Convertibles | Know When to Fold

As the weather warms, even a ‘bread, milk, eggs’ trip can become an adventure, if you’re driving…a convertible!

At the dawn of the automobile, virtually all were open vehicles, but it wasn’t until 1927 that the formal definition of a ‘convertible’ was generally agreed upon in the United States; that of a car with a permanently affixed folding top and roll-up windows.

It seems as though the idea of producing a ‘fun’ open-topped car occurred to several domestic manufacturers simultaneously. Buick, Cadillac, Chrysler, and Lincoln all introduced models in 1927 that fit the definition perfectly.

During the ‘Golden Age’ of American motoring, from the late 1920’s through the following decade, automotive styling reached its zenith, with a mind-boggling array of color choices, power plants, and custom bodies available to the well-heeled customer. Add a canvas drop-top to the equation, and the results could be pure poetry. Have you ever attended a car show where a 1930’s Duesenberg convertible rolled in? The crowd response can become almost reverential.

Despite their attention-grabbing good looks and general popularity, the volume of convertibles has always been a mere fraction of total automobile production for a given year. When first introduced, the figure was around one tenth of one percent. During the seminal cultural changes of the 1960’s, that figure reached a high of 6.4 percent; still small by any measure.

The conundrum facing the potential convertible customer was one of enthusiasm and style versus practicality. Growing families required roomy interiors, protection from the elements, and an affordable product. Convertibles usually came at premium prices, had dodgy weather seals, couldn’t be used for hauling much, and a second ‘fun’ car was usually outside most folks limited budgets.

Possibly the most radical example of the sacrifice of practicality in a convertible was the 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner, a two-door retractable hardtop convertible that used an astonishingly complex system of seven electric motors, four lift jacks, four locking mechanisms, and ten limit switches to lower the top into the trunk. The top was so large that it required the front third to be hinged to fold for storage. They are a crowd pleaser at current shows, but their production lasted only three years.

From a boom in popularity in the 1960’s, domestic convertibles began a slide that concluded in the mid 1970’s, occupying merely one percent of total sales. Pending (although never enacted) government safety regulations regarding rollover protection influenced the Big Three automakers to stop convertible production altogether. Of course, European and Asian manufacturers knew an opportunity when they saw one, and offered a variety of convertibles to desperate enthusiasts. Sales were strong enough to influence the Americans to resume production six years later in 1982, and the drop-tops have been rolling off the assembly lines ever since.

Most current automakers have some sort of open car in their yearly lineup, particularly in the exotic luxury or hyper car sector. Usually, a new model is debuted as a hardtop with a convertible version following on at a later date, exemplified by the new Corvette C8.

Convertibles are not for everyone, but if you’ve ever driven one on a summer evening, moon ascending over the horizon, newly mown hay on the wind, and temperatures changing with every hill and valley, the experience is unforgettable and visceral. Pure automotive joy.


Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon recently promised his seniors that he would find a way for them to have their commencement, despite current school closures. Today, students wear their cap and gown as they cross the stage, and generally wear anything they want underneath. Some schools, girls’ schools in particular, require wearing white, and this was no different for young women 100 years ago.


Clevelander Ruth Ruck (1902-1988) graduated from 8th grade in January, 1916. She wore a white cotton dress, trimmed throughout with lace, pictured here in this photo postcard her family ordered to celebrate the occasion. Her dress is now in the WRHS costume collection. A 1900 etiquette guide wrote, “A pure and neatly made white muslin dress is the most appropriate, and always just the thing for the occasion. White is becoming to all young girls, comparatively inexpensive and always perfect in taste.”


CLICK HERE to watch a video of our Museum Advisory Council Curator of Costume & Textiles, Patty Edmonson as she goes deeper into the history of graduation dresses.


Although we’re not sure where she attended middle school, Ruth graduated from Commerce High School in Ohio City. She lived at 3639 Fulton Road with her parents, two sisters, grandfather, aunt, and two cousins. Her father, George Ruck, sold shoes, which makes one take a closer look at Ruth’s two-tones leather boots in this image. Although not much has turned up about the family, we know that Ruth’s sister, Hazel, died the same year this image was taken. It’s hard to imagine such a loss.


Ruth attended Wittenberg University and Western Reserve College for Women (now CWRU). Ruth loved to hike, and was a leader in the YWCA’s Girl Reserves. After leaving Wittenberg, she worked for the YWCA as recreation and athletic director of their Rocky River camp. Ruth was well-known for skills such as swimming and archery. In 1930 Ruth married Charles Lees. By the 1940 census, the couple had moved to Detroit and Ruth was at home caring for their son.

Reading, Writing, and Fighting for Justice | Honoring the Legacy of Ida B. Wells Barnett

“We die. That may be the meaning of life.
But we do language.  That may be the measure of our lives.”

From Toni Morrison’s 1993 Acceptance Speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature


There is no shortage of books and other resources about African Americans who continue to use the power of the pen in their struggle to bring about a more just society. Even in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, with public libraries and research centers closed to patrons, it is still possible to find many of the publications that inspire readers to think and act in ways that are in keeping with the tenets of democracy. 

This is certainly true when it comes to books about Ida B. Wells Barnett and/or the causes for which she fought.  The daughter of enslaved African Americans in Mississippi, Wells Barnett lived from 1862 to1931, surviving slavery, the Civil War, the overthrow of Reconstruction, and the 1878 Yellow Fever epidemic that claimed the lives of several members of her family.  

She went on to become a teacher, and by her own admission Wells Barnett was also a crusader for justice, whose investigative journalism revealed the sordid details about the history of lynching in America and challenged the injustices that allowed mob violence to continue. 

In the wake of the April 2020 publication of the second edition of Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells, a new generation of history teachers and students will, no doubt, become more familiar with her story.  With the May 4, 2020 announcement of the posthumous Special Citation from the Pulitzer Prize Board for her journalism, Wells Barnett also joins the ranks of other African American recipients, including Ohio native Toni Morrison, the 1988 Pulitzer Prize winner in fiction.


To read more on this topic: Click Here.

Euclid Beach Park Slogans

When you think about the name of almost any amusement park, their slogan or tagline comes to mind.  We think of Disneyland and Walt Disney World as “The Happiest Places on Earth”. Closer to home, Kennywood in Erie, Pennsylvania currently uses two slogans: “Make a New Memory” and “America’s Finest Traditional Amusement Park.” A few years back they were “The Roller Coaster Capital of the World.”  The new home of the Flying Turns, Knoebels Amusement Resort in Ellysburg, Pennsylvania, uses various catch phrases: “Americas Number One Amusement Park,” “It’s My Kind of Fun (Is Knoebels Fun),” “Picture Yourself (at Knoebels),” “Make New Memories the Old Fashioned Way,” and, “Fun, Food, and Fantasy.”


Waldameer Park & Water World wants us to remember: “You’re Gonna Love It.” Conneaut Lake Park is “A Traditional Amusement Resort with Something for Everyone!” and the place “Where the Past Becomes the Future.”  Cedar Point right here in Ohio on the shore of Lake Erie is definitely no stranger to the use of slogans and taglines: “Roller Coaster Capital of the World,” America’s Rockin Roller Coast,” “America’s Roller Coast,” and, “CP is the Place to Be.”


For Euclid Beach Park, there were two slogans: “One Fare-Free Gate-No Beer” and “Nothing to Depress or Demoralize.” “One Fare” referred to the agreement reached between the Humphreys and the street car companies servicing Euclid Beach.  The Deluth and The Superior, the two boats which brought patrons from downtown Cleveland to the Pier at the Park would be taken out of service and the street car companies agreed to charge one fare from the point of pickup to Euclid Beach with no additional charge for transfers. As for the “Free Gate”, there was never any charge for entering the Park grounds, except a few instances during the final years.  When the Humphrey family took over operation of the Park in 1901 they wanted to emphasize the family-friendly way they planned to operate the Park.  No beer or alcohol of any type was ever served or permitted on the grounds.  Almost everyone associated with the amusement park business thought the profit lost from the elimination of alcohol and the games of chance would inevitably lead to financial ruin. Clevelanders embraced the new policy of “Nothing to Depress or Demoralize” and the rest is as they say is history. The “Coney Island” template was not the only successful way of operating an amusement park.

Education in the Early Years of the Western Reserve

Imagine a morning in the 19th century schoolhouse: rough hewn log walls, embers glowing in the wood stove central to the 12 x 16 foot classroom, waxed paper window panes diffusing the spring sunshine. The stillness is interrupted by the gurgle of the swallows in the chimney, while voices sounding more like the cackle of coyotes than young scholars on the path stir the school teacher to action. She smooths back a stray hair, straightens her vest, breathes deeply, and prepares to ring the 8 o’clock bell calling the children to another day in the little valley school.
The Western Reserve pioneers worked quickly to establish formal schools in their growing rural communities. Education of children, then as now, was considered the first and greatest duty.
The first school in Cleveland was located near the corner of St. Clair and Bank St. (W. 6th) by 1817, but our Cuyahoga Valley settlers were already holding sessions as early as 1811 in homesteads or empty cabins. The classes of 20 or more students met for class six days per week, eight hours each day. Teachers were paid by subscription, fees ranging from two to four dollars for each summer and winter term. A teacher might be paid partly in cash, partly in goods such as wheat, while boarding with families in rotation throughout a term. Reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, and geography comprised the course of study for ages 8 to 14 in the early schools, and in the pre-McGuffey Reader days, The Farmer’s Almanac, the family Bible, or treasured volumes of literary classics served as textbooks.
Schools brought a community together in ways outside daily lessons, and there was pride in the accomplishments of learners of all ages. Evenings in the little school houses saw box supper socials, literary societies, and singing schools, with civic meetings providing a forum for debates on the issues of the day.
From the humble beginnings of the one-room school, judges, lawyers, doctors, journalists, civic leaders, teachers, and entrepreneurs of all sorts received an education sufficient to contribute to the strength of the new community and success beyond the boundaries of their valley home.

Don’t Play in the Street! | Hiram House

In 1900 Cleveland had a population of 381,786. Much of it was crowded into neighborhoods surrounding factories and other sources of employment.  Parks and green spaces were largely at the periphery of the city and playgrounds – outside the schoolyard – were largely unknown. Lower Woodland Avenue (the area near today’s CCC campus) was its most crowded neighborhood and one of the oldest in the city. In 1896 it would become the home of Hiram House, a progressive-era social settlement that sought to better conditions in America’s increasingly diverse urban centers. Settlements offered English-language classes and a variety of other classes, sponsored clubs, taught citizenship, and campaigned for political and social change.
George Bellamy, the settlement’s founder, made certain that Hiram House engaged in all these areas, but his real focus was on recreation and youth. For Bellamy playgrounds were critical. Not only did they take the children off of dangerous streets (not quite as dangerous as they would become when autos became common) but they offered a controlled area where young people could be taught fair play, social deportment skills, and made into good citizens.  He would become a major figure in the national playground movement in the early 1900s.
When Hiram House opened a new, large, four-story building at 27th and Orange Avenue, the area behind the building, which fronted on Woodland Avenue, was purchased with a donation from Samuel Mather in order to be turned into a playground. A gated brick wall separated it from the busy street. It was a closed space where play could be supervised. The climbing bars and other apparatus, along with open area for games and sports were an absolute attractant for children in the area.  Today’s safety experts would be appalled by some of the apparatus – extremely high with no soft area to cushion a fall!
During summer vacation, the playground became the home of “Progress City” where children were groomed to be good, hardworking citizens.  They took responsibility for cleaning the playground and areas in the settlement building and were paid with Progress City money which they could spend at the Progress City store which was stocked with goods donated by area merchants.  They also elected a mayor and representatives to govern the youthful community.  It was a good experiment, but in some ways it too closely mirrored urban politics of the time – some candidates for office were found to be paying for votes with Progress City money!
This pioneer playground of Cleveland would endure through neighborhood changes until operations ceased at the main building in 1941. Today Hiram House Camp in Moreland Hills continues the tradition of offering play, and other life-building experiences for young people. Its “High and Low Ropes” course provides continuity with the apparatus on the playground – but it was light years ahead in terms of safety.  And, today, the history of Hiram House lives on its archives preserved in our research library.

Barbara Plummer | Romper Room

Television was in its infancy in the early 1950s. Most stations only broadcast shows for a few hours each day, and most programs were geared towards children or housewives. In 1953, Bert and Nancy Claster of Baltimore created a television program called Romper Room. Targeted at preschoolers, Romper Room aimed to teach children good manners, morality, and civic mindedness. The program quickly became popular and was soon syndicated in local markets throughout the United States and beyond.


Romper Room came to Channel 5 in Cleveland in 1958. Barbara Plummer, a housewife from Norwalk, answered an advertisement for a job as a television host, never thinking she would get the job. However, Channel 5 hired her after one interview and, with no prior experience in acting or in television, she became “Miss Barbara” in 1958.


One of the most memorable parts of Miss Barbara’s show involved her Magic Mirror. When she held the mirror up to the camera, she could see children at home watching Romper Room. She would then call out, “I see Sarah, and Patty, and Whitney…”. Children sat glued to their televisions hoping to hear their names called.


Although Romper Room stayed on the air until the 1990s in some places, Barbara Plummer left the show in 1971 and pursued her passion of giving back to the community. She worked with many Cleveland institutions, including Playhouse Square and the Western Reserve Historical Society. Sadly, Miss Barbara passed away in March 2010.


To honor Barbara Plummer, the Museum Advisory Council of the Western Reserve Historical Society produced the following video, Miss Barbara: Reflections from the other side of the magic mirror, in September of 2005: Watch Video Here.

Hale Family, Hale House, & Three Generations

One can imagine, in the early years in the Cuyahoga Valley, how welcome the warmer days must have felt to settlers like the Hale family of seven. The promise of springtime called to them from every corner of the farm as they threw open the shutters to the cabin, welcoming sunlight and fresh air to drive out the lingering malaise of winter.
After 17 years, the Hales moved into the first floor of a new brick home before the upper stories were complete. It was fresh and bright and snug against the elements and had a grand cooking hearth and a bake oven. Over the next few years, spaces were added and divided to make room for more as the Hale children married and started families of their own.
At one point, 14 residents in three generations called “Old Brick” their home. Why did the families remain together under one roof? More rare today, 19th century households combined to support the family business or farm, provide care for the ill or aged, or allow young adults to establish their own farms. When the patriarch pulled out the fiddle to entertain the household, Jonathan Hale saw the appreciative faces of his own children, young and old, with their spouses and his grandchildren circled around him.

The Zone Family’s Legacy of Community Service

Councilman Matt Zone has been serving on Cleveland City Council since 2001, representing Ward 15 which includes the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood.  He is carrying on the tradition of community service started by his parents, Michael and Mary Zone.
Michael J. Zone represented the neighborhood on Council from 1960 until his death from a sudden heart attack in 1974. Mary accepted multiple requests to finish his term; she ran for re-election and served until 1981.
The Zone family traces its roots in Cleveland to the early 1900s when their Italian immigrant grandparents settled in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. Michael Zone’s family is from Calvi Risorta and Mary Constantino Zone’s family is from the town of Regali.
Mary and Michael grew up across a street from each other. They were married in 1944 and raised nine children. In addition to being partners in politics, they operated two neighborhood businesses, Zone Foods and Zone Travel Agency.

Athletes, Teachers, and More in the Murrell Family

The notable accomplishments of Lawrence O. Payne include his graduation from John Marshall Law School and his election to Cleveland City Council. Allen E. Cole’s 1935 photograph of the “Payne for Council” women’s basketball team is one of the better-known images in the African American Archives of the Western Reserve Historical Society. What sometimes escapes the notice of history students, however, is the fact that two of the athletes in this photograph were sisters. Jean Murrell Capers (standing on the far left), became a Cleveland teacher, an attorney, and the first African American woman elected to Cleveland City Council. Her sister, Alice Murrell Rose (kneeling, right), also became a teacher. Both were Kentucky natives who migrated to Ohio with other members of the Murrell family in 1919, during the Great Depression, and both attended Cleveland Public Schools.

A professional photographer in Cleveland’s black community during the mid-20th century, Allen Cole documented many African American families through his work. See more of his photographs in Digital Cleveland Starts Here.

Pizza and Chef Boiardi

We all know that pizza is an Italian American food, brought to America by Italian immigrants who came here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Americans did not find Italian food appealing at first. Garlic was an offensive flavor. But over the years, Italian food has become a staple in the American diet, particularly pizza. Ettore Boiardi, better known as Chef Boy-ar-dee, is credited with giving Americans the taste for tomato sauce, garlic, cheese, and pasta.

Boiardi immigrated to New York in 1914. He worked at the Plaza Hotel, eventually becoming head chef.nIn 1917, he headed to Cleveland and worked at the Hotel Winton on Prospect Ave. Ten years later, he opened his first restaurant, Il Giardino d’ Italia (The Italian Garden), on East 9th and Woodland Avenue.

Due to demand, Boiardi began selling packages with sauce, a small chunk of parmesan, and pasta to customers. The business and his customer base grew so much that by 1938 he had to move to a factory in Milton, Pennsylvania. He sold to ConAgra Foods in 1946, but continued to serve as the spokesman for the products. The Chef Boy-ar-dee pizza kit first appeared in the market in 1955 and included all the ingredients to make a pizza at home. The pizza kits are still available in stores today.

Genealogy | The History of Family

Tracing one’s ancestors has become a passionate pursuit for many people today and genealogy, or family history (as it is often described) is regarded as one of the fastest growing hobbies in the United States.  Certainly, it is a centerpiece of the activities of the research library at the Cleveland History Center – it has long been so, but it is a far different pursuit today than it was several generations ago.


In western and other global societies genealogy initially focused on the tracing of lineages in order to support claims of inherited authority or wealth.  Kingships depended on it as did the transfer of lands.   The creation of the United States and its “absence” of an hereditary aristocracy somewhat undercut the importance of genealogy as an instrument to transfer power — but it remained central in matters of inheritance.  But it many ways it developed as a different means to claim status, if not to a throne, but to a place of primacy in the creation of the nation.  This took place particularly in the late nineteenth century as immigration and migration changed our national demography.   Organizations such as the Sons of the American Revolution, Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Mayflower Society were founded between 1889 and 1897.   In an increasingly polyglot nation, the Daughters, in particular, worked to Americanize immigrants and all focused on the passing on of national values.   Having deep roots in the nation counted, and these patriotic societies played significant roles in encouraging genealogy and the knowledge of our nation’s history.


The social changes of the 1960s would impact genealogy significantly.   Alex Haley’s book Roots inspired many African Americans to look into their families’ histories – a job made difficult by slavery, but one which Haley’s book encouraged.   At the same time an “ethnic revival” prompted many Americans to discover their own family histories and to claim a “heritage”.   It was all part of a process of looking at the United States more as a diverse mosaic of cultures, rather than a homogeneous “melting pot.”    There was a rapid growth of genealogical organizations that focused on Jewish, Italian, Polish, Slovenian, African-American and other identities within our city and nation, and concurrently a desire to learn more about ancestral cultures.


This broader pursuit of a family history has been catalyzed by the ever expanding global digitization of sources available for research as well as the growth of archival sources at institutions such as the Western Reserve Historical Society.  Importantly, media programs such as “Finding Your Roots” with Professor Henry Louis Gates have shown the diversity of our family histories and the amazing ways in which that diversity is co-mingled over the years.   There is a debate as to whether the study of lineage differs from a study of a family’s history – in a sense, the difference between an objective versus a personal approach.   But the end result is still about families – the continuities that define them and the many intersections that link them more broadly to a community, a nation, and the globe.

Evolution of the Family Car

The first ‘family car’ was invented rather by accident in 1888, when Bertha Benz, the intelligent and adventurous wife of automobile inventor Carl Benz decided on a whim to leave with her husband’s latest prototype vehicle and visit family in the neighboring town of Pforzheim, Germany, some 66 miles away. She bundled her two adolescent sons into the car, which lacked even rudimentary protection from the elements, and ventured off. Keep in mind that her spontaneous jaunt occurred in an era when there were no fuel stations, no service facilities, and limited communication other than telegraphy. After a day-long journey, packed with numerous improvisations to keep the car running, Bertha and her brood arrived safely. Upon returning home several days later, the unapologetic Bertha suggested various design improvements to her husband’s automobile, which he dutifully adopted!

Although designs progressed rapidly over the next two decades, it wasn’t until around 1926 that the automobile became a ‘family-friendly’ vehicle with the introduction of hot-air heaters in the Ford Model A. Of course, earlier cars could easily transport several people, but the adoption of glassed-in passenger compartments and heaters provided year-round comfort and protection, perfect for routine errands or a weekend cruise in the country.

In 1926, the Jordan Motor Car Company of Cleveland contracted with the Wiedman Body Company of upstate New York to adapt their “Sport Model” camper body to the Jordan frame. Jordan marketed the hybrid as the “House Car”, and it became one of the earliest examples of what is now known as a “family camper”. This rare time capsule vehicle is currently on display at the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum.

Concurrently, the expansion of the nation’s road infrastructure allowed easier access to distant locales, spurring development of roadside hotels, or ‘motels’ along several interstate highways. The ‘family vacation’ no longer depended upon rail or marine transportation, and savvy automakers took note of the growing popularity of automobile travel.

The term ‘family car’ has become synonymous with the development of the station wagon, first marketed by Ford in 1929. Early versions were mostly used as utility vehicles, but at the end of World War II, given the average American’s growing wealth, abundance of babies, and migration to the suburbs, station wagons became the transport of choice for growing families.

Domestic automakers provided a bewildering variety of station wagons from the 1950’s through the ‘70’s, many of which could carry ten passengers plus baggage. How many of us recall riding in the rear-facing ‘jumpseat’ of a wagon, waving or making faces at the following cars. Perhaps the most exotic of the wagons was the Chevrolet two door Nomad of the mid-Fifties, a favorite of custom and hot rod builders today. Who can forget the ‘Wagon Queen Family Truckster’ from the 1983 film ‘Vacation’, or the revered ‘Vista Cruiser’ from ‘That 70’s Show’?

Station wagons have faded into obscurity in favor of today’s SUV’s and pickup trucks, but how many lasting memories will be created in these vehicles? Was it really freedom to crawl around a car without seatbelts, wind in one’s hair, or just youthful naivete?

Dinner Under the Dome

One of the most remarkable examples of adaptive reuse in Greater Cleveland stands at the southeast corner of East Ninth and Euclid — there a Heinens grocery store has been transplanted into the main rotunda of the former Cleveland Trust Bank headquarters, one of the city’s most striking interior spaces.

Designed by noted architect George P. Post, the building was completed in 1908.  The domed structure instantly became a landmark.   By the 1920s, it and three other large buildings – the Schofield, the Hickox, and Union Trust Bank occupied corners on what was, perhaps, the busiest urban intersection in the nation’s fifth largest city, one whose fortunes rested on industry, banking, commerce, and transportation.

Downtown Cleveland bustled.  But seventy years later the city’s economy had shifted and diminished and Cleveland Trust had become part of what is now KeyCorp.  Banking operations ceased in 1996 and the Post building stood empty until, in what has been characterized by author Lauren Pacini, the “renaissance on East Ninth” took place.   The entire Cleveland Trust complex along East Ninth was transformed into a hotel, apartments, offices, and the Heinens store housed in the former banking rotunda.    One can now grocery shop and dine under the dome in an area which for nearly nine decades was the site of financial transactions, large and small, that shaped the fortunes of the city and its citizens.   The lower level vaults in which those fortunes were stashed now are home to a cocktail lounge named (you guessed it), “Vault.”

Belle Sherwin (1868-1955)

Belle Sherwin was one of the most important figures in the LWV’s history. Born in Cleveland to one of the founders of Sherwin-Williams Company, she worked for several years as a teacher before becoming involved in the suffragist movement. Sherwin headed and founded charitable and welfare organizations, including the Cleveland Consumer’s League (1899), and the Women’s City Club (1916). During World War I, she organized women locally, and served as a Women’s Committee Chairman for the Council of National Defense. In 1920, Sherwin chaired the League of Women Voters in Cleveland and became the second president of the national League of Women Voters from 1924-1934, where she launched many of the nonpartisan voter education programs and initiatives that LWV still follows today.

League of Women Voters

The brainchild of Carrie Chapman Catt, the League of Women Voters (LWV) was conceived more than a year before ratification of the 19th amendment in August 1920. The national organization officially organized on February 14, 1920. In April, 1920, the Woman’s Suffrage Party of Greater Cleveland prepared to transform into Cleveland’s League of Women Voters. On May 29, 1920, the National and State Leagues officially inducted the Cleveland LWV at the Hotel Hollenden with public ceremonies the previous evening.

From its beginning, the LWV worked to educate all voters through nonpartisan voter guides and candidate debates. Clevelander Belle Sherwin introduced voter guides in 1921, which became nationally adopted. Over the decades, these guides have appeared in multiple languages in newspapers, their member publication, and as standalone publications. The LWV provides details about candidates’ positions on issues, interviews, and suggestions on where to find out more. Today, the LWV operates a nationwide online voting guide,


The suffragists who created the League also had deep roots in reform movements, and the LWV has always worked on enacting “good government” legislation and social policy reforms through coordinated advocacy campaigns and lobbying.  The LWV chooses its issues, such as public housing, welfare reform, child labor law, public transit, gun violence, and renewable energy, by member consensus after intensive study. One important example of this work is their 1963 formation of the Lake Erie Basin Committee to preserve and restore the health of Lake Erie and its watershed. This committee was the first Great Lakes watershed organization, inspiring numerous others to form. It tackles issues such as fracking, nuclear waste, and clean drinking water. The League’s advocacy work remains true to its grassroots heritage and LWV continues the fight to ensure that “ALL votes are counted and ALL voices are heard.”

Victory Gardens

In 1917, the National War Garden Commission began their call to action: “Do your bit and plant a War Garden. We need the food.” During the war, many men who worked in farming had to leave for the service, so people planted gardens to grow their own food and help increase production on the homefront. It was a way that women and children could support their community, and they grew any number of vegetables and greens. This photograph was taken of a now unknown Cleveland family to promote growing food. The mother has dressed her son as a soldier and her daughters wear Red Cross nurse costumes.
In Cleveland, war gardens, or “Victory Gardens” only increased during WWII, when even Public Square and the White House lawn became vegetable gardens. Growing food helped ease the troubles of rationing, and boosted morale. Clevelander Alice Collum was featured in the Call & Post with her garden on East 90th Street. Although the homefront effort was a serious topic, Clevelanders enjoyed working in their gardens, and by 1943 there were an estimated 18 million new gardens. They were so popular that they also became the butt of jokes, as seen in this Charles Allen’s Call & Post cartoon.

Cultural Gardens

What we choose to plant in our gardens is often linked to our cultural roots – the vegetables, fruits, and flowers we plant and nurture are often reminders of families, ethnicity, and origins. Nowhere is this truer than in Cleveland’s Cultural Gardens. The landscaped gardens along Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. began in 1916 with the Shakespeare Garden and then expanded beginning in 1926 into the well-known landmark we celebrate today.
The Gardens are a growing and shifting panorama, illustrative of the different waves of migration and immigration that shaped the city. Their blossoming, so to speak, in the mid-1920s was a bold response to the growth of anti-immigration sentiment in that decade. Their revival in the past thirty plus years is a reflection of the arrival of multiple new immigrant groups in the region. When you visit the gardens, remember that a group’s choice of the statues, markers, and plantings for their particular garden is not only a statement of who “they are” but more importantly, of what they have brought to our nation and our city.

Italian Americans and Gardens

Approximately 80% of the Italians who immigrated to the United States between 1880-1920 were Southern Italian contadini, or peasant farmers. Farming was a way of life for Italians. It could be said that they invented the modern concepts of “organic,” “sustainable,” and “locally sourced.”
The contadini fed their families with what they planted, either with what they grew or by selling the fruits and vegetables. In the neighborhoods in which they settled in America, like Cleveland’s Little Italy, they continued this way of life. Even on the smallest plots of land, they would plant tomatoes, rapini, escarole, cucumbers, and fruit, like figs and grapes, often using seeds brought from Italy. Their techniques were all what is now called “eco-friendly” and included placing barrels under downspouts to collect rain water and composting. When it came time for harvesting, nothing was ever wasted. What could not be used or shared with neighbors would be canned for use over the winter months.

Pressed Flowers | History and Tutorial

Humans have long had a fascination with collecting and preserving flowers, a practice believed to date back to ancient civilizations. In the 16th century, Japanese artists began the practice of Oshibana, in which they would create large pictures using pressed flowers as their medium. As trade with Japan increased in the mid-1800s, citizens of the western countries became fascinated with the use of pressed flowers as an art form. By the late 1800s, flower pressing had taken hold as a favorite pastime in England and the United States.

There were many reasons that an individual might collect flowers during this time, from the sentimental (preserving a flower given as a gift from a loved one) to the scientific (keeping a botanical scrapbook to aid in identifying native blooms). Regardless of the reason, the practice of pressing flowers was highly regarded as a creative pastime, and many would take pains to ensure that their work was beautifully displayed. Flowers of the time were often found framed behind glass in elaborate arrangements, sometimes with pieces of ribbon to complement the blooms, or meticulously organized in scrapbooks with their taxonomical description written next to them.

Fortunately, many examples of this old-fashioned pastime still exist today, thanks in large part to the original artists’ efforts to preserve the specimens. For example, the Western Reserve Historical Society has in its collection a floral bouquet from the grave of Abraham Lincoln, preserved by the wife of a Tiffin, Ohio judge in 1865. As can be seen in the photo, the flowers have remained remarkably intact in the 155 years since their pressing.

Perhaps the most appealing part of this pastime was its accessibility. Although some used tools such as the field press (a small device designed to clamp the specimens tightly between two boards), sophisticated equipment was not required to get a satisfying end result. In fact, the only items needed to take up this new hobby were a large book, a few flowers, and a bit of patience.

The same goes today as it did over 100 years ago. For those in search of a new hobby, flower pressing is easy to begin and can be done using items that most have on hand at home. Whether you want to preserve a few blooms or start your own botanical scrapbook, follow the instructions below to get started on your own flower pressing project.


Materials Needed:

For pressing:

–     Botanical materials (flowers, leaves, grasses, etc.)

–     Large book

For arranging:

–     Base: large blank journal or scrapbook, notecards, canvas, etc.

–     White school glue, diluted

 (1 drop water to quarter-sized drop of glue.)

–     Paintbrush

1)     Collecting | When it comes to collecting materials to press, the options are limitless. Flowers are, of course, a popular option, but leaves, herbs, and grasses also make for very interesting artwork. When choosing flowers, look for those that have recently bloomed and are fresh but not overly damp. Note: Be prepared to press your materials shortly after collecting them. Flowers tend to wilt quickly once they are picked, so the sooner you can get them pressed, the better!

2)     Pressing | Next, press your materials by placing them between the pages of a large book. (Botanical materials tend to leave imprints behind as they dry, so it’s best to use a book you don’t mind getting a bit stained. You can also protect your pages with wax paper, baking parchment, or coffee filters.) Be sure to lay the leaves and petals as flat as possible before closing the pages. To aid in the pressing process, you can place a large object on top of the book to weigh it down.

Typically, it takes about a week for most plants to fully dry. To determine if your items are ready, carefully pick them up. If they remove easily from the page and feel stiff and crisp, it’s time to take them out. If they still feel pliable or seem to stick to the page, it is likely that they still have moisture in the petals and should be left a bit longer.

3)     Arranging | How you present your pressed flowers is entirely up to you. Some popular options include affixing the plants to a notecard, using them to make a design on a piece of canvas, or cataloging them in a scrapbook. Some even make jewelry out of pressed flowers by suspending them in resin and attaching the piece to a necklace chain or ring base.

Regardless of your medium, you will likely need to paste your flowers to the base of your choosing. To do this, mix a drop of water with a quarter-sized dollop of white school glue. The result should be a paste that is slightly diluted but still sticky. Using a small paintbrush, apply the paste to your base in a thin layer. (Less is more!) Then, gently place your flowers on the paste in the design of your choosing. Note: It is generally helpful to plot out your design before pasting it down, especially if your design is particularly elaborate.

Allow the paste to fully dry (approximately 15 minutes). Then, you are ready to display your finished product!