Think of the Westerville Symphony Orchestra for Fantastic Summer Concerts

“Summer Afternoon” may have earned Henry James’ vote for the two most beautiful words in the English language, but I cast my ballot for “Summer Concert” as the two most beautiful synonyms for this delightful season.

I came to that conclusion after attending two concerts to which the Westerville Symphony Orchestra treated the community this month.

On Independence Day, the orchestra gave its “Sounds of Freedom” concert at the Westerville Sports Complex. “Liberty Fanfare,” “Yankee Doodle” and recently released music from Lincoln were on the program, as well as popular patriotic standbys like “Stars and Stripes Forever” and the “Star Spangled Banner.”Westerville Music and Arts Festival

Renditions of stirring summertime music are always great to hear, but the orchestra’s appearance at last Saturday’s Westerville Music and Arts Festival was an extra-special treat. Besides art exhibits, a silent auction and musical entertainment, the festival tempted shoppers with an array of handcrafted items like furniture, brooms, pottery, tinware, and hand-rolled pure beeswax candles and suncatchers with home-grown pressed flowers. Sand art purveyed by local artisans reminded me of one of my favorite scenes in Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books — when Betsy and Tacy dyed sand the color of Easter eggs and put it in fancy glass bottles to sell.

The concert’s lineup of selections struck a resonant chord with the crowd.

Westerville Symphony Orchestra musicians in concert

Besides performing selections from Oklahoma, Can-Can, and West Side Story, the musicians accompanied the evening’s guest artist, Cassie Rea, as she sang Poor Wandering One,” from Pirates of Penzance; “Glitter and Be Gay,” from Candide; “The Light in the Piazza”; and “Think of Me,” from Phantom of the Opera.

Cassie Rea performing with the Westerville Symphony Orchestra

Cassie’s father, Cabot Rea, joined her in an entertaining rendition of “Anything You Can Do” from Annie Get Your Gun. Cabot may be best known in the community as NBC4’s evening co-anchor, but he proved that he’s also a talented vocalist.

Cassie and Cabot Rea performing with the Westerville Symphony Orchestra

The musicians performed in the shade provided by the Everal Barn and Homestead, a notable example of 19th-century farm architecture that is the centerpiece of Westerville’s 52-acre Heritage Park.

Everal Barn, Westerville

The farm belonged to John W. Everal, an early Westerville-area settler who owned a company that produced tiles and bricks. In the early 1870s, Everal built the farm’s homestead, carriage house and other outbuildings from bricks and tiles that were fired in the Everal kiln. During the 1880s, Everal constructed a Carpenter Gothic-style barn with a three-story octagonal tower for his farm. It is topped by a windmill, which drove the pump that drew water from a well below so it could be stored for livestock to drink.  The farm was named Rosedale, after the homestead’s rose garden, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Everal Homestead, Westerville

There’s one more opportunity to enjoy an alfresco concert by the Westerville Symphony Orchestra. Bring your lawn chair to the Alum Creek Park Ampitheater on Sunday, August 10 at 6:30 p.m. for its “Sounds of Summer” concert.


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Take a Closer Look Inside the “Magnificent Old Electric Pleasure Dome” on State Street

If you’re aOhio Theatre CAPA Summer Movie Series regular like me, you’ve heard organist Clark Wilson invite you to “settle back in your seat in the perfumed twilight of this magnificent old Electric Pleasure Dome.” Pretend you’re doing just that as I raise the curtain on today’s feature presentation — a tour of the Ohio Theatre!

Since its opening in 1928, this Downtown Columbus landmark has wowed visitors with its opulent Spanish-Baroque look. Built in the heyday of silent movies, the Ohio Theatre was one of Marcus Loew’s 120 theatres showing movies from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Live touring stage shows also performed on the Ohio’s stage.

The Ohio is the creation of architect Thomas W. Lamb. Of the 200 movie theatres that Lamb designed, 41 are still open, and 15 still show movies. While Lamb focused on the structural details of the $865,000 construction project, interior designer Anne Dornan selected a complementary red, teal and maroon color scheme for furnishings. Treating average people to surroundings as luxurious as a European palace led her to rack up an additional $1 million tab.Ohio Theatre

Several of the Ohio’s features are original, including the ticket booth just outside the front door and the outer lobby’s walls, frames for movie posters, and tile floors, which were kept warm during the winter by an oil-fired burner that’s still there.

Ohio Theatre

The molded plaster ceiling in the outer lobby was designed to look like wood. Three sections of one of the scallop shells in the southeast corner of the ceiling were intentionally not painted, so the theatre would never be finished.  Can you spot what’s unpainted?

Ohio Theatre

In the inner lobby, more original features include a molded plaster ceiling adorned with Dutch metal leaf, gilt paint heraldic symbols, light fixtures, gold-painted cast iron railings, and leaded glass exit signs.

Ohio Theatre

Inside the theatre, the plaster ceiling is adorned with silver and gold painted stars and can be lit with several different colors of lights. An 11’ by 21’ chandelier weighing two and a half tons is bedecked with 350 individual lights; figures of horses were added to make it even fancier. When the chandelier is lowered every few years for cleaning, a quarter with the year’s date is put on the top to indicate when it was cleaned last.

Ohio Theatre

A stage with maple flooring has added neoprene to give dancers and other performers extra bounce. Beside it sits the magnificent Morton Theatre Organ. Installed in 1928 at a cost of $21,000, it was one of four organs built to its design; it is one of 20 theatre organs still in use today. The organ is equipped with 16 sound effects that were designed to accompany silent movies, such as bells, drums, cymbals, castanets, an airplane propeller and the clip-clop of a horse’s hooves. Rolling BB’s in a tray recreate the sound of the surf. Painted faux-marble panels and gold drapes hide the organ’s 2,500 pipes, which range from the size of a little finger to about 16 feet tall.

Morton Theatre Organ, Ohio Theatre

The upstairs lobby features damask-paneled walls and elegant fountains from the Albee Theatre in Cincinnati…Ohio Theatre

while the Arabic or Moorish-style outer lobby of the upper balcony was originally installed with a telephone system that allowed ushers to call downstairs for help, if necessary.

Ohio Theatre

Look past the elegant tapestries and gilded finishes of the ladies’ lounge and you’ll see a mysterious closed door. Behind it was a well-ventilated smoking lounge where ladies could privately indulge in the habit that was still controversial in the 1920s.

Ohio Theatre

The men’s lounge was modeled after a British men’s club, with more molded plaster ceilings designed to look like wood.

Ohio Theatre

The theatre’s original conductor’s stand is fitted with a meter that was used to measure the amount of feet of film going through the reel, to ensure that the orchestra’s accompaniment to the silent movie was perfectly timed.

Ohio Theatre

Downstairs, the lower lounge was originally called the Four Corners of the Earth room. Dornan traveled the world to find appropriate decorations for its man-focused Africa Corner. The carpet design reflects the Chinese-inspired corner that was designed for ladies.Ohio Theatre

When the Ohio was threatened by demolition in the 1960s, central Ohioans raised over $2 million in less than a year to save the historic theatre.  Soon after, the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts purchased and renovated the Ohio. The theatre was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Six years later, it became a National Historic Landmark and the official theatre of the state of Ohio.

Ohio TheatreToday, the Ohio is home to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, BalletMet, and The Broadway Series, as well as more than 100 entertainment events each year. Through August 10, visit the Ohio for the 44th season of the CAPA Summer Movie Series, the longest-running classic film series in America. In his 23rd season as featured organist, Clark Wilson begins playing the Morton Theatre Organ 30 minutes prior to each screening, and continues during a 15-minute intermission. He will also accompany this year’s silent film, Girl Shy, on July 17 and 18.

A free, guided tour of the Ohio Theatre — complete with a light show and a demonstration of the Morton Theatre Organ by Clark Wilson — will be held on Saturday, August 2 at 4:00 p.m. Reservations are required. To check availability, send an email to with the number of people in your party.

Posted in Architecture, Columbus, History, Movies & Television | Leave a comment

From Mary Mac’s Fried Chicken to the Boone Tavern’s Spoonbread, My Taste for Southern Food Glows Like Foxfire

Lunch and dinner are the two highlights of my day, so I relished the opportunity to indulge in some tasty Southern fare during my travels with the Ohio History Connection in Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky.

At 212 Market in downtown Chattanooga, I tucked into tomato lentil soup, pan-roasted chicken with asparagus and carrot risotto, homemade bread, raspberry chocolate cake and other foods from local farms and suppliers.

After I feasted on a sumptuous buffet dinner at the Conservatory at Waterstone in Acworth, Georgia, pianist Briana Duensing (also known as “Bonnie Blue Briana”) played Civil War tunes like “The Girl I Left Behind,” “The Sword of Robert E. Lee,” The Vacant Chair and “Marching Through Georgia.”

At Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Midtown Atlanta, which has been serving classic Southern food since 1945, I worked my way through an amazing buffet lunch of the crispiest, juiciest fried chicken I’ve ever tasted, macaroni and cheese, oven-roasted turkey and cornbread dressing, whipped potatoes, steamed vegetables, cinnamon rolls, Georgia peach cobbler and iced tea (“The Table Wine of the South”). Check out Mary Mac’s Tea Room: 65 Years of Recipes from Atlanta’s Favorite Dining Room by John Ferrell and you’ll see why I could hardly get up from the table.

Southern lunch at Mary Mac's Tea Room

In the café at Lane Southern Orchards in Fort Valley, Georgia, I put away homemade meatloaf, mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, dinner rolls and peach cobbler. Then, I took a farm tour of the family business that has planted 3,000 acres of peach orchards, 3,000 acres of pecan groves, a six-acre strawberry patch, and rows of raspberries since 1908. Before I left, I chose pecans and luscious scarlet red-and-yellow Ruby Prince peaches from the roadside market to take home and give as a souvenir.

Georgia peach cobbler at Lane Southern Orchards

Before I packed my suitcase for home, I twirled homemade spaghetti around my fork and sopped up hearty tomato sauce with the tastiest breadsticks at DaVinci’s Pizzeria in downtown Atlanta.

But most of all, I looked forward to the last meal of my Civil War bus tour — lunch at the Boone Tavern in Berea, Kentucky.

Boone Tavern, Berea, Kentucky

In 1907, the Boone Tavern was built to accommodate visitors to Berea College, a unique educational institution where students do not pay tuition, but are required to work on campus at least 10 hours a week to earn money for books, room and board. Many of the students learn traditional arts and crafts, such as woodcarving, furniture-making and weaving. Profits from the sale of their handcrafted creations provide for student scholarships. In the hotel’s gift shop, as well as online, you can purchase lovely things like whisk brooms made of natural broomcorn; woven placemats, throws and rugs; baskets; and wooden Shaker cooling racks, rolling pins and oven rack pulls. During Berea’s Festival of Learnshops — taking place July 11-27, 2014 — you can spend two hours to five days taking workshops on how to make woodturned weed pots and candleholders, corn shuck dolls, Shaker wooden boxes and more.

Whisk broom made at Berea College

Today, the Boone Tavern is a member of the Historic Hotels of America and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It features a 63-room hotel for guests, as well as a restaurant that serves traditional Southern dishes.Boone Tavern, Berea, Kentucky

After we sat down at tables made by students from wood that came from an 8,000-acre forest owned by the college, we were served Southern spoonbread, mixed greens with orange marmalade salad dressing, our choice of roast beef or chicken salad sandwiches, and Race Day pie, a rich concoction studded with pecans and chocolate chips.

Many of the items on the Boone Tavern’s menu are made from the recipes of Richard T. Hougen, the manager of the hotel for more than 35 years. Hougen collected his most popular recipes in two cookbooks: Look No Furtherand More Hougen Favorites. Here, you’ll find directions for making Boone Tavern standards like Chicken Flakes in a Bird’s Nest and Pork Chops Some Tricky Way, as well as intriguing dishes like Black Look No Further, by Richard HougenForest coffee cake, cranberry biscuits, rhubarb nectar punch, a Kentucky blackberry dumpling with milk dip, and a Huckleberry Finn pie made from blackberries and blueberries. You can also find some of his recipes here.

Berea College’s stellar crafts and cooking were old news to me, but during this visit, I learned that it also offers teachers the opportunity to learn about the Foxfire method of classroom instruction. Students make decisions about how they learn required material, use their community as a learning resource, and share their work with others outside of the classroom. Better yet, I also discovered how that philosophy led to a fascinating series of books by the same name.

In 1966, Eliot Wigginton, an English teacher in Rabun County, Georgia, decided to make his subject more interesting by inviting his students to produce a magazine that would preserve the cultural traditions of their rural Southern Appalachian community while developing their writing skills. They chose to call it Foxfire, after a glow-in-the-dark fungus found on decaying wood in the shady surrounding forests. Ever since, students have been turning oral history interviews with their families and neighbors into engaging articles.

The Foxfire Magazine is available by subscription. You can also find anthology collections of its content in the Foxfire series of books.

On these pages, you can pick up step-by-step instructions for pursuits like building a log cabin; beekeeping; crafting cornshuck dolls; making musical instruments like banjos, dulcimers and fiddles; blacksmithing; and square dancing. The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery not only offers guidance on cooking on fireplaces and wood stoves, but also provides recipes for traditional Appalachian favorites like sassafras tea, molasses candy, watermelon preserves and apple butter.

Posted in Books, Food, Ohio History Connection (formerly the Ohio Historical Society), Shopping, Travel | Leave a comment

Imagine Courting Your Sweetheart on the Tete-a-Tete Sofa at the Milledgeville Governor’s Mansion

Visiting battlefields on the Ohio History Connection’s tour was an exceptional way to immerse myself in Civil War history, but there’s nothing like an hour in a historic house museum to indulge my fondness for domestic architecture and the decorative arts. I got my fix at the old Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville, Georgia.

Northeast of the city of Macon, Milledgeville was the capital of Georgia from 1804 to 1868. The planned city that was modeled after Savannah and Washington, D.C. was named for John Milledge, governor of Georgia from 1802 to 1806. The cotton that grew in the surrounding countryside made Milledgeville a prosperous city where elegant Federal-style houses and a Gothic Revival statehouse lined the streets.

Old Governor’s Mansion, Milledgeville, GeorgiaOne of those breathtaking buildings was the Governor’s Mansion. Built of pink stucco and bricks that were made on site, the home was completed in 1839 and was the official residence of eight Georgia governors until 1868. Today, it is considered one of the finest examples of High Greek Revival architecture in the nation.

From 2001 to 2005, the home was restored to its original floor plan and appearance of its grounds and exterior. A detailed room inventory from the period that was found during research conducted on the building guided the choice of textiles, furnishings and interior colors. Now it is an accredited historic house museum that illustrates the history of the site and its inhabitants during the years it was the official governor’s residence.

Four artists recreated the original pattern of hand-painted floorcloths in the foyer and rotunda.Old Governor’s Mansion, Milledgeville, Georgia

Running the length of the house, the salon/reception room was modeled after the East Room of the White House….

Old Governor’s Mansion, Milledgeville, Georgia

…while balls and other fancy-dress events were held in the state dining room.

Old Governor’s Mansion, Milledgeville, Georgia

Underneath the acanthus leaf ceiling medallion of the first-floor parlor, a two-seated tete-a-tete sofa with a separating armrest is reminiscent of how courting couples of the period respectably indulged in private conversations.

Old Governor’s Mansion, Milledgeville, Georgia

Fancy transparent window shades painted with different courting scenes from Godey’s Lady’s Book are in keeping with the style of the period. An outline of the design was traced, stenciled or pounced onto fine-textured, sized muslin before the transparency was painted.

Old Governor’s Mansion, Milledgeville, Georgia

The upstairs bedrooms are furnished with Staffordshire ceramic cats from the period, a crazy quilt that First Lady Elizabeth Grisham Brown made from scraps of ball gowns, and the octagon-shaped shaving mirror that Governor Joseph E. Brown was using when he was arrested by Union forces during the Civil War.

Old Governor’s Mansion, Milledgeville, Georgia

The mansion’s dining room may be its most historic space. On November 22, 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman and 30,000 Union troops marched into Milledgeville on their March to the Sea. The next day, Sherman claimed the house as a prize, made the mansion his headquarters and slept in the unfurnished dining room.

Old Governor’s Mansion, Milledgeville, GeorgiaAfter the Civil War, Atlanta became Georgia’s capital city, and the Milledgeville Governor’s Mansion was abandoned. During the next several years, it was used as a boarding house and a temporary courthouse. In 1889, it was turned over to the Georgia Normal & Industrial College, now known as Georgia College & State University, for use as a dormitory and as a home to the school’s presidents.

If you’d like to learn more, see The Old Governor’s Mansion: Georgia’s First Executive Residence, by James C. Turner, with contributors Matthew S. Davis and Travis Byrd.

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A Trip To Tennessee and Georgia Made Me Appreciate What Civil War Soldiers Endured

To mark the 150th anniversary of one of the most significant military campaigns of the Civil War, 90 people boarded two Fun Bus motorcoaches for the Ohio History Connection’s five-day “Travels Through Time” Tour of Sherman’s March to Atlanta.

As we made our way from Columbus through Kentucky and Tennessee to Georgia, we might not have witnessed the destruction and death that 100,000 Union soldiers experienced during General William Tecumseh Sherman’s historic march, but I certainly gained a greater appreciation for what my ancestor, Henry Heinmiller, experienced during the campaign as a soldier in Company F of the 108th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

Our first stop was Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. After passing dozens of beautiful homes on East Brow Road, we arrived at Point Park and surveyed the stunning view of Chattanooga, the Tennessee River and the Cumberland mountain range from historic Point Lookout, the northernmost promontory of the mountain. A National Park Service ranger described how important Chattanooga was to both the Confederate and Union forces, because of its strategic position as a junction of four railroad lines leading into northern Georgia, Atlanta and the heart of the South.

Point Park, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee

In the visitor center, we saw James Walker’s The Battle of Lookout Mountain, a 13’ by 30’, 700-pound painting that Hooker commissioned to commemorate his victory in the Battle of Lookout Mountain, also known as “The Battle Above the Clouds.” Hooker is mounted on a white horse, surrounded by an immaculate cavalcade that belies what must have been the scene on the battlefield.

James Walker's The Battle of Lookout Mountain

After an overnight stay at the Sheraton Read House Hotel in downtown Chattanooga, we visited the Chattanooga and Chickamauga Battlefields. As our ranger guide took us to key locations and told us the story of the terrible battles fought in the rugged wooded terrain near Chickamauga creek, we realized how amazing it was that Henry survived them. These sections of trees taken from the field after the battle show how ferocious the fighting was.

Tree sections at Chattanooga and Chickamauga Battlefields

A few weeks before the sesquicentennial celebration of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, we visited Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park in Georgia. Brian Wills, director of the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era and professor of history at Kennesaw State University, joined park rangers to take us around the park.

Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park

Seeing the steep, rocky slopes, densely wooded terrain, and the earthen trenches that the Confederates built to protect themselves against the enemy helped to visualize what soldiers under Sherman and Confederate General Joseph Johnston experienced at Kennesaw Mountain. We also gained a greater appreciation for Dan McCook, one of Ohio’s Fighting McCooks, who recited a stanza from Thomas Macaulay’s Horatius, beginning “Then how may men die better than facing fearful odds?,” before he led the assault on Kennesaw Mountain and was killed at its Dead Angle. Confederate Earthworks, Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park

The natural beauty of the area was equally unforgettable. Hearing that Pigeon Hill was a favorite roosting place for Passenger pigeons was a clue in discovering that the park has been designated an Important Bird Area where sightings of over 200 species of birds have been reported.

With the Artmore Hotel as our home base, we began our Atlanta sightseeing tour with a visit to the famous Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum on Henry’s 172nd birthday.

From a giant 184-seat rotating platform, we listened as our guide pointed out the historical details behind this striking depiction of the Battle of Atlanta. In July 1864, Confederate General John B. Hood launched an offensive against Sherman and his troops that would result not only in nearly 12,000 casualties, but also in an important victory for Sherman signaling that the end of the war was in sight.

We also learned how important taking control of Atlanta was for both the Union and the Confederacy, again because of the railroads that linked it to the rest of the South. No wonder that the railroad tracks twisted around tree trunks known as “Sherman’s neckties” symbolized the Atlanta campaign.

After describing the battle, our guide explained key features of the 358’ by 42’, 9,334-pound painting that was commissioned by Civil War General and Illinois Senator John Alexander Logan for his 1884 vice-presidential campaign. A 30’ space between the painting and the observation platform is filled with a three-dimensional landscape populated by 128 statuettes of soldiers, ranging from 17 to 42 inches tall, all sculpted to scale with the painting. One resembles Clark Gable, to commemorate his visit to the Atlanta Cyclorama during the celebrations surrounding the opening of Gone with the Wind.

At Stone Mountain, in the eastern outskirts of Atlanta, we checked out the dome-shaped granite hunk featuring a three-acre, nine-story-tall bas-relief carving of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis on horseback. It was commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1915 and begun by the same artist who crafted Mount Rushmore. After admiring the pretty pink-flowering Calliandra shrubs, or powder-puff plants, during a five-mile ride on a 1940s train around the mountain, we had a picnic supper and watched a laser light show and fireworks display that uses the sculpture as a backdrop.Stone Mountain

In Stone Mountain’s surrounding park, we toured the Antebellum Plantation, a collection of original, restored buildings from around Georgia that were built between 1792 and 1875. After peeking inside a one-room schoolhouse from DeKalb County, we wandered around the Dickey House, a 14-room Neoclassical home with Palladian arches from Albany. Twin exterior stairways represent welcoming arms and are supported by columns of handmade, curved brick.Dickey House, Antebellum Plantation, Stone Mountain

All this was interesting, but it was nothing compared to the Andersonville National Historic Site in rural southwest Georgia.

Between February 1864 and May 1865, Camp Sumter Military Prison in Andersonville was a Confederate military prison that its 41,000 Union inmates called “hell on earth.”

Two sections of log walls hint at the 15’ stockade that originally surrounded the prison, while a white post-and-rail fence indicates the “deadline,” which no prisoner could cross without the threat of being shot by guards. Other markers show where prisoners dug tunnels in an effort to escape.Andersonville National Historic Site

The 16 ½-acre space was crammed with shebangs, small A-shaped tents fashioned from overcoats, blankets or whatever else that prisoners could find to shelter them.

Shebangs, Andersonville National Historic Site

The only source of water was a stream that ran through the camp, so it was used for drinking, washing and sanitation. Roughly 13,000 prisoners (1,055 from Ohio) died from typhoid, gangrene, malnutrition, starvation, diarrhea or dysentery.Creek, Andersonville National Historic Site

In nearby Andersonville National Cemetery, a permanent resting place of honor for over 19,000 deceased veterans, a sea of tightly packed white gravestones mark the prison’s casualties. Dorence Atwater, a prisoner who survived, smuggled a copy of Andersonville’s death records when he was released and turned it over to the U.S. Army. In 1865, Atwater and Clara Barton used the register to identify missing soldiers.

Andersonville National Cemetery

“The scenes on this field would have cured anybody of war,” Sherman wrote to his wife on April 11, 1862 after the Battle of Shiloh. After seeing these battlefields of such magnitude and quality, we had a lot to think about as we drove home.

Our suggested reading list featured The Buckeye Vanguard: History of the Forty-Ninth Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry, 1861-1865, by Richard F. Mann, which was edited by Mark Holbrook, one of our guides who accompanied us on the tour who also is a former Ohio History Connection colleague of mine.

Other books I checked out include Chickamauga: A Battlefield Guide with a Section on Chattanooga, by Steven E. Woodworth; Chickamauga: A Battlefield History in Images, by Roger C. Linton; and Voices of the Civil War: Chickamauga, by the editors of Time-Life Books. Three books by Richard A. Baumgartner and Larry M. Strayer — Echoes of Battle: The Struggle for Chattanooga; Echoes of Battle: The Atlanta Campaign; and Kennesaw Mountain, June 1864: Bitter Standoff at the Gibraltar of Georgia — were all worthwhile reading. More good titles include Kennesaw Mountain: Sherman, Johnston, and the Atlanta Campaign, by Earl J. Hess; History of Andersonville Prison, by Ovid L. Futch, with an introduction by Michael P. Gray; and Prison Life Among the Rebels: Recollections of a Union Chaplain, by Henry S. White and edited by Edward D. Jervey.

For an overview of the battlefields we toured, visit the National Park Service Civil War Battlefields website at If you have an ancestor in an Ohio Civil War unit, you should be able to find an overview of his service at

Posted in History, Miscellanea, Ohio History Connection (formerly the Ohio Historical Society), Travel | 1 Comment

Comic Strips Are Front-Page News at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

It may be hip for Downtown workers to spend part of their Thursday afternoon at Columbus Commons’ Food Truck Food Court, but I’d much rather hop on a COTA bus and take a field trip. That’s what I did last week, when I met fellow librarians in the Central Ohio chapters of Special Libraries Association and the Association for Information Science and Technology for a tour of the newly renovated Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at the Ohio State University.Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

In 1977, this unique academic research library was established with a founding gift of the artwork and papers of Ohio State alumnus Milton Caniff, the creator of the Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon comic strips. Located at the northwest corner of North High Street and 15th Avenue in Sullivant Hall, the library houses the world’s largest collection of comic strip tear sheets and clippings, as well as original art and manuscript materials documenting printed cartoons. Current holdings include 200,000 original cartoons, 45,000 books and 67,000 serials, including comic books. To facilitate research, the library offers searchable databases of digitized cartoon images, biographical files for artists, original cartoon art, images of cartoons that have been digitized to date, and files of cartoons and article clippings that are organized by subject and topic. Although items in the collection do not circulate, they can be requested by appointment for study in the library’s reading room.

In 2009, the library was named in honor of William Addison (“Billy”) Ireland, a Columbus Dispatch cartoonist best known for “The Passing Show,” his weekly commentary on current events that ran from 1908 until his death in 1935.Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

In the library’s north lobby, you can see Ireland’s drawing table, a representation of the shamrock he used to sign his work, and A Tribute to Billy Ireland, a 2013 art glass creation by Wayne Cain and Daniel White that documents highlights of Ireland’s career. To learn more about this talented cartoonist, read Billy Ireland, a book by former curator Lucy Shelton Caswell, and watch this WOSU Public Media video in which she shares examples of his original work.

Special librarians love to pore over special collections, so Caitlin McGurk, the library’s outreach coordinator, took us on a behind-the-scenes tour of its closed stacks. After we saw an original Charlie Brown drawing by Charles Schulz and an animation cel of  Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast, Caitlin told us about the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection. Containing 2.5 million comic strip clippings and newspaper comic strip tear sheets from 1894 to 1996, it is the largest collection of its kind in the world. It is the legacy of the late Bill Blackbeard, who collected discarded bound volumes of newspapers so he could establish a complete run of every comic feature to have appeared in an American newspaper.Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Blackbeard’s efforts to keep these rare sections intact are documented in Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper, Nicholson Baker’s book about the fate of thousands of books and newspapers that were replaced and often destroyed during microfilming projects during the 1980s and 1990s.

Ever since the library acquired the collection from Blackbeard in 1998, it has worked to establish a chronological run of each comic feature, either through amassing a group of clippings or by identifying each feature’s location in the collection of Sunday comic sections. Click here to see the finding aid for the collection.  

To understand how important it was to Blackbeard that the brilliant colors of newspaper comics would not be lost to history, we looked at examples of Richard Outcault’s Hogan’s Alley, one of the first American newspaper comics. From 1895 to 1898, the strip provided a social commentary on the life that immigrant children led in the tenements of New York City. Its lead character, Mickey Dugan, wore an oversized yellow nightshirt, earning him the nickname of the Yellow Kid. The advertising billboard-style messages that Outcault conveyed on the shirt became one of the first examples of the word balloon in comic strips. This detail of an April 4, 1897 Hogan’s Alley comic is one of only four original pages of the comic that are known to exist.

Hogan's Alley, April 4, 1897, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

The library’s gallery spaces display a free, permanent exhibit of artwork and artifacts highlighting its collections. Chester Gould’s circa-1921 drawing board and tabaret hint at the working style of the creator of Dick Tracy. A charred area on the right side of the drawing board’s surface is the remnant of Gould’s practice of lighting a kitchen match so that the flame would speed up the drying process of large areas of black ink.

Chester Gould's drawing board, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Other treasures on display are Aesop Up to Date, a drawing that Milton Caniff made in 1925 to persuade Billy Ireland to hire him for a cartooning job at the Columbus Dispatch….

Milton Caniff, Aesop Up To Date, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

and Fourth of July in the Jungle, Winsor McCay’s original, hand-colored drawing for his first comic strip, A Tale of the Jungle Imps by Felix Fiddle, in 1903.

Detail of Winsor McCay's Fourth of July in the Jungle, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Through August 3, two special, no-cost exhibitions are on view in the library’s galleries.

 Exploring Calvin and Hobbes features original daily and Sunday artwork for the popular comic strip that Bill Watterson created from 1985 to 1995. Even if you weren’t a regular reader of Calvin and Hobbes, you’ll develop an appreciation for the engaging characters, thoughtful writing and creative layouts that Watterson employed in relaying the adventures of six-year-old Calvin and his best friend, a plush toy tiger named Hobbes. The exhibition also includes specialty pieces by Watterson from his collection of more than 3,000 originals housed at the library, as well as original art by cartoonists who influenced Watterson, such as Charles Schulz and Garry Trudeau.

Detail of Calvin and Hobbes strip, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

The Irresistible Force Meets the Immovable Object: A Richard Thompson Retrospective includes hand-watercolored Sunday originals and black-and-white dailies from Thompson’s popular comic strip, and Cul de Sac. During its six-year run, Cul de Sac chronicled family life in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Richard Thompson's Cul de Sac image, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

The exhibit also highlights Thompson’s skill as a caricaturist. Examples include his caricatures of well-known figures like Willie Nelson, Ludwig van Beethoven and Oliver North.Richard Thompson's caricature of Willie Nelson, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

To discover more of Thompson’s work, see The Complete Cul de Sac and The Art of Richard Thompson, both upcoming releases from Andrews McMeel. Click here for interviews that the exhibits’ curators, Jenny Robb and Caitlin McGurk, conducted with Watterson and Thompson.

Next, we walked across the plaza to the Fine Arts Library, located on the lower level of the Wexner Center for the Arts. Designed by architects Peter Eisenman of New York and the late Richard Trott of Columbus, the Wexner Center has become a Columbus landmark since its opening in 1989.

I’ve wondered about the Wexner Center’s attention-getting geometric façade, white painted metal scaffold, and the brick turrets recalling the former armory that stood on the site, but I never considered how the building’s sharp angles and slanting walls impacted maximizing space and utility in a library until Sarah Falls, the Fine Arts Library’s head, showed us around.

As a project for a special-topic course on art and the archive, four students and founding members of the Page Collective created Where We Left Off, an exhibition exploring book-marking in library collections that is on view until August 1. Dozens of books from the Fine Arts Library’s collection are on display, opened to pages where the students found bookmarks that range from receipts to personal photographs.

Where We Left Off, Fine Arts Library, Ohio State University

Seeing some of the library’s most colorful collections offered a welcome visual contrast to the space’s grey tones.  For example, as we admired Papillons and Les Fleurs et Leurs Applications Décoratives — two design folios of illustrations and patterns by Eugene Alain Seguy, a French designer who worked in the Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles at the beginning of the 20th century — Sarah told us about pochoir, the printing technique Seguy used that employs a series of stencils to create dense, vivid color.

Images from Eugene Alain Seguy's Papillons, Fine Arts Library, Ohio State University

Cartoon fans should also stop by the Wexner Center to see Eye of the Cartoonist: Daniel Clowes’ Selections from Comics History. In this exhibition, Clowes — the creator of Eightball, a comic book anthology series dating from 1989 to 2004, and the 2010 graphic novel, Wilson — collaborated with the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum to select works by great cartoonists like Chester Gould, Otto Soglow, Winsor McCay and Milton Caniff that he admires or considers influences. The exhibition runs through August 3.

Posted in Art, Libraries, Museums, Ohio State University, Special Collections | Leave a comment

Before We Travel Through Time to Atlanta, Let’s Visit William Tecumseh Sherman’s Birthplace

In 1835, a Greek Revival house at 145 East Main Street in Lancaster, Ohio was built for William James Reese and his wife, Mary Elisabeth Sherman Reese, the eldest sister of General William Tecumseh Sherman. During the 1990s, the elegant brick building was renovated, transforming it into the current home of the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio. While I’ve visited that arts facility many times, I finally paid my first call on its next-door neighbor recently.  I can’t show you what the house looks like inside because it’s camera-shy, so use your imagination as I tell you about what makes the birthplace of Mrs. Reese’s brother such a worthwhile place to visit.

Looking at 137 East Main Street today, it’s hard to believe that the brick-fronted Sherman House Museum was originally built as a four-room frame New England saltbox-styleSherman House Museum house in 1811. In 1816, Charles and Mary Hoyt Sherman added a parlor and a study to the home. On February 8, 1820, the Shermans welcomed their sixth child, William Tecumseh, the future Civil War general who led troops through Shiloh, Corinth, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Atlanta, the March to the Sea and Columbia, South Carolina.

The interior of the house has been restored to look as it would have when the Sherman family lived there. The Victorian parlor is furnished with pieces that General Sherman and his wife owned when they lived in New York City after his retirement, such as dining chairs carved with Shakespearean scenes and Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ 1888 bust of General Sherman. Other downstairs furnishings include needlework pieces that the young Mary Hoyt Sherman made while attending a finishing school in Poughkeepsie, New York; a wingback chair made in Ohio during the early 1800s; a circa-1801 hand-loomed rug; and a desk and chair on which General Sherman carved his initials as a boy.

Upstairs, you can see the cradle in which General Sherman and his 10 siblings slept when they were babies. The hand-stenciled walls of the master bedroom feature a reproduction of a pattern by Moses Eaton, a well-known New England stenciler of the period. A deliberate mistake in the pattern is a reminder that only God is perfect.Sherman House Museum

A recreation of General Sherman’s Civil War field tent is in another room. Other items on display here include the portable desk and trunks that Sherman used during the war. The flag he designed for use at his headquarters bears the insignias of the four corps that accompanied him on his March to the Sea.

After admiring Sherman family memorabilia, such as reproductions of drawings General Sherman made when he was a West Point cadet in 1838 and later for his six-year-old daughter, Minnie, you can view another exhibit of artifacts, paintings, prints and maps from the Civil War.

Before leaving, browse the gift shop, where I bought a cornhusk doll of a Civil War nurse. Then, walk alongside the house to see several gardens that have been planted outside the home’s original side-facing front door. These include kitchen herbs, medicinal plants and native plants that grew wild in the “Fairfields” of Ohio when the early pioneers arrived.

Cornhusk doll from the Sherman House Museum

Steps away from the Sherman House Museum, you can see the bronze statue of Lancaster’s “faithful and honorable” native son that Mike Major sculpted in 2000. You can also read the Ohio Historical Marker commemorating Sherman’s accomplishments.

Mike Major's statue of General Sherman

Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman, a new biography of the general by Robert L. O’Connell, is something else I’d like to read.

Why did I finally tour the Sherman House Museum? Because I took the Ohio History Connection’s Travels Through Time Civil War bus tour of Sherman’s March to Atlanta! I’ll tell you about it soon.

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