Skål! I Found A Place That Has A Two-Dollar Breakfast And A Swedish Carriage Cushion!

Do you know what turns my stomach? Shelling out too much money at restaurants.

So when I found cheap eats in a Scandinavian setting, I raised a box of Dryck Lingon in celebration at one of central Ohio’s newest stores: IKEA.

IKEA is the invention of Ingvar Kamprad, who grew up in a farming village in the Småland region of Sweden. The “IK” in IKEA represent Kamprad’s initials; “E” stands for Elmtaryd, the farm where he grew up; and “A” is the name of his local village, Agunnaryd. In a place where money was always in short supply, the teenaged Kamprad started selling matchboxes, seeds, Christmas tree tinsel and other merchandise to his neighbors in 1943. In 1948, he started producing a mail-order list of his merchandise, called IKEA-nytt (IKEA-news), and the list expanded to include many more practical items, including furniture.

Kamprad’s vision for the products sold by IKEA is clear. They are designed not only to be beautiful, durable and functional, but also to be affordable, so that as many people as possible can create the IKEA look in their homes. Many products are made of particleboard, a recycled material made from waste products at sawmills. Most furniture and fittings come in flat packages to be assembled at home, minimizing transportation and storage costs. IKEA’s most popular products remain the “BILLY” bookcase, which anyone can assemble, and the “KLIPPAN” sofa, which has a removable fabric cover designed to protect the living room’s most expensive piece of furniture from the stains and spills of daily life.

Product names are designed to be easy to remember. Fabrics, curtains and other textiles are given girls’ names or recall regions of Denmark. Chairs have boys’ names or are inspired by places in Finland. Coffee tables and sofas are named for places in Sweden. Scandinavian bodies of water inspire the names of lamps. Bed names hail from Norway. Outdoor furniture is named after Scandinavian islands. The names of children’s products sound like adjectives or animal names.

First released in 1951, the IKEA catalogue illustrates the IKEA products that are offered to inspire and solve the storage and furnishing needs of everyday life. Almost 200 million copies are printed each year, in 36 countries and 29 languages. At the IKEA store, visitors can step inside realistic room settings, trying out the products displayed in each vignette so they can not only be inspired, but also see how the products perform in everyday life.

Armchairs; beds; bathroom furniture; bed linens; tables; blinds; bookcases; chairs; chests of drawers; clothes organizers; cookware; curtains; desks; dining tables and chairs; sofas; lighting; office furniture; rugs; window treatments — IKEA has it all. And there’s something for everyone — even children, who can play and have fun in a special area by the entrance that is known for its “ball pit.”

An IKEA store’s vibrant blue-and-yellow exterior recalls the national colors of Sweden. Enter and the first thing you see is a mountain of blue-and-yellow shopping bags, which invites visitors to start buying. The route through the store is a twisting, turning path through dozens of departments, all with products at various price points strategically placed on shelves, in display vignettes, and in heaps. A “closing offer” signals the transition from one department into another, giving customers one last opportunity to buy an irresistible product featured there.

As they wander through the store, IKEA shoppers make notes on a shopping list of the items they would like to buy, which can be fulfilled at the end of their visit. My wish list began with a “SKURAR” picture ledge that resembles paper-doily shelf edging, as well as an indoor-outdoor greenhouse to hang on the wall or rest on a flat surface.

It was soon followed by a “TREBLAD” tote bag and a “RENREPE” cushion cover, inspired by the handcrafted embroidered textiles made by 16 generations of women who lived at the designer’s mother’s home.

Next came the “STRANDKRYPA” duvet cover and pillowcase depicting botanical illustrations of flowers growing near the birthplace of both IKEA and Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus.

Last on my list is the “RÖDARV” cushion, inspired by the traditional embroidered oblong linen or wool cushion placed on chairs in the Swedish home or the seat of Swedish horse-drawn carriages when going to church and to market or to weddings and other festive occasions. Motifs usually showed flowers and foliage, birds and animals, people on horseback, and sometimes Biblical, hunting or pastoral scenes; the edges were fringed in woven wool. It’s the perfect finishing touch for a bed made with a “ROSENFIBBLA” or “ROSENRIPS” duvet cover.

IKEA is the go-to source for creating the light-filled, simply furnished, functional home that has defined Sweden for hundreds of years. Pale colors reflect the greens of Sweden’s forests, the blues of the sea and sky, the yellows of flax and birch leaves, and the grays and off-whites of winter. Blond wood furniture and natural pine flooring add to the neutral color palette. Simple window treatments and muslin curtains allow light to stream into the home, especially in winter, when it is most scarce.

Fabrics are most often striped, checked or with motifs inspired by nature; furniture has slender, tapered legs. Natural objects like seashells and moss are displayed as decoration. Furniture is arranged in a room to make the most of space for all kinds of occasions, with a tea table and a few chairs placed in the center of the room, with spindleback chairs lining the walls.

Some products recall the traditional decorative style of interior home painting from the Dalarna region of Sweden, known as kurbits. Others recall the spindleback chairs that have been made in Sweden as a complement to farming.

In 1995, the Swedish National Heritage Board approached IKEA to produce a line of reproductions of furniture and decorative items from 18th-century Swedish castles and country homes, if the company would provide financial assistance for their restoration. Items in the “Original Copy” line included hand-painted china, a gilded mirror, a writing desk, a birch sofa painted pale grey with blue-and-white checkered fabric cushions, chandeliers and chests of drawers. A drop-leaf table recreated the Slag Bord, the classic table used in Swedish entertaining because it can be configured in various ways. The table is pulled to the center of the room and both of its leaves are extended for parties; when not in use, only one leaf is extended and the table is pushed back along the wall.

The restaurant is another IKEA specialty. When the first IKEA store opened in 1958, Kamprad arranged coffee and pastries alongside the furniture on the upper floor of the store. After all, no good business is done on an empty stomach.

Today, IKEA restaurants serve dishes prepared in the style of Småland. For breakfast, Swedish pancakes known as plättar are served with jam made from the ruby-colored, sweet-tart lingonberries that grow in Swedish forests and are harvested in September. The lunch and dinner menu features classic Swedish meatballs with lingonberries, as well as other traditional Swedish dishes like salmon, all for a very reasonable price. My Swedish-American breakfast, with scrambled eggs, turkey sausage, potatoes, plättar and lingonberry jam, cost $2. Penne pasta topped with marinara sauce, parmesan cheese and meatballs was $3.

Bargain-priced hot dogs are another IKEA tradition. Since 1995, IKEA has been offering them in its bistro on the other side of the checkouts as another example of its astonishingly cheap buys.

In IKEA’s Sweden shop, you can take home Wasa crispbread, Blekinge salmon, Kalle’s Bohus caviar, Skåne ginger biscuits, Västerbotten cheese and lingonberry preserves. Lördagsgodis, a pick-and-mix candy known as “Saturday mix” after the Swedish tradition of allowing children to purchase candy as a treat on Saturdays, includes strawberry vanilla drops, raspberry hearts, Finnish licorice, jelly frogs, and caramel twists.

The end of summer is celebrated in Sweden with an outdoor supper of boiled crayfish, bread and cheese. IKEA’s annual Swedish Crayfish Party, an all-you-can-eat buffet of crayfish, soup, deviled eggs, cucumber salad, potato salad, Swedish cheese, Swedish desserts and more, will be on Friday, September 15.

As for me, any day that I can sit in this corner of IKEA’s restaurant is a special  occasion for which I would gladly put a RÖDARV cushion in my horseless carriage.

To learn more about IKEA’s history and its approach to business and design, read Leading by Design: The IKEA Story, by Bertil Torekull; A Furniture Dealer’s Testament, in which Kamprad summarizes his values and vision for IKEA; IKEA The Book: Designers, Products and Other Stuff, by Staffan Bengtsson; Design by IKEA: A Cultural History, by Sara Kristoffersson; and The Ikea Edge: Building Global Growth and Social Good at the World’s Most Iconic Home Store, by Anders Dahlvig.

To create the IKEA look in your home, check out The Book of Home Design Using IKEA Home Furnishings, by Anoop Parikh; I Modify IKEA: Furnishings from Everyone’s Favorite Store, Customized for Your Home, by Elyse Major and Charlotte Rivers; and Reinventing IKEA: 70 DIY Projects to Transform IKEA Essentials, by Isabelle Bruno and Christine Baillet.

To bring Swedish style to your home, consult Swedish Interiors and Swedish Country Interiors, both by Rhonda Eleish and Edie Van Breems; Carl and Karin Larsson: Creators of the Swedish Style, edited by Michael Snodin and Elisabeth Stavenow-Hidemark; Classic Swedish Interiors, by Lars Sjöberg; The Swedish Country House, by Susanna Scherman; and Bringing it Home: Sweden: The Ultimate Guide to Creating the Feeling of Sweden in Your Home, by Cheryl MacLachlan.

For more on Swedish folk design, see Folk Costumes of Sweden: A Living Tradition, by Inga Arnö Berg and Gunnel Hazelius-Berg; Swedish Embroidery, edited by Eivor Fisher; and Swedish Folk Art: All Tradition Is Change, edited by Barbro Klein and Mats Widbom.

Posted in Food, Scandinavia, Shopping | Leave a comment

A 136-Foot-Long Diorama Leads To The Study Of A Dentist Who Wrote Westerns

Drive 15 minutes east from Zanesville on the U.S. 40 National Scenic Byway to Norwich, Ohio, and you’ll polish off my third and final “hidden gem”: The National Road and Zane Grey Museum.

At this Ohio History Connection site, discover three things that made this region of Ohio famous: its art pottery; the National Road; and Zane Grey, the author of almost 90 books, including Westerns, novels about fishing, and a biography of the young George Washington.

The sand, clay and iron that naturally occur in southeast Ohio allowed for so much manufacturing of steel, glass and pottery to take place around Zanesville and Muskingum County that it became known as the pottery capital of the world. Art pottery, ceramic tile, and utilitarian stoneware crocks were created around Zanesville during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Eye-catching decorations and unusual glazes made these affordable machine-made creations especially beautiful.

Just as the Zane Trace helped the pioneers blaze a path through the frontier, the National Road enabled transportation of crops, goods and people from the east coast to the heartland of the United States. Stretching from Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois, the road was authorized in 1806, but construction on it began in Ohio in 1825.

An incredible 3/8ths-scale, 136-foot-long diorama of the National Road illustrates what it was like to travel on the 600-mile-long National Road from the early 19th century to the mid-20th century. Beverley Harris Moseley, a graphic designer who made museum exhibits for the Ohio Historical Society, created the diorama for this museum’s opening in March 1973. Born in Columbus in 1926, he graduated from Linden McKinley High School and Ohio State University, where he served as the university marching band’s drum major in 1946. He passed away in 2011.

Moseley carved hundreds of figures for the diorama in just two and a half years. He consulted with an historian and studied the clothing and tools of the period. From the backdrop to the figures that populate it, Mr. Moseley created the scene in amazing detail.

The diorama begins with the creation of the road itself, showing local men breaking pieces of rock by hand until it could pass through a three-inch iron ring. To create the roadbed, the broken rock was covered with smaller stones to create a uniform surface on which Conestoga wagons could travel. All of the grading, filling and hauling had to be done with hand tools and the help of oxen, mules and horses.

The thousands of wagons, stagecoaches, riders on horseback and livestock droves that traveled on the National Road helped Ohio’s industry and commerce develop. Taverns and inns were constructed about every 10 miles. The Five Mile House, later known as the Headley Inn, was built in 1835 and is still standing about three miles east of Zanesville. The Searight Tollhouse, one of several still in existence, collected tolls to maintain the road; its unique shape and abundance of windows provided the gatekeeper with a fine view in all directions. Stations for the drovers that directed the livestock along the road did not offer sleeping accommodations; they were early versions of today’s highway truck stops.

The diorama continues to the banks of the Ohio River at Wheeling, which marked the end of the first stage of the National Road. Before a bridge was built over the Ohio River, traffic from Wheeling was pulled across on barges and flatboats. Vehicles and animals alike piled up on both sides of the river, sometimes causing such congestion that travelers waited two or three days to cross.

To depict the motor car’s arrival on the National Road, the diorama shows how unused schoolhouses became the first highway rest areas, as families made summertime pleasure trips along the National Road and pitched tents on schoolgrounds.

It illustrates how highway travel developed along the National Road, from the Standard Oil Company’s “oil stations”…

…to the farmhouses that were transformed into tourist homes. As farmers who lived along the National Road began serving travelers’ needs, farmhouses were transformed into tourist homes. When they were regularly filled to capacity, little cabins were built in neat rows nearby, and the motel industry was born.

At the end of the diorama, spot a miniature Madonna of the Trail statue. Twelve of these statues depicting a pioneer mother and her children were placed along the road to commemorate the nation’s westward expansion. Ohioans can see one in Springfield.

In another section of the museum, Moseley made three historic displays with exceptionally lifelike figures. A blacksmith, wheelwright, and a tavern waitress serving dinner to two arguing men were modeled from homeless men and carnival workers that Moseley paid $20 each to pose for him.

Finally, the museum honors Zane Grey, best known for his Western novels. Born in Zanesville in 1872 —  and a descendant of Colonel Ebenezer Zane, who blazed Zane’s Trail through Ohio — Grey won a baseball scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, first practiced dentistry, and then decided to become a writer. His first novel, Betty Zane, was published in 1904 and was inspired by stories of frontier Ohio.

In 1907, Grey traveled through the American West with a retired buffalo hunter and was inspired to begin writing Western novels. Riders of the Purple Sage, which he published in 1912, is considered to be the best, most popular and most influential Western ever written.

Grey and his family moved to Altadena, California, in 1920. The museum recreates his study there, where he sat in a Morris chair near the fireplace and wrote his books on a lap board until he died in 1939. The room is filled with its original furnishings, including books, magazines, manuscripts and trophies of hunting and fishing.

To learn more about the National Road, start with “The National Road: Helping Build America,” Glenn Harper’s article in the October-December 2006 issue of the Ohio History Connection’s TIMELINE, and A Traveler’s Guide to the Historic National Road in Ohio: The Road That Helped Build America: An All-American Road National Scenic Byway, by Glenn Harper and Doug Smith. For more on Zane Grey, read Zane Grey: Romancing the West and Maverick Heart: The Further Adventures of Zane Grey; both by Stephen May; and Dolly & Zane Grey: Letters from a Marriage, edited by Candace C. Kant.  Watch episodes of Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theatre. The Ohio History Connection’s Archives/Library has even more resources, including manuscripts, galley proofs and comic strips of Grey’s Western novels and short stories, as well as correspondence between Zane and Lina Grey, in The Zane Grey Papers, 1919-1973 (MSS 376), and silent black-and-white film footage of the Grey family (AV 233).

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

Here’s The Rub On Zanesville’s Carnegie Library

An hour into our holiday redeye trips to New York City, the motorcoach makes a quick pickup stop near the Zanesville-Muskingum County Convention and Visitors Bureau. As more passengers push past with their pillows and changes of clothes, I remind myself that I have to investigate the building that I see out the window.  That’s what I did recently.

The John McIntire Library is my second “hidden gem” worth unearthing in Zanesville.

The library was named for the son-in-law of Colonel Ebenezer Zane, the Revolutionary War veteran who was commissioned by Congress not only to blaze a path west from Wheeling, West Virginia into the Northwest Territory through the Ohio Valley, but also to establish ferry crossings at major rivers. McIntire joined Zane in this endeavor to create Zane’s Trace, laying out a town called Westborne at the confluence of the Licking and Muskingum Rivers. Later, Zane’s Trace became the famed highway known as the National Road; Westborne was renamed Zanesville in honor of Colonel Zane; and Zanesville served as Ohio’s capital from 1810 to 1812.

Zanesville’s library got its start in December 1828, when a subscription library known as The Athenaeum was founded. Its first home was in a wing of the old courthouse. In 1904, the subscription library became a free one to serve Zanesville taxpayers and its current name was adopted the next year. The overcrowded library successfully obtained funds that Andrew Carnegie granted to help communities build public libraries, and the new building opened in 1907.

To commemorate Zanesville’s 200th anniversary, New York artist DeBorah Goletz was commissioned to make a “rubbing wall” depicting 21 events in the history of Zanesville and Muskingum County. Located outside the library’s Shinnick Street entrance, the wall is made of handmade molded tiles.

Amid tiles depicting foliage from the Ohio Buckeye tree, images continue in chronological order around the wall.

Begin with the first tile and discover that the Delaware Tribe of Native Americans that lived in the area named the “Moos-Kin-Gung” (Muskingum) River, which means “Elk Eye River.” Proceed through the creation of Zane’s Trace and the building of Zanesville’s first schoolhouse and courthouse, and then reach the first of several tiles documenting the development of the city’s famous Y Bridge, connecting Zanesville with three nearby towns that would later become part of the city.

First built on mostly wooden piers in 1814, the Y bridge was taken out by a flood and was replaced by another wooden bridge, but with stone pier supports, in 1819. It was reconstructed as a covered bridge on stone piers in 1832, torn down in 1900, and rebuilt in reinforced concrete in 1902. After the main span of the bridge was demolished in 1983, the fifth Y bridge was built of steel and concrete and still stands today.

The historic wall tiles continue with Zanesville’s ceramic tile and art pottery industry, including the hydraulic tile press, patented in 1876, that enabled the American Encaustic Tile Company of Zanesville to become the first mass producer of ceramic tile in the United States. The wall also documents the development of manufacturing iron, glass, beer and soap in Zanesville; the city’s first train and streetcar; the historic Muskingum River flood in 1913; and its roles in the First and Second World Wars.

One tile also commemorates Colonel Zane’s great-grandson, Zane Grey, a Zanesville native who became famous for writing countless novels and short stories about the American West. He’ll be covered in my next post.

The John McIntire Library, part of the Muskingum County Library System, is located at 220 North Fifth Street in downtown Zanesville. Free packets of paper and bibliographies of books about the images depicted on the rubbings wall, along with crayons to borrow, are available inside the library for visitors to use in making rubbings of the images on the wall. Hint: Diagonal strokes work best.

Posted in History, Libraries, Ohio | Leave a comment

Find More Fairies Under The Mission Oaks

News flash: There is more than one “hidden gem” in Zanesville, Ohio.

A little “rockhounding” in an unlikely place led me to uncover a treasure there known as Mission Oaks Gardens.

In the late 1980s, an abandoned ravine in an older residential section of Zanesville was transformed into a series of gardens. Native and non-native plants alike thrive in a unique micro-climate that exists on a 10-acre site tended by Master Gardeners and supporters of the Muskingum Valley Garden Society Downtown Beautification Project.

A former clay tile shard dump on the property provides a well-drained planting site for a varied collection of conifers. The grove includes more than 200 examples of nearly 60 conifer species. A waterfall, a pond filled with water lilies, and benches from which to appreciate the view enhance the grove.

Finding a water lily bloom on the ground that had been separated from its pad, I thought about why Jim McCormac says these plants embody many of the best traits of nature.

Making your way to the other side of the gardens, pass dozens of dahlias at peak bloom.

Under the canopy of white oak trees, over 60 shade-loving plant varieties thrive in the woodland garden, from common ferns to native woodland plants. Rare, endangered Oconee bells have been growing here for a short time; the plant can only be found in a few places in the United States.

Follow the woodland path, turn right at an inviting sign, and find yourself in the fantastic Fairy Garden.

Just last year, houses handmade from mostly natural items started attracting a bevy of fairies in residence from May through October.

This tiny village has everything our fairy friends need: a bakery, a shoemaker, a seamstress, a playground, a library, a town hall, and even a fairy wing repair shop.

Write a note to the fairies and leave it in their mailbox near their “welcome center,” then walk back to the woodland path. Spot a gazebo, where you can survey the neighboring perennial garden filled with hundreds of varieties of flourishing perennials. Spring-blooming Lenten roses and Indian hyacinths give way to early-summer cone flowers, phlox and peonies, followed by autumn favorites like re-blooming iris and chrysanthemums.

In Olga’s Children’s Garden, young people learn about gardening and discover nature.  Visitors can also browse the contents of a nature-themed Little Free Library there.At one of three rain gardens, where rainwater runoff from the parking lot is absorbed into the ground for plants to take up the excess, I spotted something I’ve been on the lookout for lately: a kindness rock.  In this ever-more-popular project to spread joy and kindness to others, people paint eye-catching scenes, inspirational phrases and thoughtful messages on stones and tuck them in public places for others to find. Some are labeled with names of Facebook group pages for posting notes about where the stones are discovered. Recipients of kindness rocks are encouraged to take them and hide them in a new place. If they want to keep a rock, they can paint a new one to replace it.  

Mission Oaks Gardens, part of the Muskingum Valley Park District, is open at no charge seven days a week, dawn to dusk. Find it at 424 Hunter Avenue in Zanesville. 

Posted in Gardens, Ohio | Leave a comment

In A “Tawny Yellow” Library, The Husband Of Another Elizabeth Butler Helped Win The Great War With Books

I’m over the top not only about “Tommies,” but also about doughboys, because I’m related to one.

Charley O’Connor in his WWI uniform

In the summer of 1917, my grandmother and great-grandfather took the train from Columbus to Chillicothe, Ohio to visit my great-great uncle, Charles O’Connor. They arrived at a 2,302-acre site of former farmland that was named after Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. It was a small city in itself, with paved streets named after Ohio locales and more than 2,000 buildings that had just been constructed in less than three months. They caught up over a picnic with Charley, who pulled out his mess kit and gave the spoon to my grandmother, the fork to my great-grandfather, and kept the knife for himself.

Young Charley was a member of Battery E, 324th Regiment, Section 23 at Camp Sherman, one of the 16 cantonments established across the country to train enlisted men before they were sent overseas as soldiers to fight in World War I.  Adena, the historic home of Ohio Governor Thomas Worthington, was to the west of the camp; to the east was Mount Logan, a foothill of the Allegheny mountains that formed the background of the Great Seal of the State of Ohio.

“I wish you could see my back yard with trees and hills higher than your house ten miles long and five miles wide,” Charley wrote my grandmother on a postcard he wrote her for Thanksgiving in 1917. “That’s some back yard. I think so, don’t you?”

Flowers Charley O’Connor picked in Germany during the Army of Occupation, April 1919

After training at Camp Sherman, Charley fought in France and later served in the 32nd Division, American Expeditionary Forces during the Army of Occupation in 1918-1919. In April 1919, Charley picked a small bouquet of flowers in the countryside surrounding Ringsdorf, Germany and sent them to my grandmother and her younger sister.  We still have them.

Grandma recounted her visit to Camp Sherman each time we passed the former cantonment on the way to Adena. She was with me in spirit during “Camp Sherman Days,” a nine-day celebration held this past July to commemorate the centennial of the United States entering World War I.

The celebration was monumental for military buffs and Great War enthusiasts alike. Among the events were a walking tour of downtown Chillicothe sites where Camp Sherman soldiers spent their free time. A Vaudeville performance at downtown Chillicothe’s Majestic Theater, along with some dramatic Camp Sherman scenes, was followed by a live band performance of period songs, including “I’m Going Down to Chillicothe,” a musical tribute to the young men who reported for basic training at Camp Sherman.

“Sergeant York,” a biographical film about the life of World War I soldier Alvin York, together with a video comparing Camp Sherman to Camp Gordon, Georgia, where York trained, was also shown at the Majestic. Authentic World War I camp and tent displays, a flyover of a World War I aircraft and a drill practice and weapons demonstration performed by World War I re-enactors in period uniforms took place at the original Camp Sherman rifle range, now the home of the Joint Training Center for the Ohio National Guard.

Best of all was a driving tour of the Camp Sherman site, now state land that is ordinarily restricted to the public. Armed with a map to track the locations of camp landmarks, we boarded a small bus and traversed just over three miles of the base with Dick Rutherford, our exceptionally knowledgeable guide, who shared historical details of each major site and the general layout of the camp.


Entering through the original south entrance gates to Camp Sherman, we drove along part of the camp’s original road and realized that this “City of Soldiers” was a massive place. Chosen for its excellent access to the railroad and its proximity to major cities, Camp Sherman would process almost 80,000 soldiers on their way to or from the Western Front. To accommodate all those people, it had to be constructed quickly; the buildings were put up so fast that the cement didn’t have time to dry.

Starting top finishing of a trench at Camp Sherman

The camp included maneuver grounds for drills, trench training and artillery training. Driving by, I learned that wrist watches were popular with Camp Sherman soldiers. Pocket watches were the style of the day, but since they didn’t have much time to pull their watch out and put it back in their pocket before an order for attention came, a wrist watch served them better.

But training grounds weren’t all Camp Sherman was about. It had four fire houses; religious centers; 10 post exchanges; an ice cream plant; recreational lodges hosted by the Elks and the Daughters of the American Revolution; theaters (one of which held 2,000); 11 YMCA facilities, including an auditorium where Vaudeville shows and lectures were held; a bowling alley; a YWCA Hostess House for African-American soldiers; two Knights of Columbus halls; a post office; corrals for 12,000 horses; and more.  For $1.00 a night, families could stay in a Community House hosted by the Red Cross, complete with a restaurant and a public area filled with leather couches and wicker chairs.

To assure parents that their sons were being treated well at Camp Sherman, the Department of Defense hired the S&E Film Company, which made films starring Charlie Chaplin and Gloria Swanson, to take about an hour’s worth of film footage documenting activities at the camp. Training Activities of the (83rd) Division, Camp Sherman, Ohio, 1917-1918 shows draftees being examined, inoculated, issued clothing and taught to salute. Soldiers are also shown bayoneting dummies, throwing hand grenades, building trenches, setting up and firing trench mortars, watching French officers demonstrate how to operate machine guns, and hauling supplies through the camp on a miniature railway.  Soldiers also contributed to daily camp operations, such as mixing dough and baking bread at the bakery, and washing and ironing clothes at the post laundry, where more than 450 women worked in a building the size of a football field.

Still from Training Activities of the (83rd) Division, Camp Sherman, Ohio, 1917-1918

While much of the soldiers’ time was spent training, they had a few hours of free time each day. The film documents some of these activities, such as playing football and baseball, picking up mail at the post office, writing letters, picknicking with visitors, and receiving boxing instructions from Johnny Kilbane, featherweight champion of the world, to assist them in bayonet tactics. The film was shown to the U.S. Senate and to the Allies. During Camp Sherman Days, rangers at the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, neighboring the camp site, showed the film to visitors. You have to see it!  Watch it here.  

Guide Dick Rutherford showing a photograph of an original Camp Sherman building

During the tour, we drove through Frenchtown, a Chillicothe community that existed before the canal, and the camp’s division headquarters, which was also used as a headquarters during the War of 1812. We passed through the north entrance to the camp — now the Chillicothe Veterans Affairs Medical Center — to see where the camp’s 200-bed hospital once stood. It was here where soldiers afflicted with Spanish influenza were cared for. The worldwide epidemic arrived at Camp Sherman in September 1918, infecting 8,000 people and killing 1,100 within two months.

We stopped at Camp Sherman Memorial Park, where portions of original floors and streets from the camp can still be seen. The park is decorated with painted wooden remembrance poppies, courtesy of the Federated Garden Clubs of Ross County, Ohio.

We passed the parade grounds, located just north of the mounds that are now the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park. Here, more than 21,000 Camp Sherman soldiers made a “Living Picture” called “Sincerely Yours, Woodrow Wilson” in 1918. This celebrated image of the Great War was taken from a 70-foot tower with an 11-by-14-inch view camera. As the troops took their positions across a 700-foot formation, the photographer and his assistant stood atop a 70-foot tower, shouting refinements by megaphone, then took the picture with an 11-by-14-inch view camera.

Our last stop was Camp Sherman’s library, the only significant building still remaining on the Camp Sherman site and was part of the driving tour. I could hardly contain myself, especially when I saw Bob Leach, the organizer of Camp Sherman Days, and three young men, all dressed in World War I uniforms, inside the former library, re-enacting a scene of soldiers reading publications of the day, like Farm and Fireside, a Springfield, Ohio-based national farming magazine.  It was the highlight of the tour.

Camp Sherman’s library was the creation of Burton Egbert Stevenson (1872-1962). The Chillicothe native married Elizabeth (“Betty”) Butler, a librarian, in 1895; four years later, he began his 57-year career as the librarian at the Chillicothe Public Library, personally selecting and cataloging the books for its collection. As enlisted men started arriving in Chillicothe, Stevenson wanted to provide a comfortable place at the camp where soldiers could spend some spare quiet time with quality reading material that would entertain and educate them.

Up went a one-story building made from leftover material already at the camp. Its exterior was painted “tawny yellow,” with “Pompeian red” and black trim. Inside, it had white walls, dark brown woodwork, a war map with thumbtacks and different colors of string to show the progress of the war overseas, and plenty of shelves for books. Because it was constructed under budget, the leftover funds were used to create more shelving, as well as a fireplace.

Interior of Camp Sherman’s library, with Burton Stevenson standing on the far right

The library opened on December 31, 1917, with over 6,000 cataloged books that could be checked out for seven days. The growing collection included reference works, magazines, textbooks and required reading like Woodrow Wilson’s Why We Are At War. Books included adventure and detective stories; popular reads like Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Elbert Hubbard’s A Message to Garcia; technical handbooks about aviation and military matters; and nonfiction works about history and travel, especially regarding Europe.

Recognizing that many of the soldiers at Camp Sherman had not been away from home before, Stevenson provided five copies of over 300 Ohio newspapers so they could keep up with news coverage from their hometowns.

They Signal “Send Books,” 1917, The Library Company of Philadelphia

Camp Sherman’s library became a model for other camp libraries, and Stevenson was summoned to Washington, D.C. to head a national campaign for library service for the armed forces. The American Library Association created a statewide book drive for soldiers, issuing lists of titles by popular authors like Jack London, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson and Arthur Conan Doyle. Over 250,000 books were donated to the Book-for-Every-Soldier campaign.

Stevenson founded the American Library in Paris, France in 1918, then became European director of the American Library Association’s Library War Service, a center that provided Europe with information on the United States, until 1925. In his spare time, he wrote over 40 mystery and detective novels, children’s books, travel books, and anthologies of verses and familiar quotations. “On Dangerous Ground” was the film version of The Girl from Alsace: A Romance of the Great War, originally published as Little Comrade. The Mystery of the Boule Cabinet was adapted for film in 1930 as “In the Next Room.”

The Chillicothe-Ross County Library, a Carnegie library built in 1906 and located at 140 S. Paint St., where Burton Stevenson was librarian from 1899 to 1957.

Camp Sherman stopped operating by July 1920. The government sold the buildings, but retained the land. A recent archaeological dig unearthed several artifacts from Camp Sherman, including a medicine bottle, a tin cup, an aluminum coal, a training grenade and coal still in the bakery’s coal bins.

Today, the Chillicothe Correctional Institution is located on the site of the former camp. A team of nine inmates is turning poplar timber from state forests into 150-square-foot log cabins for campers and hunters visiting Ohio state parks. The building that served as the camp’s library is where the inmates operate the planer for these “Sherman cabins.”

A Sherman Cabin

Similar driving tours of the Camp Sherman site are planned to be offered for the next year and a half, since the camp was not decommissioned until 1919.

For more on Camp Sherman, read Camp Sherman: Ohio’s WWI Soldier Factory and The Rise and Fall of Camp Sherman: Ohio’s World War One Soldier Factory, both by G. Richard Peck. Burton Egbert Stevenson, The Camp Sherman Library in Chillicothe, Ohio, and the Men and Women Who Helped Make It A Success During the First World War, a 2005 thesis by Joseph Florenski; Camp Sherman Souvenir: Chillicothe, Ohio, edited by Frank H. Ward.

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Are You As Over The Top About “Tommies” As I Am?

Articulate. Brilliant. Fascinating. Incredible. A living legend.

Read what former students of Jefferson D. Futch III, professor emeritus of history at Washington and Lee University, have to say about him and you’ll soon get the idea that he was one legendary teacher.  I’m grateful to him because he introduced me to a life-changing book.

Lexington, Virginia was panting-hot in September 1989.  On the first day of my junior year as an exchange student at W&L, my roommates gasped as they watched me enter Newcomb Hall for my European History class.  I took a seat, and was soon surrounded by dozens of guys who grabbed vintage ties from a box by the door and slung them around their necks. Our teacher, Dr. Futch, entered the classroom, looked out of his signature round horn-rimmed glasses, and said, “Gentlemen, we have a lady in our midst.” Talk about a way to begin my first day of coeducation.

The shy girl in the sailor dress soon lost her nervousness and gained an appreciative audience when she correctly answered a question about Queen Victoria. That launched a semester of fascinating discussions about everything from the Russian Revolution of 1917 and Otto von Bismarck to highlights from “Popes for Dopes,” the nickname for Dr. Futch’s course on the history of the Papacy. When the syllabus turned to World War I, Dr. Futch assigned Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory.

Named by the Modern Library as one of the 20th century’s 100 Best Non-Fiction Books, the book explores what the war was like for British soldiers in the trenches of the Western Front, how they got through that “troglodyte world,” and how they expressed their feelings about their no-man’s land experiences in poetry and literature. From the poems of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen to the photo on the book’s cover, I was hooked.

“I came across this picture by sheer accident in the War Museum, and sensed that the boy’s expression was unmistakably ‘twentieth century,'” Fussell wrote in a new afterword prepared for a special Oxford University Press 25th anniversary edition of the book. “If anyone ever looked aware of being doomed to meaningless death, it is this boy.”

My fascination with the War to End All Wars didn’t stop at the end of the book. Machine guns, poisonous gas, trench warfare, the after-effects of the war – everything about it was different, and life in the century that promised tremendous progress and improvement would never be the same.

Two years later, I still couldn’t stop reading about the Great War, even when I was studying journalism at Ohio State University. When I learned about how the poster’s concise text, striking illustrations, design make a quick, but lasting impression as a form of mass communication, I thought about how Charles Dana Gibson, James Montgomery Flagg, Howard Chandler Christy, Joseph Christian Leyendecker and other Great War poster artists worked much like journalists as they helped the Committee on Public Information mobilize American public opinion about the war. Choosing the subject for my thesis was easy: I explored how posters communicated essential information about World War I, instilled a sense of duty in Americans and shaped public opinion about it.

Sure, We’ll Finish The Job, Ohio History Connection

Narrowing my focus to the image of women in British and American posters of the Great War, I analyzed dozens of posters, describing how the placement of figures, their attractiveness, expression, eye contact, pose, activity, and other details were used to relay the intended message. I discussed how graphic design techniques, symbolism, artistic traditions and language were employed to attract attention, appeal to emotions and evoke reactions in viewers. To provide context, I consulted photographs, researched archival documents, and undertook a terrific independent study on the literature of the Great War.

2017 marks the centennial of the United States’ involvement in World War I. To use the term that British soldiers used to express their thoughts about leaving the safety of their trenches to attack their enemy across open ground, I’m “over the top” about all the new books, exhibitions and special programs about the Great War that are taking place this year. Here are a few of my favorites.

Keep the Hun Out!, Billy Ireland, Ohio History Connection

Susan Talbot-Stanaway, retired director of the Zanesville Museum of Art, is traveling Ohio to talk about World War I posters from the perspective of Ohio history, sharing archival photos and fascinating facts about the artists who created them, their role in the war effort, and and their lasting importance in American culture. When I heard her at the Westerville Public Library this spring, this fellow poster-lover shared all sorts of interesting trivia.  James Montgomery Flagg painted a life-sized version of his “Tell That to the Marines” poster on the New York Public Library steps in August 1918. Gerrit Benecker immortalized a Cleveland factory worker in his “Sure We’ll Finish the Job” poster; in fact, a 24-sheet billboard of the image hung next to the Ohio Statehouse. A snowball-throwing game called “Swap the Hohenzollerns & Ring the Bell for Our War Chest” was played on the Statehouse grounds. Maginel Wright Enright, Frank Lloyd Wright’s sister, illustrated books and posters for the war effort. And my old friend Billy Ireland, cartoonist for The Columbus Dispatch, created “Keep the Hun Out,” a poster for war savings stamps, and “They Took My Daddy And This From Me,” a poster immortalizing civilian mistreatment when Germany invaded and occupied Belgium. Susan is helping to create a database of the 3,000 World War I posters in the Ohio History Connection’s collection, which is housed in State Archives Series 2729 AV: World War I Posters Collection.

“Tommies,” a BBC radio drama series, is being broadcast over a four-year period through Autumn 2018, the same length of time as the Great War itself. Named after the nickname for British World War I soldiers, “Tommies” is based on actual war diaries and follows the lives of those who experienced the war, telling their stories exactly 100 years ago to the day. Learn more about it on this episode of the BBC History Extra podcast.

True Blue (1919), The Library Company of Philadelphia

Together We Win: The Philadelphia Homefront During the First World War, an exhibition I saw at the Library Company of Philadelphia in April, displayed books, posters, photographs, audio clips of World War I-era music, scrapbooks and other ephemera illustrating the contributions that Philadelphians made in supporting the war effort. The exhibition website features recordings and sheet music from World War I, images of posters and recipes for apple brown betty, sweet potato gingerbread and bean loaf from wartime cookbooks in the collection.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has developed a website and a free “Remembering WWI” app for exploring World War I-related objects, photos and digitized archival film footage in its collection.

World War I gas mask, Ohio History Connection

World War I and the Visual Arts, on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York through January 7, 2018, focuses on how artists reacted to and represented the war. Closer to home, Mobilize for War: American Recruiting Posters of World War I is an Ohio Statehouse exhibit continuing through October 21. A World War I display at the Ohio History Connection presents gas masks, military uniforms, helmets, weapons, patriotic pins, ephemera and souvenirs American soldiers brought home from Europe.

To commemorate the World War I centennial, Erik Larson’s Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania and Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, by Lindsay Mattick, are this year’s Westerville Reads selections. The Westerville Public Library is offering several complementary programs this fall, including cemetery tours, reader’s theater, history programs and a visit from Erik Larson, who will discuss his approach to writing narrative nonfiction.

Walter Phalor’s World War I uniform, Westerville Public Library Local History Center

Over There: A World War I Exhibit, in the Westerville Public Library’s Local History Center, presents artifacts such as the uniform jacket Westerville resident Walter Phalor wore while serving in France and Germany and masks to protect the horses which transported supplies and messages to the front from poison gas attacks. A public information notice titled “Avoid Worry, Fear and Fatigue” documents the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, which caused 50 million fatalities worldwide. Take home a reproduction of a World War I-era postcard from its collection as a souvenir of the exhibit.

World War I soldier doll, Ohio History Connection

If you’d like some Great War-inspired reading, All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque, and Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway, are World War I-inspired classics. Check out World War I and America: Told by the Americans Who Lived It, by A. Scott Berg; Working for Victory?: Images of Women in the First World War, 1914-1918, by Diana Condell and Jean Liddiard; Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce, by Stanley Weintraub; Christmas in the Trenches, by John McCutcheon; and War Horse, by Michael Morpurgo, as well as the movie it inspired. Regeneration, by Pat Barker, explores the psychological effects of World War I and their treatments.  World War I Remembered, a National Park Service publication edited by Robert J. Dalessandro and Robert K. Sutton, is a new collection of essays by World War I scholars about the contributions the United States made to the Allies’ victory. Wake Up, America!: World War I and the American Poster, by Walton Rawls, and Posters of the First World War, by Maurice Rickards, will always take up prime real estate on my bookcase.

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How Are You And “Bob” Spending The Summer?

As I stocked the shelves of my Little Free Library, Mike sauntered up as my first customer.

“What should I take with me on my trip to Wisconsin?,” he asked. I pulled the copy of Dan Brown’s Deception Point from the top shelf, talking up Angels and Demons as a thrilling follow-up. He wasn’t so sure.

“I just discovered my summer reading project!,” he e-mailed me later that day. “I’m going to dust off all my old Kurt Vonnegut paperback novels from college. We’re going to write ’10 Tastes of Indianapolis (for under $10),’ and they just informed me that 2017 is the ‘Year of Vonnegut’ in Indy, as he died 10 years ago. I didn’t even know he was from there! They even have a restaurant there called Bluebeard, after another Vonnegut novel, that’s decorated like a library.”

Off Mike went to Door County, planning to read Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five, Breakfast of Champions, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, and Welcome to the Monkey House.  Meanwhile, I added a few titles to my own summer reading list.

My sixth-grade “Bob,” my summer reading journal where I kept track of assigned titles like Little Women and Anne of Green Gables; a string of Marguerite Henry’s books about horses; and classics such as Elizabeth Enright’s Thimble Summer. Before our family vacation that summer to see Orchard House, Louisa May Alcott’s Massachusetts home, I read We Alcotts, by Aileen Fisher and Olive Rabe.

Summer reading projects are an engaging way for students to retain reading comprehension and vocabulary skills. They’re also a great way for adults to squeeze in a little extra reading to escape the daily grind. Here’s a rundown of what books I’ve chosen to escape with this summer. Maybe you might like to read some of them too.

First on my list was All in the Family, by Edwin O’ Connor, a treat from Dubliner. The first chapter, originally published as “One Spring Morning” in the December 1964 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, hooked and reeled me right in to this story of the Irish-American Kinsella family. It’s also the source of my new favorite line that my grandpa would have liked: “Tell it to Sweeney, Buster, but don’t hand me that bushwa!”

How had I not heard of Edwin O’Connor? I fixed that by continuing with his The Last Hurrah, together with watching the 1958 film adaptation of the novel, starring Spencer Tracy as Frank Skeffington, its main character.  Next came The Edge of Sadness, a sobering tale of an alcoholic priest which won O’Connor the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 1962. A Family of His Own: A Life of Edwin O’Connor, by Charles F. Duffy, was next.

I am in desperate need of a “Finger Lunch.”  What is it?  I had no idea, until I read Olave Baden-Powell: The Authorised Biography of the World Chief Guide, by Eileen K. Wade.  A “Finger Lunch” was a monthly party given by Lady Olave Baden-Powell, the former World Chief Guide of the Girl Guides and leader of the Guide Movement. She invited her friends — many of whom may never have met each other before, but who were all her friends — for lunch, introducing them to one another and helping them discover new friendships. For more on its hostess, listen to “Great Scout: Who Was Lady Baden-Powell?,” a podcast from Historic Royal Palaces.

With my Peggy Nisbet doll depicting Caroline of Brunswick, the wife of George IV, on board the Queen Elizabeth II, June 1976.

It’s way too heavy to be considered beach reading, but Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte, and the Shaping of the Modern World, edited by Joanna Marschner, was worth hauling around. Complementing an exhibition of the same name that’s currently on view at Kensington Palace in London until November 12, the book explores the impact that Caroline of Ansbach (the wife of George II), Augusta of Saxe-Gotha (married to Caroline’s eldest son, Frederick, and mother of George III), and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (wife of George III) had on British society as patrons of the arts and architecture, champions of charity and philanthropy, and admirers of landscapes and natural history. Caroline encouraged Sir Isaac Newton’s experiments with refracting light, recognized George Frederic Handel’s musical talents, and was fascinated with her husband’s Tudor ancestors. Augusta collected songbirds and plants, creating the foundation of today’s Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Charlotte inspired Josiah Wedgwood to create his successful “Queen’s Ware.”

The Essex Serpent, a novel by Sarah Perry, investigates the return of the mythical Essex Serpent in the 1890s. Covered with rough scales, with wings like umbrellas, this monstrous creature rises from the water, wreaks havoc on the English shore, and causes terror.

After over a year of being terrorized by my own version of the Essex Serpent, I turned to What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear, by Danielle Ofri. The doctor-patient conversation is key to medical diagnosis and treatment, but what patients say and what doctors hear are often two very different things. How can patients tell the clearest, most informative story so their doctors can make the best diagnosis? How can doctors make patients feel that they are listening carefully to what they have to say? Hear more of what Dr. Ofri has to say in this New York Public Library podcast.

Is there a book you return to again and again, and each time you do, it resonates with you in a different way? For New Yorker columnist Rebecca Mead, that book is George Eliot’s Middlemarch. In My Life in Middlemarch, Mead reflects on how Middlemarch first mirrored her hopes as a young woman, and then led her to take a middle-aged look at unchosen paths and unmade choices. Hear Rebecca Mead discuss her book further in this New York Public Library podcast and read her New Yorker piece that preceded the book.

Trying on my mother’s wedding dress, 1973

“Having endless hours of free time in which to create is hardly useful if most of those hours are spent in a paralyzing torpor of loneliness, overwhelmed by anxieties about that loneliness lasting forever,” Mead writes in the book. So what do you do? Continue on with Rebecca Mead, read her One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, and discover some thought-provoking investigative journalism to explore what Mead and I both wonder: What is a wedding really for?

Meanwhile, Samantha Ellis – like me, middle-aged, single and not a parent — ponders what mark she might make in the world, and what she might leave behind. In a letter she wrote five weeks before she died, novelist Anne Brontë wrote, “I long to do some good in the world…before I leave it. I have many schemes in my head for future practise – humble and limited indeed – but still I should not like them all to come to nothing, and myself to have lived to so little purpose.” What can we learn from Anne?, Ellis wondered.  In Take Courage: Anne Brontë and the Art of Life, Ellis offers some suggestions on how to do the right thing; how to find solace in nature; how to imagine yourself into another life; how bad love can destroy you; how to change yourself; how to be the artist of your own life; and how to “take courage” – Anne’s last words to her sister Charlotte.  I closed the book and told myself that before I leave the world, I have got to get to Haworth.

It’s summer, after all. Why am I doing all this soul-searching? Put on “Papageno’s Song” from The Magic Flute.  It’s time for a lighter change of pace!

On May 27, 1784, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart entered a Viennese shop, came across a starling who was singing a version of the theme from his new, unperformed Piano Concerto no. 17 in G major, and bought him to become the family pet. For three years, the mimicking bird lived with Mozart, inspiring him as he composed at least eight piano concertos, three symphonies and The Marriage of Figaro. When the bird died, Mozart held a formal funeral in his garden and wrote an elegy for it. Mozart’s Starling, by Lyanda Lynn Haupt, explores their bond. Mozart Finds a Melody, a picture book by Stephen Costanza, also tells the story to younger readers.

You’re never too old to read children’s books, especially those that Columbus School for Girls assigns its students for summer reading. I read a few, such as Form I’s book, How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, by Marjorie Priceman; Form II was assigned The Empty Pot, with story and pictures by Demi, about a Chinese boy named Ping who is rewarded for his courage and honesty despite failing to grow a fabulous flower; Form III read Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan; and Form VI discovered The Sixty-Eight Rooms, by Marianne Malone, a story set in the Thorne Rooms, the 68 spectacular miniature rooms housed at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Meanwhile, CSG faculty and staff read Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, by Adam M. Grant, and The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness, by Todd Rose. I did too.  Consider this: There are four different options for handling a dissatisfying situation: Exit, voice, persistence and neglect. Do you leave it, try to improve it, grin and bear it, or quit trying so hard?  Are you a product of the “Gary Plan?”

I wrapped it up with My Life With Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues, by Pamela Paul, the editor of The New York Times Book Review. “Bob,” Paul’s Book of Books, is a record of everything she’s read since the summer of 1988, her junior year in high school. “Without Bob, something feels worryingly missing – missing from my life and from the accounting of my life,” she concludes. “I don’t know where I’d be without Bob and where I’d have been if he hadn’t been there.”

Is there a “Bob” in your life to help you keep track of what to read next? Find some ideas of books that you otherwise might not try in Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenges for 2015, 2016 and 2017.

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