Historic Housekeeping: Textiles

Do you have family heirlooms or a favorite antique object displayed in your home that you want to care for and keep clean? Historic housekeeping is aimed at preventing deterioration from occurring, and differs from normal housekeeping where the goal is for squeaky clean surfaces. We always recommend taking a very conservative approach to cleaning objects in our collection. Cleaning an object too often can be just as damaging as not cleaning at all.  In this blog series, we will be giving general advice on how to care for your historic textiles, glass, ceramics, and wood objects.

The textile category covers a wide range of objects – from floor coverings to dresses to handkerchiefs to military uniforms. Remember that textiles are inherently weak – these are objects that have been made, used, mended, and repaired in the past before being displayed in your home. With proper care, these objects and their rich history can be enjoyed by your family for years to come!

It is important to avoid laundering or commercially dry cleaning your historic textiles. The harsh chemicals used in our modern detergents and machines can lead to rapid deterioration of fragile, older, fibers.  Believe it or not, vacuuming and dusting makes up a majority of how we care for our textile collections at the Ohio History Center!


Begin by using a natural bristle brush to gently sweep dust and dirt from the surface of your textile. These brushes come in a variety of sizes and are easily found at local craft or art supply stores. Use caution if your brush has metal around the bristles, which might snag on loose threads as you dust. You can also cover this metal piece with muslin or cotton to prevent damaging your textile.


Once you have gently dusted, the ideal method of cleaning an historic textile object is by using a canister vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter and an adjustable suction level to remove surface dust and particles.  Using the lowest suction setting, vacuum using a brush attachment that has been covered with a fine mesh or fiberglass screen over the opening. This prevents small, loose threads or pieces from being pulled into the vacuum. For larger pieces, a small amount of fiberglass screen can be placed on the object. Covering the brush with a piece of clean muslin or 100% cotton is also an option in place of the screen technique. An embroidery hoop can serve as an inexpensive frame for muslin or screen material as well. If your household vacuum is the upright style, always use a brush attachment with a screen in place – do not directly vacuum over an historic rug or other fabric piece.

Curator Vacuum

Using gentle pressure, vacuum in the step-by-step, row-by-row method; that is, pick up the brush and move it over slightly before pressing down again. Try to avoid using rubbing or scrubbing motions, which can cause damage to the fabric.

If your textile has areas where it is more three-dimensional (for instance, on a flocked velvet piece), use a natural bristle brush to gently “flick” the dust from these areas into the covered attachment of your vacuum cleaner. This method will prevent the raised elements from being ground down or damaged by the weight of your vacuum.

Generally speaking, we don’t try to remove stains from historic textiles. Processes to remove old stains and deposits can cause harsh and irreparable damage to the rest of the piece. We suggest consulting with a conservator or textile expert before attempting to spot treat or remove stains.

What are some textiles that you enjoy in your family or your own collection? Do you have a favorite textile object that you’ve seen at the Ohio History Center or one of our sites?

Jessica Mayercin Johnson, Assistant Registrar

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Art Research at the Ohio History Center Archives/Library

Interested in Ohio art? The Ohio History Center Archives/Library has several collections related to Ohio art and artists! Highlights include:


Lilly Martin Spencer

H 24656, Self Portrait of Lilly Martin Spencer.

H 24656, Self Portrait of Lilly Martin Spencer.

SC 1122
The photographs are of paintings by Lilly Martin Spencer, including two different self-portraits and a portrait of her husband. Three of the photographs in the collection are of the same painting, “Self-Portrait,” by Lilly Martin Spencer

MIC 119
Microfilmed papers and correspondence of nineteenth century painter, Lilly Martin Spencer, and the Martin family include family history, photographs of Spencer’s paintings, articles and Ann Byrd Schumer’s M.A. thesis about her life and work, and a miscellany including a list of Spencer’s paintings. Letters to the Martins are from reform sympathizers in Ohio and Massachusetts and from their daughter, Lilly Martin Spencer, who comments on the art trade and her career in Cincinnati, New York, and Newark, N.J. Roll two also contains the Bland Gallery Papers, the Oronzo Vito Gasparo Papers, and the Richard Brown Baker Papers, held by the Archives of American Art.

From AV 58,  Emerson Burkhart pinching his nose while handling a duck that he used as a model for his painting.

From AV 58, Emerson Burkhart pinching his nose while handling a duck that he used as a model for his painting.

Emerson Burkhart
VFM 3504
The Emerson Burkhart collection is made up mostly of correspondence. There are ten letters written to Emerson Burkhart while he was in Mexico (circa 1961-1965), most of the letters were sent from Columbus, Ohio. Correspondents include Karl Jaeger and North East Ohio artist, Clyde J. Singer. Also included is a letter from Burkhart to Bingham Small in Charleston, West Virginia (1964). Also found in the collection are notes by Burkhart on life and art, a photocopy of a talk given by Burkhart, as well as programs from various events. The programs include: programs for musical presentations at East High School (1937; 1938) and Baldwin Wallace (1938); a program for a show at the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts (1942); and a program for services at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Columbus, Ohio (1935).

VFM 3504 AV includes of photographs of Emerson Burkhart and his friends and family. Included in the collection is a photograph album dated circa 1924-1945. The photographs in the album are of Burkhart as well as other individuals some of which are identified. Among the loose photographs are a portrait of Burkhart’s father, Albert Marion Burkhart, and two photographs of John Barsotti, Ohio Historical Society Art Curator.

MSS 440
The Emerson Burkhart Papers contain materials related to the life, career, and accomplishments of Columbus, Ohio Artist Emerson Burkhart. The collection includes correspondence, 1945-1950, as well as materials related to the play “I, Emerson Burkhart” by Doral Chenoweth. Also included in this collection are various publications that belonged to the artist with his sketches and notations, including a letter to his wife Mary Ann, which Burkhart wrote inside of “A Bibliography of the First Editions of John Cowper Powys.”

OVS 7469
Photograph of Ohio artist, Emerson Burkhart. The portrait was likely taken while Burkhart was attending Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio from 1923-1927.

AV 275
An unbound scrapbook of illustrations from newspapers and magazines compiled and used as reference by Columbus, Ohio artist Emerson Burkhart. Among the illustrations are images of people and animals in various poses. The scrapbook also includes notes accompanying some of the illustrations.

SC 22
Collection contains two views of a mural painted by well known Columbus artist Emerson Burkhart in Stillman Hall on the campus of The Ohio State University. The murals were commissioned by the Works Progress Administration. There are also photographs of Burkhart and other works, including the painting “Tragedy,” which won the Governors Award at the Ohio State Fair in 1946; a group of Ohio State Fair visitors examining Burkhart’s “Animal Nature in Man” in 1951; two different self portraits dated 1955; and two shots of Burkhart at work in his studio dated 1948 and 1952.

Anne Grimes

AV 201
Collection is comprised of master copies of the musical performances and interviews that Grimes collected access copies on audio cassette and supporting documentation. The original recordings were made between 1941 and 1980.

From SC 2808, portrait of Ohio artist and Ashcan School figure, Robert Henri.

From SC 2808, portrait of Ohio artist and Ashcan School figure, Robert Henri.

George Bellows
Newspaper articles: http://www.ohiohistoryhost.org/ohiomemory/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/GeorgeBellows.pdf

SC 227
Photographs of Bellow’s paintings, including “Children on the Porch,” “Eleanor, Jean, and Anna,” “Anne in White,” and “Polo at Lakewood.”Includes several unidentified photographs.

William Hawkins

OVS 7296
Color print shows artist William L. Hawkins (1895-1990) standing next to his painting “New Hotel at Broad and High St.”

May E. Cook

SC 5753
Collection includes twelve photographs of Ohio artist May E. Cook’s sculptural work. Ohio State University professor Frank Haskett, chairman of the Department of Photography, took the photographs around 1930. The images include six jardinières, three figural works, a set of bird baths and one of the artist working on a sculpture in the studio.

Elis F. Miller

P 385
The Elis F. Miller Collection primarily holds the manuscript material, prints, paintings and sketches of Elis F. Miller.

From SC 1842, artist Howard Chandler Christy is pictured in the center.

From SC 1842, artist Howard Chandler Christy is pictured in the center.

Howard Chandler Christy

SC 1842
Collection contains two photographs of artist Howard Chandler Christy attending public events, possibly portrait unveilings. There are two photographs of Christy’s home on the Muskingum River in Zanesville, Ohio taken in 1922 and 1925. Additionally, there is a photomechanical reproduction of the Christy painting “Scene at the Signing of the U.S. Constitution,” which hangs in the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D. C.

OVS 1765
Newspaper article, by Dann O. Taber, re: artist Howard Chandler Christy and his painting entitled the “Signing of the Greene Ville Treaty.” Also includes a pencil sketch or tracing of the painting with identification of the principals involved.

From AP 1595, Josephine Klippart and her mother, Mrs. Emeline Rahn Klippart, of Columbus.

From AP 1595, Josephine Klippart and her mother, Mrs. Emeline Rahn Klippart, of Columbus.

Josephine Klippart

MSS 143
Secretary of the Ohio State Board of Agriculture. Correspondence, journals, notes, and other papers (1833-78), relating to personal matters, business, politics, the Ohio Geological Survey, and agriculture; and correspondence, diaries, and financial accounts (1847-1933), of Klippart’s wife, Emeline (Rahn) Klippart, and their daughter, Josephine, an artist.

MSS 1349
The Nelson E. Jones Family Collection of historical monographs, correspondence and documents primarily focuses on the Jonnes/Jones family of Circleville, Ohio. Notable in the collection is the original announcements of “The Nests and Eggs of the Birds of Ohio” along with original correspondence and writings related to the late nineteenth century publication by the Jones family. The 329 page text which was illustrated by sixty-eight hand colored lithograph plates was offered as a subscription in the late 1870’s and won awards at the Columbian Exhibition and an honorary degree from Hobart College for Howard Jones who over saw the project. The plates were illustrated and the text was written by his sister, Genevieve, and mother, Virginia Smith Jones. A handful of talented watercolorists aided in the final phases of the seven year project when the main illustrator, Genevieve Jones, died. The women included in the team were Eliza J. Shulze, Nellie Jacobs, Kate Gephart, and Josephine Klippart of Columbus.

From State Archives Series 1039 AV, photograph of a woman pointing to an oil painting of vases in Cleveland, Ohio.

From State Archives Series 1039 AV, photograph of a woman pointing to an oil painting of mortars and pestles in Cleveland, Ohio.

Art Groups and Organizations:

MSS 872
Pen and Pencil Club records, 1905-1942
Scrapbook of the Pen and Pencil Club of Columbus, Ohio, a professional and social club formed in 1897 by artists, contains clippings, photographs, and original drawings documenting activities of the club and its members, including artist George Bellows. The scrapbook was dismantled for microfilming, with contents removed to MSS 872 and MSS 872 AV, and OVS 1214-1223, 1263 collections in the Ohio Historical Society

VOL 1589
Robert W. Toomey Scrapbook, circa 1921-1925
A scrapbook created by Robert W. Toomey who worked for the Ohio State Division of Insurance and led the Columbus Pen & Pencil Club. The scrapbook spans the years circa 1922-1925 and contains photographs, sketches, newspaper clippings, postcards, programs, and letters.

AV 185
Artists on Art collection
The Artists on Art Collection includes the interview transcriptions, video and audiotape created by The Artists’ Organization for artists participating in the Artists on Art project. The interviews are accompanied by biographical surveys, news clippings, exhibit catalogs and images of their artwork submitted by the participants. The collection is an expanding project that will continue to collect the histories of Ohio artists’ in accordance with the Artists on Art mission.

State Archives Series 1039 AV
Ohio Guide Collection
Consists of approximately 4,769 photographs collected for use in the Ohio Guide and other publications of the Federal Writers’ Project in Ohio, 1935-1939 including images from the Federal Art Project.

Interested in searching for more? Check out the online collections catalog! The Archives/Library, located on the 3rd floor of the Ohio History Center, is open Wednesdays-Saturdays 10am-5pm.

Emily Lang, History Curator

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Getting Started on Your Genealogy Webinar

Take an Ohio History Connection genealogy class from anywhere!

Government Records
Learn how research tools like vital statistics, census records, land records and probate files can help you build your family tree. We’ll also provide you with additional resources like military records, church records and newspapers that will help light the way for your research journey.

Date:January 15, 2015

Time: 7-9 PM (Eastern Standard Time)

Cost: $15 for members of the Ohio History Connection or Franklin County Genealogical
Society; $20 for non-members

To register click here.

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Call for 1950s Pop Culture Objects!

Did you grow up with Superman? Do you remember Ruth Lyons? Did you collect Elvis records?

From the collections of the Ohio History Connection, the Mills Brothers, a music group from Piqua, Ohio.

From the collections of the Ohio History Connection, the Mills Brothers, a music group from Piqua, Ohio.

This summer, the Ohio History Center is changing some of its collections on exhibit in 1950s:Living the American Dream. We are featuring objects that tell the story of popular culture during the 1950s including toys from the Roy Rodgers show, a jukebox, and comic books.

We are looking for objects that relate to music, television, movies, comic books, and other popular culture during the 1950s. If you are interesting in donating something to the Ohio History Connection, send an email with your name, contact information, and a short description of the objects to collections@ohiohistory.org or call us at 614-297-2535.

Emily Lang, History Curator

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The Dining Establishments of Lazarus

To hear more about the Chintz Room and other Lazarus Dining establishments and to see objects purchased from the Lazarus Company, join Curator Emily Lang Saturday, January 17th at 2 pm at the Ohio History Center. Curator Talks are free with admission.

In late 2014, the Columbus Food League opened a re-imagined Chintz Room. The Chintz Room had become something of a legend in central Ohio, a dining establishment opened for 45 years in the downtown location of the Lazarus Company Store. The menu celebrates favorites of the former restaurant, including the famed celery dressing, in addition to current food trends, like a cauliflower steak. While many fondly remember the original incarnation of the restaurant, the opening created many questions for younger residents and new transplants to the city.

Exterior view of the F. & R. Lazarus Company building, Columbus, Ohio, ca. 1909-1912.

Exterior view of the F. & R. Lazarus Company building, Columbus, Ohio, ca. 1909-1912.

What was Lazarus?

The F and R Lazarus & Company was started as a one room men’s clothing store in Columbus, Ohio in 1851 by tailor and Prussian immigrant Simon Lazarus. Simon’s sons help grow the company rapidly into a large scale department store as they expanded into ready to wear clothing. On Monday, August 17, 1909, the company opened the doors of its new building on the northwest corner of High and Town Streets under the ownership of Fred Lazarus. This building became known as the flagship or “main store” of the company as it expanded throughout the 20th century. In 1929, several department stores, including Lazarus, combined to form the Federated Department Stores, headquartered in Columbus.

Chintz Room at the F. & R. Lazarus Company, 1953.

Chintz Room at the F. & R. Lazarus Company, 1953.

What was the Chintz Room?

In 1953, the fifth floor tea room was remolded and opened as the  “Chintz Room”, named for its chintz-patterned curtains. The restaurant served both lunch and dinner and became infamous for its chicken salad with pineapples and pecans; it is still the most requested Lazarus recipe today. The Chintz Room became a destination point for residents of the city and visitors passing through; a jockey sculpture greeted visitors to its doors. Many women remember getting dressed up in white gloves and hats to go to the restaurant; others remember dining there as a special treat before seeing a live show downtown. The menu featured special items for children under 12 (golden macaroni au gratin) and teenagers (barbecued meat balls kabob in finger bun). The “wee tot” could indulge in JoJo ice cream sundaes; the toasted pecan ice cream ball with chocolate fudge sauce became a must have for many adult patrons of the Chintz Room. The dishes became so popular that Lazarus introduced a “take home” section for those not wanting to dine in with chicken salad, dressings, and desserts. As mall food courts became increasingly popular, the restaurants in Lazarus began to suffer.  On January 30, 1998, the Chintz room closed after 45 years of service.

The Colonial Room restaurant at the F. & R. Lazarus Company, taken in the early 1950s.

The Colonial Room restaurant at the F. & R. Lazarus Company, taken in the early 1950s.

How many restaurants did the downtown Lazarus Company store run?

The flagship store feature dozens of restaurants throughout the years. Historians David Meyers, Beverly Meyers, and Elise Meyers Walker put together a comprehensive list of some of the dining establishments in their book Looking To Lazarus including the Highlander Grill, the Copper Kettle, the Buckeye Room, and the Colonial Room. There was even a cafeteria for workers and an executive dining room in the main building. However, the downtown store featured many smaller and specialized eateries including a bake shop and various pop up shops, so an exact number of restaurants has not been complied.

Did you ever eat at the Chintz Room? What do you remember about the food at Lazarus?

Emily Lang, History Curator

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2014: A Big Year for the Ohio History Connection’s Collection!

2014 was a big year for the collections of the Ohio History Connection. Objects traveled around the world, new exhibits opened featuring objects never before seen by the public, and new objects were acquired that will help us to connect with Ohio’s past, understand the present and create a better future. Some highlights include:

Adena Effigy Pipe (replica) at the Eiffel Tower.

Adena Effigy Pipe (replica) at the Eiffel Tower.

The Adena Effigy Pipe traveled to Paris, France for an exhibit, The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky, at the Musée du Quai Branly. In 2015 the pipe will continue traveling with the exhibit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

A passenger pigeon on loan to the Cincinnati Zoo received a much needed cleaning from Natural History Curator Dave Dyer, including removing arsenic from the specimen.

Our Polly Crockett hat, a girl’s hat produced by Sanitized in the late 1950s made of faux fur in pink, white, and green and featuring a drawing of Davy Crockett’s first wife, Polly, was included in the Museum of American History‘s blog, O Say Can You See?. The hat was also chosen as one of the 25 Artifacts of the American Childhood by the Mid-Atlantic Popular and American Culture Association.

Buttons, cleaned and ready for exhibit.

Buttons, cleaned and ready for exhibit.

Two new exhibitions opened at the Ohio History Center this year: Going, Going, Gone and Reflections of an Artist: Emerson BurkhartGoing, Going, Gone explores how species go from enormously large populations to the brink of extinction or cease to exist altogether. It features one of the last known wild passenger pigeons, Buttons, who was found in Ohio and is a part of the Ohio History Connection’s permanent collection. Reflections of an Artist: Emerson Burkhart explores Emerson Burkhart (1905-1969) who 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.

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.

In addition to new exhibits, several new objects have been added to the permanent exhibits of the Ohio History Center. Four pieces made by Columbus Folk Artist Elijah Pierce were added to the History Mall located on the first floor of the museum. New textiles were added to the first floor as well, exploring the relationship between the political experience and textiles.

Several new collections were added to the permanent collection this year. Some of the highlights include a large donation of toys made by the Ohio Art Company, the American Lung Association of Ohio donated a large collection of archival materials documenting the fight against tuberculosis, the Natural History Curators received a mastodon vertebra anonymously donated,  and the Archaeology department received over 20,000 artifacts found at the home of President Harding. The Zouave Ambrotype, missing since 1978, was finally return to the Campus Martius Museum.

Parlor at the Rankin House

Parlor at the Rankin House

The Rankin House, a National Historic Landmark and that was part of the Underground Railroad, re-opened after an extensive renovation on August 23, 2014 and features objects from the collection never exhibited before.

Artist Drew Ernst.

Artist Drew Ernst.

We hosted hundreds of visiting researchers who examined our collections and added to our institutional knowledge. Artist Drew Ernst was inspired by objects in our Natural History collection, creating a new piece based on the Northern Harrier. Students from the Ohio State University Department of Art visited the Ohio History Center to examine the coffin of Neskhonspakhered. The Ohio History Connection sponsored the I Found It In The Archives contest; winner Deborah Tracy discovered her maternal great-grandfather name’s was Jasper Haddock, an ancestor previously unknown to her family, and that he served in the heralded 55th Massachusetts Colored Infantry.

History Curator Becky Preiss Odom.

History Curator Becky Preiss Odom.

In addition to adding objects to the permanent collection, three new staff members joined the Ohio History Connection curatorial staff this year, Kellie Locke-Rogers, an Archaeology Collections AssistantErin Cashion, a Natural History Curator, and Becky Preiss Odom, a History Curator.

Research by the collections staff was highlighted in many media outlets this year. Senior Archaeology Curator Brad Lepper wrote one of the most viewed columns of the year for the Columbus Dispatch entitled, “Flint tool disappeared with Hopewell Culture”. Dr. Lepper and Natural History Curator Dave Dyer also were featured in a panel about the future of the planet at the Columbus Metropolitan Club which aired on local television stations. Archaeology Curators Bill Pickard and Linda Pansing shared the story of how mounds built by the Adena Culture were discovered in Clintonville in the Columbus Neighborhoods series on WOSU. History Curator Cliff Eckle demonstrated how a flint lock rifle is loaded on the Worthington episode of the series.  While History Curator Emily Lang discussed the life of Emerson Burkhart on the WOSU series Broad and High.

Thanks for making 2014 a great year for the Ohio History Connection! What do you look forward to seeing from us next year?

Emily Lang, History Curator

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More Connections to Ohio Toys!

Thanks to the suggestions of our readers, we have complied a second list of Ohio toy companies.

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.

Marble found during excavations at Adena.

Marble found during excavations at Adena.

Akron was formally one of the largest producing marble playing set cities in the country. Comprised of several marble makers and creators around the city, the industry rapidly grew in the city, “In the 1880s, Akron marble maker Sam Dyke churned out more than 1 million clay marbles a day – believed to be the first time in history a toy company mass-produced a product aimed specifically for children.”[1] In 1903, Martin Frederick Christensen made the first machine-made glass marbles on his patented machine in Akron. The companies expanded to other industries; the American Marble & Toy Manufacturing Co. produced the oldest known figurine of Santa Claus, known as the Blue Santa.[2] By the 1950s, Japanese toy makers had introduced inexpensive cats-eye marbles and quickly began to outsell American makers. Companies and makers in Akron quickly began to shut production of marbles down and turn to other products; in 2010, Jabo, the last marble maker in Ohio, closed. In 1991, the non-profit organization, the American Toy Marble Museum was founded and the group opened their museum in Akron in 1995 to honor the city’s marble making history.

Courtesy of the Barberton Public Library, these Tod-L-Tim and Tod-L-Dee rubber dolls were created by the Sun Rubber Company.

Courtesy of the Barberton Public Library, these Tod-L-Tim and Tod-L-Dee rubber dolls were created by the Sun Rubber Company.

Sun Rubber Toys of Barberton, Ohio was founded in 1923, in the midst of a rubber boom for the area, as wartime rationing ended for companies. The Sun Rubber Toy Company produced rubber toy and squeak dolls, including many licensed characters like Gerber Baby dolls, Mickey Mouse, and Donald Duck. The company learned to adapt during rationing in WWII, making rubber gas masks for citizens, including one in the shape of Mickey Mouse. In February 1949, Sun Rubber introduced Amosandra, the radio daughter of Amos and Ruby from Columbia Broadcasting’s Amos n’ Andy show, “employment at the plant increased from 800 to 1,150 to meet production demands of 12,000 dolls per day.”[3] In 1957, with the creation of easier and cheaper new materials, the company started to use vinyl in their toy productions. Unfortunately, the company was unable to keep up toy trends and rising labor costs; they shut their doors in 1974.

The Mascon Toy Company originally started as part of The Steel Stamping Company in the early 1920s in Lorain, Ohio. The company began producing toy telephones and play furniture during the 1950s; in 1962, Masco acquired the company. After lackluster sales, Masco sold off the branch and in January 1965 it officially became the Mascon Toy Company, creating over 50 different plastic toys for preschoolers. The company is perhaps based known for the Lil’ Nuffins Little People set. After suffering sales, the company changed its name in 1974 to Blazon-Flexible Flyer Mascon Toys before finally shutting down in 1975.


First organized as the Kenton Lock Manufacturing Company in 1890, the Kenton Hardware Company quickly became one of the world’s largest cast iron toy factories.  The Kenton Hardware Company was promoted as “the largest factory in the USA exclusively making cast iron toys” at the turn of the twentieth century. One of Hardin County’s largest employers, the factory produced a variety of toys that were miniature versions of fire engines, circus wagons, carriages, banks, trains, and stoves. The company’s 1923 catalog included more than 700 toys. In 1937, the company introduced its most famous top, the Gene Autry toy pistol; 2 million sold in the first year alone.  After WWII, cheaper materials like plastic were introduced, making it difficult for the company to keep competitive pricing on its expensive cast iron toys. The company officially dissolved in 1956, but its toys remain highly sought after today.

Richard and Sarah Grosvenor began producing toys for infants in their home in Piqua, Ohio in the 1940s when their son Michael, nicknamed “Tykie”, began teething. They produced primarily “crib toys” made of Bakelite. By 1944, the Tykie Toy Company had 15 employees and their products were sold across the nation, at stores like Marshall Field’s. Production was halted briefly after WWII during the coal strike of 1946. The company reopened in 1947, but never held the popularity it had before the strike, shutting down in 1952.

CaptureCharles William Doepke opened a small metal stamping business in the late 1930s in the Oakley neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. After government contracts ended after WWII, Doepke ventured into toy production in 1946, creating small metal cars. These cars became known as Doepke Model Toys; due to Doepke’s experience in metal, he was able to create almost exact replicas on a miniature scale. In 1959, the company shut down, but Doepke model toys are some of the most collectable toys today.

Lazarus Family Collection, photograph of Nadine Burden's son admiring a toy plane in The F. & R. Lazarus Company's toy department, ca. 1950-1959.

Lazarus Family Collection, photograph of Nadine Burden’s son admiring a toy plane in The F. & R. Lazarus Company’s toy department, ca. 1950-1959.

The yo-yo is generally credited as the second oldest toy in the world. One of the largest Yo-Yo producers actually has its roots in Ohio. The Duncan Toy Company was founded in 1929 by Donald Duncan in California aimed to produce mass quantities of yo-yos. The company quickly became synonymous with yo-yos producing millions a year.  The company moved produced to Wisconsin, but by the mid-1960s, it was forced to file for bankruptcy after the yo-yo fad died out. In 1968, the Flambeau Company bought out the Duncan Toy Company and moved the company to its headquarters in Middlefield, Ohio. The newly acquired company was re-marketed and became a hit once more, launching several lines and designs of yo-yos. The company continues to produce yo-yos today and even sponsors the yo-yo world championship.

A newer Ohio toy company was started in 2002, but quickly became a staple in the toy industry. Dunecraft Products was launched in Chagrin Falls, Ohio by entrepreneur Grover Cleveland (a descendent of 22nd President of the US), originally housed in his home, for the production of a cactus growing kit for kids known as the Odd Pod. The kit became so successful, the company expanded, offering over 300 products today and moved its headquarters to a large plant in Warrensville Heights, Ohio.[4]

The Berlin Wood Products Company started in 1965 by John Yoder in Millersburg, Ohio as a lawn and garden tool manufacturer, selling various models of wheelbarrows and moving carts. In the early 70s, the company developed the Berlin Flyer Wooden Wagon as a way to use wood material not suitable for other products. The wagon became so successful, it sold more than any other product made by the company. The company continues to make all of the parts of the wagon in Ohio today.

Did you have toys made by any of these companies? What other Ohio made toys do you know of?

Emily Lang, History Curator

[1] Sell, Jill. “Spherical Fun.” Ohio Magazine, February 1, 2007.

[2] “Blue Santa.” The American Toy Marble Museum Akron, Ohio. Accessed December 15, 2014. http://www.americantoymarbles.com/.

[3] Rinker, Harry. “The End Of The Sun Rubber Story.” The Morning Call, April 22, 1990.

[4] Seeds, Dennis. “Grant Cleveland Began DuneCraft with Odd Pods, and Now He’s the Odds-on Favorite.” Smart Business Magazine. August 1, 2014. Accessed December 15, 2014. http://www.sbnonline.com/article/grant-cleveland-began-dunecraft-odd-pods-now-hes-odds-favorite/.

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