Programs for Adults

Speaking of Cleveland

Take a front row seat as the Cleveland History Center presents significant stories that capture the Cleveland spirit. Speaking of Cleveland features the intriguing, curious and oft-forgotten tales from Cleveland’s past. Pulled directly from the nationally-recognized collections of the Western Reserve Historical Society, these stories showcase the innovation, the grit and the pride that characterize Cleveland’s past, present and future.

Our historians and museum professionals are eager to share Cleveland’s stories with you. To book a Speaking of Cleveland engagement for your group or facility, please call 216-721-5722 x1502 or email

Click here to inquire about our Speaking of Cleveland programs.

Click here to view our program guide

Scholar Level Programs

$250 per program + mileage

Cleveland: A to Z

JOHN GRABOWSKI, Senior VP of Research & Krieger Mueller Historian

Author and historian, John Grabowski, presents his newest book on Cleveland – a city guide that is focused on the people, places, and events that define a city whose community played a significant but often unrecognized role in the growth of the nation.

Symbols of Passage: Immigration and Migration to Cleveland

JOHN GRABOWSKI, Senior VP of Research & Krieger Mueller Historian

Today, Northeast Ohio is home to over 120 ethnic groups. How did our city and region, once an outpost of New England, become a global community?

Curator Level Programs

$150 per program + mileage

Cleveland at War

ERIC RIVET, Curator of Collections & Exhibits

What was Cleveland’s role in World War I and World War II? Learn about how Cleveland’s industrial power made key contributions to both wars. Hear the stories of prominent Clevelanders and local heroes who helped achieve victory, and see some of the treasures of the Western Reserve Historical Society’s military collections.

The Civil War in Northern Ohio

JOHN VACHA, Local Historian & Noted Author

Based on David Van Tassel’s posthumously published Behind Bayonets, this program explores life on the home front in Cleveland during the Civil War. Special attention is given to the role played behind the front line by women and the Soldiers Aid Society.

Mad for Plaid

PATRICIA EDMONSON, Museum Advisory Council Curator of Costume and Textiles

Popularized for the masses by Queen Victoria, plaid connects to history, classic chic, prepsters, grunge, and the hipster known as the urban woodsman. This talk showcases Northeastern Ohio’s men, women, and children who wear plaid, highlighting recognizable brands, pop culture, and the heritage behind it all.

Wow Factor: 150 Years of Collecting Bold Clothes

PATRICIA EDMONSON, Museum Advisory Council Curator of Costume and Textiles

Clevelanders use fashion to stand out in a crowd. Share in the images and stories from our extensive costume collection to learn more about our city’s trendsetters, who they were, and where they shopped.

Ethnicity and Local History

SEAN MARTIN, Associate Curator for Jewish History

How do local groups operate within larger, national ethnic groups? How do they help us negotiate our identities as citizens? Explore the variety of ethnic communities to which we belong and the local communities in which we live.

The Italians in Cleveland

PAMELA DORAZIO-DEAN, Associate Curator of Italian American History

Explore Italian immigration to Cleveland from the late 19th century through present day, with a focus on life in the Italian neighborhoods.

Beginning a Family History Project

ANN SINDELAR, Research Library Reference Supervisor

Tracing your family history is a fun and compelling project. Find out how to research and add valuable information to your family tree. Learn how the WRHS Research Library collections, services and classes can help you.

Cleveland’s Great Lakes Exposition

JOHN VACHA, Local Historian & Noted Author

Did you know that right in the middle of the Great Depression, Cleveland put on the biggest party it’s ever thrown? The author of Meet Me on Lake Erie, Dearie will introduce you to the Streets of the World, Cliff Wilson’s Snake Show and more.

Euclid Beach Park’s Grand Carousel – PTC No 19

JOHN FRATO, Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel Training & Volunteer Coordinator

This is the story of Euclid Beach Park’s Grand Carousel: its years in Cleveland, its operation in Maine, and its journey back to Cleveland. John Frato will recall the challenges encountered in the project to restore the 1910 antique carousel to full operation and stories of carousel memories, treasured and new.

Euclid Beach Park – Cleveland’s Most Beloved Amusement Park

JOHN FRATO, Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel Training & Volunteer Coordinator

Food, rides and attractions. Why is Euclid Beach Park so very memorable? Learn about its early beginnings in 1895 and reminisce about its heyday through its final days in 1969. Relive those special memories that Euclid Beach Park holds.

Educator Level Programs

$130 per program + mileage

Multiple booking discounts available for programs led by Museum Education Staff

Cleveland Starts Here®

Learn about Cleveland’s history and the objects that were selected to represent our story in Cleveland Starts Here®, a new exhibit sponsored by the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation that explores the rich and diverse history of Northeast Ohio.

History of Cleveland and the Western Reserve

This overview of Cleveland’s history spans from the early formation of the Western Reserve to the city’s bicentennial and beyond.

I Had Made Up My Mind To Go Into The Oil Trade: Rockefeller’s Cleveland Years

When he founded the Standard Oil Company during the height of Cleveland’s Industrial Age, John D. Rockefeller was met with immense success and wealth. However, he soon found himself vilified by the public as the battle between capital and labor came to a head on both the local and national stage. Learn about Rockefeller’s tumultuous time as a Clevelander, including the lasting mark his extensive philanthropic work left on the city, and get to know the divisive figure who would become one of the richest men in the world.

Built for Good: Cleveland State Hospital and the Changing World of Mental Health Treatment

Built with good intentions for the treatment of those suffering from mental illness, Cleveland State Hospital’s patient practices quickly took a turn.  Drawn from the manuscripts of investigative reporter Al Ostrow, peek into the underside of the Cleveland Press exposé of mental health treatment in 1950s Cleveland, which helped shed light on much-needed reforms as trends began changing in the mental health field.

Battle for the Ballot: Cleveland’s Suffragette Movement

There is no complete record of the brave, often unnamed women, who fought for their right to be citizens and finally triumphed in 1920. Learn about a band of women, inexperienced in politics, who dedicated themselves to the public interest and grew into an organization that won the respect and confidence of the nation. This program will tell the story behind the women who fought for their rights here in Cleveland as members of the League of Women Voters.

The Vehicles of the Western Reserve

At one time, Cleveland was the automobile capital of the world. Take a ride through the Western Reserve at the turn of the 20th century and discover a treasure of Cleveland-made vehicles.

Women of the Western Reserve

Meet the talented, inspiring, creative, and innovative women of the Western Reserve. These admirable women were pioneers, philanthropists, musicians, doctors, educators, suffragettes, judges, legislators, and so much more.

Carl and Louis Stokes – From Projects to Politics

Two brothers from Cleveland helped reshape American history. Carl Stokes became the first African-American mayor of a major American city. His brother Louis was the first African-American US Congressman from Ohio. Together they advanced civil rights, promoted urban issues, and helped to make the United States a more equitable nation.

Eliot Ness’ Cleveland

Travel back to the time of bootleggers, beer and unsolved crimes. This program discusses the role of Eliot Ness during his tenure as Cleveland’s Safety Director from 1935 to 1942.

Garrett Morgan: Cleveland’s Civic Minded Inventor

Garrett Morgan, the son of former slaves, moved north from the segregated south and went on to become a self-made business man in Cleveland. Hear the story of how his inventions revolutionized public safety in the automobile age.

The Golden Age of Shopping in Cleveland

Which was more glamorous? Riding the elevator (with an operator!)? Or your first few tries on the escalator? Reminisce about Halle Brothers, May Co., Higbee’s and the Sterling Lindner Christmas Tree.

Holiday Topics

Christmas in Cleveland

How have yuletide traditions changed over the years in Cleveland? See how Clevelanders celebrated Christmases past, from attending the downtown parade and viewing the spectacular department store window displays, to visiting Mr. Jingeling at Halle’s and shopping at Higbee’s!

Crackers in the Streets: Holiday Traditions in the Western Reserve

Learn about celebrations and partying in the holiday season in the early years of the Western Reserve. Customs came with the settlers, but many of them we would not recognize today.

Valentine’s Day in Cleveland

Learn about the history of St. Valentine’s Day, experience a local story of true romance between Clevelanders Dawson and Anne Kelly, and remember your own February 14ths of years past. Examine a variety of valentines from the WRHS collection, and reminisce with Valentine’s Day advertisements.