to take his seat in the cello section of the internationally acclaimed Cleveland Orchestra in Cleveland, Ohio. The orchestra was celebrating its 40th anniversary and had just returned from a triumphant European tour. This was a childhood dream of his when he was growing up in Richmond, Indiana. Now he was going to be joining one of the greatest symphony orchestras in America at a very significant time in history, the Civil Rights Era.

Before 1957, there were no African-Americans hired as full-time members of the five major symphony orchestras. White’s hiring was a historic moment in the midst of the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement. His tenure in the orchestra spanned from 1957 – 1995. He has the distinction of being the longest-serving African American member of one of the top five orchestras.

White was a native of Richmond, Indiana and the middle child of his family’s seven children. He started playing cello when he was 16, and he was drafted into the Navy in 1943. After leaving the Navy, he earned a music degree at Roosevelt University in Chicago. Following a successful audition with Maestro George Szell, White was invited to join the Cleveland Orchestra.

Darrow White and Dianna White-Gould perform in Reinberger Chamber Hall, Severance Hall.

Donald White and his wife, pianist, composer, and educator Dolores White, lived in Cleveland and raised two children, both musicians. Dianna is a graduate of Oberlin Conservatory where she studied piano and music education. She went on to obtain a Masters Degree in Piano Performance. She has frequently performed the works of her mother and other African American composers, including Hale Smith and H. Leslie Adams from Cleveland, Ohio. She is on the faculty of Tri-C and The Music Settlement and is the vocal director at Dike School of the Arts. Darrow is a Heights High School graduate and Hall of Fame Member from 1977 for Outstanding Musician. He went on to graduate from Yale University,

Hartt School of Music, and Boston University and has a Doctorate in Music Education. He works as an educator in Virginia.

Cover of the program for a Memorial Tribute Concert to cellist Donald White. (Praying Grounds Collection, Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University.)

Then & Now | WRHS in 2020



(Students viewing the Carl and Louis Stokes Making History Exhibit at the Cleveland History Center. 2020)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration – WRHS welcomed over 1,500 guests to the Cleveland History Center for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration. The African American Archives Auxiliary of WRHS, African American Genealogical Society, and the Genealogy Committee of WRHS partnered with staff to engage each visitor in exploring the CHC exhibits and dive deeper into NEO History with hands-on activities and additional archival collections. Families were encouraged to begin their own genealogy research, explore the Stokes oral history collection, and view images and headlines noting Dr. King’s visits to Cleveland.

Details are underway for 2021. Follow us @clestartshere for further announcements.

February- Black History Month

(Demetrius Williams in front of Celebrate Those Who Gives Black. 2020)

Black History Month at the Cleveland History Center – WRHS presented highlights of Black History throughout the Cleveland History Center in a unified self-guided experience.  Each stop provided guests with a deeper dive into a collective of organizations and individuals among the African American community who have made a positive impact on American History.  Highlights included local philanthropists featured in Celebrate Those Who Give Black such as the late Steve Minter, Robert P. Madison, and Christin Farmer. In addition to the permanent exhibits at the CHC, the Community History Cases featured boxer and inventor Paul A. Simpson, political activists Lethia & Thomas Fleming, and the Karamu House. Many of these stories are now available in our digital archive and virtual exhibits at

(Photograph from the AAAA Black History Month Open House. Photo credit: Hiram El-Bey.)

The African American Archives Auxiliary (AAAA) of WRHS Black History Month Open House – On February 29, AAAA hosted a meet and greet to share how this all-volunteer auxiliary founded in 1971 provides support and guidance for the development of the African American Archives collections at WRHS. The event included light refreshments, music, presentations by AAAA leadership and staff, and a special ‘white glove’ experience that gave guests the opportunity to view collections from the African American Archives, celebrating 50 years in 2020.

(Photograph from the WRHS History on Tap event, Living Legacy of Leo’s Casino. 2020)

History on Tap – WRHS opened the 2020 History on Tap series on February 22nd with Black History On Tap. Celebrating the Living Legacy of Leo’s Casino, guests of this evening event revisited when iconic singers like The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, John Coltrane, and Ray Charles all performed in Cleveland. The captivating sights and sounds of this historic 1960s Cleveland landmark were brought to life in partnership with the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and Flame Urban Chicken Grill.


(Judges evaluating a student project at the 2020 Region 3 Ohio History Day. )

National History Day – Region 3 – On March 7th, over 400 students representing public and private schools across Northeast Ohio participated in the Region 3 Ohio History Day.  This regional history competition, which was started 1974 in Cleveland is now a national competition.  Region 3 Ohio History Day, hosted annually at the Cleveland History Center and CWRU Campus, continues to be one of the largest competitions in the country.  Middle school and high school students compete for prizes and a spot at the state competition with entries in five categories: paper, website, exhibit, documentary, and performance, all tied to an annual theme.  The 2020 Theme was Breaking Barriers in History.  The 2021 competition, held virtually, will follow the theme Communication in History. The Region 3 Ohio History Day would not be possible without the countless hours of volunteer judges (nearly 150 judges each year!), volunteers, greeters, sponsors of special prizes, and our community partners.

ALL regional Ohio History Day contests will be held virtually for the 2021 contest season, and WRHS will continue to be an advocate for helping inspire the next generation to view historical thinking, communication, and argumentation skills as the cornerstone of education. SAVE THE DATE! The 2021 Region 3 Ohio History Day Competition will be held VIRTUALLY on March 27, 2021.

Cleveland Jews and the Making of a Midwestern Community – Published by Rutgers University Press in March – This publication, edited by WRHS’s Sean Martin and John J. Grabowski, is a project of the Cleveland Jewish Archives, completed in close collaboration and with the support of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. Cleveland Jews and the Making of a Midwestern Community, a collection of essays by prominent scholars, draws our attention to the ways in which the Jews of Cleveland grew and interacted with the larger community throughout the turbulent twentieth century. Ten essays by scholars from the United States, Canada, and Israel offer insight on topics such as the growth of the Orthodox, philanthropy, education, Jews and comics, Jewish participation in local and international politics, feminism, suburbanization and Black-Jewish relations, postwar Judaism, and Soviet Jewish immigration. The publication is available for purchase at


COVID-19 Impact on WRHS Operations– On March 14, WRHS closed the Cleveland History Center and Hale Farm & Village to the public, established a virtual headquarters and all administrative functions continued remotely and onsite. State of Ohio Stay at Home orders and reopening restrictions caused all onsite programs, exhibit installations, private events, and onsite K-12 programs to be cancelled or postponed. Following guidance from county Boards of Health, the State of Ohio, CDC, WHO, and scores of health experts, WRHS developed a comprehensive Restart Playbook that continues to guide operations and places the highest priority on the health and safety of staff, guests, volunteers, consultants,vendors, and stakeholders.


Share Your Story – In June, in partnership with the African American Archives Auxiliary (AAAA), we invited the community to share their stories  about Black life, culture, and consciousness during a year described as the “parallel plagues ravaging America: the coronavirus and police killings of black men and women.” WRHS began collecting photographs, correspondence, journals, artwork, music, and poetry, anything that illustrates how individuals, families, and neighbors are responding to the challenges of these ongoing crises.

The African American Archives (AAA) and African American Archives Auxiliary (AAAA, or Quad A) 50th Anniversary – In 2019 and 2020, Quad A, the all-volunteer auxiliary founded in 1971 to provide support and guidance for the development of WRHS’s African American Archives, in partnership with WRHS, has been reenergized under new leadership of President Raymond A. Weeden, African American Archives Archivist Patrice Hamiter, and Distinguished Scholar of African American History Dr. Regennia Williams, staff and so many committed to preserving and elevating the history and heritage of African Americans in Northeast Ohio and throughout the United States.


WRHS Reopens to the Public – Hale Farm & Village reopened Thursday, July 9, and the Cleveland History Center reopened on Friday, July 24. On November 19, WRHS temporarily closed the Cleveland History Center due to the recent escalation of coronavirus cases in Ohio, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health’s Stay At Home Advisory, and to protect the safety and well-being of WRHS and the communities we serve.  While Hale Farm & Village remains open to the public for Holiday Lantern Tours, WRHS is now operating with a hybrid model that blends in person, place based experiences with a host of online opportunities for continuing public engagement with our collections, stories, local and American history.

(Photos of Fall and Winter activities at Hale Farm & Village, 2020.)

In addition to doing all that we can to maintain normal levels of public operation, WRHS continued to advance a number of strategic imperatives, programs, and capital projects in 2020:


Diversity, Equity, Access and Inclusion (DEAI) – With support from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation and the GAR Foundation, WRHS initiated a facilitated process to operationalize and institutionalize its current and future DEAI work. Part of our work involves a critical evaluation of how WRHS interprets collections and experiences, including those that are racist or may perpetuate racist stereotypes.  WRHS’s mission is to inspire people to discover the American experience by exploring the tangible history of northeast Ohio and while our collections are diverse, they do not represent all of the communities we serve. As such, WRHS – as we approach our 154th year – is a work in progress. Our work – to inspire, to be representative, diverse and inclusive – is urgent. While our work will never be complete, this facilitated process will change WRHS’s relationship with the community, increase representation of northeast Ohioans in WRHS collections and experiences, and improve understanding and mutual respect for and between all members of our community.

(Mary Ann Sears Swetland Memorial Meetinghouse. 2020)

Capital Projects at Hale Farm & Village and the Cleveland History Center (CHC) – Work to complete the restoration on the 1852 Meetinghouse at HFV continued in the fall, thanks to major leadership support from the August W. and J. Belle Bowman Fund and the Howland Memorial Fund. Stay tuned for further capital improvement announcements coming early 2021!

Youth Entrepreneurship Education (YEE for CLE) and K-12 Programming – Since the spring, thanks to support from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, staff have continued to work with partners at the Foundation and Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) to adapt curriculum to virtual formats and present programs to teachers and students. This work continues as we get deeper into the 2020-2021 academic year. This month, WRHS presented new virtual Professional Development sessions for teachers, and the delivery of virtual YEE programs will begin in January. On December 7, WRHS released the (virtual) 100 Year Club of the Western Reserve event that supports YEE for CLE.

The WRHS Experience – In the spring, WRHS launched a number of new online experiences, including a weekly newsletter for WRHS members and the new Then and Now, a weekly content-rich blog with links to articles, online exhibits, photographs and resources highlighting Cleveland and northeast Ohio history. The first edition focused on the history of Cleveland’s St. Patrick’s Day traditions. Topics since then have included Life in the 1920s, Women’s History, Politics, Activism in Cleveland, and more. Check out History@Home, our online resource for teachers, students and families.

Recent Acquisitions – Although the COVID-19 pandemic changed many aspects of how the Western Reserve Historical Society operates, the museum’s commitment to collecting and interpreting the story of Northeast Ohio remains unchanged. WRHS started several new collecting initiatives in 2020, including collecting oral histories about how the pandemic has affected the area. The museum, working in conjunction with the African American Archives Auxiliary, has also become a repository for stories related to the Black Lives Matter movement.

WRHS continued to collect physical artifacts. One exciting addition to the collection is a fully restored and operational 1956 Citroen Traction Avant Familiale. This front-wheel-drive, unibody automobile was well ahead of its time when it was first introduced in the 1930s. The Citroen is an excellent example of a European family sedan and is an excellent addition to the Crawford Auto-Aviation collection. We look forward to displaying the Citroen when car shows start up again.

In November 2020, the Research Library acquired the collection of Dr. A. Grace Lee Mims (1930-2019). Dr. Mims was an educator, a librarian, a soprano vocalist, a philanthropist, and an advocate for the arts and humanities. For more than 40 years, she hosted WCLV’s “The Black Arts” radio program. In 1971, she joined 22 other community leaders in co-founding the group that would become the African American Archives Auxiliary of the Western Reserve Historical Society. The collection includes paper documents, sound recordings, photographs, and other items.

Strategic Asset Review – This summer, WRHS initiated a comprehensive review of its assets – Properties, Collections, and Services. WRHS is uniquely positioned to leverage its many assets – six campuses, land, historic buildings, and collections, into one of a kind experiences, engagement and opportunities for WRHS that will build institutional capacity and sustain the organization over time.

New Canal Boat Exhibit at Hale Farm & Village – On July 22, 2020, Hale Farm & Village announced the grand opening of a new Canal Boat Exhibit! The exhibit, with a hand-crafted replica canal boat stern as the centerpiece, was gifted to Hale Farm & Village in 2020 by the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP). Formerly located at the Boston Store Visitor Center, the exhibit focuses on the construction and use of canal boats during the 19th century when Boston and Peninsula Townships thrived on canal boat construction and commerce.

(Photograph of Siegfried Buerling.)

During the 1990s, craftsmen from Hale Farm & Village – led by master cabinetmaker Siegfried Buerling (pictured above), the beloved former and longest serving Director of Hale Farm & Village – built a full-scale model of the stern based on a photograph of the canal boat Sterling for CVNP’s Boston Store. Hale Farm’s historic Aten Log Barn, built in 1812 and moved to the museum from Wellington, Ohio is the exhibit venue.

WRHS thanks the National Park Service and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Partners for entrusting Hale Farm & Village with an exhibit that explores canal-era history, as well as the tradition of skilled craftsmanship at Hale Farm & Village for more than 60 years!

Hale Farm & Village also announced that the Mary Ann Sears Swetland Memorial Meetinghouse restoration project as a focus for 2020. This multi-year project began in 2019 with restoration of the spire and steeple base. The next phase of the project will include steeple details, window glazing, pulpit, pew and floor restoration, new handspun floor runners and exterior work. The project is made possible with generous support from the Howland Memorial Fund, an anonymous charitable trust, and Ohio and Erie Canalway Association (OECA).



Women and Politics: Empowered to Vote, Empowered to Lead, presented by PNC – In partnership with the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland, WRHS was determined to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in 2020 and adapted its new Women and Politics: Empowered to Vote, Empowered to Lead exhibit, presented by PNC, to an online format. The new online exhibit, along with Failure is Impossible, a film that highlights local and national women’s activists were released in August allowing people everywhere to discover Ohio’s contributions to the suffrage movement, the successful fight for the 19th Amendment, the birth and growth of the League of Women Voters as a force for good government and the election of northern Ohio women to positions of power. WRHS expects to open the permanent Women and Politics exhibit at the Cleveland History Center in 2021!


(WRHS Political collections on display at the Intercontinental Hotel, Cleveland. 2020.)

WRHS and the 2020 Presidential Debate in Cleveland –  WRHS, with one of the largest ever-growing collections of Presidential campaign memorabilia in the US, showcased its significant political collections at the debate media hub in the Intercontinental Hotel. WRHS worked closely with debate organizers and the Cleveland Clinic to install a small exhibit that provided additional content for media coverage and served as a historical backdrop for recording news segments.

The debate, as well as the political climate of 2020 further exemplified the importance of WRHS’s Women & Politics exhibit.


100 Year Club of the Western Reserve – Cleveland and Northeast Ohio are recognized leaders in cultivation of the entrepreneurial spirit, innovation and support of business startups, having been on the cutting edge for over 200 years of history. On December 7, 2020 WRHS celebrated entrepreneurship past, present and future by recognizing business longevity at the 67th annual 100 Year Club of the Western Reserve, this time over a virtual platform. Just like the organizations that make up the more than 200 members of the 100 Year Club, 2020 reminded us that change must be embraced in order to survive, and to thrive. CLICK HERE to watch the Induction Ceremony.

Congratulations to the 2020 Inductees:

The Butler Institute of American Art

Cleveland Institute of Music


*Fincun-Mancini, Inc.

Hahn Loeser & Parks LLP

*League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland

*The Millcraft Paper Company

*The National Council of Jewish Women Cleveland

*Three Arts Club of Lakewood

Western Reserve Group

*denotes minority/women led organizations

Since 1867, Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS) has served the community as the trusted steward of more than 220 years of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio history.  We are your historical society. As we ALL look forward to 2021, WRHS will continue to serve you. We remain committed to listening to and learning from our fellow citizens, working to further community awareness of regional history, and presenting programs and special events that are consistent with our mission.


Thank you!

Then & Now | Celebrating a Century – or More

On Monday, December 7, the Western Reserve Historical Society will host the induction ceremony of the 100 Year Club of the Western Reserve.   Although virtual this year, the ceremony honors those organizations – businesses, educational institutions, and social service agencies that have served the Northeastern Ohio area for a century or more

Interestingly, the 100 Year Club is, itself, sixty-seven years old.  It was established in 1953 by William Ganson Rose, a publicist and author, and Curtis Lee Smith, the head of the Chamber of Commerce (now the Greater Cleveland Partnership).  Two events played a role in its establishment.  One was the long history of business and industry in the city, and its extraordinary growth during the Second World War.  The second was William Ganson Rose’s new book (published in 1950), Cleveland: The Making of a City.   So, it was a propitious time to focus on those organizations that had served the community for a century or more, and a task made easier by Rose’s book which served almost as a catalog of annual events in the city’s history.   If anyone in the city at that time knew what agencies were a century old, it was certainly William Ganson Rose.

Initially, the Club was very “clubby” holding multiple meetings each year for centenary organizations, and charging dues for the members.  Over the years it held larger induction ceremonies.  By the 1970s and up to 1988 its meetings were at the Western Reserve Historical Society.   However, as the industrial and economic climate of the city changed, the club became less active and then it ceased to hold annual meetings.

Its revival occurred in 1999 when the Muldoon Center for Entrepreneurship at John Carroll University undertook its sponsorship.  It was no coincidence that this occurred as, at this point in time, the promotion of entrepreneurship and education focused on entrepreneurship had become prominent in the area.   Linking the past to the present was an ideal way to help students understand those factors that made for successful enterprises – whether they were for profit or not-for-profit.

In 2011, history repeated itself as the Muldoon Center began working collaboratively with the Western Reserve Historical Society in the creation of the annual induction program and, in 2012 that program was moved to Western Reserve Historical Society.   Again, it was a propitious move, as WRHS was beginning programs to teach entrepreneurial skills to school children – a perfect fit if you will.   And WRHS also broadened the scope for potential “inductees” from Cleveland to what was the Western Reserve.   That too fit as Northeastern Ohio (the former Western Reserve) is a contiguous economic area.

The induction ceremony this year will add ten new members to the Club’s roster, five of which were created or led by women.    Overall, the Club now numbers well over two hundred organizations that have been inducted or recognized for a century or more of business or service to the community.

It is a diverse list and, overall, it represents organizations that have been flexible and able to shift with changing markets and needs in order to survive and thrive.  These range from smaller family-owned businesses such as Orban’s Flowers and E. F. Boyd and Sons Funeral Home in Cleveland, and Thumm’s Bike Shop in Warren, Ohio, to major enterprises such as Sherwin Williams and University Hospital.    Importantly, the 100 year list also highlights the symbiotic relationship between what might be termed social and economic entrepreneurship.     Importantly, the list of inductees includes numerous social service and not-for-profit agencies whose founders were equally entrepreneurial in creating agencies that provide art, music and education, and also care for the ill, homeless, and needy. For example, this year’s inductees include the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Butler Institute of American Art, the Three Arts Club of Lakewood, and the Council of Jewish Women Cleveland.

One might expect that the founders of the Club in 1953 recognized these important connections, albeit in a city still economically based on heavy industry.   But one wonders if they had any inkling that the organization they began, would survive for over six decades and thrive in a community that had changed in ways they, perhaps, could never have imagined.  That question aside, we can be certain that they would be delighted that the 100 Year Club has endured and serves to inspire not only an interest in the past, but also the future of the community and region.

Andrew Jackson, President/CEO of Elsons International | 100 Year Club Keynote Speaker

Andrew Jackson is President/CEO of Elsons International, a full service manufacturer and distributor of corrugated packaging. Jackson also is Owner/CFO of MAC Installations & Consulting LLC, a Low Voltage Telecommunications company; Owner/Operator of AJ Automotive Group; Do-All Landscaping/Snow Plowing; and Forest Glen Properties. 

Prior to his entrepreneurial engagements, Jackson spent over 30 years in Corporate America as a Partner with the global consulting firm, Accenture.  

He also served for seven years as the Senior Vice President for the Greater Cleveland Partnership (The Chamber of Commerce for Northeast Ohio). 

A product of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Jackson graduated from John Adams High School.  He earned a degree in accounting from Cleveland State University.  By training, he is a Certified Public Accountant having passed the CPA exam in 1983.  

In addition to his business interests, Andrew serves on several Boards in Cleveland, including The Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging (WRAAA), The Cleveland State University Business School – Visiting Committee, among others.   As a community leader, he has been recognized by a number of organizations and featured locally and nationally in various publications.