Clevelanders know that their beloved city has a vast and unusual history. After all, as a city with a giant free stamp right next to our city hall, you just
know we have a few stories to tell. The truth is that many of our stories are a blend of fact and fiction, but that’s just a part of our city’s identity. We’re magical and a little bit unbelievable, but when you understand our history, it makes perfect sense.
1. Cleveland originally had an "a" in it.
Cleveland, or as it was originally known,
Cleaveland, was named after its founder. General Moses Cleaveland arrived on the shores of the Cuyahoga River in 1796 as a surveyor for the Connecticut Land Company. The city was obviously named for him, but where did the "a" go? One theory is that our first newspaper, Cleveland Advertiser, was the first to drop the unwanted vowel when they found that the original spelling created a headline that was one letter too long. Another theory is that the name may have been misspelled on an early map. While we may never know the truth, the lore surrounding our history continues to captivate.
2. General Moses Cleaveland never returned to the city he founded.
After the 1796 expedition, Cleaveland went home to Connecticut. It was there where he died one decade later, having never again seen the city that bears his name. In 1888, a bronze statue of our founder was erected in Public Square, where it remains to this day.
3. Remember the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire that sparked environmental regulations across the nation? That was only one of 13 fires in its history.
Cleveland, being an industrial town, was bound to have a bit of pollution. However, the industry resulted in one of the most polluted rivers in the world. From Cleveland to Akron, no fish dwelled in the river. Beginning in 1868, fires were a far too common sight on the Cuyahoga River. The 1969 fire that sparked the environmental movement wasn't even the worst; the 1952 fire caused over a million dollars in damages.
4. In 1986, Clevelanders released over a million balloons from Public Square.
was an attempt to put Cleveland on the map and finally shake that unwanted "Mistake on the Lake" reputation. Disneyland had just set a new record for the largest balloon release, and Clevelanders were eager to break it. However, nobody considered how such an event would impact our environment, and apparently, nobody considered the weather. Wind, rain, and temperature fluctuations caused the balloons to fall down on the city following their release, littering the region. Drivers were blinded by a blizzard of balloons, and their presence in Lake Erie potentially resulted in the loss of two lives. What was meant as an innocent fundraiser turned into months of cleanup and worsened reputation.
5. In 1969, a local doctor dreamed up a new way to help people.
Parviz Boodjeh, a graduate of the University of Toledo, had already worked as both a pharmacist and businessman and was looking for a better way to address customer needs. Fortunately, he had an idea that was out of the box: Boodjeh set out to combine a retail store with the personal experience of a pharmacist's office. On top of providing necessities and convenience items, Discount Drug Mart, his newly established store in Elyria, integrated disease management and screening services. His brilliant idea caught on, and today Discount Drug Mart spans over 20 of Ohio's counties with 73 stores.
6. Cleveland is the final resting place of the only Major League Baseball player to die from a baseball injury.
Raymond Johnson "Ray" Chapman was not born a Clevelander, but he died one in 1920 on a very sad day in baseball history. At the time, it was common to dirty new balls introduced to the baseball field. Unfortunately, though, this made the balls hard to see. While he was waiting to bat at a Manhattan-area stadium, Chapman purportedly did not react at all as the ball was hurled at him, evidently unable to see it. He was struck in the head by the pitch and simply collapsed before dying 12 hours later at a hospital in New York. You can still pay Chapman a visit, as he's buried in Lake View Cemetery.
7. Cleveland is the birthplace of the most famous wicked witch in history.
Margaret Hamilton's over-the-top personality made her absolutely perfect for the role of the Wicked Witch of the West in
The Wizard of Oz, but before she found her calling, she was just like you and me. She went to a school on East 93rd Street and eventually moved to Painesville as an adult. She had a love of children throughout her life and even served as a kindergarten teacher. In fact, Hamilton expressed concerns that her witchy role might scare young children, and many of the "scarier" scenes were cut from the 1939 classic. In her acting career, she would also appear as Morticia Addams' mother in The Addams Family and as herself in the beloved Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
8. Our most beloved tower was once a record holder.
The Terminal Tower was built of the skyscraper boom of the 1920s. When it was completed in 1930, it was the tallest building on the continent outside of New York City, a title which it proudly held until 1964 when the Prudential Center was completed.
9. Clevelanders were among the first people to enjoy the flavorful creations of Chef Boyardee.
Chef Boyardee, who was born Ettore Boiardi, was born in Italy but was destined for Cleveland. At only 16 years old, he arrived in the United States eager to pursue his future. For a time, he worked with his brother at the Plaza Hotel in New York, where he would cater to President Woodrow Wilson's 1915 wedding. In 1926, he opened
Il Giardino d'Italia, his very first restaurant, at East 9th Street and Woodland Avenue. His spaghetti sauce was an instant hit, and two of his patrons, Maurice and Eva Weiner, helped Boiardi engineer a process for canning his delectable spaghetti. By 1929, Chef Boyardee had found his niche, and America's favorite quick-and-easy meal was born. Hector Boyardee, as he affectionately become known, died of natural causes in his Parma home at age 87.
Cleveland has a history that is wonderfully weird, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Maybe, over the next century or so, you and your kind will add to its growing legacy of lore.