Holiday Celebrations in the 1950s

Staff prep the aluminum Christmas tree in the Lustron House.

Staff prep the aluminum Christmas tree in the Lustron House.

Here at the Ohio History Center, we have been busy decking the halls in our Lustron House for the upcoming holiday season. Visitors to the house will see an aluminum Christmas tree, play musical records from the 1950s, and enjoy other décor from the decade. Many people look fondly back on that period, portrayed in movies like White Christmas, as a time of newly created traditions. Even the first White House Christmas card was sent during the administration of Dwight David Eisenhower in 1953. How did many of the traditions we associate with Christmas today emerge from the 1950s and why did other traditions from this time period disappear?

Post World War II, many Americans enjoyed an increased income and standard of living thanks to the GI bill and affordable housing. This led to a boost in consumer spending, allowing for new traditions to emerge with a new class of consumers. Larger houses in the suburbs had more land and more space in the home for material goods. In addition to the creation of a large toy industry, other industries began to emerge to create new traditions. Many of these traditions related to material culture from the 1950s continue to exist today.

From the Michael John Petrucci Collection (SC 5738), getting ready for Christmas at the U.S. First Marine Aircraft Base (K-3) in Pohang Dong, Korea, 1953.

From the Michael John Petrucci Collection (SC 5738), getting ready for Christmas at the U.S. First Marine Aircraft Base (K-3) in Pohang Dong, Korea, 1953.

A survey from 2013 found that of the U.S. homes that display Christmas trees, 79% of them use artificial trees. This practice has its roots in the 1950s. Christmas trees, a tradition from Germany, became popular in the U.S.; by the 1920s, many American homes had real Christmas trees. As shortages began to ease after World War II, companies, like DuPont, experimented with new materials to make consumer goods that were cheaper and higher quality products.  This extended to Christmas trees.  In 1950, the Addis Brush Company patented an aluminum Christmas tree. This tree was silver and came with a rotating color wheel, intended for the light of the wheel to reflect off the silver branches of the tree. This also eliminated the need for Christmas lights to be strung on the tree, which would have been a fire hazard. Aluminum Christmas trees became widely popular in the 1950s, found in many homes across the country. By the 1960s, Americans had moved on to more realistic looking artificial trees, but some still carry on the tradition of the aluminum Christmas tree today.

From the Lazarus Family Collection, Tree of Lights on The F. & R. Lazarus Company water tower, on West Walnut and West Town Streets, ca. 1965.

From the Lazarus Family Collection, Tree of Lights on The F. & R. Lazarus Company water tower, on West Walnut and West Town Streets, ca. 1965.

In Germany, candles were placed on the exterior of houses to signify the celebration of Christmas. This tradition carried over to the United States in the early 1900s, but with the introduction of electricity the invention of Christmas lights was possible.  Bubble lights, a decorative device consisting of a liquid-filled vial, were actually patented in 1935, but wartime shortages stopped their production. After World War II, new materials and higher consumer incomes lead to the rise of popularity of bubble lights and newly developed electric lights. The Rockefeller Christmas tree in New York City was lit with its first electric lights in 1956.  Disney’s Christmas tree began in 1956. Bubble lights were out of fashion by the 1960s, but electric lights continue to light up trees, homes and businesses across the country today.

An article from the Amherst News-Times in 2006 explaining how to track Santa with NORAD.

An article from the Amherst News-Times in 2006 explaining how to track Santa with NORAD.

Another tradition that emerged during the 1950s was the tracking of Santa Claus by NORAD. In 1955, “a Sears department store in Colorado Springs, Colorado, advertised a telephone hotline whereby children could call and personally speak to Santa. The number was misprinted, however, and calls went to NORAD’s front runner, the Continental Air Defense Command Center.”[1] The Colonel at CONRAD ordered personnel to give the location of Santa to children who called in, creating a tradition that continues at NORAD today. The center receives over 70,000 calls each Christmas Eve; tracking information is even available on the social media sites Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

From State Archives Series 1039 AV, Halle's Department store in Cleveland, Ohio where Mr. Jingaling was created.

From State Archives Series 1039 AV, Halle’s Department store in Cleveland, Ohio where Mr. Jingeling was created.

One tradition that has not continued its popularity is the character of Mr. Jingeling. Mr. Jingeling was the “Keeper of the Keys” to Santa’s Workshop. Originally created by Halle’s Department Store in Cleveland, Ohio as a promotion in 1956, the character became so popular, he quickly became a staple for the store. Mr. Jingeling “was a key-making elf who saved Christmas one holiday season when Santa lost the keys to his Treasure House of Toys. Jingeling fashioned new keys for Santa, who was thus able to gain access to toys and carry on with Christmas gift giving. As a reward for saving Christmas for all the good boys and girls, Mr. Jingeling was made the official “keeper of the keys” which he always had in hand at all times.”[2] Mr. Jingeling even made television appearances played by Max Ellis, an actor from the Playhouse Theater. Mr. Jingeling appeared every year in the store until the closing in 1982; he was moved to Santaland on the 10th floor of Higbee’s Department Store, but no longer had the following he once did. Mr. Jingeling still makes some appearances at Cleveland events, but never matched the popularity as he did during the 1950s.[3]

From the B'Nai B'Rith Hillel Foundation Audiovisual Collection, student choir of the B' Nai B' Rith Hillel Foundation at Ohio State University performing for Chanukah, 1958.

From the B’Nai B’Rith Hillel Foundation Audiovisual Collection, student choir of the B’ Nai B’ Rith Hillel Foundation at Ohio State University performing for Chanukah, 1958.

It is interesting to note as Christian Americans embraced new traditions surrounding Christmas during the 1950s, the prevalence of Hanukkah as a major holiday emerged during this time period. Hanukkah was traditionally a minor holiday commemorating an Israelite revolt against the Syrians, usually celebrated with a small gift of gelt (chocolate coins). While many Jewish immigrants in the early 1900s actually celebrated Christmas as a means to “Americanize”, many of their second generation children did not accept celebrating a Christian holiday. Due to the close proximity of Hanukkah and Christmas, many Jewish families began giving gifts to their children for Hanukkah instead of the traditional gelt.  As author David Greenberg explains, “After World War II, as Jews moved with other Americans to suburbia, Hanukkah shored up its place as their No. 1 holiday. In the early ’50s, in a famous Middletown-style study of a Chicago suburb referred to as “Lakeville,” sociologist Marshall Sklare found that lighting the Hanukkah candles ranked as the most popular “mitzvah,” above hosting a Passover Seder and observing the Sabbath.”[4] Indeed by the end of the 1950s, “Chanukah’s accoutrements had grown to include paper decorations, greeting cards, napkins, wrapping paper, ribbons, chocolates, games and phonograph records.”[5] The consumer culture surrounding the holiday made it almost bigger than the commemoration itself, as companies looked to promote the “Jewish Christmas”.[6] Hanukkah has come to symbolize Jewish holidays in much of American culture, despite the fact that it is still not a major religious holiday.

From the Ohio History Connection's collection, plastic Christmas decoration features Santa Claus in a sleigh with a single reindeer. The item is painted red and green and dates from 1955.

From the Ohio History Connection’s collection, plastic Christmas decoration features Santa Claus in a sleigh with a single reindeer. The item is painted red and green and dates from 1955.

Do you take part in any of these traditions? What do you remember about the holidays during the 1950s?

 

Emily Lang, History Curator

 

Bibliography:

Crump, William D. “NORAD Tracks Santa.” In The Christmas Encyclopedia. 3rd ed. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2001.

Davis, Heidi. “A Brief History of Christmas Lights.” Popular Mechanics, December 1, 2012.

Greenberg, David. “Christmas for Jews: How Hanukkah Became a Major Holiday.” Slate Magazine. December 16, 1998. Accessed December 11, 2014.

Joselit, Jenna Weissman. The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewish Culture 1880-1950. New York: Hill and Wang, 1994.

McDannell, Colleen. Religions of the United States in Practice. Vol. 2. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Morreall, John, and Tamara Sonn. “Hanukkah Is For the Jews as Christmas is for the Christians.” In 50 Great Myths About Religions. Google EBook.

Weeks, Linton. “Begun The Christmas Tree War Has.” NPR. December 10, 2014. Accessed December 12, 2014. http://www.npr.org/blogs/theprotojournalist/2014/12/10/369368167/begun-the-christmas-tree-war-has.

 

[1] Crump, William D. “NORAD Tracks Santa.” In The Christmas Encyclopedia. 3rd ed. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2001.

[2] Faircloth, Christopher. “Christmas Time Windows, Keys, and Giant Trees.” In Cleveland’s Department Stores. Chicago, IL: Arcadia Pub., 2009.

[3] Rusek, Joan. “Mr. Jingeling Still Makes Cleveland Hearts Go Tingeling.” Cleveland.com. December 22, 2013. Accessed December 12, 2014. http://www.cleveland.com/shaker-heights/index.ssf/2013/12/mr_jingeling_still_makes_cleve.html

[4] Greenberg, David. “Christmas for Jews: How Hanukkah Became a Major Holiday.” Slate Magazine. December 16, 1998. Accessed December 11, 2014.

[5] Joselit, Jenna Weissman. The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewish Culture 1880-1950. New York: Hill and Wang, 1994.

[6] Morreall, John, and Tamara Sonn. “Hanukkah Is For the Jews as Christmas Is for the Christians.” In 50 Great Myths About Religions. Google EBook.

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Last Week We Packed a Museum

How, you may be wondering, does one pack a museum? Or perhaps a better place to start would be why would one want to pack a museum?

Interior view of the Museum of Ceramics in East Liverpool, Ohio during the packing process.

Interior view of the Museum of Ceramics in East Liverpool, Ohio during the packing process.


The Museum of Ceramics, an Ohio History Connection site in East Liverpool, is about to undergo a major construction project. The museum is located in a beautiful 1909 building that once housed the Post Office. The high, vaulted ceilings and marble floors and wainscoting create an impressive atmosphere for displaying the pottery created in and around East Liverpool. However, the building does not currently have air conditioning. You can imagine the discomfort this causes visitors and staff on hot summer days; in addition, high temperatures are not ideal for preserving the objects, photographs, and archival materials in the museum’s care.

While we are excited that the Museum of Ceramics will soon have air conditioning, construction projects large and small pose dangers to collections. Workers moving throughout the building and the use of tools and heavy equipment will cause the building—and the exhibit cases and objects it contains—to vibrate. These vibrations can dislodge objects from their mounts and cause them to fall and break. In addition, the Canadian Conservation Institute, in a study of physical agents that cause deterioration in museums, found that prolonged or continuous vibrations are also dangerous because they can cause the materials to fatigue, which can result in visible cracking on the surface of the object. Fatigue is therefore particularly concerning for pottery that can break as a result of this cracking.

Collections packed and protected from construction dust and vibration.

Collections packed and protected from construction dust and vibration.


To protect the pottery from the potential dangers of construction, it had to be removed from display and stored in a safe place. A team of staff from the Ohio History Connection and the ICA Art Conservation who regularly work with historic objects and archival materials worked for four days in the museum. We removed countless tea cups, saucers, bowls, vases, and other pottery forms from the exhibit cases. Each piece of pottery was individually wrapped in thin newsprint for padding and packed in boxes. These boxes were then stored in areas that will be free of construction in order to protect their contents from harmful vibrations.

Some pieces of pottery are particularly delicate and required a slightly different method of packing. Lotus Ware, a fine porcelain made in the 1890s by the Knowles, Taylor & Knowles Company in East Liverpool, is a very thin and delicate type of pottery. Much of the Lotus Ware at the Museum of Ceramics has ornate, applied decorations that can be easily broken off if the objects are packed too tightly or wrapped in rough paper. . We wrapped these objects in layers of very thin newsprint and placed them upright in boxes surrounded by padding (i.e. crumpled pieces of newsprint) to insulate them and protect them from damage. Handles and other protruding elements were first wrapped with small, crumpled pieces of extra thin newsprint, as were thin and delicate parts of objects, such as the necks of vases. Particularly delicate pieces were also wrapped in a layer of bubble wrap before they were placed in boxes, and each box was padded with crumpled newsprint and bubble wrap for additional protection.

Curator Becky Odom (and Registrar Jessica Johnson) packing collections at the Museum of Ceramics prior to construction.

Curator Becky Odom and Registrar Jessica Johnson packing collections at the Museum of Ceramics prior to construction.


In addition to pottery, the Museum of Ceramics contains paintings, photographs, and archival materials that also required protection from the upcoming construction. We placed a strip of cardboard over the face of each painting and then wrapped the entire piece in ethofoam, a thin, foamy material. Larger paintings were placed in a large box separated by sheets of cardboard and strips of ethofoam. This method of storage is ideal for oil paintings that cannot be stored flat. Like the three-dimensional objects, we moved photographs, bound newspaper volumes, and other papers in the museum’s archives away from the areas that will be under construction. Some of these materials were small enough to be stored in boxes and moved to other parts of the museum; others we placed on tables in a secure area. Plastic sheeting will protect items stored in boxes and file cabinets near the construction areas from dust and other debris.

Whether you have a large museum collection or just a few items in your home, construction projects large and small are a danger to these objects. But you can protect your collection by planning ahead and carefully storing any objects or paper materials in safe spaces away from the work.

Becky Odom, History Curator

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Do Your Toys Have an Ohio Connection?

Toys are a 22.09 billion dollar industry a year in the United States. The highest number of toy sales traditionally happens in December, as families across the United States prepare to celebrate the holidays. Ohio has long been at the forefront of the toy industry, dating back to the mid-19th century.

A horse made by the Delphos Bending Company

A horse made by the Delphos Bending Company

The Delphos Bending Company was founded in 1900 by Louis Justus in Delphos, Ohio.  Originally named The Delphos Hoop Company, they produced wooden barrel hoops until 1912.  The company rebranded and started producing metal and wood parts.  In 1934 the company started making children’s furniture.  By 1951 it was the largest children’s furniture maker in the world.  Later they expanded into the production of large children’s toys, including a successful line of rocking horses. Due to rising production costs, the company shut down production in 1980.

Another early example of the toy industry in Ohio is “Dayton Toys”. Comprised as a toy movement made up of 38 Dayton based toy companies in the late 19th century, these toys were early friction toys or “Hill Climbers”, tin wheeled toys.  This type of toy was in such demand in the early 20th century, author William Gallagher explains, “There were about 40 toy makers across the Miami Valley and more than 200 toy patents. Orville Wright even had a toy patent, and his older brother Lorin owned a toy company.”[1] However, the Depression hit the industry hard and by World War II most of these toy companies had closed.

Another Dayton based toy maker, Wilkie Picture & Puzzle Co., managed to survive the manufacturing limitations of World War II. The company produced thousands of puzzles during the 1930s and 1940s, including several Wright Brothers themed puzzles. The company shut down by the early 1950s due to rising production costs.

Etch A Sketch made by the Ohio Art Company.

Etch A Sketch made by the Ohio Art Company.

Founded in 1908, the Ohio Art Company is one of the oldest and best known Ohio toy companies. It was started in Archbold, Ohio, by Henry Winzeler, who decided that making oval shaped metal frames would be more interesting than being a dentist.  Lithographic prints from Germany were inserted into these frames and sold by companies like Sears, Roebuck & Co.  In 1912, Winzeler relocated Ohio Art to its current location in Bryan, Ohio. A few years later, in part due to the halt on German imports during World War I, Ohio Art entered the toy industry.  They created banks, small coaster wagons and carts, spinning tops, and tea sets. In 1959, Ohio Art bought the rights to the “Telecran” from Frenchman Andre Cassagnes.  He and the company’s chief engineer, Jerry Burger, spent time perfecting the design before it was released in 1960 under the name “Etch-A-Sketch.” This drawing toy quickly became Ohio Art’s most iconic and popular toy, with Sears, Roebuck & Co. selling ten million of them in the 1960s alone.  Etch-A-Sketch was one of the many successes the company had during the 1960s.  They also began making metal signs and trays for Coca-Cola. Ohio Art continues to be a successful toy company today, though the toys are no longer manufactured in Ohio.

Bath toy made by the Evenflo. Company in the late 1970s.

Bath toy made by the Evenflo. Company in the late 1970s.

The Evenflo Company was started in 1920 in Ravenna, Ohio. They originally produced rubber materials related to baby feeding, but expanded production to infant products over the years including this bath toy set. Best known today for breast pumps, bottles, car seats, and strollers, the company moved to Miamisburg, Ohio in the 1990s.  They  maintain a factory in Piqua, Ohio.

Little Tikes was created by Thomas G. Murdough Jr. in 1969 in Aurora, Ohio to create low-tech molded plastic toys aimed primarily at infants and young children, for indoor and outdoor use. The company is best known for its turtle shaped sandbox and the “Cozy Coupe” car, a red and yellow plastic car intended for young children, both introduced in 1979. The company moved to Hudson, Ohio in 1984 to expand their manufacturing plant as demand continued to rise. In 1991, “The Cozy Coupe Car was named the Best-selling car in America.”[2]

Thomas G. Murdough Jr. started another toy company based in Ohio after leaving Little Tikes. The Step 2 Company, based in Streetsboro, Ohio, is the largest American manufacturer of preschool and toddler toys and the world’s largest rotational molder of plastics. Step2 began operations in 1991 with five employees.  Plastic play houses are their best known product.

Strawberry Shortcake trashcan made by the American Greetings Company in the early 1980s.

Strawberry Shortcake trashcan made by the American Greetings Company in the early 1980s.

While not exclusively a toy company, the American Greetings Company has created countless characters emblazoned on toys across the country. American Greetings was started in Cleveland, Ohio in 1906 by Polish immigrant Jacob Sapirstein. The company originally sold paper greeting cards before expanding into other product lines  such as licensed characters. American Greetings’ toy design and licensing division, known as Those Characters From Cleveland, includes such as Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, The Get Along Gang, Popples, and Holly Hobbie.

One of the newest holiday traditions, Christopher Pop-In-Kins, comes from Alliance, Ohio. Winner of the Greatest Products of 2008 Award by iParenting Media Awards, the toy was invented by Flora Johnson, a grandmother from Atwater, Ohio in 1984. According to the company, “Based on a tradition she(Flora) began with her own family during the early 1960’s, Christopher “pops in” to visit boys and girls from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve.  He then returns to the North Pole with a report on his time in the Children’s World.” Christopher has been delighting children and adults across the country since then, including staff at the Ohio History Connection!

Christopher Pop-In-Kins recently spent the day with curators and the Ohio History Connection collections.

Christopher Pop-In-Kins recently spent the day with curators and the Ohio History Connection collections.

Did you own any of these toys growing up? What other toys were or continue to be produced in Ohio?

Emily Lang, History Curator

[1] Knodel, Lisa. “Toys Were Once Serious Business Locally.” Dayton Daily News. April 9, 2014. Accessed December 4, 2014. http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/events/toys-were-once-serious-business-locally/nfSBW/.

[2] http://www.littletikes.com/page/timeline

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Elijah Pierce Pieces Now on Exhibit!

At the Ohio History Center, new objects are constantly being changed out for preservation and to help us better tell the story of Ohio’s history. Recently, four pieces created by Elijah Pierce were added to the History Mall on the first floor of the Center.

Elijah Pierce pieces on exhibit in the History Mall at the Ohio History Center.

Elijah Pierce pieces on exhibit in the History Mall at the Ohio History Center.

Who was Elijah Pierce?

Elijah Pierce was born on March 5, 1892 on a farm in Mississippi, the youngest son of a former slave. His father gave Pierce his first pocket knife and by the age of 7, he was creating small wooden animals. Working with his Uncle Lewis, Pierce learned about the different types of wood and how to work with wood. Not interested in farming, Pierce pursued a career in barbering, working at a shop in Baldwyn, Mississippi to make ends meet.

Examples of Elijah Pierce's handcrafted figures.

Examples of Elijah Pierce’s handcrafted figures.

After being widowed at a young age, Pierce married again in 1923 to Cornelia Houeston, following his new wife to Columbus, Ohio. Pierce continued to work as a barber in his new city. One year for Cornelia’s birthday, Pierce carved her a small elephant. She liked it so much, he promised to create an entire zoo for her, setting off his career in woodworking. His work evolved from figurines to 3-dimensional figurines on wood; in 1932, Pierce completed his best known piece the Book of Wood. The Book of Wood is a series of scenes, explaining the story of Jesus.

In 1951, Pierce opened up his own barbershop at 483 Long Street. Pierce’s shop became a community meeting place; an establishment to talk about politics, news, and even to exhibit pieces of his work. Pierce continued to created pieces, but it was not until the early 1970s that his talents were recognized outside of the community. Boris Gruenwald, a graduate student at Ohio State University, saw Pierce’s pieces at a YMCA show, immediately recognizing Pierce’s talents. Through Gruenwald’s art connections, Pierce’s work was shown in the Krannert Art Museum, the Phyllis Kind Gallery of New York, the National Museum of American Art, and the Renwick Gallery.

Sign from Pierce's shop.

Sign from Pierce’s shop.

In November, 1972, Pierce’s carvings and sculptures were exhibited at the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts (now the Columbus Museum of Art); Mahonri Sharp Young, then CGFA Director, said the following about Pierce’s work, “You can always go over to Elijah Pierce’s barber shop on Long Street and see for yourself that everything [he does] is absolutely real. Long Street is the 125th St. of Columbus, but there is not that much bustle. Mr. Pierce did not learn his work from us or anyone else. He used to set up his wares at country fairs, and, in a way, he still does; he is a preacher, and he likes to talk about his vivid carvings (and) their meaning for him. On one side of the highway you find love, peace, happiness, home, content and success: on the other, confusion, woe, pain and hell house. Your life is a book, and every day a page.”

Elijah Pierce died May 7, 1984, but his legacy on the Columbus Arts community continues to live on today. His work can be found in museums across the country; Pierce is still regarded as one of the finest wood artists today.

Have you seen pieces of Elijah Pierce’s around Columbus? How do you think his legacy lives on today?

Emily Lang, History Curator

Bibliography:
Deeds, Betty. “Elijah Pierce, Ecclesiastical Artist.” Short North Gazette, February 1, 2003.
“Elijah Pierce Biography.” Elijah Pierce Biography. Accessed December 2, 2014. http://www.cscc.edu/elijahpierce/bio.htm.
“Elijah Pierce Gallery.” The King Arts Complex. Accessed December 2, 2014. http://kingartscomplex.com/elijah-pierce-gallery/.
Roberts, Norma J. Elijah Pierce, Woodcarver. Columbus, Ohio: Columbus Museum of Art ;, 1992.

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Greene County Records Center and Archives Receives Achievement Award

The Ohio Historical Records Advisory Board (OHRAB) is pleased to recognize the Greene County Records Center and Archives as its 2014 Achievement Award recipient.

Ohio Historical Records Advisory Board Logo
Since its establishment in 1996, the Greene County Records Center and Archives has been committed to both preserving and providing access to its public records of enduring historical value.

In 2011, the archives building housing records for Greene County was condemned as unsafe. Through joint efforts of the archives staff and other county departments, a new, convenient, environmentally sound location was selected and all records were carefully moved to the new location. The records have been newly inventoried and re-shelved, ensuring and improving public access that has remained a priority for the Greene County Records Center and Archives. Public outreach has now been added as a focus in order to call more attention to its collections and the valuable resources that local government records provide.

“The Greene County Records Center and Archives demonstrated painstaking, diligent effort in its successful removal and installation of valuable historic documents into a new archives location,” said Pari Swift, who led this year’s OHRAB achievement award committee in its search. “The exceptional commitment by dedicated staff to safely and quickly secure a new permanent location for its archives material could not be overlooked.”

The new location of the Greene County Records Center and Archives is 535 Ledbetter Road, Xenia, Ohio 45385.

The Ohio Historical Records Advisory Board is the central body for historical records planning in the state. OHRAB also acts as a state-level review body for grants submitted to the National Historical Publication and Records Commission, in accordance with the commission’s guidelines. Administrative responsibility for the board rests with the Ohio History Connection.

For more information about OHRAB and/or the OHRAB Achievement Award, please contact Fred Previts at the Ohio History Connection at (614) 297-2536.

Ohio Historical Records Advisory Board
C/O Ohio History Connection State Archives
800 E. 17th Ave.
Columbus, Ohio 43211
614-297-2536
statearchives@ohiohistory.org

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New Textiles on Exhibit!

Coming to the Ohio History Connection in the next few weeks?

Our latest textile installation at the Ohio History Connection.

Our latest textile installation at the Ohio History Connection.

We recently changed out some textiles on our history mall! This new installation explores textiles and the relationship to politics.

How do textiles and politics relate to each other?

Since the first campaign in Ohio, politicians have looked for ways to advertise themselves and their policies through any means possible. Textiles were used as a means to capture the political experience during the election and afterwards through quilts, banners, and shirts. The versatility of the material allowed them to be easily moved to spread messages and convey ideas. Sometimes, simply having a politician’s name on a textile was enough to cause controversy in a community based on one’s politics. Politicians continue to use this medium today.

H

H 28053 is a banner from the Anti-Saloon League, one of the most prominent prohibition organizations in the United States of America in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries and one of the most powerful political lobbies.

What textiles are being exhibited?

The textiles on exhibit include quilts and banners created during or after a political campaign.

Why are the light levels so low in that area?

Textiles are very sensitive to light; prolonged exposure leads to irreversible damage. Just like when you leave a towel outside in the summer and it fades, textiles in museums can fade if they are in bright light for too long so we keep the light levels low in the gallery to protect them. This is also the reason why textiles on exhibit are changed frequently; once light damage has occurred, the damage to object can not be reversed, only preserved.

What other kinds of textiles do you have in the collection?

We collect all types of textiles from all periods in Ohio history. Our textile collection includes over 400 quilts, 350 gowns, over 80 banners, and over 300 coverlets in addition to thousands of other pieces of textiles ranging from fragments to flags.

One section of the textile installation that features a quilt raffled of by the GAR and a political banner from the 1888 presidential election.

One section of the textile installation that features a quilt raffled of by the GAR and a political banner from the 1888 presidential election.

How do I donate a textile to the collection?

Email our curators with a picture, description, and any information about the object to collections@ohiohistory.org

Do you own any textiles used to commemorate a political figure or idea?

Emily Lang, History Curator

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Ohio History Connection Curator to be Featured on Broad and High

Do you watch Broad and High on WOSU?

Emerson Burkhart working on a self portrait, from the collections of the Ohio History Connection.

Emerson Burkhart working on a self portrait, from the collections of the Ohio History Connection.

Curator Emily Lang will be featured will be featured in tomorrow night’s episode at 7:30 pm. The episode features our latest exhibition, Emerson Burkhart: Reflections of an Artist.

Emerson Burkhart (1905-1969) ruled the Columbus art scene during the 1950s and 1960s with his honest portraits and depictions of life in the city. While Burkhart was praised for his artistic skill, conflicts in his personal and professional life prevented him from receiving national attention.  Reflections of an Artist: Emerson Burkhart displays never seen artwork by Burkhart, including the original sketches for the controversial mural Music.

Make sure to tune in!

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