Discoveries at the Museum

Many museum visitors brush past exhibits
without knowing the profound story they tell.
Here, we want to call attention to
the museum pieces around Ohio
that may be overlooked but shouldn’t.




Newark Holy Stones

The Newark Holy Stones, displayed at the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum (JHM) in Coshocton, were discovered in Licking County between 1860 and 1867 by surveyor David Wyrick. One was found at the Newark Earthworks, and the other was at the Jacksontown Stone Mound. The collection comprises the Keystone, the Decalogue Stone, a two-piece box made to house the Decalogue Stone, and a bowl. Both the Keystone and Decalogue Stone are inscribed in Hebrew. The Decalogue Stone also bears an image of Moses. This controversial finding infers that these ancient Indians were the descendants of the “Lost Tribes of Israel,” the ten of whom were said to have been deported after Israel’s conquest by the Neo-Assyrian Empire around 722 BCE.

This and most of the museum’s collection were once the private collections of John and David Johnson, who grew up in Coshocton, Ohio. It’s not precisely known how the Johnson brothers came to possess the Newark Holy Stones, but it’s believed that they purchased them directly from David Wyrick.

There was correspondence between the Johnson brothers and scientists, among others, trying to authenticate the Holy Stones. After a time, the stones were just stored away. In a letter, they asked someone at Tiffany’s Department Store in New York City what they should do with them. The correspondence back from Tiffany’s offered to display them in their storefront. Instead, the brothers held onto them until they showed up in Coshocton by railcar with the rest of the Original Collection, which initially comprised the JHM Museum collection.

JHM had the Newark Holy Stones in a drawer, not even on display until Robert W. Alrutz, a professor at Denison University, authored a book. As a result of this book, belief in the authenticity of the Newark Holy Stones grew.

Countering Alrutz’s book, Bradley T. Lepper and his colleague Jeff Gill researched the stones. They published an extensive article, The Newark Holy Stones, published in the May/June 2000 edition of TIMELINE, a publication of the Ohio Historical Society. However, despite their effort, the controversial documentary The Lost Civilizations of North America also fueled the validity of the Newark Holy Stones. It largely ignored the archaeological community, particularly the Lepper/Gill findings.

“We think these forgeries were created to support a particular idea of the past that conflicted with the then-popular scientific theory that claimed that the mounds disproved the bible and that it supported slavery, in a convoluted sort of way,” explained Lepper. “So these holy stones, even though they’re fake, have a very fascinating story to tell about this early period in the history of archaeology.”

At the time that the Holy Stones were discovered, the issue of slavery engulfed the nation. One year later, the Civil War had begun. Lepper said the Holy Stones should be displayed because of this connection, even though he believes the stones are forgeries.

“We get many people interested in the Newark Holy Stones,” JHM director Jennifer Bush said. “I tell people my opinion based on scientific analysis, but some don’t want to hear that. They want to hear that they are real.”

Throughout the museum, many attention-grabbers open a new world of curiosity. Be sure to add http://www.jhmuseum.org/ to your list of places to explore later this year.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

This is an excerpt from a much larger story, “Collecting A Legacy …And Controversy: Small Town Museum Hails Worldly Artifacts,” sponsored by Visit Coshocton.

Color Me Orello

In its heyday, Packard was a household name even though most households couldn’t afford one.

The American Packard Museum in Dayton, Ohio, features a 1934 Super Eight Sport Phaeton, made special for the New York Auto Show that year. Its color, Orello, was a unique blend of orange and yellow, although this color wasn’t in the Packard catalog. Its price tag was more than $3,000 when the average new automobile only cost $700. The cost was double the average annual salary and half that of a new house. The story behind this particular car on display is that wealthy parents gifted it to their sweet 16-year-old daughter. She hated the color.

The museum is in a former Packard dealership that opened in 1917. The Orello gift car is featured on the historic showroom floor.

The Giants of Seville

Formerly Ohio’s Biggest Entertainment Couple

She stood just one inch shy of eight feet tall! He was two inches shorter. But he outweighed her 470 pounds to 413. They met on the circus circuit traveling Europe in the early 1870s. The “Giantess Girl from Nova Scotia” was Anna Haining Swan. The “Kentucky Giant” was Captain Martin Van Buren Bates. After they married, P.T. Barnum billed them as “The Tallest Married Couple on Earth.” Years later, the history books would recall them as “Barnum’s Famous Circus Giants.”

They later moved to Seville, Ohio, and built a house for giants. The doors were eight feet tall, and the ceilings were 14 feet high. Soon, their giant house and 130-acre farm ran up bills so they joined up with The W.W. Coles Circus to make ends meet.

They had a second child after their first died at birth. This one only lived 11 hours but his birth length of 30 inches long and weight of 23 ¾ pounds earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. On a side note, when Anna was born, her mom only stood 5 feet 2 inches!

All three giants are buried in Seville at the Mound Hill Cemetery.

A replica of “The Tallest Married Couple on Earth” is in the living room at the Seville Historical Society surrounded by memorabilia from their famed days wowing onlookers at shows across the globe.

Click here to learn about other “Discoveries at the Museum”. “Discoveries at the Museum” highlights exhibits that museum visitors may brush past without knowing the profound story they tell. Here, we want to call attention to the museum pieces around Ohio that may be overlooked but shouldn’t. Although, the Giants of Seville can hardly be overlooked!

First Black Sports Superstar

Anyone can remember the first time that they rode a bicycle independently, and with that memory, the freedom they felt running through their hair.

Black Americans felt the liberating feeling on a bike like no other in the late 1890s – the golden age of bicycles.

But nobody rode a bicycle like Marshall Taylor. Over 120 years later, Taylor is still recognized as the earliest and most extraordinary pioneering black athlete in American sports history.

Taylor was so fast on a bicycle that his nicknames included “The Ebony Wonder,” “Whirlwind,” and “Black Cyclone.” And a time when black Americans felt liberated riding them.

Bicycle advancements made racing them the thing to do.

Taylor rode like the wind, making him the target of bigoted competition. Flimsy excuses were used to ban him from races. But he never let racism or death threats stop him. His first professional race was at Madison Square Garden, where his motivation outpaced all others to the point that he lapped the entire field.

At the turn of the Twentieth Century, cycling was the most popular sport in the world. And with that, Taylor proceeded to become a world champion and the first black sports superstar in American history.

Several years later, today’s pinnacle of bicycle racing – the Tour de France – began in 1904.

Taylor’s story and others are preserved at The Bicycle Museum of America in New Bremen, Ohio.

The Plier Tree at the Warther Museum

Photo by Ernest Warther Museum

When Ernest “Mooney” Warther, the world’s master carver, was just a boy, a stranger whittled him a pair of working wooden pliers by making just ten cuts in a single block of wood. Mooney was fascinated and he would take this concept to staggering extremes, which culminated in The Plier Tree. The Plier Tree consists of 511 pairs of pliers all cut from a single block of wood. It took Mooney just around 8 weeks to complete, making 31,000 flawless cuts. The work was so intense, he only could work on it two hours a day. Mooney took his Plier Tree to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933 where he met Robert Ripley who just could not believe the tree would fold back up! The two men sat down and for two hours, closed each pair of pliers until Mr. Ripley saw that it came from one single block of wood (and it took them two more hours to open it back up—which is why it stays open permanently at the museum). The tree is a mathematical highlight and it represents (and has been featured in textbooks) exponential function. ​

Click here to plan a visit to
Ernest Warther Museum & Gardens
.

Ohio’s Legendary Zeppelin Crash

The Wreck of the USS Shenandoah

Commander Zachariah Lansdowne was a cornerstone in Ohio’s reputation as first in flight. But his name is perhaps not remembered as much as Armstrong, Glenn, and the Wright Brothers.

Unfortunately, this national hero was featured on the cover of Time Magazine in September 1925 just weeks after a fiery crash in Ava, Ohio killed him and 13 other crewmen aboard the zeppelin airship USS Shenandoah on September 3, 1925. It was 12 years before the Hindenburg disaster.

The Shenandoah was the first large airship built in the U.S.  It was the first to be inflated with helium instead of explosive hydrogen. And it was the first rigid airship to serve as a commissioned vessel in the U.S. Navy. It launched on August 20, 1923. It was fabricated at the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia, PA, and assembled in Lakehurst, NJ. The Shenandoah measured 680 feet long and 93 feet high.

Zachary Lansdowne was a Greenville, Ohio native. Under his command, that fateful last flight of the Shenandoah was met with a severe thunderstorm sending it violently to the ground near Ava, Ohio. There’s a memorial monument there today complete with a miniature replica of the airship. Zachary Lansdowne was laid to rest at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia.

There are several sites in Greenville, Ohio that memorialize Lansdowne and the Shenandoah. A display telling their story is at the Garst Museum. A mural is on a brick wall facing Annie Oakley Park at the end of S. Broadway Ave. The commander’s birthplace home is still in town at 338 E. 3rd St. It’s a standout in the neighborhood and has several signs and plaques on the house and in the yard that read The Lansdowne House. And at the Greenville Episcopal Church, the Lansdowne family pew is marked with a plaque.

So is the short story of Ohio’s forgotten cornerstone of its illustrious history in flight. But in the words of that Time Magazine cover story, “Hereafter the name of Lansdowne will be the rhythm for a proud measure in the epic of the skies.”

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

Ohio’s Miniature Circus

The Miniature Circus Features 2,620 hand-carved pieces

Tucked away in the second floor of the Massillon Museum (MassMu), visitors of all ages are delighted to find a 100-square-foot miniature circus containing 2,620 hand-carved components.

The late Dr. Robert Immel relived his fond memories of going to the circus as a child by carving tiny circus figures beginning when he returned from World War II. By the time he donated his imaginative circus lot to MassMu in 1995, it used 36 elephants, 186 horses, 102 assorted animals, 91 wagons, 7 tents, and 2207 people to depict vignettes of the circus parade, an elephant act, a sideshow barker, and three-ring acts in the big top.

Can you find a vet treating a sick zebra, workers repairing a fire-damaged wagon, a crew preparing food for the menagerie, a team sledgehammering a tent stake, a boy running for the bathroom with balloons flying behind him, and a man who’s going to lose his job for drinking behind one of the tents?

Surrounding the diorama is a rotating exhibit of circus artifacts from Dr. Immel’s collection.  Guests may see sequined trapeze artists’ costumes, animal trainers’ overalls, P.T. Barnum’s gold tipped cane, Lavinia and Tom Thumb’s wedding album, clown shoes, colorful posters, or sideshow photographs.

When you visit the Immel Circus, don’t forget to also see the Paul Brown Museum; contemporary art in Studio M, the local history, fine and decorative arts, and photography galleries; and rotating exhibits in the main and lower level galleries. Remember your visit with a local history book or artist-made memento from the unique shop.

The Massillon Museum is located at a 121 Lincoln Way East (Ohio Route 172) in the heart of downtown Massillon.  Admission and adjacent street parking are free.  For more information, call 330-833-4961 or visit massillonmuseum.org.