Love history and happen to be in Cleveland OH area? You got to check Western Reserve Historical Society out. Read on to find out more about them.
-What is your organization’s name?
Western Reserve Historical Society
-What is your name and what is your affiliation with the organization?
Director, Marketing & Sales
-Please tell us a little bit about you.
Western Reserve Historical Society is a private, nonprofit educational institution that preserves and uses its collections, historic sites, and museums to inspire people to explore the history and culture of Northeast Ohio and place that regional experience within the larger context of state, national, and global history.
History… we take it personally!
We are comprised of a variety of collections. Our collections overview is listed below after the interview.
-How / why did your organization start? (Background, History)
Started in 1867
-What is your organization’s objective? (What does it do?)
We present the history of Northeast Ohio through our collections. We do this with exhibits, programs, and events.
-How long has the organization been around?
-What kind of events / activities does your organization do?
Exhibits, public programs, lectures, book signings, hands-on family activities, etc. We have special events that bring history to life at our outdoor living history museum – Hale Farm & Village. Much of our content is based on the mid-19th and early 20th centuries.
-How can people get in touch with your organization (or you)? (website,
email, telephone etc)
www.wrhs.org or 216-721-5722
Facebook and twitter @WRHS_history
-Any messages to Greater Cleveland?
Come find out what treasures lie in your back yard!
WRHS COLLECTIONS HIGHLIGHTS
Cleveland Mayoral Papers. The Society holds the papers of almost every mayor of the City of Cleveland spanning the period from Tom L. Johnson’s Mayoralty to that of Jane Campbell.
Philanthropic Archives Collections. This body of material includes the records of all major foundations in Greater Cleveland (Gund, Cleveland, Nord, etc.) along with the papers of noted individual philanthropists such as Samuel Mather, and William Gwinn Mather. These collections are complemented by substantial holdings of records of social service agencies that were the beneficiaries of local and regional philanthropy.
The William Palmer Civil War Collection. This body of material consists of regimental papers, diaries, letters, and the personal papers of generals Franz Sigel and Braxton Bragg. It is complemented by an estimated 10,000 photographs and prints and a vast body of published material, including a substantial number of regimental histories.
Cleveland Jewish Archives. The archives holds several hundred distinct manuscript collections. Among the most significant are the papers of Abba Hillel Silver, the rabbi of Temple-Tifereth Israel, and a Zionist strongly involved in the establishment of the state of Israel. Also significant are the records of the Cleveland Council on Soviet Anti-Semitism – the agency that began the national movement to force the former Soviet Union to allow the free emigration of Jews.
African American Archives. This body of material represents one of the most significant sources available for the study of the urban African-America experience. It includes the records of the local chapter of the NAACP, those of the Urban League, and those of the Garveyite Unitvesal Negro Improvement Association, which once had its national headquarters in Cleveland.
Immigration Archives. The holdings in this area document almost every major migrant group in Cleveland with specific, specially funded programs in the areas of Italian-American and Irish-American history. Materials in the collections include the records of fraternal aid societies, singing and dramatic organizations, neighborhood leaders, and individual immigrants.
Business and Industrial Records. This body of material includes a number of significant holdings including the personal papers of Frederic C. Crawford, who was responsible for the creation of TRW, the records of TRW, those of the Austin Company, the records of LTV Steel (possibly the largest body of material relating to the steel industry to be found in the US), Cleveland Twist Drill, and the E. F. Hauserman Company. Together these present a major source for the study of industrialization in the Great Lakes region.
LGBT Archives. These holdings include the records of the LGBT Community Services Center and its predecessor agencies, those of the local Pride organization and the papers of and interviews with a number of individuals active in the LGBT community.
Labor History Archives. These materials include the records of both major and minor labor organizations in Northeastern Ohio, including those of the Carpenters Union, the Meatcutters Union, and those of the painters, carpenters, plasterers, musicians, and other skilled and industrial trades. The LTV Steel Company Records are a large and important collection on a major industry in Northeast Ohio, and encompass the period from 1882-2002.
The Crawford Auto Aviation Collection. This important collection of artifact and archival materials highlights technological advances and social mobility in American society and reflects the intersection of design, art, and the decorative arts with a major emphasis on Northeast Ohio’s contributions. This collection is comprised of 141 antique automobiles, approximately 80% of which are in working order, 21 non-car transportation artifacts (motorcycles, bicycles, and boats), 10 aircraft, and 30 carriages and sleighs from various eras. The Society’s Automotive Marque Files offer a treasure trove of automobilia, including dealer brochures, owner’s manuals, shop service manuals and bulletins, parts lists, customer mailings, and employee publications. In many instances, period photographs and postcards augment the factory literature, while contemporary articles and pamphlet histories supplement the primary materials. In addition, WRHS possesses an outstanding archival collection related to the Cleveland National Air Races.
Costume and Textile
The Western Reserve Historical Society maintains one of the largest collections of historic costume and textiles in the United States. Housed within the Society’s Chisholm Halle Costume Wing and the Hay-McKinney House, the collection comprises some 40,000 garments, accessories and domestic textiles, ranging in date from ca. 1750 to present day. The collection is international in scope and contains both historic and contemporary designs, including mass-produced, ready-to-wear, couture and one-of-a-kind pieces.
Assembled by the museum between 1867 and the present, the costume and textile collections reflect the changing social, economic and characteristics of the region. The costume collection’s greatest strength is work by 20th century designers. Virtually every major designer is represented, including Mainbocher, Balenciaga, Dior, Lanvin, Paquin. Other major strengths of the collection include early 20th century coats, 1920s hats, beaded handbags, children’s clothing, paisley shawls, maternity clothing, occupational clothing, and one of the largest collections of Shaker clothing in the world. Among the textile collections are nearly 150 fancy woven coverlets and approximately 200 quilts, the majority of which were made in the Western Reserve.
The Western Reserve Historical Society’s decorative arts collection is comprised of about 3,500 artifacts dating from the late 18th through the mid-20th centuries. Decorative arts are here defined as artifacts of household utility and decorative function made of glass, ceramics, metal, wood, or a combination thereof. Earlier dated items–through the 1870s– reflect predominantly the tastes of the affluent section of Western Reserve society, but there are nonetheless many fine examples of artifacts owned and used by laborers. Later dated items–late 19th through the mid-20th centuries–are more representative of a broad swath of cultural and class groups. These, predictably, reflect the tastes and consumer habits of America’s growing middle class.
The Advertising collection of the Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS) is comprised of approximately 700 cataloged artifacts covering a broad spectrum of promotional media dating from the mid-19th century through the mid 20th-century. The majority of the collection–about half–consists of functional objects, aprons, hats, fans, mirrors, piggy banks, pillows, ashtrays, et cetera, that are decorated to advertise a particular business or service. Most of these artifacts relate to late 19th and early 20th century businesses located in the Western Reserve. Two items of particular interest include a potato chip bag for Akron’s "Chips o’ Ireland", and a buggy or tractor umbrella for the Akron Cultivator Company.
The Western Reserve Historical Society is home to a very large collection–perhaps 4,000 items– of artifacts related to American military history. These artifacts range from personal gear–uniforms, knapsacks, mess kits, buttons and insignia–to musical instruments to arms and ordinance, horse tack, and numerous relics. Some of the collection is comprised of para-military items associated with Troop A, Cleveland’s independent militia formed in response the labor unrest of the 1870s. Highlights of the collection include a Civil war torpedo recovered from the Tennessee River, personal artifacts belonging to Col. Orlando Risdon, who lead a colored regiment, and a trencher apparently used at Andersonville Prison.
Paintings and Fine Arts
The Western Reserve Historical Society paintings collection houses approximately 800 oil paintings that cover a wide range of topics pertaining to the history of the Western Reserve region. Genres that are strongly represented include portraiture, landscapes, cityscapes, historical paintings, genre paintings. As individual works the paintings often provide glimpses of the people of our region and the places they have shaped. As a whole, the collection stands as a fine collection of American art, revealing in broad historical outlines the tastes and sensibilities of the individuals and communities of the Western Reserve. Some noted artists represented in the collection include Archibald Willard, Howard Chandler Christy, DeScott Evans, Henry Church, and numerous other artists and craftsmen of more local fame. Much of the collection is portraiture, but Ohio landscapes and historical subjects are also strongly represented.
The largest collection extant documenting the Shaker communities in the United States. It is a “must use” for any scholar conducting research on the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing.
The WRHS History Museum contains a collection of about 800 Shaker artifacts, ranging from furniture to clothing to tourist trade items representing all known Shaker communities. The bulk of the collection was amassed early in the 20th century when a WRHS Director, Wallace H. Cathcart, began a correspondence with Eldress Catharine Allen of Canterbury, New Hampshire. Knowing that the Shaker way of life was in decline, both Allen and Cathcart sought to preserve a material record of the Shakers. Thus Allen began sending to Cathcart, artifacts and documents from the various Shaker communities. Many of the artifacts were personal mementos of prominent Shaker elders, but the bulk of the artifacts–seed packets, sewing baskets, socks, furniture, clothing patterns–demonstrate Shaker handicrafts and industry. The correspondence between Cathcart and Allen is housed in the WRHS Library along with an immense collection of paper-based Shaker material, including books, ephemera, ledgers, photographs and several spirit drawings.
The collection, approximately 2,000 cataloged objects, cover a broad array of primarily utilitarian objects. In the broadest terms these artifacts could be divided between those used in the domestic sphere of household maintenance and domestic life, and those used in the public sphere of wage labor and civic life.
Hale Farm and Village consists of 32 historic buildings. Period crafts are made on the premises, with skilled artisans demonstrating glassblowing, potting, blacksmithing, spinning, weaving, candlemaking and basketmaking. Farm animals are in residence as well with a "stable" of horses, cows and sheep. Hale Farm also presents 1860s Civil War history in our beautiful Village. Each building welcomes you to catch a glimpse of life in the 1860s and shares its past with you first hand.
Hay-McKinney and Bingham-Hanna Houses, two Italian Renaissance-style buildings that form a part of The Western Reserve Historical Society’s University Circle headquarters, were both built in the early 20th century as homes for wealthy and influential Clevelanders.
In 1908 Clara Stone Hay, daughter of Amasa Stone and widow of John Hay, engaged Abram Garfield, youngest son of President Garfield, to design a home for her in the Wade Park Allotment. While the house, with terraced courtyard garden and modern conveniences, was completed in 1911, Mrs. Hay never furnished or occupied the house, preferring to return to New York City on the death of her sister, Flora Stone Mather.
Today the Hay-McKinney house is furnished as a series of period galleries exhibiting furniture, decorative and fine arts and domestic artifacts from the Society’s collections.
Between 1916 and 1919 on the land neighboring the Hay-McKinney property, Harry Payne Bingham built a 35 room house designed by Walker and Gillette, with a landscape by Olmsted Brothers and featuring ironwork by Samuel Yellin and tile pavements by Henry Mercer’s Moravian Pottery and Tile Works. Never occupied by the Binghams, who settled in New York , the house was purchased in 1920 by Coralie Walker Hanna, widow of Leonard C. Hanna, who lived there until her death in 1936. In 1940, her son, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., gave the house to WRHS in return for the Society’s building located at Euclid Ave. and E. 107th St.
Shandy Hall is modest in appearance on the exterior, there are 17 rooms inside, including the original cellar kitchen with cooking fireplace, bake oven, and a splendid banquet room with coved ceiling and early nineteenth century scenic French wallpaper. On the grounds, original shrubs and trees shade flower and herb gardens. Virtually all the furniture pieces in the home belonged to the Harpers. The house looks much like it was in the 1830’s when Robert, his wife Polly, and their four daughters lived at Shandy Hall.