Your Gateway to Toledo and Northwest Ohio History

Toledo's Attic Facebook Page Toledo's Attic on Instagram Toledo's Attic on Pinterest Toledo's Attic on YouTube RSS Feed

Cultural History

Birmingham Days: Life and Times in Toledo's Hungarian Neighborhood

From the beginning, Birmingham's strategic location near the mouth of the Maumee River was attractive to settlers in northwest Ohio. The locale's easy access to Lake Erie, its abundant fresh fish, and its situation under a major migratory bird route made it appealing to Native American tribal groups even before the first Europeans arrived. What was to become the Birmingham neighborhood was inhabited early on by French, German, and Irish farmers who were impressed with the setting's rich, loamy soil. Streets and park names such as Collins, Valentine, and Paine commemorate these early farming settlers.[Exhibit link]

Dunbar and Martin: Printed with the Same Ink

Paul Laurence Dunbar was born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1872 as the son of former slaves. Showing potential from a tender age, Dunbar was the first African American poet to be widely read, especially by the white population, and commented on racial relations at the time through his use of dialect in some poems and traditional writing in others. He was a forerunner in African American writing and set an example for those who would gain success after him. While Dunbar was successful as a novelist, poet, and short story writer, it is his poems that gained him the most acclaim and attention throughout his career. [Exhibit link]

Hines Farm Blues Club

The whole thing started in Frank and Sarah Hines' basement. By the time they built the club itself in 1957, Hines' Farm was already in full swing as a blues center. They had received a state liquor license in the late '40s when they were still operating out of the basement; in fact, they were the first African Americans in Northwest Ohio to have one. Blind Bobby Smith, a Toledo blues guitarist who did session work in the '60s for Stax Records, used to play in their basement in those days. He remembers how the party would start outside, but "after they'd close down outdoors we'd all pile in the basement. In the wintertime he [Frank Hines] just ran it out of the house. It was, you know, everybody talkin' at the same time...passing the bottle around, and Hines wishin' everybody'd get out of there so he could go to bed." [Exhibit link]

Singing Toledo

Every great city has its songs. Some, like Sinatra’s New York, New York, or Tony Bennett’s I Left My Heart in San Francisco evoke images that capture a city’s spirit. Some, like Robert Johnson's Sweet Home Chicago, become a city’s anthem, not so much for what they say about the place, than the way in which they say it. Songs have the power to capture the mood and soul of a city. [Exhibit link]

Toledo Topics: Life at the Top in Jazz Age Toledo

For Toledo industrialists, times could not have been better. For Toledo, as for the nation as a whole, the 1920s were a time of great industrial expansion. In that decade, still driven by coal and steam, Toledo was a major hub in the nation's transportation system. Its fifteen miles of riverfront loaded and unloaded over 4,000 freighters each year. Ti was an automobile center second only to Detroit. Its largest employer, Willys Overland, produced more cars in the 1920s than any other U. S. manufacturer but Ford. Glass was Toledo's other high tech industry. Its glass companies enjoyed a monopoly based on ownership of key patents on numerous production innovations. Toledo firms produced a mountain of glass of their own, but, through control of patent licensing agreements,virtually every piece of glass made in America by any manufacturer returned profits to Toledo companies.[Exhibit link]

Two Toledos

Toledo, Spain has a much longer history than that of its sister city, Toledo, Ohio. Spanish tradition dates the founding of the city to 540 B.C.E., under the original moniker of Toledoth. The city has also been known as Tulaytulah (under Muslim rule) and Toletum (under Roman rule).[Exhibit link]

The Valentine Theatre

In its pioneer decades, Toledo was, not surprisingly, a theatrical backwater. It was not until 1850 that Toledo built a public hall suitable for stage performances and was quickly disappointed to learn that the great singer, Jenny Lind would not travel to Toledo, even for the vast sum of $1,000 a night. By the Civil War Toledo boasted three theaters (Morris Hall, Stickney Hall, and White's Hall). Except for White's Hall, which for a few years in the early 1870s pulled in expensive name acts, none of these were particularly reputable. Stickney Hall was renamed the "Opera House" after the war and included a free drink with the price of admission. By 1875 White's had gone to vaudeville to compete with two new theaters, the Wheeler's Opera House and the Adelphi. However, even the city's workers' growing appetite for regular, inexpensive, ribald fare could not support them all. By the 1890s only Wheeler's and the new People's Theater were still in operation. Toledo's high-brow newspaper, the Blade, complained constantly about the fact that first-rate productions were offered only obsessionally alongside the "trashiest kind of trash", that is, the popular farces and melodramas of the day. [Exhibit link]