Cleveland February 15, 2018
9 Truly Bizarre Moments In Cleveland History You Probably Never Knew About
Northeast Ohio has a long history, and locals have done a fantastic job preserving and celebrating it. Despite their efforts, though, some of the most memorable moments in Cleveland history have been largely forgotten by Greater Cleveland communities. You’ll be surprised by how many of these unusual moments you never heard about while growing up in the city:
1. John Wilkes Booth once entranced thousands of Clevelanders.
When Booth took the stage at the Academy of Music in December of 1863, locals were enamored with his performance and raved about his skills. Less than two years later, Clevelanders might have recognized his name after he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.
2. In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt visited Cleveland to bid a final farewell to Abraham Lincoln's secretary.
John Milton Hay got his start as Abraham Lincoln's personal assistant and secretary, but he would go on to serve as Secretary of State under Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. He even served as the ambassador to Great Britain, helping to ease some of the tension that had gathered since the Civil War. Hay had become a Clevelander in 1874 when he married Clara Stone and moved to The Land to help railroad and banking mogul Amasa Stone watch over his businesses. Today, this famous Clevelander is a permanent resident in Lake View Cemetery.
3. "Song of Whales" introduced some permanent marine residents to Lake Erie on October 6, 1997.
This whale of a mystery isn't all that mysterious, nor is it unique to Cleveland. This stunning mural is one of 100 life-size marine paintings by Robert Wyland. These "Whaling Walls," as they are collectively known, are aimed at sparking an interest in marine preservation. Since painting number 75 was dedicated in Cleveland, locals have been wondering what whales are doing on Lake Erie's coast, and we Clevelanders really can't stop talking about it. Wyland's wales can be found in 79 cities across the globe, with paintings on five continents.
4. On April 25, 1967, the Mayor of Cleveland called Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. an extremist.
In 1967, King became a regular visitor to Cleveland in response to episodes of violence and vandalism in black communities. The leader and activist took a particular interest in educating young people, and he appeared at schools to instruct students to strive to learn and understand instead of pursuing destructive behaviors. During this time Mayor Ralph Locher accused King of being an extremist, and King returned to the city with a plan to further help improve upon local civil rights. He even urged locals to vote as Carl Stokes campaigned, and his efforts helped earn Stokes the honor of being the first African American mayor of a major American city.
5. Langston Hughes started seriously writing poetry circa 1917 in Cleveland.
Hughes moved to Cleveland in 1916 at the young age of 14, and the city made its mark on the young poet-to-be. While at Central High School, his teachers encouraged his passion for writing. His first published works appeared in Central High School's
The Monthly literary journal. One of his most notable works, "Harlem," is still considered one of the most moving poems of the Harlem Renaissance.
6. The first major rock and roll concert took place in Cleveland... sort of.
The Moondog Coronation Ball, organized by Alan Freed, was unlike anything Cleveland had ever seen. The year was 1952, and Freed decided to organize some of his favorite artists for a "live dance event." Unfortunately for early fans of rock and roll, counterfeiting and a printing error caused 20,000 people to show up at an arena that held roughly half of that. The crowd was so large that the fire department shut down the concert after just one song.
7. In 1898, Alexander Winton must have received some bizarre looks when he unveiled the world's first semi-truck.
As the Winton Motor Carriage Company of Cleveland had customers all over the country, it found itself in need of a delivery system. At the time, the only way to transport a car to a customer was to drive it, which put wear and tear on what was meant to be a brand new product. Winton unveiled his "automobile hauler" in 1898. Within a year, he was selling his delivery devices to car manufacturers all across Cleveland.
8. Clevelanders celebrated Prohibition on its day of repeal... even though liquor wasn't legal in the state for another eight months.
Ohio outlawed booze a full six months before the rest of the nation followed its example, When Prohibition was officially repealed, Ohio voters still had to vote on their state's decision to remain dry. Congress repealed Prohibition on February 20, 1933, and Ohio passed its own repeal in December. Pictured here are guests celebrating the repeal of Prohibition at the Hollenden Hotel in April. Purportedly, alcohol was easy to come by in Cleveland throughout Prohibition.
9. Before she went on to star as one of the most iconic villains in cinema history, Margaret Hamilton taught elementary students in Cleveland.
Hamilton famously adored children, so it must have broken her heart when she realized how truly paralyzed children were by her portrayal of this very green witch. Before she found her passion for theater in New York circa 1922, she was a teacher at Hough Elementary School and she operated a nursery out of Cleveland Heights Presbyterian Church. Can you imagine growing up and seeing your elementary school teacher as a
witch on the big screen?!
Some of these moments were ironic and others iconic, but it’s amazing that you haven’t heard about most of them. Do you know a little-known historical fact about The Land? Share it in the comments!
For more zany weirdness,
take a road trip to these unforgettable Greater Cleveland destinations.