Rutherford B. Hayes was the first president to travel to the West Coast, to have a telephone and typewriter in the White House, and to hold the Easter Egg Roll for children on the White House lawn. An exhibition at The Ohio State University’s Thompson Library Gallery reveals many other interesting facts about Hayes, including his relationship with Ohio State.
Photographs, paintings, diplomas, letters, documents, clothing and artifacts from the collections of Ohio State’s Rare Books & Manuscripts Library and the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center are on display in Rutherford B. Hayes, Buckeye President, which will be on view until August 26. The items highlight Hayes’ accomplishments throughout his life, from his student days at Kenyon College and Harvard Law School to his activities as a retired statesman.
Hayes was a well-read man who loved the written word. As a student at Kenyon, Hayes excelled at rhetoric, composition and literature, and was named valedictorian of his 1842 graduating class. He was one of the 100 members of the Literary Club of Cincinnati, a group he joined in 1850 that allowed him to meet and talk with Ralph Waldo Emerson, his favorite author. Invoices from Robert Clarke & Co., a 19th-century Cincinnati bookseller and publisher, document some of the titles that he purchased to add to his collection of over 12,000 books.
One of the exhibit’s text panels provides some information that offers insight into Hayes’s ambitious character. After being admitted to the Ohio bar in 1845, Hayes began his practice of law in Lower Sandusky, now known as Fremont. Stifled by life in a small town, he decided to relocate to Cincinnati. He arrived on December 25, 1849 in the hopes of finding a wife, intellectual stimulation and a prosperous law practice. He was successful on all counts.
To document Brigadier General Hayes’ Civil War service, a frock coat and sash that Hayes purchased from T.W. Sprague & Company in Cincinnati is displayed alongside a military manual that he read to learn drilling and tactics, to compensate for his lack of military training.
A photograph of Hayes and his fellow 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry soldiers that was taken in front of the Hotel Lakeside documents the reunion that the regiment held at Lakeside on November 6, 1883. Hayes hosted two other regimental reunions at his Fremont home, Spiegel Grove.
A case illustrating Hayes’ political career presents a campaign torch that was carried in nighttime parades, 1876 campaign sheet music for the “Hayes Grand March” and a small campaign badge reading “Our Boys in Blue, We Go for Hayes.” The soldier pictured on the badge is carrying a campaign torch like the one on display in the case.
Photographs and commemorative items from Hayes’s presidential travels convey his commitment to promote harmony, restore faith in the country’s leaders, and give citizens the opportunity to see their president in person. During his four years in office, Hayes visited all but six states, earning him the nickname “Rutherford the Rover.” Other presidential mementos included in the exhibition are a couple of pieces of the Hayes presidential china made by Haviland & Company, a chipped wine glass from Abraham Lincoln’s stemware that the Hayeses bought as a reminder of their favorite president, and stereographic cards of the Soldiers’ Home in Washington, D.C., now known as President Lincoln’s Cottage, where President and Mrs. Hayes enjoyed spending time so much that they had their piano moved there.
As governor of Ohio, Hayes convinced the Ohio Legislature to found a new land-grant college funded by land sales under provisions of the Morrill Act of 1862. After the Cannon Act, creating the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College, passed both houses in 1870, Hayes nominated the college’s first trustees, who chose Columbus as the site for the college. In 1887, Hayes was elected to a seven-year term on its board of trustees.
Artifacts highlighting Hayes’ ties to Ohio State include a copy of the university’s 1894 Makio yearbook, which was dedicated to the “Soldier, Statesman, Philanthropist and Citizen” upon his death on January 17, 1893; Ohio State’s February 3, 1893 issue of The Lantern, published as a memorial to Hayes; and a drawing of Hayes Hall that its architect, Frank Packard, presented to Hayes. The oldest instructional building on campus that bears the president’s name opened two weeks after his death, was home to the School of Manual Arts, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Hayes believed that education and vocational training would help people achieve better lives. As a quote from Hayes states on one of the exhibition’s text panels, “The end and object of manual training is to make our young people able and willing to work with their hands — to give them the habits of labor — willing to put on their old clothes and work — not merely to work willingly but enjoying work.”
My favorite items in the exhibit were those associated with Lucy Ware Webb, whom Rutherford married on December 30, 1852 in the parlor of her mother’s home at 141 Sixth Street in Cincinnati. The couple’s marriage certificate hangs alongside an image of their wedding daguerreotype.
Lucy was the first wife of a president to graduate from college. Next to her silver calling card case are her diploma and program from her June 28, 1850 graduation from Cincinnati Wesleyan Female College. Her graduation address — whose title, “The Influence of Christianity on National Prosperity,” is embellished with elaborate flourishes — is also on display.
After researching 15 books to prepare for my PieceWork article about Ida Saxton McKinley’s dresses, I tested my new knowledge of embellishments by spending a long time looking at an elegant black velvet bodice that belonged to Lucy. Adorned with passementerie and fringe, the bodice bears the label of McCreery & Company in New York. Beside the bodice is a hair comb of Lucy’s and a November 23, 1877 invoice from Moschcowitz & Russell of Paris and New York, listing a $400 “Imperial Velvet Carre Reception Dress” and a $150 “White Silk & Velvet Costume” that Lucy purchased.
Next door to the Thompson Library Gallery, the Special Collections Display Area includes a case that previews The Columbus Fashion Story, an exhibition presented by Ohio State’s Historic Costume & Textiles Collection that will feature clothing from the local fashion industry during Columbus’s history. The case includes a warp printed silk taffeta bodice with magenta silk and black lace that dressmaker Daisy Shaefer made for Mrs. John E. Brown circa 1897. Displayed atop the bodice is a waistband tape with a label reading “Miss D. Schaefer, Columbus, Ohio,” promoting the work of the dressmaker who worked in the old South End of the city, now known as German Village.
The Columbus Fashion Story will present artifacts in three sections: Nineteenth-century dressmakers, tailors and dry goods establishments; early- to mid-20th century downtown department stores and specialty boutiques, such as The Union and Montaldo’s; and the late 20th/early 21st century dominance of malls and specialty brand retailers like Limited Brands Inc. The exhibition will run from September 5 through December 7, 2012 in the Gladys Keller Snowden Gallery, on the second floor of the Geraldine Schottenstein Wing of Campbell Hall on Ohio State’s campus.