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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What’s on the menu?: Menus of Ohio’s Hotels in the early 1900s

As the holiday season approaches many of us start thinking a little more about what we are going to eat or serve and about what our families served in the past. Foods are a large part of our holiday traditions and many of us still think about what to put on the menu. Either we chose traditional menus or decide to incorporate new items. So if you are working on a menu, why not turn to the professionals? In the early twentieth century, hotels in Ohio paired foods that their guests found delicious. Some of the options might be more tantalizing to 1910 tastes than 21st century tastes. Nonetheless, some of these menu items are still favorites.

In 1902, at the Forest City House Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio, you could enjoy an impressive breakfast. It included your choice of fish, eggs, meat, or even oysters. Some of the choices included broiled mackerel, tenderloin steak, calf’s liver and bacon, and tripe in batter. More familiar items included shredded wheat biscuits, buckwheat cakes, and omelets. Chittenden Hotel’s morning meal menu, in Columbus, Ohio, also featured the broiled mackerel and calf’s liver, as well as a few different options like broiled Philadelphia squab on toast and Boston baked pork and beans.

Inside of the Chittenden Hotel, Columbus, Ohio

Supper at Forest City House began with cold or hot consomme. You could then dine on salt mackerel, stewed kidneys with mushrooms, or a choice of various broiled meats. In 1907 at the Hotel Conrad in Massillon, Ohio, dinner began with a German potato soup and some sweet pickles followed by boiled corned beef and cabbage, fricassee of lamb with green peas, or calves’ brains and scrambled eggs. Dessert included custard pie, cherry pie, and rice pudding with cream sauce.

For those who wanted to dine out for Thanksgiving in 1910, the Chittenden Hotel offered a sumptuous and filling Thanksgiving dinner. The dinner began with little neck clams, green turtle moderne, bouchee of oyster crabs neptune, or broiled Spanish mackerel. Turkey was on the menu, as was roast suckling pig fermiere, and saddle of venison a l’huntress. For dessert English plum pudding with brandy sauce, mince pie, pumpkin pie, and fruitcake were all up for grabs. Of course, there is nothing like Roquefort cheese and toasted crackers to finish off the spectacular meal. To accompany the dinner the Chittenden also included a musical program performed by W. H. Claspill’s Orchestra.

Front cover of Chittenden Hotel Thanksgiving dinner menu, 1910Front cover of the Chittenden Hotel Thanksgiving dinner menu, 1910

Inside of Chittenden Hotel Thanksgiving dinner menu, 1910

Inside of the Chittenden Hotel Thanksgiving dinner menu, 1910

Of course no menu is complete without something to drink. Elizabeth Wetzel, the chief dietician at the Parmly House Hotel in Painesville, Ohio circa 1920s-30s, kept a journal of recipes. She also kept clippings of recipes she thought worthy enough to serve to her guests. For egg nog lovers Wetzel has a cocoa variation of the holiday favorite, included below:

Cocoa egg nog: Beat the white of 1 egg until stiff and add gradually while beating constantly 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 of cocoa and a few grains of salt. Add to ½ the mixture while beating constantly ¾ cup of cold milk turn into glass and pile remainder of liquid on top.

What’s on your holiday menu?

For more information on these and other menus at the Ohio History Connection visit the Ohio History Connections’ Manuscript/Audiovisual and State Archives catalog.

Adria Seccareccia, Processing Assistant

References:

VFM 5162, Hotel Conrad, 1907

VFM 5178, Forest City House, 1902

VFM 5179, Forest City House, 1902

VFM 6169, Chittenden Hotel, 1910

VFM 5160, Chittenden Hotel, 1901

VOL 1571, Mrs. Elmer [Elizabeth] Wetzel, circa 1920s-1930s Continue reading

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