Meet Miss Elma A. Whitney, heroine of my Great Lockdown

I’m lamenting the loss of being able to take my barking dogs to Manhattan. Anywhere, for that matter.

dscn5137Who could have guessed that this incredible year of canceled vacations would feature just one excursion to Gambier, where climbing aboard a 1940 locomotive on the Kokosing Gap Trail was the extent of my travel adventures. This year, my dogs constantly barked from incessant walking…through cemeteries and nature preserves, around Preservation Parks and Metro Parks, along deserted Downtown streets, Worthington’s neighborhoods and Westerville’s bike trails, and now circling rooms and climbing staircases in my spotless, safe and silent sanctuary.

2020 has been a year marked by gratitude for continued good health and employment, and amazement when being quiet, diligent and helpful makes you a leader and a catalyst. It’s also been a year of smooth moves and meltdowns, while caring about old treasures and new finds. (Please, St. Jude, just a little more time for my Leap Year privilege!)

img_1017Who would have guessed that “stimulus” would mean a new harp that arrived on a forklift?  Or that an invitation to “Sit and Knit for a Bit” — with, as always, my two Norwegian hosts — would turn into an essential daily standing appointment?

So until I’m on the road again, I’m finding fulfillment in the little things. In this case, it was finding a role model while unpacking, inventorying, organizing, finishing, repacking, unpacking again, and constantly adding to an archival collection. Meet Miss Elma A. Whitney, the heroine of my Great Lockdown.img_0909

Born March 9, 1909, Elma earned her degree from The Ohio State University’s College of Education, then obtained her graduate degree in library science from Western Reserve University. She began her career as a reference librarian and instructor of library science at Denison University. She also served as coordinator of adult book service for branches at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland; librarian of the Euclid Public Libraries in Euclid, Ohio; an assistant librarian at the Columbus Public Library; and an acting librarian of the University School Libraries at Ohio State. On June 1, 1943, she joined the Worthington Public Library, eventually becoming its head librarian.

DSCN5536During her career, Elma presided over the library section of the North Eastern Ohio Teacher’s Association, the Ohio Library Association, Librarian’s Council of Franklin County, the Franklin County Community Services Council, the Worthington Women’s Club, the Community Junior Theater, the Columbus branch of the American Association of University Women, and the International Altrusa Club of Columbus. Through these latter two organizations, she was associated with my grandmother’s friend Dorothy Diehl Scrivener and Marguerite Heer Andrews, my first piano teacher and cousin – two more fine ladies to emulate.

Whether speaking on “Training for Librarianship” at the Ohio Library Association’s 1947 State Conference, bringing books to sell at the Altrusa Club’s 1950 Christmas party, arranging a display of books by Worthington library cardholders for an open house during National Book Week in 1957, or compiling a biographical directory of outstanding women librarians in Columbus and Franklin County between 1803 and 1953, Elma was an active outreach librarian. Her civic involvement included serving as a judge for the Colonial Hills Civic Association’s 1960 Christmas lighting contest. She was one of five women who received an award from the Nawaka Camp Fire Group for their outstanding character, leadership or service to the community at a tea held at the Worthington Methodist Church in October 1961.

In January 1958, Elma joined the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System Board, representing the miscellaneous membership group, or those who work in public libraries, townships, park districts, conservancy districts, health districts and metropolitan housing authorities. She completed three terms on the Board, relinquishing her place in 1967 when she became assistant director of Capital University’s Rudolph Library. Her Worthington Library colleagues celebrated her accomplishments at a farewell dinner held in her honor at the Green Meadows Country Inn, now known as the Nationwide Hotel and Conference Center, in Lewis Center.

I would also have celebrated her sense of style. How about that hairstyle? And those pearls!

Capital University granted Elma emeritus status as an assistant university librarian in 1978. While in Columbus, Elma lived at 407 13th Ave., 2120 N. 4th St., 145 E. Dunedin Rd., and 3125 Oakridge Rd.

In 1980, Elma married John F. Byrne of Paradise Valley, Arizona. She passed away on January 30, 1994.

Posted in Libraries, Miscellanea | 2 Comments

“Enjoy the happiness of better work. Create photography of the better type.”

“I miss your blog posts. Hopefully you will be able to resume your adventures soon.”

Reading that on a Christmas card I received from my friend Jim, I decided I needed to resume writing…about something! And then I remembered I had a post in progress, but had never finished it. So, Jim, this is for you!

I’m consumed by the past. Restored historic houses and period rooms filled with reproduction furniture and handmade textiles from fireside industries are my idea of heaven. My hero is Wallace Nutting, an entrepreneur whose hand-tinted “Old America” photographs were instrumental in developing the Colonial Revival aesthetic so popular during the early years of the 20th century. 

This year, I met someone as consumed by the past as Rev. Nutting and me. He acquired braided rugs, quilts, antique corner cupboards and porcelain to portray the world of America’s founding settlers, who were also hardworking artisans. This gifted, but little-known man from Newark, Ohio may have been forgotten, but he is being rediscovered, for good reason. He’s Clarence Hudson White, and it was because of him that Newark became the center of a revolution in photography.

Earlier this year, White was the focus of two complementary exhibitions presented by the Columbus Museum of Art and The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art and Technology in Newark. Both were titled No Mere Button-Pressers: Clarence H. White, Ema Spencer, and The Newark Camera Club.

White was born in West Carlisle (Coshocton County) Ohio in 1871, then moved with his family to Newark in 1887. The honeymoon trip he and his wife, Jane Felix, took to see the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair introduced him to contemporary art, prompting him to start taking photographs. He purchased his first camera the following year. Working as a bookkeeper for Fleek and Neal, a wholesale grocery company in Newark, White could only afford to buy two 6 1/2″ by 8 1/2″ glass plate negatives each week, so he carefully planned his shots. Attending an 1896 lecture on composition in photography by O. Walter Beck, a painter and teacher at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, introduced White to the world of artistic possibilities in photography, inspiring him to try to make his photographs “pictures,” or works of art.

Before long, the self-taught amateur photographer was composing shots of his friends, his relatives and his Newark surroundings, finding inspiration in the illustrated magazines to which he subscribed. What resulted were idealized visions of idyllic country landscapes, where use of natural light and soft focus created a luminous, serene and beautiful aesthetic. He used pencil to accentuate details, such as the fabric and sleeves of the Empire- and Civil War-style dresses his models wore.

White was following the trend of Pictorialism, a style of expressive photography that was popular between 1898 and 1917. These photographs favored creating imaginative, artistic compositions, rather than recording immediate amateur snapshots. As his style developed, so too did his mastery of platinum printmaking, controlling the exposure and printing processes to achieve more artistic results.

By 1898, White’s enthusiasm for his new pursuit was contagious. He convened a small group of people to found the Newark Camera Club. This group of amateur photographers promoted the notion that photography was an artistic medium, not just a way to document reality.

Around the same time, White struck up a friendship with Alfred Stieglitz, writing to the influential photographer about a composition of telephone poles White took from the third-floor window of the Fleek and Neal building. The photograph, along with a shot of a winter landscape along the Ohio and Erie Canal, was reproduced in the July 1903 issue of Stieglitz’s celebrated photographic journal, Camera Work.

In the decade that followed, White exhibited his innovative photographs in Boston, Dresden, London, New York, Paris, Vienna, Chicago and Philadelphia. He was on his way to developing an international reputation as an influential member of the Photo-Secession, a group founded by Stieglitz that promoted pictorial photography as a distinct form of individual expression.

To supplement his income, White solicited Newark businessmen to sit for portraits. He also pursued freelance magazine and book illustration assignments. For a series of photographic illustrations for the 1902 Christmas edition of Irvin Bacheller’s bestselling novel, Eben Holden: A Tale of the North Country, White found inspiration in a familiar Granville home: the Greek Revival-style Avery-Downer House, now known as the home of the Robbins Hunter Museum. He took great care in staging more than a dozen scenes in the parlors and bedrooms of the 1842 home, costuming Emily Downer Cole and her husband, Alfred Dodge Cole, in period clothing to portray the novel’s characters, Willie and Hope.

White also developed a specialty for taking at-home portraits and architectural photographs of homes. His Hubbard Place Portfolio, created in 1904, consists of 22 photographs of the now-razed Italianate house and 30-acre estate built in 1850 for railroad president and banker William Blackstone Hubbard (1795-1866) in the Columbus neighborhood now known as Victorian Village.

This type of work proved so lucrative that White quit his bookkeeping job in the spring of 1904 and focused exclusively on photography.

In 1906, White and his young family moved to New York City, where he became lecturer in photography at Teachers College, Columbia University. In 1914, he founded the Clarence H. White School of Photography, holding Friday-evening lectures on trends like the potential of magazine photography, modern art in advertising, and how product display could advance a photographic career. His school, active until 1942, was the only school in the United States that was completely devoted to instruction in art photography. It focused on photography’s role in travel, science, book publishing, and the dissemination of knowledge, treating it as a fine, practical art that was indispensable to modern business. Later, it offered courses in photojournalism taught by a LIFE magazine photographer, as well as in advertising, motion picture techniques and graphic design. White also conducted summer schools in New York, Maine and Connecticut.

Emphasizing that photography was a calling rather than a trade, White’s school appealed to amateurs and professionals of all ages to cultivate their artistic tastes. As its promotional brochure for 1923-1924 noted, “Men and women have found themselves, worked out a better adjustment to life, and discovered new sources of interest and happiness” as students.

White’s students, which included future accomplished photographers like Margaret Bourke-White and Dorothea Lange, recalled him as a kind, sympathetic and sincere teacher who fostered their individuality, cultivating in them an appreciation of art so that they might “enjoy the happiness of better work” and possibly even earn their living creating “photography of the better type.”

In 1916, White became the first president of the Pictorial Photographers of America, which emphasized applying expressive techniques to commercial and illustrative photography. Platinum Print: A Journal of Personal Expression, White’s quarterly magazine, included feature articles; reproductions of work by him, his friends and his students; announcements of photographic shows; and a column called “Of Importance to Pictorialists.” His career also included fashion photography and taking portrait photographs of notable subjects, such as the professional swimmer and actress Annette Kellerman and Belle da Costa Greene, J.P. Morgan’s librarian.

The 54-year-old White went to his reward while on a teaching trip to Mexico City in 1925. One of his three sons, Clarence White, Jr., taught photography at Ohio University from 1949 to 1972.

The exhibition at the Columbus Museum of Art also included work by Ema Spencer, an unmarried schoolteacher who was the Newark Camera Club’s secretary and publicist. Occasionally, Spencer made architectural and landscape photographs, including a series she created to illustrate “A New England Town in Ohio: Being a Study of Granville,” her 1906 Ohio Magazine article, but she especially favored capturing scenes of family life and children. Negatives and prints from her series, “A Day in the Life of a Child,” illustrated the daily activities of her niece, Marian Spencer. Photographer Lois Conner was commissioned for this exhibition to make platinum-palladium prints from a selection of Spencer’s circa-1910 glass plate negatives, now held at the Webb House Museum in Newark.

The show was hung much in the way that White and Stieglitz preferred, with the prints placed in uniform white mats and displayed against walls painted in neutral tones. It was stunning.

I enjoyed watching these these two related programs the exhibition’s co-curators offered: Dreamers and Doers: Newark at the Turn of the Last Century, and No Mere Button Pressers: Clarence White, Ema Spencer & the Newark Camera Club.

For more on Clarence White, see Clarence H. White: The Reverence for Beauty, by Peter C. Bunnell; Pictorialism into Modernism: The Clarence H. White School of Photography, edited by Marianne Fulton; and Clarence H. White and His World: The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895-1925, by Anne McCauley.

Posted in Art, Museums | 2 Comments

“It’s like musical chairs except everybody sat down around 1964.”

Crawling along West 47th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, I gaped at customers who milled around one crowded store after another, bartering with fast-talking salesmen standing behind showcases packed with rows upon rows of diamond jewelry. Dressed in colorful silky shirts and double-pleated dress pants, many of these workers accessorized their outfits with rimless glasses, a lone diamond earring, thick gold chain bracelets, massive pendants and flashy pinkie rings. Meanwhile, other clerks arranged more glittering bling under the blazing lights of window displays, enticing passers-by to come inside and part with some cash.

An interminable traffic snarl in the heart of Midtown Manhattan’s Diamond District offered a front-row seat to a real-life version of a scene straight out of Uncut Gems, Adam Sandler’s new movie about a scheming, gambling jewelry dealer who works on “The Street.”

Welcome to the opening scene of our latest New York City adventure.

Once we escaped the traffic and hit the sidewalks, the itinerary we executed was heavy on traditional holiday fare. In no time, we had seen the Christmas tree, the TODAY show and the Swarovski New York Apple at Rockefeller Center and watched ice-skaters at Bryant Park. We checked out the holiday window displays at Saks Fifth Avenue, with its Disney Frozen 2 frenzy of a light show complete with a soundtrack; “Bergdorf GoodTimes,” Bergdorf Goodman’s tableaux of games designed as if they were viewed from overhead; porcelain mice toting boxes of luxuries from Tiffany’s; and Macy’s, with interactive video games, kaleidoscopes and a larger-than-life Golden Retriever who scratched its ear when visitors pressed its nose.

We also revisited some evergreen favorites, including the original Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends at the New York Public Library; Hamlet VIII, the Algonquin Hotel’s current resident cat; Brooks Brothers’ headquarters at 346 Madison Avenue; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we can’t get enough of the magnificent floral arrangements in the Great Hall and the twenty-foot Christmas tree adorned with dozens of Neapolitan Baroque angels, cherubs and 17th-century figures in a Nativity creche scene.

When you keep a running list of things you haven’t seen in New York City, there’s always the need to check off a few. First was 640 Fifth Avenue, the former home of Mrs. Cornelia Vanderbilt, where Pamela Mountbatten, the younger daughter of the 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma and Prince Philip’s cousin, stayed during World War II. Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s tweet on July 24, 2019, the feast day of Saint Charbel Makhlouf, a 19th-century Monk of the Lebanese Maronite Order, encouraged us to check out the Saint’s beautiful mosaic shrine in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. “Everybody loves him because he always answers his phone,” Cardinal Dolan said in his video greeting that day. “When you pray through St. Charbel and ask for his help in interceding with God, he always comes through.”

Then came the former sites of Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman retail store at 29 W. 34th St. and the editorial offices for The Craftsman magazine at 41 W. 34th St. Artistically arranged as a group of model living rooms, Stickley’s store invited potential buyers to see his practical Arts and Crafts furniture displayed in comfortable surroundings and complementary color schemes. A quick overhead glance at a revolving Christmas decoration inside Macy’s helped us discover some Herald Square history. The square where Macy’s is located was named after the New York Herald newspaper. All that is left of its Stanford White-designed headquarters is the monument to the paper’s founder, James Gordon Bennett, which incorporates two clocks from the old building and a group of sculptures from the building’s pediment which depict the goddess of wisdom Minerva, an owl and two blacksmiths nicknamed Stuff and Guff, who spin around and swing their hammers to strike a bell on the hour. Plus, did you know that Macy’s red star logo was inspired by the forearm tattoo that the store’s founder, Rowland Macy, got when he was a whaler?

New York City always offers some kind of excitement, and this time we found ourselves in the midst of the annual headache known as SantaCon. Throngs of people dressed as Santa Claus descend on the streets of New York City for a massive day-long bar crawl that begins at Father Duffy Square, a section of Times Square between West 46th and 47th Streets and Broadway and Seventh Avenue. Wide awake from blaring pre-dawn car horns, I now understand what Jerry Seinfeld meant when he wrote in Seinlanguage, “Everybody in New York City knows there’s way more cars than parking spaces. You see cars driving in New York all hours of the night. It’s like musical chairs except everybody sat down around 1964.”

Spending time in New York also provides the opportunity to make some great new discoveries, like the beautiful plantings outside the Harvard Club and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed living room on view in the American Wing of the Met Fifth Avenue. Created for the Francis W. Little House in Wayzata, Minnesota from 1912 to 1914, the summer-home living room that once overlooked Lake Minnetonka incorporates Prairie School characteristics like leaded-glass windows on all four walls, elongated horizontally-laid bricks and custom-made furniture and decorative accessories.

Making Marvels: Science and Splendor at the Courts of Europe, on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through March 1, 2020, is a spectacular assembly of clocks, jewelry and other lavish objects collected by European princes of the 16th through 18th centuries. We sought out the precious statuettes and the rare 41-carat “Dresden Green” diamond hat ornament from Augustus the Strong’s collection from the Green Vault of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden in Germany. Most amazing were the automata, like the German clock with the arrow-shooting, always-watching goddess Diana on her chariot; the perambulating penitent monk; the mechanized Swiss draughtsman that draws and writes poems, which inspired Brian Selznick’s novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, adapted by Martin Scorsese into the award-winning film Hugo; and the creepy chess-playing figure in Turkish dress that I read about long ago in Tom Standage’s book, The Turk: The Life and Times of the Famous Eighteenth-century Chess-playing Machine. Watch this playlist of 15 of these automata in motion here.

Riding the M4 to the northern tip of Manhattan was the perfect place to see examples of “The Mystery Font That Took Over New York.” It also provided a glimpse of Columbia University and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the Protestant Episcopal church on Amsterdam Avenue in Harlem that has been under construction for over a century. One of these trips, I’m going to check out the tiny replica of the collapsing twin towers of the World Trade Center that was carved in 1990 on the western facade of the church’s main entrance and was recently restored after it was mysteriously destroyed.

Making our way up the steep, winding road to the hilltop in Fort Tryon Park, we arrived at our much-loved The Met Cloisters. Medieval Christmastide decorations of holly boughs, ivy, hand-polished lady apples, hazelnuts, rose hips and pine cones adorned the great archways in the main hall.

With the place virtually to ourselves, we wandered the interior walkways, now transformed into a conservatory where tender Mediterranean plants like bitter orange, myrtle and bay laurel spend the winter. We sought out special items from this magnificent collection, like Christ Is Born as Man’s Redeemer, the 16th-century South Netherlandish tapestry that is more than 13 feet high and 25 feet wide (watch this video about its conservation). In my favorite “Unicorn Tapestries” gallery, the Book of Flower Studies, an illuminated manuscript by Master of Claude de France circa 1510-1515, was opened to an image of a jaybird with a branch of hazelnuts (learn more about this 2019 purchase here). Best of all, I talked to Xavier Seubert just before his presentation on the Unicorn Tapestries at Advent, in which he discussed how the tapestries reveal both Advent symbolism, as well as ancient and Christian understandings of the unicorn.

Recall how much I appreciate my windfall of Advent readings? Ever since reading something about St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in The Little Blue Book for the Advent/Christmas Season 2018, I’ve devoted more than my obligatory six minutes of quiet time contemplating the life story of this Italian-American nun who became the “Patroness of Immigrants,” her prayer for peace of mind and the shrine at Fort Washington Avenue and 190th Street, right on the M4 route. Offering a quiet, peaceful respite from the frantic holiday crowds of Manhattan, the Cabrini Shrine turned out to be the highlight of my trip.

Born in Italy in 1850, Francesca Cabrini dreamed of becoming a foreign missionary nun. Repeatedly turned down by convents because of her poor health, young Francesca finally was accepted to an order, where she spent several difficult, discouraging years teaching and patiently tolerating her tedious companions. In 1880, she founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Seven years later, she unsuccessfully sought Pope Leo XIII’s approval for her order to conduct missionary work in China. When the Pope experienced a change of heart two years later, he told her to take six fellow nuns with her and go “not to the East, but to the West.” A Catholic church in New York City needed Italian nuns to minister to the Italian immigrants who lived difficult lives in Little Italy’s dreadful tenements. Many of them were illiterate in English and injured from their difficult work as manual laborers. Worst of all, the language barrier and cultural differences had led many of these devout people to become estranged from their faith. This little group of Italian nuns was a Godsend.

Within a matter of years, Mother Cabrini had established social gatherings after Sunday Mass, schools, hospitals, convalescent homes and orphanages for New York City’s Italian immigrants. She and her Sisters visited prisons, instructed children in both catechism and in Italian language and culture, and started a needlework trade school for young women. Her mission also spread to dozens of schools, orphanages and hospitals in New Jersey, Chicago, New Orleans, Europe, and Central and South America.

Despite the lifelong fear of water she developed after accidentally falling into a river as a child, Mother Cabrini crossed the Atlantic Ocean 25 times in her missionary work. She became a naturalized citizen in 1909 and continued her work until she died in 1917. She was beatified in 1938; in 1946, she became the first American citizen to be canonized, and she was declared the patron saint of immigrants in 1950.

There are three major shrines to St. Frances Cabrini in the United States; the one in northern Manhattan is located in a scenic wooded site overlooking the Hudson River, chosen in 1899 by the Saint herself, where she had lived and worked. The mid-20th century chapel features a stained-glass window portrait of the Saint, as well as a beautiful mosaic mural made of Venetian glass and Italian marble tiles that depicts scenes from her life. A glass reliquary built beneath the altar holds a wax likeness of the Saint that contains most of her remains. A small museum at the shrine includes personal items that once belonged to the Saint, including her habit and nightdress, spectacles, shoes, fountain pen, dresser set, and a copper etching plate of her calling card.

Today, the Missionary Sisters continue ministering to immigrants, children, the sick and the elderly on six continents and 16 countries throughout the world. Every year, the shrine celebrates her November 13 feast day with five Masses, in five languages, over two days, and a prayer service on December 22, the date of her death. A prayer for immigrants is offered at the conclusion of every Mass. The day of our visit featured a concert of liturgical music for Advent and Christmas liturgical music on harp and flute, sung by Ruth Cunningham, one of the founding members of Anonymous 4, the female quartet known for Medieval chant and polyphony.

You can find images of Mother Cabrini at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, both on the bronze doors that open onto Fifth Avenue and on the wall by the gift shop inside the cathedral. Earlier this year, she received the most votes in a public poll to honor noted New York City women with a statue, but the committee responsible for the project did not choose her in the end. Now, a statue in her honor will be placed in Battery Park City’s South Cove, overlooking the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

To hear how magical Anonymous 4 sounds, check out some of the 20 albums the group recorded on the harmonia mundi label, such as Three Decades of Anonymous 4, 1986-2016; The Cherry Tree: Songs, Carols and Ballads for Christmas; On Yoolis Night: Medieval Carols and Motets; and Wolcum Yule: Celtic and British Songs and Carols, with Andrew Lawrence-King, harp.

For a unique look at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, read Red & Lulu, by Matt Tavares. Spend some free time with a New York City crossword puzzle and word search by Scholastica Travel, as well as this Manhattan, New York City word search puzzle. Check out Motherless Brooklyn, the film I saw advertised on some Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus-stop shelters, and read Introducing Henry’s Unsuitable Adventures, by Mike Reiss, that we paged through at Brooks Brothers. Start your own sightseeing wish list with I Never Knew That About New York, by Christopher Winn. The Met Cloisters shop has a fantastic selection of books, like Afoot and Lighthearted: A Journal for Mindful Walking, by Bonnie Smith Whitehouse, New York in Bloom, by Georgianna Lane, and The Cloister, by James Carroll.

Travel vicariously to the Met Fifth Avenue with A Bouquet from the Met: Flower Arrangements by Chris Giftos at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Barbara Plumb, with Page Starzinger. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Watson Library, the recorded Christmas music that plays in the gallery with the Angel Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Creche is a rotation of two albums: A New York Christmas, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s holiday-themed jazz CD; and Gregorian Chant Christmas, from the monastic choir of St. Peter’s Abbey, Solesmes, France. Recreate the “Ute Lemper: Weimar Holiday” and “Moya Brennan: An Irish Holiday” concerts held this month in The Met Fifth Avenue’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium by checking out cabaret singer Lemper’s albums, Berlin Cabaret Songs, and Ute Lemper Sings Kurt Weill. I can’t get enough of listening to Affinity, a recording in which Brennan is joined by Irish harp virtuoso Cormac De Barra.

For more on St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, read Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini: Cecchina’s Dream, by Victoria Dority and Mary Lou Andes; Frances Cabrini: A Saint for America, by Sergio C. Lorit; St. Frances Cabrini: A Passionate Life, by Mark Davis; Frances Cabrini: Remembering the Journey, 1850-2000, by the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; and Catholics in New York: Society, Culture, and Politics, 1808-1946, edited by Terry Golway.

Posted in Art, Churches, Holidays, Museums, Music, New York, Travel | 1 Comment

“Why let the Wets bluff you? Be informed!”

One of my favorite movie scenes is from On Moonlight Bay, when 11-year-old Wesley Winfield watches a silent movie about the Evils of Drink, uses the plot as an excuse for falling asleep in class the next morning, and then cleverly escapes the consequences of the tall tale that he told his teacher.

The 1951 Doris Day musical and its sequel, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, are based on Penrod, Booth Tarkington’s 1914 collection of stories about an 11-year-old boy growing up in the pre-World War I Midwest. I had a whole new appreciation for that scene, inspired by chapters 7 through 11 of Penrod, after recent visits to the Westerville History Center and Museum at the Westerville Public Library, Temperance Row Brewery and the Temperance Row Historic District.

Prohibiting the sale of alcohol in 1858 led Westerville to develop a reputation as a dry village following the Temperance Movement. That reputation became famous in the 1870s, when Henry Corbin attempted to open two saloons, both of which were destroyed by fellow Westerville residents who opposed his intentions. The New York Times and other newspapers reported on the incidents, calling them the “Westerville Whiskey Wars.” The Anti-Saloon League (ASL), a temperance organization formed to create and maintain anti-alcohol sentiments and legislation, liked what it heard about this wholesome small town located just a half-hour’s train ride from Ohio’s capital city and decided to make Westerville its headquarters. True to its motto, the ASL came to Westerville in 1908 “to solve the liquor problem” and its accompanying evils, caused by declining morals and increased industrialization, urbanization and immigration. It believed that a strong moral society was possible only if a Constitutional amendment was passed to prohibit the evils of drink.

Fulfilling this big assignment was no small task. Many ASL supporters were ordained Protestant ministers, using pulpits to share the messages of and solicit financial support for their grassroots effort. Howard Hyde Russell, who founded the Ohio ASL in 1893 in Oberlin, even enlisted support from Columbus religious leaders like Catholic Bishop John Watterson and Washington Gladden of First Congregational Church.

Russell and other ASL leaders like Rev. Purley A. Baker moved to Westerville, purchasing 11 acres of farmland and building 27 Craftsman-style homes for ASL staff on a few streets just south of Otterbein University. The residential district designed to help establish higher American ideals of architecture and home life soon became known as “Temperance Row.”

Baker called his home at 131 W. Park St., at the corner of S. Grove St., “Greendale,” referring to it as “the last stop this side of heaven.” It also featured a greenhouse, from which he sold tomato and cabbage plants, and a milk house, from which he ran a dairy delivery service. Before he died in 1924, Baker donated his home to the ASL to use as an editorial office and a community library that would eventually become the Westerville Public Library. It was sold in 1935 and was owned privately until 1947, when it became the home of Otterbein’s president. It is used today as Otterbein’s Office of Alumni Relations.

Russell’s home, 79 S. Grove St., was later the home of Ernest Cherrington, an Ohio Wesleyan University graduate and journalist who believed that education would solve the alcohol problem. Today it is Otterbein’s Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house.

From its national headquarters at 110 S. State St., the ASL promoted the evils of liquor through its publishing company, The American Issue. It printed over 40 tons of anti-alcohol literature every month; in fact, it sent out so much mail that Westerville became the smallest town in the country with a first-class post office.

Under Cherrington’s editorial direction, The American Issue produced a slew of persuasive promotional literature using techniques suggested in How to Write Advertisements That Sell, a 1912 book it owned. “Liberal white space about a headline prevents anything else from competing with it,” it says. “Use clear face type, rather than a letter which is hard to read. A picture is probably the best attention-getter.”

Posters, pamphlets, fliers, advertisements, songs, poems, cartoons and children’s stories all appealed to readers’ morals. A magazine, newspaper, yearbooks, and its six-volume Standard Encyclopedia of the Alcohol Problem shared facts and statistics from economic and scientific studies to demonstrate that people would lead better lives without alcohol.  “Why let the Wets bluff you? Be informed!,” urges its Prohibition Quiz Book: Vexing Questions about Prohibition Asked and Answered.

All this made the ASL a significant player in the ratification of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution that prohibited the manufacture, sale and transport of alcoholic beverages, although it was legal to sell alcohol for medicinal purposes. Westerville, the “Dry Capitol of the World,” became the seat of this national issue that led to organized crime, the rise of jazz music, and greater societal involvement for women, who helped the adoption of Prohibition in 1920 through establishing groups like the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

Several factors led Prohibition to be repealed, including the government’s inability to enforce the law and the impact of the Great Depression on the economy, After the 21st Amendment was passed in 1933, allowing Americans to legally buy alcohol once more, financial support for the ASL dwindled. It changed its name in 1934 to the Temperance Education Foundation, devoting itself to education, research and data collection on the problems of alcohol.

The foundation gave its headquarters building to the Westerville Public Library in 1973, including over 200,000 books related to temperance, making it the largest collection of anti-alcohol literature in the world. Today, the building houses the Anti-Saloon League Museum, the Westerville Local History Center and the John R. Kasich Congressional Papers. Its Prohibition! Expectation vs. Reality exhibit explores the ASL’s role in the passage of the 18th amendment, 100 years later, and is on view now through 2020.

In 1999, state law changed to allow Westerville residents to vote individual businesses in their precincts “wet” or “dry.” On January 12, 2006, the first beer since 1933 was served in Uptown Westerville. Now, “wet” Westerville is home to Temperance Row Brewery. Earlier this year, the Westerville Visitors & Convention Bureau started using a new slogan: “Anything But Dry!” In front of Westerville’s administration building, a statue depicts a broken whiskey barrel on a metal wedge, with water trickling down over it. One side displays newspaper headlines announcing the onset of Prohibition; the other side marks its repeal.

Purley Baker and his wife, Lillie, are buried in Otterbein Cemetery, a block south of their home. Their custom-built cobblestone mausoleum, inscribed with “He that soweth righteousness hath a sure reward” (Proverbs 11:18), is easy to find.

Temperance Row Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. To recreate my visit there, download the registration form here.

To read more on the Anti-Saloon League and find more resources on Prohibition, see “The Campaign for Prohibition: Crusading to Outlaw Alcohol,” an article in the January/February 2020 issue of the Ohio History Connection’s Echoes magazine.

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“Happiness is being a Buckeye.”

That’s what many are saying this year, as The Ohio State University celebrates its 150th anniversary. In this Buckeye’s case, though, happiness was seeing my relative’s dress on display as part of exhibitions celebrating the traditions and experiences that have made campus life at Ohio State so memorable for generations of students.

Remember Ruth Weinman Herndon, the other CSG girl in my family who lived in a Frank Packard-designed home in Marble Cliff and was a member of the River Ridge Riding & Polo Club of Columbus? A black silk dress with ribbon work embroidery and lace that she wore in 1925, during her first year studying sociology at Ohio State, is front and center in “Campus Fashion: 150 Years of College Style,” an exhibit from Ohio State’s Historic Costume and Textiles Collection.

Dozens of garments highlight what students wore to class, football games, special occasions, and in their dorms. The formal silhouettes of bustled dresses and morning coats worn during Ohio State’s early days in the 1870s progressed to shorter, yet still appropriate, attire of the 1920s and 1930s.

Also on view are samples of Ohio State football program advertisements the Varsity Men’s Store at the Union and the Lazarus Collegienne Shops ran to target students. Following the fad of the 1920s, Frances Ingwersen bought this long raccoon fur coat at The Union to wear to Ohio State football games. It’s displayed alongside the letter sweater Floyd Henderson, member of the Class of 1928, earned for managing the OSU cross-country team.

While there was no official campus dress code, Residence Hall and student government association handbooks provided suggestions about what was best to wear, as this 1957 example shows: “For dinner on school days, including Saturdays: Dresses, or skirts with either blouses or sweaters. No slacks, bermudas or jeans. No shirt tails out and no sweatshirts.”

“Since OSU is a casual place, wardrobes are made up largely of skirts, jumpers, sweaters, and blouses,” another example from the 1950s continues. “To complement these outfits and add a touch of interest it is good to have a supply of scarves, collars, and tailored jewelry. Always a favorite anywhere, loafers and saddles are popular at OSU.”

While an exchange student in Ireland, Anne Clark Foltz wore this circa-1955 two-piece dress of a turtleneck and matching skirt, hand-knit by her aunt, Virginia Woolpert.

White cotton nightgowns and a blue chambray at-home gown from the late 19th century, together with Asian-inspired silk sleepwear from the 1930s, capture changing tastes in what students wore to unwind in their dorm rooms.

White dresses were traditionally worn for initiation ceremonies into honor societies and sororities because they both created a uniform look and underscored the significance of the occasion. Ruth E. Moore wore her 1922 high school graduation dress for her circa-1924 initiation into Delta Sigma Theta sorority; other white dresses were worn by Anne Clark Foltz for her 1954 initiation into the Mortar Board Society, an honor society recognizing seniors for their scholarship and service, and Margaret Jacob Dombey, OSU’s May Queen in 1927 and Rosebud in 1924, for her initiation into Kappa Kappa Gamma and for her 1928 graduation.

Projects students made for design, construction, pattern-making and tailoring classes in the Department of Home Economics, now known as the College of Human Ecology, close the exhibit.

Three dresses Susan Hunter Beall made during Home Economics classes she took at Ohio State in 1948 and 1949, including her wedding and going-away dresses, are on view in Thompson Library’s Highlights from Special Collections exhibit space. A Bergdorf Goodman advertisement in the May 15, 1948 issue of Vogue inspired the style of the dress she would wear for her marriage four days after her graduation. To make it, she used parachute silk, embroidered eyelet silk, and silk satin which her father and brother brought home from Japan.

“Scarlet and Gray: The Student Experience,” an exhibit in Ohio State’s Thompson Library Gallery, features items from the University Archives collection that highlight student life on campus.

A scarlet-and-gray bow tie worn by a member of the Class of 1888 illustrates the class rivalry that characterized Ohio State’s early years. “Ye expose your idiocy with every word and action,” an example of the good-natured teasing reads. “We came to glorious O.S.U. to learn, and to associate with cultured upper classmen. Alas! we find our guides (?) the Sophomores, to be a pack of DRIVELING IDIOTS.”

The exhibit wouldn’t be complete without the uniforms of a Buckeye cheerleader, marching band member, football player and Ohio State’s mascot, Brutus.

Next to the “fan cave” and its display of Ohio State football memorabilia, an eye-catching wall mural includes almost 40 different archival images, including songbooks, programs, ads, pennants, Homecoming buttons, football tickets, a photo of the first “Script Ohio” from 1936, and a calendar created by acclaimed artist George Bellows, a member of the Class of 1905.

“Campus Fashion: 150 Years of College Style” continues at The Ohio State University’s Historic Costume and Textiles Collection, 175 Campbell Hall, through December 13, 2019. “Scarlet and Gray: The Student Experience” is on view in the Thompson Library Gallery through January 19, 2020. For more, read Time & Change: 150 Years of The Ohio State University, by Tamar Chute, University Archivist and Head of Archives at The Ohio State University — and my archives classmate.

Take Buckeye Biography: 150 Years of Ohio State, a free online course based on the popular History of Ohio State course. Learn at your own pace through nine modules illustrated with videos, archival documents and photographs. If you finish the course, you’ll get a digital badge to show you’re a Buckeye historian. It will be available through December 18, 2020.

Posted in Fashion, History, Ohio State University, Special Collections | Leave a comment