Cleveland may feel far away from the lifestyles of the rich and famous, but some significant historical figures, interesting actors, and entertainers of yore have stopped in town at one point or another. There’s much to learn when it comes to Cleveland history, but these moments just may catch you by surprise.
1. Amelia Earhart
The name Amelia Earhart is usually associated with feminism and an enduring mystery, but this talented pilot had a connection with Cleveland that most locals don't know about. In 1929, the National Air Races came to Cleveland Municipal (now Hopkins) Airport. The event spanned 10 days from August to September and would return ten more times over the next 20 years. 1929's inaugural Powder Puff Race featured female aviators including Amelia Earhart, go on to disappear in 1937.
2. Abraham Lincoln
February 15, 1861, was a day just like any other in Cleveland. Except for the fact that president-elect Abraham Lincoln stopped and lodged in Cleveland on his way to his inauguration. He stayed at the Weddell House (now the Rockefeller Building) and greeted crowds from his balcony there. April 28, 1865, brought an entirely different atmosphere to Cleveland, has the former president's funeral procession entered our city on that day. He visited the city only twice, once in life and once in death, but we like to think that he would have fit right in had he explored the city.
3. John Wilkes Booth
John Wilkes Booth is one of the most notorious names in American history. Booth is famous for taking the life of President Abraham Lincoln, but we often forget that he was an actor. During his acting career, he stopped at the Academy of Music to perform as Charles D’Moor in "The Robbers." That was December 5, 1863, just years before his life and his nation would change forever.
4. Beatrice Lillie
Beatrice Lillie was a Toronto-born actress in the 1920s. She was famous for songs and skits that had a particular flair for the absurd. When World War World II rolled around, she became an inveterate entertainer for our troops. Interestingly, she is being greeted by Sergeant Major Murdoch in this photo, though it was taken in times of peace in 1927. Perhaps she was visiting Cleveland for a bit of bootleg Canadian booze in response to Prohibition!
5 & 6. Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro
It's easy to forget just how many movies have been filmed here in Cleveland. While it's strange to see Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro strolling through Tremont, they were in the area filming scenes for The Deer Hunter.
7. Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda is well-known in homes across the nation for her energetic workout tapes. She swung through Cleveland on her way home from an anti-war speech tour through Canada in November of 1970 and was arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking. She had bags of pills in her luggage, and she protested and told the officers that they were vitamins. Lab test confirmed that they were, indeed, vitamins. However, her sassy mugshot has become a famous image of this energetic actress.
8. Judy Garland
"Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." Judy Garland was a complex American figure, but at the height of her fame, she was America's sweetheart. On April 21, 1939, this adorable actress sang the national anthem before the Cleveland Indians' home opener. That was mere months before The Wizard of Oz was released on August 25, 1939.
9. Dean Martin
The Rat Pack was an informal group of entertainers famous for their connection to the Las Vegas casino scene. Dean Martin was a member, and he was a famous musician and actor in the mid-20th century. He was a born Ohioan, and he even bootlegged liquor and worked in a steel mill in his youth. He lived in Cleveland Heights for a while, and he was even said to be a regular in Little Italy.
Cleveland has an interesting history, but one can only imagine the stories that these famous visitors would have told about our beloved city. Which of these visitors most surprised you?
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