Archives Contest Entry: Finding Something that was Missing

While the “I Found It in the Archives Contest” has concluded for 2014, we want to take this opportunity to share all of the fascinating entries that were submitted to the Ohio History Connection’s local contest. Special thanks to everyone who took time to share their story and show how much archives matter to our daily lives.

Theresa Harris

Theresa Harris

Very early in life I learned there was an important figure missing. I had no father present in the way other little girls did. My mother later married a serviceman in the US Air Force stationed at Lockbourne AFB for a short time. Her second husband was a prominent man well known and respected in the Columbus African-American community. He was a wonderful man and I loved him but he was not my biological father. Confusion and suspicion began to overshadow what should have been a happy and productive time in my life. I was missing a vital part of my identity.

Many years later, I was determined to learn the identity of my elusive father. I was well acquainted with the Ohio Historical Society and proceeded to glean the archival resources for a man that had been brought to my attention. His name was Dr. Guilford Bert Hoiston, a 1938 graduate of The Ohio State University Medical School. I found his death certificate which indicated he had died as the result of a home furnace explosion 10 months after my birth. I was so intrigued by this information that after a brief hesitation, I proceeded to access other sources. I found the Hoiston extended family members via an online service. Dr. Hoiston’s sister was living in Cleveland, Ohio and agreed to submit her specimen for autosomal DNA testing to determine a relationship. It proved to be a 97% probability that we were related. I have met members of my paternal family and found the physical resemblance uncanny. I had succeeded in finding my paternal family.

I later visited OHS to search the newspaper microfilm collection of The Ohio State News, a widely read African-American publication. I learned a great deal about my father’s life as well as the controversial aspects of his untimely death. The social structures in communities have a profound effect on the lives of individuals. I learned that without my knowledge, Dr. Hoiston had always been a part of my life.

I am now set on a path to do the research for my maternal ancestry as well. I have learned that my central and southern Ohio ancestors had a very important role in early Ohio history. The Underground Railroad and the War of the Rebellion are prominent in my current research. The OHS is an invaluable resource I am certain to access very often.

By Theresa Harris

Posted in collections, Genealogy, Research | Leave a comment

Saving the Stories of Former Slaves

The Works Progress Administration and the Slave Narrative

Today’s Archives Month object is one of the numerous photos from the Ohio Guide Collection.  These photographs were taken and collected by the Federal Writers’ Project, part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), while they were writing the Ohio Guide book during the Great Depression in the 1930s.  This photograph depicts Columbus man Alfred Murphy, a former slave, who learned to read and write at age 105 thanks to the WPA teaching program that taught thousands of Ohioans.  Murphy spent the first 33 years of his life in slavery, the last two years building fortifications for the Confederate Army.  He was in Richmond when General Robert E. Lee commander of the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant, commander of the Union Army, in Appomattox Court House, Virginia in April 1865. The end of the Civil War gave Mr. Murphy his freedom.

Former slave Alfred Murphy in WPA literacy class.

Former slave Alfred Murphy in WPA literacy class.

As you can see by Murphy’s advanced age, by the 1930s, people who had been slaves as adults were quickly disappearing.  The Federal Writers’ Project of the WPA began an urgent effort to save the slaves stories.  The writers spent 1936-1938 travelling through seventeen states and speaking to more than 2,000 former slaves, gathering their life stories and experiences. 

The Federal Writers Project in Ohio received instructions to conduct interviews with former slaves living in Ohio in April 1937. Most of the interviews collected were done in 1937 and 1938. After the dissolution of the Federal Writers Project, most narratives were transferred to the Library of Congress. However, an additional twenty-eight narratives were discovered in the holdings of the State Archives Ohio. These narratives are available to researchers on microfilm, roll number GR 1563, in the Archives/Library.

The WPA Slave Narratives were compiled into several books during the 1940s, including the Virginia Writers’ Project’s The Negro In Virginia, the Georgia Writers’ Project’s Drums and Shadows, and Benjamin A. Botkin’s Lay My Burden Down.  Bodkin was the second Folklore Editor of the Federal Writers’ Project.  In 1941, all of the narratives were bound and presented to the Library of Congress. The Library has made the slave narratives and accompanying photographs available online with the digital collection Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writer’s Project, 1936-1938

Caitlin Smith, History Collections Intern

Posted in collections, Photograph Collections | 4 Comments

Victorian Mourning Culture: Women as the True Mourners

For Victorian women, mourning was an emotional outlet, an acceptable public display in a strict social sphere. Women had power in their mourning; they had the responsibility to show grief and love of the deceased. While men were expected to quietly grieve continuing their everyday customs as though nothing was wrong, the women’s role was compose themselves in the opposite way. This practice may be viewed today as prohibitive and unfair, in the 19th century, these actions allowed power beyond a woman’s sphere of influence in the home.

Black crepe mourning veil made in Columbus, Ohio, around 1900 (H 20920).

Black crepe mourning veil made in Columbus, Ohio, around 1900 (H 20920).

The mourning period for men and women was the same – a first cousin would be mourned for as little as six weeks, while a widow was expected to mourn her husband for two and a half years. However, women had many social protocols to be followed. After her husband passed, a widow would immediately fall into Deep Mourning for one year. During this period, the widow was to maintain strict social isolation, only accepting formal invitations from close relatives and avoiding public spaces and pleasurable occasions. After a year and a day, although it was advised to put off the change for the sake of good taste, a widow was to follow into Second Mourning, which allowed more social freedom and a change in clothing. After nine months, Third Mourning began, which resulted in more freedom and another change in clothing. This third period lasted until the end of the second year. These first three mourning periods were considered Full Mourning. After two years, a widow entered into Half Mourning, which would last from an additional six months to the rest of their lives with an additional change in clothing. While some women never came out of half-mourning – including Queen Victoria – the Grand Maison de Noir, a mourning warehouse in Paris, advised its customers that “everyone is free to prolong this period of wearing mourning but it is in good taste to effect any exaggeration in this as over other circumstances.” While it was important to properly grieve, mourning placed a social and cultural burden both on the mourner and on those around them.

Formal cape worn during the later stages of mourning  between 1880 and 1900 (H 75360).

Formal cape worn during the later stages of mourning between 1880 and 1900 (H 75360).

One distinct difference did exist between widows and widowers. Unlike widows, widowers were allowed to remarry as soon as they desired. A man did not even have to wait until he was out of mourning for his first wife in order to marry his second. “The Grand Maison de Noir declared that such a man should leave off his mourning for the ceremony but take it up the next day. Furthermore, ‘his new wife should equally associate herself with his mourning’, wearing only black or shades of half-mourning in memory of her predecessor.”

Colors, styles, and decorations differed in women’s clothing for each stage of mourning. A woman in Deep Mourning would wear a dull, black, crape-covered dress with a single flounce at the waist. Her head was to be covered at all times, a black hat and veil when she emerged from her home, and a white indoor cap when she was at home. With the exception of the indoor cap and handkerchief, the widow’s entire wardrobe was black. During Second Mourning, less crape was worn; the material was applied to her wardrobe in a more elaborate way. Throughout this mourning period, women were slowly allowed to add more decorations and trim to their clothing. In Third Mourning, crape was discarded and black trimmed with black ribbon, lace, embroidery, and jet was allowed. It was not until Half Mourning began that a woman was allowed to discard the black dress and wear the special half mourning colors – a range of soft purples. After the period of Half Mourning was over, a woman could resume wearing any style and color of clothing and fully re-enter society.

Textiles associated with female mourning went far beyond just the dress. Check back next week to learn about a mourner’s accessories.

Caitlin Smith, History Collections Intern

National Park Service. “The Custom of Mourning During the Victorian Era.” National Park Service (2011): 1-5.
Taylor, Lou. Mourning Dress: A Costume and Social History. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1983.
Zielke, Melissa. “Forget-Me-Nots: Victorian Women, Mourning, and the Construction of a Feminine Historical Memory.” Material History Review 58 (2003): 52-66.

Posted in collections | Leave a comment

Grand Finale for Archives Contest

The I Found It In the Archives contest has officially wrapped up for 2014.


Deborah M. Tracy

Deborah M. Tracy

The Ohio History Connection ran our local I Found It In the Archives contest from June 1 through August 1, 2014. Our winner, Deborah M. Tracy, visited the Archives/Library on August 18, 2014 for a personal, behind the scenes tour with reference archivist Lisa Long. Her achievement was also recognized by her state senator and state representative. Deborah’s submission was then entered in the statewide competition sponsored by the Society of Ohio Archivists.

Deborah Clark Dushane with one of her prizes, a t-shirt that says #thinklikean archivist.

Deborah Clark Dushane with one of her prizes, a t-shirt that says #thinklikeanarchivist.

The statewide contest ran from August 18 2014 through August 31, 2014. Two other repositories, the Greene County Archives in Springfield, Ohio and the University of Akron Center for the History of Psychology in Akron, Ohio submitted entries. The winner of the statewide contest, Deborah Clarke Dushane, was announced on September 23, 2014. Deborah was honored at the fall meeting of the Society of Ohio Archivists held in Columbus on October 3 and 4. She was introduced to the attendees and presented a certificate at lunch. This was followed by a session in which she introduced herself and shared the fascinating story of her rapscallion ancestor, Isaac
Prugh Weymouth, known to her as Uncle Ike, who once shot Constable John Harris in Cedarville, Ohio in 1883. While in Columbus Deborah also toured the Ohio Statehouse.

Deborah Clark Dushane on tour Chris Matheney in the rotunda of the Ohio Statehouse.

Deborah Clark Dushane on tour with Chris Matheney in the rotunda of the Ohio Statehouse.

If you interested in submitting an entry, running a contest in your local repository or reading the fascinating submissions and casting your vote, you will get the chance again in 2015. The Ohio History Connection and the Society of Ohio Archivists are committed to bringing the contest back. The first statewide contest was an amazing way to celebrate archives and show the broader community, particularly legislators, the impact that archives have on our everyday lives.

Posted in collections | 2 Comments

Adoption Research for the Family Historian

Register now!

Learn about the history of adoption, the adoption process, access and restrictions regarding adoption records, adoption research strategies and the use of DNA testing. Ohio History Connection collections that include adoption information will be highlighted with examples of original records available in the Archives/Library at the Ohio History Center in Columbus. You will learn what information is in these records, how the information was obtained, where the records are located and how to access them.


Lisa Long, Ohio History Connection

Jayne Davis, Franklin County Genealogical and Historical Society

Date: Saturday, October 18

Time: 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Location: Ohio History Center at I71 and 17th Ave.


$15 for Ohio History Connection or FCGHS Members

$20 for Non Members

Click here to register online or call 614-297-2510 to save your seat!

Posted in Current News, Genealogy, Workshops | Leave a comment

The House of Harold: H. Harold Curmode’s Journey from Hobbyist to Fashion Designer

From October 12-18, Columbus Fashion Week will showcase local design talent. So, we thought it would be a great idea to write a post about a local Columbus designer. H. (Harry) Harold Curmode designed clothes from the 1950s to the 1980s and was known for his small fashion house: ‘the House of Harold.’ He was an untrained hobbyist and never worked for a fashion house or as an apprentice. In spite of this, he showcased his collections in style shows and designed costumes for theater productions. He created original designs and made clothes for nearly 50 clients only two years after his first style show in 1960. Curmode made a name for himself in Columbus fashion and created partnerships with local talent, including Columbus accessories designer Evelyn Engelman (Doni Designs label). He also participated in the local fashion community by taking part in Fashion Designers Foundation of Central Ohio, a group spearheaded by Carol Ross, fashion-merchandising director of the Barbizon School, in 1978.

Harold Curmode finishing hem on a coat.

Harold Curmode finishing hem on a coat.

Doris Curmode stands for a fitting.

Doris Curmode stands for a fitting.


Curmode was born in Flint, Michigan on July 1, 1928 to Harry Paul and Mae Curmode. The family moved to Kansas and then Columbus, Ohio in 1936 to find work. In 1950, Curmode joined the army. While stationed in Japan, he designed pieces of clothing for his mother and sister. After leaving the army in 1952, he began working at Rockwell International and designed clothing as a hobby. It was only after his marriage to Doris Ann Vaughn, in 1955, that many began to notice Curmode’s designs. Curmode designed and made clothing for his wife, who always received compliments. After attending an event held by the Alpha Mu Chapter of beta Sigma Phi sorority, Curmode encouraged his wife to join the sorority. The outfits Doris Curmode wore at sorority events became increasingly popular, and Curmode’s outfits received attention from a Columbus fashion writer. Eventually Curmode’s friends convinced him that he should venture into the fashion business. With the financial backing from a close friend in Cleveland and two seamstresses who were neighbors of the Curmode family (Mrs. James Popovich and Bernadine Kessler), Curmode set off to create his first collection. It was shown in a style show on August 24, 1960, sponsored by the Alpha Mu chapter.  The show was called “Holidays with Harold”, and showcased 25 outfits for fall and winter. The outfits were inspired by important local events, and featured the “Jet Collection” with dresses named after a different type of plane, made to be convenient for travel.

Harold Curmode adjusting hemline for Lee Ruggles.

Harold Curmode adjusting hemline for Lee Ruggles.

Miss Central Ohio, Roseann Wolpert, being fitted for a competition gown in 1961.

Miss Central Ohio, Roseann Wolpert, being fitted for a competition gown in 1961.










Although Curmode did design several high fashion pieces using materials such as chiffon, lamé, silk, and tulle, he believed in the versatility of clothing and became known for his multiple piece, interchangeable outfits. He worked on the concept of interchangeable outfits nearly ten years before his first collection. Curmode created designs that could go from daywear to nightwear, and made clothing convenient for travel and working women. Although Curmode mostly designed clothing for women, he also experimented with the idea of interchangeable outfits for men. For example, his design for a tuxedo jumpsuit went from nightwear to daywear by removing the dickey and vented skirt. The H. Harold Curmode Photograph Collection shows fashion design change over time and also shows the progression of Curmode’s career up until 1985 when he went into semi-retirement.

Sketch of ball gown designed by Harold Curmode.

Sketch of ball gown designed by Harold Curmode.

Sketch of a "House of Harold Couture Original."

Sketch of a “House of Harold Couture Original.”










The H. Harold Curmode archival collection is available at the Ohio History Center. It includes photographs as well as Curmode’s sketches for his original designs. For more information on the collection visit the Ohio History Connection’s Manuscripts, Audiovisual, and State Archives catalog, or to access information on pieces created by Curmode held at the Ohio History Center visit the Museum Collections Catalog.

Adria Seccareccia, Processing Assistant


“Foot-Loose and Fashion.” Columbus Dispatch, August 14, 1960. H. Harold Curmode Collection, AV 157. Box 2, Folder 8. Ohio History Connection, Columbus, Ohio.

“Area Designers Form Group.” Columbus Dispatch, November 9, 1978. H. Harold Curmode Collection, AV 157. Box 2, Folder 8. Ohio History Connection, Columbus, Ohio.

“New design Business provides ‘Total Look.” Columbus Dispatch, Monday, November 1965. H. Harold Curmode Collection, AV 157. Box 2, Folder 8. Ohio History Connection, Columbus, Ohio.

Posted in collections, Manuscript Collections, Photograph Collections | Leave a comment

Putting Ohioans to Work

October is Archives Month!

This year’s theme is Ohio in the Depression. This is the third in a series of blog posts highlighting photographs of people and places in Ohio during the 1930s.

Teacher Viola Davis...

WPA employed teacher Viola Davis with her students at the Butler County Emergency School, Oxford, Ohio, 1936.

Today’s Archives Month image is one of many photographs taken by the Federal Writers’ Project, part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), while writing the Ohio Guide. These photographs documenting the Great Depression are now part of the Ohio Guide Collection in the Ohio History Connection Archives/Library. This photograph depicts a class from the Butler County Emergency School. Mrs. Viola Smith taught this class in homemaking in Oxford, Ohio in the fall of 1936. Her class focused on cooking, food values, meal planning, sewing, quilting, and basketry. In order to raise money for materials for the class, the students wrote and put on a play in Stewart High School. The materials purchased from this fundraiser allowed them to make aprons and dresses, thereby enabling them to learn more about sewing, designing, and finishing garments.

Four children participating in the WPA "Learn to swim" campaign at the pool in Navarre, Ohio.   These "Learn to Swim" campaigns were part of the Works Progress Administration, a project that hired unemployed Americans to work on various government projects from April 8, 1935 to June 30, 1943.

Four children participating in the WPA “Learn to swim” campaign at the pool in Navarre, Ohio. These “Learn to Swim” campaigns were part of the Works Progress Administration, a project that hired unemployed Americans to work on various government projects from April 8, 1935 to June 30, 1943.

Viola Smith was one of thousands of teachers employed by the WPA. Created in 1935, the WPA offered employment to those in need on an unprecedented scale, spending federal money on a wide variety of programs – from highway construction to rural rehabilitation, reforestation, and schooling. The goal of these and other programs like it was to get people back to work rather than simply giving them a government handout for unemployment. As Harry Hopkins, the administrator of the WPA, said, “Give a man a dole, and you save his body and destroy his spirit. Give him a job and you save both body and spirit.”
Bookbinding project in Cincinnati Public Library, Cincinnati, Ohio.  WPA work relief programs included training in library instruction.

Bookbinding project in Cincinnati Public Library, Cincinnati, Ohio. WPA work relief programs included training in library instruction.

Hopkins’ philosophy worked. In the first six months, the WPA employed over 173,000 Ohioans. More than 1,500 of these were unemployed teachers, whom the WPA used to teach courses ranging from homemaking to reading. One of these teachers’ foremost tasks was to teach illiterate adults how to read. Others employed by the WPA included writers, who wrote the Ohio Guide and interviewed former slaves and who artists painted murals in public buildings throughout Ohio. The WPA continued to operate throughout the United States until 1943. By this time, the World War II was underway and unemployment had dropped drastically as war-time jobs were created in response to the need for munitions and supplies. During its nine years of existence, the Works Progress Administration completed over 1.4 million projects and employed about 8.5 million people, providing work and hope to those families during a time of widespread unemployment and hopelessness.

Interested in learning more about the Works Progress Administration and the Great Depression? Check out these links:

Lilly Library, Indiana University. “The Works Project Administration in Indiana.” Indiana University.

Ohio History Central. “Works Progress Administration.” Ohio History Connection.

PBS. “The Works Progress Administration (WPA).” PBS. wpa/.

Caitlin Smith, History Collections Intern

Posted in collections, Photograph Collections | Leave a comment