1. The 1969 river fire that shocked a nation.
In the summer of 1969, the Cuyahoga River famously caught fire. However, this was not a particularly unusual occurrence in such an industrial city, and local photographers did not even document the event. The photograph that was publicized by Time Magazine following the fire was actually taken in November of 1952 in one of the earlier Cuyahoga River Fires. What makes the 1969 fire so strange is that Cleveland residents actually began taking an initiative to clean the river in the wake of 1960s environmentalism, even passing a $100 million bond initiative to put toward cleaning the river in 1968. Fortunately, though, this event helped fuel the initiation of the Clean Water Act of 1972.
2. The infamous Cleveland Torso Murders that still invoke chills.
Beginning in 1934, the Torso Murders, also called the Kingsbury Run Murders, had Northeast Ohioans holding their breath for four terrifying years. 13 total victims were found dismembered, chemically treated,and, in many cases, drained of blood. Safety Director Eliot Ness had a suspect that he believed committed the crimes, but nobody was ever convicted, and any documents hinting at an identity have been lost or destroyed.
3. History’s very first rock concert… kinda.
Cleveland is celebrated as the birthplace of rock and roll, but did you know that we can claim more than just inventing the name of this modern music? In 1951, Cleveland disk jockey Alan Freed first coined the phrase "rock and roll," and in 1952 he brought together some of his favorite artists to perform in the first ever "rock concert." On March 21, 1952, roughly 25,000 people showed up for the Moondog Coronation Ball at the Cleveland Arena, a venue which only seats 10,000. The crowd outside the venue broke in, and the concert was abruptly shut down after just one song.
4. The invention of a summertime snack that won’t melt.
In 1912, Clarence Crane invented Pep-O-Mint Life Savers as a summertime treat that wasn’t affected by heat. He sold his company to Edward John Noble in 1913, who would go on to invent tinfoil wrappers and significantly expand the market for these mouthwatering Cleveland candies. Just think, those humid Lake Erie summers inevitably led to the birth of these tasty hard candies!
5. The history of the creepy-cool Dittrick Museum of Medical History.
In 1898, the Cleveland Medical Library Association established one of the weirdest museums in Ohio. This unusual collection explores and celebrates the evolution of medicine, including everything from midwifery mannequins to early surgical instruments.
6. When Ettore Boiardi opened his first restaurant in 1926, but then built an empire.
Il Giardino d'Italia ("The Garden of Italy") opened at East 9th Street and Woodland Avenue. At the time, Italian food was not remarkably popular outside of Italian communities. However, Ettore discovered a niche market when patrons requested samples of his delicious sauce to take home. With the help of his brothers Mario and Paul, Ettore founded Chef Boyardee in 1928 and began selling packaged Italian-style cuisine, which became widely popular with Americans of every background. The Boiardis’ canned products would provide warm meals to US troops throughout the Second World War, and Chef Boyardee continues to warm hearts (and bellies) to this day.
7. When Clevelanders experienced the first free city delivery mail service in the nation.
Direct household mail delivery was first authorized in 1794, but it would not take off until the mid-nineteenth century. At the time, it cost an additional two cents to have mail delivered to your home, so most preferred to pick up mail at the post office. A Cleveland post office worker named Joseph Briggs instigated free delivery in Cleveland in 1862 and designed the first mailman uniform after seeing soldiers’ loved ones hiking to the post office in the winter. In 1863, free delivery was expanded to 48 other cities.
8. The unforgettable weather bomb of 1978.
In January of 1978, three low-pressure systems met over the Midwest. This created hurricane-like winds, which resulted in snowdrifts of up to 25 feet in height. In Ohio alone, National Guard helicopters were flown for as many as 2,700 missions to help stranded drivers. Doctors and emergency rescuers were forced to ski to assist with emergencies, as roadways were largely inaccessible. This snowstorm was appropriately named the "Cleveland Superbomb."
9. The birthplace of the Lake Erie Monster.
No, I’m not talking about our fantastic hockey team. I’m referring to Bessie, our own plesiosaur-like creature that is said to call Lake Erie home. Sightings of our coveted monster date back to 1793, and every few years another sighting is reported. In the early 90’s, the carcass of what appeared to be a juvenile plesiosaur came into the public eye, but was most likely an elaborate hoax by a local taxidermist.