Lake View Cemetery: Eternal home to Cleveland’s most famous residents turns 150 (map, guide to sites) by Laura DeMarco Plain Dealer 6/30/18

Lake View Cemetery: Eternal home to Cleveland’s most famous residents turns 150
(map, guide to sites) by Laura DeMarco Plain Dealer 6/30/18

Lynn Ischay, Library of Congress, Plain Dealer Historical Photograph Collection
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An Examination of Merrick House, by Sara K. Montagno

Settlement Houses, Changing Neighborhoods, and Adaptation for Survival: An Examination of Merrick House in Cleveland’s Tremont Neighborhood and Its Place in the Wider Context of the Social Reforms of the United States, 1919-1961

by Sara K. Montagno, Case Western Reserve University School of Graduate Studies
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Founded in 1919, Merrick House has served the residents of Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood continuously for one hundred years. Despite the longevity of this settlement house, there has been no substantial scholarly works published on its history. This thesis focuses on contextualizing the founding of Merrick House and its operation over roughly forty years in the same neighborhood within the national settlement movement of the early twentieth century. It also explores the significance of Catholicism within the institution and its close association with the Christ Child Society of Greater Cleveland through the examination of manuscript collections held by the Western Reserve Historical Society as well as a variety of published sources.

Case Western Reserve University School of Graduate Studies

“My Recollections of Old Cleveland” Author: Warren Corning Wick

My Recollections of Old Cleveland

Author: Warren Corning Wick
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Cover image for My Recollections of Old Cleveland

Book Description: My Recollections of Old Cleveland is a first person account of Cleveland’s gilded age by Warren Wick who lived it. My Recollections begins with a brief history of the Wick family coming to Cleveland from Youngstown by wagon in 1847 at a time before there were trains along with the role Wick banking interests played in Cleveland’s growing prosperity.

“James Garfield born in Ohio log cabin, Nov. 19, 1831” Salon

“James Garfield born in Ohio log cabin, Nov. 19, 1831” Salon

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On this day in 1831, James Garfield, who became the nation’s 20th president in 1881, was born in a log cabin in Orange Township, now Moreland Hills, Ohio, as the youngest of five children. His father, Abram Garfield, died when he was 18 months old. He was reared by his mother, Eliza, who said: “He was the largest babe I had and looked like a red Irishman.”

Garfield later said of his early years: “I lament that I was born to poverty, and in this chaos of childhood, 17 years passed before I caught any inspiration … a precious 17 years when a boy with a father and some wealth might have become fixed in manly ways.”

Eventually, Garfield became a teacher, a language scholar and served as president of Ohio’s Hiram College before entering politics. During the Civil War, he served in the Union Army as a major general. With President Abraham Lincoln’s support, he resigned his commission to make a successful bid in 1862 for a seat in the House of Representatives.

Garfield served in Congress during the Gilded Age. He was implicated in a scandal that erupted in 1872, during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant. In 1880, he won a Senate seat. By that time, the taint of the scandal had faded.

Sen-elect Garfield attended the 1880 Republican National Convention in Chicago as the campaign manager for John Sherman, a fellow Ohioan and the secretary of the treasury. When neither Sherman nor his major rivals — Grant and James G. Blaine of Maine — failed to garner enough votes to secure the nomination, the delegates on the 36th ballot chose Garfield as a compromise choice. In the ensuing presidential election, Garfield conducted a low-key front porch campaign, defeating Democrat Winfield Scott Hancock of Pennsylvania, another former Civil War general.

During his short time in office, Garfield made several significant diplomatic and judiciary appointments, including a U.S. Supreme Court justice. He enhanced the powers of the presidency when he defied the powerful Sen. Roscoe Conkling (R-N.Y.) by appointing William H. Robertson to the lucrative post of collector of the port of New York, starting a fracas that ended with Robertson’s delayed confirmation and Conkling’s resignation from the Senate.

Garfield advocated advances in agricultural technology, a better educated electorate, and civil rights for African-Americans. He also proposed substantial civil service reforms, eventually passed by Congress in 1883 and signed into law by his successor, Chester A. Arthur, as the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act.

On July 2, 1881, Charles Guiteau, a lawyer who had unsuccessfully sought a consular post in Paris, shot Garfield in the back as he walked through a railroad station waiting room in Washington, located on the present site of the National Gallery of Art. After lingering for 80 days, he succumbed to his wounds at age 49 and was succeeded by Vice President Arthur.

Flora Stone Mather aggregation

1 Her Fathers’ Daughter: Flora Stone Mather and Her Gifts to Cleveland by Dr. Marian Morton
2 Short biography of Flora Stone Mather from the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women
3 Gladys Haddad speaks about Flora Stone Mather
4 Flora Stone Mather Documentaries
5 A Tribute to Flora Stone Mather

6. Between Old and New Woman: Flora Stone Mather and the Politics of Gender  By Dr. Einav Rabinovitch-Fox

Social Reform and Philanthropic Order

“Social Reform and Philanthropic Order in Cleveland 1896-1920”

Superb article written by Dr. John Grabowski for Ohio’s Western Reserve: a regional reader By Harry Forrest Lupold

Comparison of Hiram House, Goodrich Settlement and Alta House Settlements.

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The most important and effective manifestation of the social gospel movement in the United States and in Cleveland was the social settlement house. The settlement served as the primary instrument for the advocacy of social reform measures during the Progressive Era. Settlements have been aptly characterized as “spearheads for reform:’ although settlement work did not involve benevolence or charity, per se. Rather than attempting to ameliorate social problems by the provision of material aid, the settlements sought to cure these problems by eliminating their causes. The basic premise of the settlement movement was the actual residence of well-educated settlement workers within depressed areas of the city. By sharing the living conditions of the urban poor, the workers would learn the roots of urban problems. Using their own knowledge and skills, these individuals hoped to eradicate the problems at their sources and to educate the neighborhood residents so that they might overcome their condition. The desire to create an urban village lay at the heart of many settlement efforts. Those involved in the settlement movement believed that urban neighborhoods could overcome their problems if they established the network of mutual aid and sharing considered to typify small-town life.

The movement which began in England quickly spread to the United States. By 1900 there were nearly one hundred settlement houses in the nation, five of which were located in Cleveland. Four of these early enterprises, Hiram House, Goodrich House, Alta House, and the Council Educational Alliance, have left behind them substantial information concerning their origins, supporters, personnel, and policies. This information makes possible a survey of their divergent, yet similar characteristics.

Hiram House, established in July 1896, is generally considered to have been the first true social settlement in Cleveland. The idea for the settlement originated in a YMCA study class at Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio. Affiliated with the Disciples of Christ Church, the college attracted students with both religious and academic interests. The class chose to study the social settlement movement and, encouraged by lectures from luminaries such as Graham Taylor, founder of the Chicago Commons Settlement, decided to examine the possibility of starting a settlement house in Cleveland, some fifty miles to the north. A visit to the city convinced the students, most of whom were from small towns, that such work would be needed : “We went to Whiskey Isle; there we found saloons, prostitution, open sewers, and all in all everything was not very good. We went back to Hiram College with the report that Cleveland needed a settlement very bad.”


Seven members of that class began actual settlement work following graduation in June 1896. They took up residence in a rented house in the Irish quarter near Whiskey Island on the City’s West Side. They began kindergarten classes and started planning for educational classes directed toward all age levels in the neighborhood. Pamphlets issued by the students while at this location emphasized the Christian, social gospel basis of the work and clearly outlined their idealistic goals. The hope of Hiram House, they said, “is to become part of the life of its own ward becoming so by personal helpfulness. In helping the masses, its wish is to help remove the cause of distress, further than this we do not commit ourselves to any social program regarding the vexed industrial and economic problems of the day.” Other early publications solicited support from the general public for the work in the name of Christ.


Protestant Christianity could not long prosper in an Irish Catholic neighborhood. By the autumn of 1896 pressure from local priests forced the settlement to relocate. It moved to the Haymarket district on the East Side. This was the center of the city’s Jewish community, and despite some early protests by the residents of the area the settlement managed to take root. Its initial locations in this area, a series of rented houses along Orange Avenue, provided Hiram House with enough space to continue and expand its programs. The workers again began a kindergarten to which they added a day nursery, high school classes for older youths, debating clubs, excursions to parks, and a summer camp. Most of these programs were directed toward educating the people of the neighborhood and providing them with the intellectual means to rise above their environment. Other programs, such as camping and excursions, were attempts to physically remove people, especially children, from the crowded conditions and debilitating atmosphere of the inner city.


The staff carried on its work without substantive support from any single institution. Hiram College provided its good wishes and a continuous flow of student volunteers, but no financial support. Funds came primarily from collections taken up in rural churches by one of the original student volunteers, George Bellamy. Initially financial solicitor for the settlement, Bellamy assumed control of all work in 1897 and retained it until his retirement in 1946.


Bellamy came from a religious family of moderate means. He was born in Cascade, Michigan, in 1872, descended on his mother’s side from colonists who had arrived in 1620. Several relatives were active in the Disciples of Christ Church, and his older brother, William, a Hiram graduate, served as a minister for that denomination. Bellamy followed his brother into the ministerial course at Hiram, earning all of his college expenses through summer jobs and part-time employment during the school year. His interest in social settlement work was sparked in 1895 by a chance meeting with Graham Taylor while at a Chautauqua lecture. Years later he would credit his conversion to the social gospel to a vision he had had in church while still a youth.

Bellamy’s convictions were tested to the limit during his first several years at the settlement. He worked without pay, having given his savings to the settlement. He was often rebuffed when he attempted to solicit funds from the major churches in Cleveland because the enterprise he represented was viewed as socialistic. One church official told Bellamy, “You ought to be ostracized from [for) living among such people. God never intended to save such people. You should shove them off in a comer and let them be there and rot.” Fund-raising was successful only among small Disciples congregations in the rural towns surrounding the city. They contributed money as well as flowers for distribution in the bleak city neighborhood.

Despite the youthful dedication and idealism committed to the settlement, Hiram House prospered only after Bellamy found a substantial secular source of funds. A meeting in 1898 with a prominent jurist and member of the Disciples of Christ Church, Henry White, paved the way for this change. White contributed money, but more importantly, he formed an executive committee to oversee the affairs of Hiram House. By 1900 the committee had evolved into a board of trustees that consisted primarily of prominent businessmen, most of whom were important enough to be listed in the city’s Blue Book. The board of trustees served to legitimize Hiram House as an institution worthy of support. Within two years it solicited sufficient funds, including substantial donations from John D. Rockefeller and Samuel Mather, to build and equip a four-story structure for the settlement at East Twenty-seventh Street and Orange Avenue. The guarantee of support allowed Hiram House’s budget to grow from $2,210.31 in 1898 to $6,860.00 in 1900, to $12,745.60 in 1905, and to $20,614.10 in 1910. More importantly, Samuel Mather, perhaps the city’s richest citizen, became a member of the board during this period and took an unflagging interest in the work of the settlement.

Having such wherewithal, Bellamy was able to expand programs and activities which he believed would eliminate the problems plaguing his neighborhood. A new publication, Hiram House Life, initially offered a forum for studies of local problems. A playground constructed at the rear of the settlement building provided much-needed open space for the neighborhood. The ample structure had rooms which were used by clubs and classes as well as by other organizations, such as the Visiting Nurse Association and a branch of the Cleveland Public Library. New staff, including a playground director, a director of boys’ work, and a neighborhood visitor, Similarly extended the settlement’s work and its utility. By World War I, Hiram House provided play areas for children, meeting rooms for clubs (mainly for children), weekly entertainments, a gymnasium, and vocational education and homemaking classes within its facilities, as well as headquarters for nurses and workers who visited the sick and needy in its surrounding neighborhood.

The ethnic background of Hiram House’s clientele was changing, too, during this time. As the Jewish immigrant population prospered and moved out of the Haymarket district, Italian immigrants began moving in, beginning about 1905. They, in tum, were eventually replaced by southern blacks, who began moving to Cleveland in large numbers during the First World War.

Relieved by the successful efforts of his board of trustees from the constant task of soliciting funds, Bellamy became involved in various nonsettlement activities directed toward social reform. For example, he made some effort to rid the neighborhood of Harry Bernstein, its corrupt ward boss. He also became an active member of the Cleveland Council of Sociology, an organization comprised of clerics, charity workers, and others, which was devoted to the discussion of the social issues of the day. He served on two committees of the chamber of commerce, both of which were dedicated to the elimination of particular social ills: the chamber’s Bath House Committee of 1901 studied the lack of bathing facilities in the inner city and successfully implemented a program for the construction of bathhouses; and its Committee on the Housing Problem of 1903-4 surveyed housing condition s in the city and made recommendations for a revision of the city’s housing code.

As late as 1905, Bellamy also remained active in the Disciples of Christ Church. He used a speech at a church convention that year to set forth his strong social gospel idealism and to decry the criticism of reform-minded clerics by the church establishment: “The representatives of the most advanced religious thought, no matter how God-fearing or how conscientious, have by no means passed the period of church discipline or rebuke. This lack of freedom in religious thought and study has hindered a wholesome, righteous growth of religious understanding.

The growth of Hiram House had consequences for both Bellamy’s social thought and the institution itself. As it grew, Hiram House drifted away from the concept of “personal helpfulness.” Certainly neighborhood residents could meet and work with staff members, but these workers were much less neighbors in themselves. They were professional employees who answered to the demands of an institutional bureaucracy. As early as 1902, Hiram House had eleven different departments directed largely by paid staff rather than by student volunteers. These employees reported to George Bellamy. By 1910 Bellamy was an administrator of an institution removed, for the most part, from close contact with its clientele. As an administrator responsible to a board of trustees, he had to ensure that his operation ran smoothly and that its backers were pleased with both its progress and programs. To these ends he devised settlement programs which were popular, and he personally abstained from causes or issues which might irritate his supporters. Popular programs drew large numbers of people to the settlement and thus seemed to prove its worth to its patrons. Therefore, by World War I, Hiram House had come to concentrate on recreational programs which would appeal to the children in the neighborhood. It tended to avoid programs which were educational or which were directed at adult immigrants, as the former would be unpopular and the latter dealt with a clientele which was difficult to attract in large numbers.

While Hiram House would come to be characterized as one of the city’s most conservative settlement houses, Goodrich House, the second settlement in the city, was perhaps its most liberal. This social settlement evolved from a series of boys’ clubs and classes held in Cleveland’s First Presbyterian (Old Stone) Church in the mid-1890s. Located on Public Square, the church had one of the city’s oldest and most prestigious congregations. The classes and clubs, which attracted children from the congested, run- down neighborhood to the north of the church, were directed by Elizabeth and Edward W. Haines, Elizabeth being the daughter of the church’s pastor, Dr. Hiram C. Haydn.

As the work seemed to fill a major need in the neighborhood, the church began planning its expansion. Central to this planning was Flora Stone Mather, a member of the church, the wife of Samuel Mather, and the daughter of Amasa Stone, railroad builder and industrialist and one of the city’s most influential men in the immediate post-Civil War period. Wealthy in her own right, Flora Stone’s marriage to Samuel Mather allowed her to become the benefactor of a variety of charitable and educational agencies. Goodrich, however, was her most important charitable interest. Upon her death in 1909, her husband noted, “There was nothing she ever did in which she was more interested than Goodrich House.

Originally, Flora Mather proposed that she would construct a parish house in which the church could undertake neighborhood work. However, the lack of land immediately adjacent to the church and a feeling that the scope of such work might soon overwhelm the church led to a reconsideration. Since 1893, Mather had carried on a correspondence with Professor Henry E. Bourne of Western Reserve University in which they discussed social settlement work. Bourne apparently used this correspondence to assist her in understanding settlement work. She had probably first learned of settlement work through a friend, Lucy B. Buell, a former resident of the College Settlement in New York. The physical problems of constructing a parish house and her correspondence with Bourne led Mather to propose the construction of a fully equipped settlement in the general neighborhood of the church. When Goodrich House finally began work in May 1897, it operated out of a new building constructed expressly for it at St. Clair and East Sixth Street. Flora Mather had paid for the structure and for a number of years thereafter underwrote the cost of the settlement’s operations.

The programs in the new building were supervised by Starr Cadwallader. Cadwallader, a graduate of Union Theological Seminary in Utica, New York, had worked briefly at Union Settlement before coming to Cleveland. During his five-year tenure at Goodrich House, he directed the agency in many of the standard areas of settlement work. The structure housed a bowling alley, baths, laundry, library, and meeting rooms which were made available to neighborhood residents and to a variety of clubs and social groups. Cadwallader and his staff also attempted to improve neighborhood conditions by lobbying for cleaner streets and encouraging area residents to plant home gardens.

However, quite unlike Hiram House, Goodrich House became known as a public forum for the discussion of social reform issues; records indicate, for example, that a young socialist club met at the facilities. Some of the meetings held at Goodrich House led to the creation of such reform-oriented groups as the Consumers’ League of Ohio, and the Legal Aid Society, as well as the creation of a separate, rural boys’ farm for housing juvenile offenders. Among the settlement residents who took part in such discussions were Frederick C. Howe and Newton D. Baker, both of whom left the settlement for positions in Tom L. Johnson’s mayoral administration.

Goodrich had a board of directors as soon as it had a building. Composed largely of people affiliated with the First Presbyterian Church and their friends, this body did little, if anything, to challenge the somewhat radical events at the settlement. Dr. Haydn presided over the first board, which included Flora and Samuel Mather, Elizabeth and Edward Haines, Professor Bourne, and Lucy Buell. By 1905, Cadwallader, Howe, and Baker, all of whom had left the employ of the settlement, had joined the board. James R. Garfield, son of President Garfield and law partner of Howe, also served on the board during the early years of the settlement.

The tightly knit nature of this board and its ties to the church rather than to business, were probably two factors which allowed Goodrich to pursue a more radical course than Hiram House. That the settlement existed because of Flora Mather’s largess is, however, a more important factor. Whereas Bellamy had a number of donors to please, Cadwallader had only Mrs. Mather and his rather small board to consider when directing the settlement. Then, too, Hiram House was Bellamy’s creation ; its failure would be his failure. Cadwallader could, and did, walk away from Goodrich whenever he pleased. In his case, the social goals he wished to achieve took precedence over loyalty to any particular institution.

Goodrich was an institution from the first day it opened its doors. Its funding, operations, and physical structure grew simultaneously. As such it proved to be both sound and remarkably flexible. When the population of its neighborhood began to decline around 1908, it was easily able to move its operations to a new location at East Thirty-first Street and St. Clair, some twenty-four blocks to the east. Mather had expressly provided for such a contingency when she deeded the settlement to its board:

“I desire the house to be used for a Christian Social Settlement so long as, in the judgement of the trustees, that is a useful and needful work in the neighborhood; but if ever in their judgment there was a time when to continue such work, there would be a waste of energy the trustees may dispose of the property. If it should be deemed wise by the trustees to discontinue the work there I wish them to use the funds, including the proceeds of any sale of the house, to carry on the work in some other downtown locality.”

Though the liberal nature of Goodrich could not be written into its articles of incorporation, it nevertheless seemed to be an integral part of the settlement. Cadwallader’s work seems to have set the liberal tone for the settlement. There after it would tend to attract new headworkers of a similar mien. Five headwork ers followed in rather quick succession when Cadwallader left Goodrich in 1904. The rapid turnover ended in 1917 when Alice Gannett, formerly of Henry Street Settlement in New York, took the position and held it until 1947. Gannett continued to strengthen Goodrich’s liberal reputation. During her career she served as president of the Ohio Consumers’ League and the National Federation of Settlements, and was active in the League for Human Rights.

Alta House, which began settlement work in Cleveland’s Little Italy district in 1900, provided yet another example of the diversity of the settlement and reform impulse in Cleveland. Sequestered in a compact ethnic neighborhood, it exhibited none of the neighborhood activism which characterized the very early years of Hiram House nor the liberal leanings characteristic of Goodrich and its staff. Nor was Alta the creation of youthful idealism or a church. Alta House reflected the expressed needs of the neighborhood as acted upon by social gospel idealism. Mothers in the Little Italy district attempted to establish a day nursery in the mid-1890s. Many of them worked in the vineyards in the east of the city and needed day care for their children. They appealed to the Cleveland Day Nursery Association for help. Louise (Mrs. Marius E.) Rawson of the association directed its efforts to assist the Italian mothers. Rawson, a New England-born school teacher, began the nursery in a small cottage, which the work soon outgrew. Relocated in a larger structure, the nursery expanded to Include boys’ clubs, mothers’ clubs, and cooking classes, and again strained the capacity of its quarters. At this point, Rawson began to search tor funding to provide a permanent, larger building for the work. She approached John D. Rockefeller for that aid.


Rockefeller was a natural choice. He was wealthy and a devoutly religious man. As such, he made his money available to a number of worthy causes in and outside of Cleveland-whether his philanthropy signified a social gospel-like desire to help his fellow men or followed the tradition of benevolence by the wealthy cannot be stated with any certainty. Most important in Rawson’s plans was the fact that Rockefeller, when in Cleveland, daily traveled through the Italian district on his way to and from his estate in Forest Hills.


Rockefeller proved amenable to assisting the undertaking. In 1898 he agreed to build a structure for the work being carried on by Rawson. During the discussion and construction phases, the work projected for the new building grew well beyond the confines of a nursery and evolved into a settlement. Rockefeller’s hopes for the settlement were in the best tradition of the social gospel movement. He expressed them in a letter he sent to the dedication ceremony for the building in 1900: “May the spirit of the Christ Child dwell Within this house, built primarily for the children, and may that same spirit of love go out with each one who passes through its doors and be broadly disseminated In the surrounding homes.”


While Rockefeller’s letter spelled out the Christian foundations of the endeavor, a second letter from his daughter, Alta Rockefeller Prentice (after whom the settlement was named), explicitly stated its purpose: 

“The work for which it stands, namely that of helping to educate your children mentally, morally, and physically, and through them aiding in every effort to elevate and purify home life and the life of the neighborhood is very dear to me.”


Katherine E. Smith, formerly of the Rivington Street Settlement in New York, came to Cleveland to head the work at Alta House. Work in the new structure focused primarily on child-oriented activities. It included a day nursery, a kindergarten, boys’ clubs, girls’ classes in sewing, millinery, and cooking, a school for eighteen crippled children, and a gymnasium. In addition, a medical dispensary, a resident visiting nurse, public baths, a public laundry, and a playground were provided.

Smith answered to a board of trustees which included J. G. W. Cowles, a real estate dealer who lived in the Heights area just above the settlement; Paul L. Feiss, one of the officers of the Joseph and Feiss clothing company; John D. Rockefeller, Jr.; Alta Rockefeller Prentice; Professor Matoon M. Curtis of neighboring Western Reserve University; Belle Sherwin, daughter of a prominent family and a leading figure in various reform movements; Maude O. (Mrs. William) Truesdale, the wife of an assistant professor at Western Reserve University; and Louise Rawson. The board certainly did not represent the religious element, nor, excepting the Rockefeller contingent, did it lean particularly on the wealthiest families of the city. The presence of Rawson and Truesdale, neither of whom represented money or social status, was unusual, but was an acknowledgment of the Day Nursery Association’s role in the creation of Alta House, as well as of Truesdale’s strong educational programming.

Alta House had no need to combat social evils such as poor housing, overcrowding, or open sewers. The housing stock of the neighborhood was largely new, having been erected by the Italian immigrants during the last decades of the nineteenth century. It was almost a rural area, five miles from the center of the city. Its only industries were a street car carbarn and the monument works of Joseph Carabelli. The settlement’s task, therefore, naturally centered on the social, academic, civic, and sanitation education of the immigrants. Smith may have chafed at these apparently pedestrian duties. Her first annual report, for example, indicated an interest in starting a social reform club for young boys. The record does not indicate if she accomplished this. However, classes in English, sewing, cooking, and hygiene, as well as physical education programs, were still strong, if indirect, means of social reform, for they seemed to guarantee the training of useful, healthy future citizens who would be assets to the community.

The Rockefeller family continued to support Alta House until 1921, at which time John D. Rockefeller, Jr., asked to be relieved of its annual costs. Because of the long-term interest of the Rockefellers and the insular nature of the Little Italy neighborhood, Alta House was quite dissimilar from either Hiram House or Goodrich House. Yet it still shared the Christian seed of these organizations as well as their dedication to social reform in one guise or another.


Between Old and New Woman: Flora Stone Mather and the Politics of Gender By Dr. Einav Rabinovitch-Fox

Between Old and New Woman: Flora Stone Mather and the Politics of Gender

By Dr. Einav Rabinovitch-Fox

(This is based on a lecture given at the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women at CWRU, on April 20, 2016) 

Flora Stone Mather, the woman whom the place we are in today is named after, and the subject of my talk, is known as one of the greatest philanthropist in Cleveland history, and certainly one of its greatest woman philanthropist, famous for her work and contribution to religious, educational, and social welfare activities. True to her sense of service, and fortunate enough to enjoy a position of power due to her wealth and family reputation, Flora managed to navigate her way in a masculine world, and to cultivate a new identity for herself, as a woman, as a philanthropist, and as an influential force in Cleveland’s elite.  In my talk today, I would like to examine Flora’s life and work as both exemplar of nineteenth century womanhood and a prototype for a generation of Progressive New Women that will follow her. In her ability to carve a position of power in a changing social world in terms of gender and class, Flora Stone Mather’s life provides us with a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities women faced in this period and are still facing today.

Born in 1852, Flora was the third and youngest child of engineer entrepreneur Amasa Stone and his wife Julia Gleason Stone. The couple moved to Cleveland in 1851, after Amasa already reached fame and fortune as a superintendent of the Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati Railroad. Flora herself was born in the family home on Superior Ave., a typical Victorian house in one of the fashionable and respectable neighborhoods in Cleveland. In 1858, the family will move to the more fashionable and luxurious mansion on Euclid Ave. that served as a testament to Amasa Stone’s status as one of Cleveland’s social and financial elites.[1] Cleveland in the period just before and after the Civil War was a city in boom. During this time, its population doubled to forty thousand, attracting not only immigrants and cheap labor force but also the Nation’s top entrepreneurs and capital. The war itself brought economic prosperity to Cleveland, transforming it from a commercial village to a mid-size industrial city and an important regional center for manufacturing and shipping. Euclid Ave., where the Stones resided, became during this time the center of wealth and opulence and the home to some of the richest people in America, receiving the name: “Millionaires’ Row.”

Whereas her parents had to climb their way to prosperity, Flora was born into a life of privilege. She participated in the conventional life expected of women of her milieu: dinners, receptions, teas, charity benefits, and church. As the youngest daughter, with an older brother to serve as the family heir, Flora was not destined to become a social reformer but a society woman, a dutiful daughter, a caring wife and a mother – keeping with the Victorian ideals of True Womanhood. Historian Barbara Welter defined True Womanhood as comprised of four core values: domesticity, piety, submissiveness, and purity. According to Welter, the ideal Victorian woman was supposed to be nurturing and innately domestic in nature, cultivating a life of faith and devotion set apart from the public and masculine world of business and interest.[2] And indeed, Flora seemed fitted to this ideal. “Small in stature and fragile in health, plain and unassuming in her appearance” as one description of her explained, Flora embodied the values of the Victorian lady.[3]

On par with the ideals of True Womanhood, religion was an important part of Flora’s life. Her parents were members of the First Presbyterian Old Stone Church, and the children were involved early on in church life. Centrally located on Public Square, the church had a socially and politically prominent congregation, which served not only as a religious community but also as a social one. The reverend of Old Stone Church, William Henry Goodrich, was a great influence of Flora, and played an important role in shaping her views regarding social betterment and service. Indeed, although the leadership of Protestant churches was male, women were active participants in the church charitable activities, which allowed them to move beyond the world of home and family. [4] Navigating between the notion that saw woman’s rightful place in the home, and the notion of Christian service as expression of one’s piety, Flora managed to form a new version of the True Woman, one that carved new position of power in the public sphere, but without defying feminine virtues. On the contrary, Flora used her religious faith and dedication as the rational for action. Flora’s religious views did not only shape her understanding of her role as woman, but also were behind her philanthropic activities. “I feel so strongly that I am one of God’s stewards,” she attested to her notion of service. “Large means without effort of mine, have been put into my hands; and I must use them as I know my Heavenly Father would have me,” she explained her motivation for her work.[5]  

Religion was important aspect of two of the early causes that Flora took as a young woman. In 1867 she and her sister Clara joined the newly formed Young Ladies Mission Society who did missionary work in the working-class neighborhood just north of the church. As part of the Society’s activities, Flora and her colleagues raised funds for the church mission, sewed garments for the poor and held Sunday festivals. This missionary spirit also pushed Flora to join the Temperance Movement, which was the largest women’s movement in the late nineteenth century.[6] Seeing alcohol as a vice and a threat to the Christian home, the Temperance movement was more than just a Christian missionary group. It also served as the breeding ground for ideas of women’s influence and empowerment, and provided many of its members with the experience of public speaking and activism, albeit marked with conservative tones.[7] Thus, infusing ideals of True Womanhood with more progressive ideas regarding women’s role in public, the movement gave Flora her first foray into public life when she became the vice president and then president of the Young Ladies Temperance League. The League also introduced Flora to the field of charity work, especially with regards to children. In 1882, the League became the Young Ladies Branch of the Woman’s Christian Association, whose purpose was to establish day nurseries for children of working mothers. Flora took much joy in those activities: “I had such a sweet time at the Nursery,” she recalled. “I sat by the fire rocking a cradle and singing to a tired little boy. Then the mothers came for their children and I had a little talk with each one. We want to have them feel that we take an interest in them and their children,” Flora explain her rational for volunteering.[8]

Flora’s experiences with the Woman’s Christian Association and her religious affiliation and dedication to the Old Stone Church continued well beyond her youth. In 1896, when she was 44 and already married to Samuel Mather, another prominent Clevelander who made a fortune in the mining business, Flora founded the Goodrich Settlement House, named after her admired reverend. By the late nineteenth century, settlement houses were a common sight in the urban centers of the U.S. Influenced by Progressive ideas regarding social betterment and helping the poor, the settlement movement sought to eliminate social ills not through material charity, but through education and community work that was supposed not just to take care of the poor, but to solve the reasons for poverty all together. The major purpose of settlement houses was to help to assimilate and ease the transition of immigrants into the labor force by teaching them middle-class American values. In Chicago, for instance, Hull-House, which became the most famous settlement house in America, helped to educate immigrants by providing classes in history, art, and literature. Hull-House also provided social services to reduce the effects of poverty, including a daycare center, homeless shelter, public kitchen, and public baths.[9]

Settlement work offered a radical break from Victorian gentility as settlement workers, often young, single, highly educated women, went to live within immigrant and destitute urban neighborhoods and became part of these communities. It opened new possibilities for women to gain public influence and presence in the public sphere. In addition to education and social welfare, settlement houses became a nexus for political activism, with reformers like Jane Addams, Florence Kelley, and Lillian Wald, becoming involved in advocating social legislation to combat poverty in local, state, and national politics. While many settlement workers still worked within the boundaries of middle-class Victorianism, they represented a new understanding of femininity, one that was associated with the New Woman, a term referring to a generation of women who came of age between 1880 and 1920 and represented in their attitude and appearance a challenge to the ideal True Woman.[10] These women challenged the regulatory norms of gender by demanding public voice, a personal fulfillment through work, education, and political engagement. 

Although the settlement worker became a type of the New Woman, Flora, who was 44 and a mother of four by the time she founded Goodrich House, would hardly fit the image. And indeed, while the work done at Goodrich resembled much of the work done in other settlement houses—it had lectures and class to children and adults, a gymnasium, a bowling alley, public baths, laundry, and several clubs for boys and girl—Flora’s involvement attested more to her Victorian upbringing than to her willingness to break new grounds for women. As a mother of four, Flora did not live in Goodrich House but maintained her residence in the family home at Euclid Ave. Flora also saw Goodrich House as an extension of her religious activities, less as a place that will offer her a chance to gain a political influence in the community. As Flora specified in her own words, the object of Goodrich House was “to provide a center for such activities as are commonly associated with Christian Social Settlement work.”[11]

Flora was instrumental to the financial standing of the institution. She and her husband served on the board of trustees and Flora provided funds both for the settlement land and building, as well as $10,000 as a first installment of an endowment fund. Flora also covered the operating expenses. Yet, Flora’s contributions to Goodrich House were not only financial. She was fully engaged in its activities, and while she perhaps did not intend it to become one, Goodrich House nevertheless became known as a public forum for the discussion of social reform issues and was perhaps the “most liberal settlement in Cleveland.”[12] Flora herself, while not the typical New Woman, used Goodrich House and her activities for it to set the foundations to more rigorous reform efforts and opened up opportunities for women to gain position of power and influence in public.

In 1900, as part of her role at Goodrich House, Flora, who had learned about the conditions of the urban poor, decided to form the Consumers League of Ohio, a local chapter of the National Consumers’ League. The League’s goal was to improve the working conditions of women and children by limiting the hours of work, guaranteeing minimum wage, and the safety and sanitary conditions of factories, mills, and offices.[13] While for Flora, the League was very much a continuation of her church and temperance activities, the organization became a breeding place for more progressive and feminist reforms. League members used their considerable social status and economic power as consumers to apply pressure on employers to improve labor conditions, but these activities, while successful on the whole, also pointed the limitation of women to gain real influence without being able to have a voice in the political system. These pushed League member to become active in the women’s suffrage campaign. Although Flora herself was not involved in the local suffrage movement, the League offered a training ground to many of the local suffragists who will channel their experience into promoting more radical causes such as women’s suffrage. Thus, while she herself still hovered in the realm of respectable True Womanhood, Flora managed to harness her influence and fortune to carve new position of power that in turn helped to redefine notions of gender and women’s social roles. 

Beyond Flora’s own character and natural leaning towards social causes, she occupied a unique position that enabled her to become an influential force in promoting social reform while maintaining her relative independence. A series of tragic events that began with the death of her brother Adelbert in 1865 from drowning, and continued with her father’s suicide in 1883 due to a sense of shame from a railroad tragedy, ill health, and depression, turned Flora into a very wealthy woman as she inherited her father’s fortune.[14] Although both her mother and sister also inherited large sums, Flora became the one who not only inherited large sums of money, but also her father’s charitable responsibilities. Her sister Clara married John Hay in 1874 and moved with him to Washington DC where he had been active in politics and served among his other posts as Assistant Secretary of State. As her sister was occupied with the travels of her husband and her aging mother, Flora had to become, with the assistant of her husband, the head of the family, a role that was unusual for women during that time. While this position naturally gave her more influence than before, Flora still maintained her more submissive role as a woman and as a wife, staying true to the Victorian values of True Womanhood and refusing to take this opportunity to break new grounds. In one letter to her husband in 1883 she confessed, “When I think of the business part of the responsibility that has come on us I simply don’t know what I should have done without you.”[15] Despite the fact that by 1883 Flora already gained experience in philanthropy on her own right, she was still not ready to see herself as an independent person capable to running her father’s business.

Flora’s husband, Samuel Mather, also came from a well-known and wealthy family. His father, Samuel Livingston Mather made his fortune in the iron or mining business and Samuel, his son, also became a successful businessman. He and Flora got married in 1881, and two years later, much thanks to the fortune he received from Flora’s father’s inheritance, Mather found Pickands, Mather & Company to sell coal and iron ore, which became one of the great shippers of iron or from the great lakes region.[16] Their marriage became the beginning of a philanthropic partnership, as Samuel was very supportive of his wife’s various initiatives. In a letter to Flora in 1880 he wrote: “I love your conscientious devotion to duty. I could not love any one over a week that was without this quality and I lover your untiring energy and cheerfulness of spirit.”[17] Flora on her side answered: “What touched me most and made me most glad of you, was that you said we would try together to live naturally, truthfully, humbly striving to improve ourselves and be of some honest use.”[18] The couple had together 4 children, and while it was Flora who took upon herself the duties of the household and child raising, her economic status also enabled her the time and resources to pursuit a life of service beyond her immediate family.

Enjoying her husband’s emotional as well as financial support, together with having her own independent fortune due to her $600,000 inheritance of her father’s estate, Flora maintained a unique position that enabled her to carve more power and independence than other women of her milieu at this period, who were bound to their fathers or husbands. Samuel’s frequent traveling and business dealing provided with Flora with relative independence that enabled her to construct an identity separate from her husband. Although she did not enjoy the freedom that single New Women had, she manage nevertheless to enjoy another kind of freedom that gave her the possibility to break new grounds and to become an influential power in Cleveland’s philanthropic landscape on her own. And thus, while she never abandoned her Victorian uprising and the values of True Womanhood, her unique life circumstances enabled her to broaden the limits and definitions of womanhood, negotiating new realms of activities. 

Amasa Stone’s death, while certainly traumatic to the family, also opened up a new venue for Flora to continue her activism. Indeed, whereas religion was an important driving force in Flora’s development as a philanthropist, education was another. As a True Woman, Flora did not receive higher education, as this was considered to be a radical, and even dangerous occupation for women at the time. Although Amasa Stone and many of his class milieu thought that women should be educated, mostly to enhance their social status, rigorous academic training was not what they had in mind. Indeed, while her brother Adelbert was sent to Yale, Clara and Flora stayed at home, preparing for their life as wives and mothers. However, this is not to say that Amasa Stone did not care for his daughters’ education. In 1866 he founded the Cleveland Academy, to which both Flora and Clara went, and was a private girls’ school which was the equivalent of a high-school college preparatory education.[19] The curriculum was based on biblical texts and current events, and emphasized public speaking as well as writing. Their teacher, Linda Thayer Guilford, who became enormous influence on Flora’s approach to reform, represented better the possibilities that began opening up for women in terms of education in the nineteenth century that will become the hallmark of the New Woman. Guilford, who graduated from Mount Holyoke, one of the most prestigious high education institutions for women, was instrumental in introducing Flora to ideas of social service and moral responsibility for the poor.[20]

While Flora preferred to concentrate on helping the poor and children, education was one of Amasa Stone’s main philanthropic causes. In addition to founding the Cleveland Academy, Stone had an important role in the development of Western Reserve University. In 1880, he gave the institution $500,000 to facilitate the move from Hudson to Cleveland, as well as more funds to build Adelbert College, in the memory of his son. Upon his death, Flora took much of her father commitments to Western Reserve. In 1888, she gave $50,000 endowment and $2500 to the library of Adelbert College. In 1889, she endowed a chair in history.[21]  And in 1907, wanting to commemorate her father, as well as maybe to restore his reputation as a great philanthropist, Flora donated a chapel to Adelbert College in his name.[22] The Amasa Stone Chapel was completed in 1911 and stands at the CRWU campus until this day.

Although higher education was never a passion for Flora, the need to step into her father shoes opened an opportunity for her to promote women’s education, if not for her, then for other women. Shortly after Flora assumed her father’s commitment to Western Reserve University and Adelbert College, the new president of the university, Hiram C. Haydn, which Flora knew from his days as the pastor of the Old Stone Church, announced that women will no longer be admitted to the university. This decision has generated a controversy over the virtues of education for women, and Flora, instead of sitting the debate out, decided to use the controversy and to work for the founding of a new institution – a college for women that will be affiliated with Western Reserve University.

In 1888, a separate college for women began to operate. Its first significant gifts came from Flora’s mother and her brother-in-low, which provided sums that allowed the college to take off. In 1891, Flora donated $75,000 for the first dormitory, named for Linda Guilford, her beloved teacher. The college for women gave Flora a chance to experience college life, something she never done herself. She used to visit the college almost every day, getting to know the students, spending time with them, bringing gifts, or attending lectures.[23] Thus, without completely abandoning her life as a mother of small children and a philanthropist, Flora managed also to get acquainted with the new culture of higher education, a culture that soon many young women will get to share. 

Indeed, while she herself would have never been a New Woman, Flora’s involvement in the college, as well as her insistence that women will receive quality rigorous education, paved the way for women in the next generation to reach significant achievements. Alumna of the college later went into law and service, as well as into business, accomplishing the school spirit, and in some way also Flora’s tradition. One of these graduates was Florence Allen, a jurist and an ardent suffragist who defended women’s municipal suffrage before the Ohio Supreme Court in 1917. She was the first women to be nominated as a chief judge of a federal court, when Roosevelt nominated her to the United States 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1934.[24] While careers such as Allen were certainly unique, and although it will be difficult to draw a direct connection between Allen and her experience at the College for Women, Allen is an example of the type of space and functions that the college provided for women, and the possibilities it opened to them in a period where gender bias was still very much prevalent in higher education. 

If other women lived to their upmost potential thanks to the college, Flora remained bound to her more Victorian uprising. Despite her many activities and increasing philanthropic responsibilities, she maintained a life that was centered around her family, and particularly her children. To Flora, her children were the greatest achievement of her life. She confessed: “My greatest gift to the next century should be my well-trained children.”[25] And indeed, Flora took full responsibility for her motherly duties and the education of her kids. While for the twenty-first century feminist ears, such sentiment, especially from a woman who achieved such status in the public sphere, might sounds contradictory and even a bit defeatist, it is important to understand the world in which Flora operated in and the emotional, psychological, even if not economic challenges, that she had to negotiate. Flora was in no means revolutionary, but very much a product of her time, and in the period she lived, home and motherhood were a source of power, the base from which you go out to the world, not only a secluded prison you needed to escape from. 

And indeed, it is possible to see Flora’s philanthropy as the extension of the domestic sphere, not as a negation of it. Her charitable activities with children and mothers were a way for Flora to enhance her own motherhood. Even her involvement with education causes came out of her experience as a mother. As a mother she sought enriching schools for her children, and when she failed to find ones, she used her social and economic status to found them. One of those schools was Hathaway Brown, the school her daughters went to, in which Flora played a major role in its development. In 1904, she gave $33,000 for the land and building for the new residence of the school. This act propelled the school to request Flora to give her name to the new location and to change it to the “Mather School.”[26] However, since for Flora, philanthropy was not a form of self-interest or a way to advance a business agenda, but an extension of her motherly and feminine duties, she refused to take any credit for her work or contribution. 

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the ideas of philanthropy were tied up with the notion of service and civic stewardship. This notion was based on the idea that successful citizens owe a dual obligation of time and money to the community in which they prospered.[27] While this notion was not specifically gendered, as many wealthy men, from John Rockefeller to Andrew Carnegie also embodied this notion of philanthropy, for women, and especially for those who belong to Flora Stone Mather’s generation, success usually did not mean economic or business success, but an idea that was much rooted in notions of Christian missionary, devoutness, and domestic roles. Whereas Flora’s contributions to the development of Cleveland, to its institutions, to the promotion of women’s education, and to women’s and children welfare was on par with many of her male colleagues, if not surpassed them, Flora in her life never broke the boundaries that marked her gender and her understanding of her role as a woman in this men’s world.

Flora was known and acknowledged during her own lifetime, yet it was only after her death that she received the credit for her activities, assuming the role of the New Woman, a role that she never assume when she was alive. Indeed, Flora’s death in 1909, due to complications of breast cancer, did not mark an end to her lasting influence and involvement in philanthropy. Her will listed bequests for all the organizations that she had given support to throughout her life, among them the Children’s Aid Society of Cleveland, Old Stone Church, Lakeside Hospital, the Young Ladies Branch of the Women’s Christian Association, the Goodrich Social Settlement, and of course Western Reserve University and the College for Women and Adelbert college.

In the years after her death, her husband, Samuel Mather and her children continued Flora’s commitment to the Women’s College, honoring her with a dormitory in her name in 1913 and building the Flora Stone Mather Memorial Building in 1914. In 1931, the board of trustees of Western Reserve University renamed the entire college for women as the Flora Stone Mather College.[28]

Although today, the name of Flora Stone Mather is rarely known beyond Cleveland, her legacy is still very much alive today. In 1909, one of the eulogies that appeared on the Cleveland Leader commented that “Mrs. Mather achieved a career of which any man might be proud.”[29] Flora used her social status to promote issues that would later be picked up by reformers and feminists. While she herself never broke beyond the limits of her gender, her activities and philanthropic contributions enabled others to do it. Flora Stone Mather thus provided a model for a woman of her time and status that symbolized the transitional phase of women in the turn of the century America, one that did not represent a complete break with ideas of Victorian femininity, but managed to incorporate both the advances and the limitations of women’s liberation at the time. When we come to assess Flora Stone Mather today, in an age when women are running for president and are the head of multi-billion businesses, we should be reminded of the women, like Flora Stone Mather, who in their actions paved the path for other women to march on. While they were never revolutionary or radical, they too manage to carve a space of influence and power and to make their mark on Cleveland’s history and society.


[1] Gladys Haddad, Flora Stone Mather: Daughter of Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue and Ohio’s Western Reserve (Kent: Kent State University Press, 2007), 7-10

[2] Barbara Welter, “The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860”, American Quarterly, 18, 2 (Summer, 1966), 151-174

[3] Marian Morton, “Her Father’s Daughter: Flora Stone Mather and Her Gifts to Cleveland”, 2.

[4] Morton, “Her Father’s Daughter”, 4; Haddad, Flora Stone Mather, 10-11.

[5] Quoted in Haddad, Flora Stone Mather, xi

[6] Morton, “Her Father’s Daughter”, 4-6

[7] For more on the Temperance Movement see: Ian Tyrrell, Woman’s World/Woman’s Empire: The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in International Perspective 1880-1930, (UNC Press, 2010); Janet Giele, Two Paths for Women’s Equality: Temperance, Suffrage, and the Origins of Modern Feminism (Twayne Publishers, 1995)

[8] Quoted in “A Legacy of Stewardship: Flora Stone Mather”

[9] On the Settlement Movement see: Jane Addams, 20 Years at Hull House; and Robyn Muncy, Creating a Female Dominion in American Reform, 1890-1935 (Oxford University Press, 1994)

[10] Martha H. Patterson (ed.), The American New Woman Revisited (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2008); June Schoen, The New Woman: Feminism in Greenwich Village 1910-1920 (New York: Quadrangle Books, 1972); Jean Matthews, The Rise of the New Woman: The Woman’s Movement in America 1875-1930 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2003).

[11] Morton, “Her Father’s Daughter”, 6

[12] John J. Grabowski, “Social Reform and Philanthropic Order”,

[13] Morton, “Her Father’s Daughter”, 8

[14] Morton, “Her Father’s Daughter”, 3; Haddad, Flora Stone Mather, 69-70

[15] Samuel Mather Family Papers, WRHS, box 9, folder 6

[16] Haddad, Flora Stone Mather ,76-77; “A Legacy of Stewardship: Flora Stone Mather”

[17] Samuel Mather Family Papers, WRHS, box 2, folder 4

[18] Quoted in Haddad, Flora Stone Mather , 61

[19] “A Legacy of Stewardship: Flora Stone Mather”

[20] Haddad, Flora Stone Mather, 12-13

[21] Morton, “Her Father’s Daughter”, 10; Haddad, Flora Stone Mather, 73

[22] Haddad, Flora Stone Mather, 107

[23] Morton, “Her Father’s Daughter”, 10; Haddad, 72-73

[24] “Florence Allen”, The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History,

[25] Samuel Mather Family Papers, WRHS, box 10, folder 8; Haddad, 80-81

[26] Haddad, Flora Stone Mather, 87

[27] Haddad, Flora Stone Mather, 114-115

[28] Haddad, Flora Stone Mather, 108-109

[29] Quoted in Haddad, Flora Stone Mather, 107

“Cleveland in the Gilded Age” by Dr. John Grabowski


Charles Brush home on Euclid Avenue and His Windmill (Library of Congress)

The pdf is here

A Time of Transition and Challenge:  Cleveland in the Gilded Age

Prologue:  Innocents Abroad

by Dr. John Gabowski

The five months between June and November 1867 were one of the high points in the lives of Emily and Solon Severance of Cleveland. They, along with six other Clevelanders were part of a group of seventy-five who traveled to the Holy Land aboard the ship Quaker City.  One of their fellow passengers was Samuel Clemens, better known by his pen name as Mark Twain. Clemens would become a close friend of the Severances and immortalize their trip in his book Innocents Abroad published 1n 1869.[i] 

While that volume chronicled an adventure that became part of the Severance’s lives, a subsequent work by Clemens would give the name to the period in which they matured and prospered.  The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, written jointly by Clemens and Charles Warner in 1873 was a biting satire of a nation whose focus had, in the years just after the Civil War, turned to the accumulation and display of wealth to a degree where it was a detriment to individual and national character.  More importantly, the book title became the name of a distinct period of United States history and area of historical studies, which focuses on the years from 1870 to the turn of the twentieth century. It was a period in which enormous industrial and urban growth challenged the verities of American democracy. The rise of great individual fortunes raised concerns about the divisions of class in a supposed classless society, but at the same time served as an example of opportunity.  One of the most popular books or the era, Acres of Diamonds by Baptist minister Russell Conwell in 1890 encouraged visions of individual opportunity.  Conversely, the invention of new systems of industrial management and control, including monopolies and trusts during the Gilded Age, acted as barriers to individual initiatives and stymied opportunity. Yet, they hinted at more rational and inexpensive ways of producing goods.   Perhaps most of all, the visual manifestations of wealth epitomized by grand houses, estates, and examples of conspicuous consumption were hugely publicized and envied.  But many saw them  merely as gilding on a society that was becoming increasingly divided by income and class as well as by an evolving ethos that seemed to lack a humane moral core.

Certainly, the Severances, whose lives did not come to epitomize the excesses of the period, saw the Gilded Age’s effects in their hometown. The Cleveland into which Solon (1834) was born was small (a population of 1075 in 1830 and 6,071 in 1840), rather homogeneous, and primarily mercantile.  His wife, Emily, had been born in Kinsman, Ohio, and had come to Cleveland in the 1850s. When they disembarked from the Quaker City they returned to a city with over 70,000 inhabitants, most of whom were recent arrivals and nearly half of whom were of foreign birth.[ii]   More importantly, they returned to a city made prosperous by the recent Civil War and rapidly gaining more wealth through a variety of new and expanding industrial enterprises.   As they lived out their lives during the coming decades they observed a city transformed but also challenged by the creation of great fortunes and the temptations of easy wealth; the inadequacies of existing political systems; and the polarization of capital and labor.  Having seen the Holy Land, they were now to witness a city undergoing its “urban adolescence.” 

The  Fortunes of War

Often lost in the popular understanding of the Civil War is the role that conflict had in making some in the victorious North immensely wealthy.  Like other major conflicts that followed, government spending for the implements and accoutrements of battle spurred industrial innovation and production — and the interest paid on the government bonds issued to fund that spending proved an added bonus to investors — at least to those on the victorious side.   It was the Civil War that propelled Cleveland into its industrial age and its version of the Gilded Age.[iii]

This is not to say that the city’s industrial period began in 1861.  Rather the fact that it was developing an industrial infrastructure in the years before the War served to allow it to turn those assets to the needs of conflict.   Several examples are particularly salient.

By the beginning of the War Cleveland was already a railroad hub, with tracks reaching west to Chicago, southwest to Cincinnati, southeast to Pittsburgh and east to New York.   Clevelanders, such as Amasa Stone and John H. Devereux,  who had built and invested in the roads emanating from the city, prospered, as did local bond and stock holders for the lines, with wartime demands for traffic.  During the War Devereux, holding the rank of General, served as the superintendent for US Military Railroads in Virginia.  

This activity had consequences for local industry allied with the rail industry.  The Cleveland Rolling Mills, established by John and David Jones in 1857, initially prospered by re-rolling worn iron rails for the growing railroad network in Ohio, a need which only increased during the war at which time Scottish immigrant, Henry Chisholm, who had joined the Jones in 1857, became the manager of the mills. After the War he was one of the area’s wealthiest men. 

The central role of rail transport during the War was complemented by the telegraph and here too Cleveland benefited because Jeptha Homer Wade, one of the founders of Western Union, had taken up residence in the city in the 1850s.   The wires of Western Union were key to coordinating troop movements by rail, bringing news of the conflict to the public and allowing President Lincoln a real-time connection to events taking place on battlefields.  

If any Clevelander was to become a symbol for the wealth of the Gilded Age, it was John D. Rockefeller and here too, the Civil War was critical.   Rockefeller and his commission house partner, Maurice Clark saw their profits for the sale of grain, meat, and produce rise from $4,000 in 1860 to $17,000 at the end of 1861, a time when the government was their primary customer.[iv]

It is impossible to ascertain how the profits made by these individuals and others were used during and after the war.  One possibility is investment in government bonds issued to finance the conflict.   Bonds paying 6% interest and maturing in 20 years could be purchased for as little as $50.00 (still a considerable sum,  given that a private in the Union Army earned but $13 per month[v]).   But the bonds had attractions for those who could afford them.  They could be purchased with the greenback paper currency issued during the conflict but the interest was payable in gold. Jay Cooke, a financier born in Sandusky, conceived and carried out the sales — $500,000,000 worth of bonds were sold.    If all went to maturity, investors would have realized $30,000,000 sometime in the 1880s.   How much of this came to finance Cleveland’s Gilded Age cannot clearly be determined.[vi]

Profit and good investments were not the only good fortune that came to Cleveland and northeastern Ohio because of the Civil War.  They were complemented by enduring political relations that would link Cleveland intimately to national politics and policy for the next four decades.    The city’s strong backing of Lincoln, and the state’s role as one of the major contributors to the conflict did not go unnoticed during or after the War.   But there were more intimate links that would be beneficial during and afterwards .  While Jay Cooke of Sandusky sold bonds to fund the Union cause, Salmon Chase of Cincinnati served as Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury.   After the war four Ohioans who had served in the Union Army, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, and William McKinley, occupied the Presidency.   For sixteen years in the Gilded Age, Cleveland and Ohio had a friend in the White House .  Yet, there was a cost to this.  Ten thousand men (two thirds of the eligible population) from Cuyahoga County served : 1,700 died in the war and another 2,000 left service wounded or disabled.  Victory and sacrifice were powerful talismans in Gilded Age Cleveland.[vii]

Urban Adolescence

Perhaps the best available study of Cleveland during the Gilded Age is James Beaumont Whipple’s “Cleveland in Conflict: A Study in Urban Adolescence, 1876-1900” which was completed at Western Reserve University in 1951.[viii]   Very much a linear and non-interpretive study of the city, the dissertation’s equating of Cleveland’s Gilded Age with adolescence is truly apt.  The city grew rapidly during the period, but was largely absent of any true control or full understanding of the changes it was experiencing.

Numbers provide a sense of scale for the change. In 1870 Cleveland’s population stood at 92,829. A decade later it was 160,146.  By 1890 it had risen to 261,353 and by century’s end it stood at 381,786 making it the seventh largest city in the nation.[ix]

Those increases came about largely by in-migration both from Europe and the surrounding countryside, but also because of the physical expansion of the city.  Annexation of neighboring communities and townships such as Newburgh, Glennville, Linndale and East Cleveland, in part or whole, increased the size of the city from 7.325 square miles in 1860 to 34.34 square miles at the beginning of the new century.[x]  Essentially, in terms of both population and physical size Cleveland had expanded by a four plus factor in the last four decades of the nineteenth century.

The expansion was driven by the city’s industrial economic potential which hinged on its centrality to markets in the east and the expansion of settlement in the west of the United States; its rail and water transport systems; and its access to abundant natural resources such as coal, iron ore, crude oil, timber, clay, and limestone.  It was a perfect place to be for those imbued the get-ahead, get rich attitude of the Gilded Age as well as for tens of thousands of job seekers in what was rapidly becoming a highly mobile global labor proletariat.  

Its industrial base expanded far beyond the iron manufacturers of Civil War and pre-war era.  By the 1870s, oil refining was the major industrial endeavor in the city while iron and steel came second.   Those two core industries spun off ancillary enterprises — chemicals and then paint and varnishes derived followed from  oil refining.  Iron and steel catalyzed both a shipbuilding industry to produce vessels to carry iron ore and other commodities, as well as the production of devices such as the Brown-Hoist and Hulletts to unload ships carrying bulk commodities.  Products manufactured from iron and steel included everything from fasteners to sewing machines as well as jail cells, park benches, carriage hardware, and a wide variety of forged, molded, and machined products.  An expanding precision-based machine tool industry created the devices that created products from steel.   The city also became a site for what are now termed “disruptive technologies” which challenged existing ways of providing power and producing goods.  The most disruptive was, perhaps, electricity which was to provide a source of power that along with internal combustion, would end the age of steam.   The companies that emerged from this era included Standard Oil, Sherwin-Williams, Glidden, Grasselli Chemical, Otis Steel, Warner and Swasey, American Shipbuilding, Wellman-Seaver Morgan, White Sewing Machine (and later White Motors), Van Dorn Iron, and Brush Electric, and iron ore “houses” such as Oglebay-Norton, Pickands Mather, and Cleveland Cliffs.   Together they and other local industries would increase the value of manufactured goods in Cleveland from $27,049,012 in 1870 to $139,849,806 in 1900 while wage-based employment in the city rose from 10,063 to 58,810.[xi]

Seeing Wealth

The most visible symbol of achievement outside of the growing factory districts and the increasing pollution of the city’s air and water was Euclid Avenue where many of the city’s wealthy lived.   Initially,  known as the Buffalo Road, the street became a desired place of residence in the 1850s when wealthy merchants such as Williamsons, Binghams, Perrys,  and others built substantial but not terribly ostentatious homes, along the avenue in the open lands east of Public Square.  During the Gilded Age the number and size of homes along Euclid increased geometrically. Within four decades Euclid was lined with homes from what is now Playhouse Square to University Circle with the beginning of the street east of the Square given over by 1900 to the commerce that came in the wake of growth and expansion.  The homes, particularly those sited on the north of the street, were outsized showplaces of wealth  and power with lots that stretched north from Euclid to what is now Perkins Avenue in the section of the avenue between what is now E. 30th Street and East 55th.  It was, to use the title of Jan Cigliano’s seminal history of the street, a “Showplace of America,” indeed one which was listed as a must-see attraction in Baedeker’s guide to the United States.[xii] 

The enduring popular local mythology of the street tends to see it as the home of Cleveland’s establishment.   But that view neglects the fact that a number of the residents were relative newcomers to the city as well as to wealth, and that it was their progeny who would become “establishment.”  The street was, more correctly, a combination of older families whose prosperity dated from the 1830s, early industrialists and railroad entrepreneurs from the 1850s, and post-Civil War industrialists and businessmen.  It was neither predominantly nouveau-riche or “old shoe,” but nevertheless its halcyon period was of the Gilded Age.    Families like the Mathers , Paynes, Worthingtons, and Severances had histories in the city dating to before the Civil War and would eventually build homes on the Avenue, but others such as railroad builders Henry Devereux and Amasa Stone, whose daughter Flora would marry into the Mather family, were first-generation Clevelanders.  This was also the case with Jeptha Wade, Henry Chisholm, and Sylvester Everett as well as John D. Rockefeller, whose house on the street did not fit the now mythical image of the man who owned it.

Rockefeller’s home stood at the southwest corner of Euclid and what is now E. 40th street — it was on the less desirable south side and while substantial it paled in comparison to the two Wade homes that stood across Euclid directly to the north and particularly in comparison to the huge home constructed by banker Sylvester Everett, diagonally across from the Rockefeller House. Nevertheless, Rockefeller’s Gilded Age career made marks on other parts of the street because those who partnered with him in establishing Standard Oil became immensely wealthy.

The creation and rise of Standard Oil is a textbook example of business and wealth in the Gilded Age, one which has its roots in Cleveland. In 1863 Rockefeller, along with many other Clevelanders, became interested in petroleum as a commodity — one which could be refined into kerosene and paraffin for lighting.  Cleveland’s direct rail connection with the Pennsylvania oil fields made it an ideal center for dealing in the new commodity.   Rockefeller’s consolidation of the industry — viewed  both as rapacious and farsighted; his creation of a perfect example of a vertically-integrated company; and his creation of the modern trust have come to epitomize Gilded Age business practice. Those who joined with Rockefeller, including Clevelanders Harry Payne, Steven Harkness (who moved to the city), and Louis Severance became immensely wealthy because of that association.  Another early partner, Samuel Andrews, an English immigrant who was Rockefeller’s “chemist,” also became wealthy and could have, had he remained a partner in the firm, become even wealthier.  It was his Standard Oil fortune that financed perhaps the most spectacular home on Euclid.[xiii]

Andrews cashed out of Standard Oil in 1874 and began the construction of his home on Euclid (at the northeast corner of what is now E. 30th) in 1882.  Completed three years later the house was immense; so much so that in a short period of time it proved to be unmanageable.  Andrews lived there for only several years.  His son Horace would later use the house periodically, but it stood largely vacant until demolished in 1923.  It was and remains somewhat of a metaphor for the excesses of the Gilded Age.

Underneath the Gilding

Ironically, the years that bookend the construction period — 1882-1885 — of the Andrews House also mark two of the most noted local labor actions  in Cleveland during the  Gilded Age. And those strikes, in their turn, also relate to the immense fiscal instability of the era, for the period 1882-1885 marked one of the frequent economic  recessions in the United States,  one in which business contracted nearly 33%.  While these contractions diminished or destroyed great fortunes their greatest impact was on the wage laborers in the industries of the age. In bad times wages were cut and workers released — released into a system that had no real social safety net outside of church and neighborhood-based charity and, in the hardest times, a modicum of “poor relief” from municipal governments. 

In May 1881 Henry Chisholm the head of the Cleveland Rolling Mill Company died.  A hands-on, shop-floor manager, he was beloved by his workers. Together they gathered funds to build his memorial in Lake View Cemetery.  The following year the country entered into recession as railroad building waned.  With the demand for iron and steel down, William Chisholm, Henry’s son and the then head of the Rolling Mill refused workers’ demands for a closed shop for members of the Amalgamated Iron and Steel Workers and a voice in setting wage scales.   A strike ensued, one marked by violence as immigrant Polish and Czech strikebreakers were brought into the mill.  The strike failed, but three years later those who had been strikebreakers went on strike because of another wage cut.  It was violent, with strikers marching downtown from the mill neighborhood near Broadway and Harvard.   Some carried the flags of socialism and anarchy.  The “mob” forcibly closed other factories allied with the ownership of the Rolling Mills in order to cut off the owners’ sources of income.  The violence of the strike made the national news and was depicted pictorially in Leslie’s Weekly.[xiv]

It was not  the first, nor the last major labor action in Cleveland during the Gilded Age, a period both locally and nationally where the rights of workers in an evolving wage-labor economy were set against the perceived rights and substantial powers of owners, businesses, and monopolies.   It was a time of not only dissention, but of fear.

Those fears came fully to the fore nationally during the great railroad strike of 1877.  Its origins stemmed from deflation and wage cuts which followed the Panic of 1873 which was initiated by the collapse of Jay Cooke and Company.  The Ohioan Cooke had been the genius of the Civil War bond promotion, but the panic proved his undoing.  His banking house (perhaps the most noted in the nation) overspent its capital in promoting the development of the Northern Pacific Railroad.  That, in turn triggered a fiscal crisis that lasted the better part of a decade and created an era of wage contraction.   A series of wage cuts by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and then other lines sparked violent strikes which spread across the nation. Nationally, over one hundred people were killed in confrontations between police militias and workers.  In Pittsburgh, shootings of workers led to the burning of the yards, depot and other properties of the Pennsylvania Railroad.  The strike lasted forty-five days.

Cleveland, although a rail center, managed to escape the violence of the strike. Nevertheless, the national news added to local angst and fear which had initially been sparked by a coopers strike at Rockefeller’s Standard Oil works in April of the same year.  Led, in part, by a Czech immigrant socialists Leopold Palda and Frank Skarda, the strikers, many of whom were immigrants themselves, also called for a general strike in the city, inviting all workers making less than a dollar a day to join them.  The general strike didn’t take place, but that demand, and the railroad strike that followed created a fear of class warfare in the city and increased suspicions about the growing immigrant population.  Memories of the Paris Commune of 1870 were not uncommon in American cities such a Cleveland during the labor unrest during the nation’s Centennial decade.[xv] 

Those fears led to reflexive actions.  In October 1877 a group of prominent Clevelanders organized an independent military unit, Troop A, to serve as a bulwark against possible labor violence. The following year leading citizens created the Cleveland Gatling Gun Battery.  The Battery built an armory, complete with loopholes, on Carnegie Avenue as a last bastion defense against labor violence.   Both organizations would evolve into social organizations for their members, and Troop A eventually became part of what would be the National Guard. With a more egalitarian membership it served in both World Wars.  Both, however, did see “action” in several strikes including the Rolling Mill strike of 1885 and the streetcar strike in 1899.[xvi]  

The angst of the era also found its way into a novel which would become a best seller in 1884.   Published anonymously in 1883, The Breadwinners was a melodramatic but message-laden saga set in the mythical town of Buffland in which the wealthy residents of equally mythical Algonquin Avenue successfully fight off socialist labor unrest. Buffland was the pseudonym for Cleveland and Algonquin was a stand-in for Euclid Avenue.   The author turned out to be John Hay, former secretary to Abraham Lincoln, son-in-law to Amasa Stone, and a resident, at the time, of Euclid Avenue.  His views on the rights of labor were colored both by his own elitism and fears.  They were not only clearly expressed in the novel, but in his personal communications as well.[xvii]

Contention between capital and labor continued through most of the Gilded Age in Cleveland, but the city managed to avoid events that paralleled in scale Chicago’s Haymarket Riot of 1886 and the Homestead Strike of 1892. Strikes continued on a smaller scale.  In 1896 workers at the Brown Hoist Company took to the streets when their request for a nine-hour day (they worked a ten and a half holiday shift on Saturdays) and the reinstatement of several dismissed workers was met by a lockout by the management. [xviii]  Three years later the city’s streetcar network came to a virtual halt during a labor action focused on better wages and working conditions.   It turned violent and the state militia, as well as Troop A were called out to restore order.   

One of the other issues in the streetcar strike was the recognition of their union.  That was not achieved, but overall, the Gilded Age saw the growth of unions, mostly representing the crafts and trades, in the city. The Knights of Labor formed fifty assemblies in the city which encompassed both skilled and unskilled workers.  The American Federation of Labor created the Cleveland Central Labor Union to compete with the Knights and established 26 locals between  1887 and 1891.  In 1891, Max Hayes who came to epitomize the cause of labor in the city began, along with Henry Long, publishing  The Cleveland Citizen.  Moderately socialist in outlook and largely focused on skilled trades, the Citizen would go on to become the nation’s oldest labor newspaper.  By century’s end the city had 100 labor unions as well as branches of the Socialist Labor Party which argued for a rearrangement of the entire economic system, a prospect which was seen as alien and a threat to private property. [xix]  While Socialism never achieved a strong foothold in Cleveland it was a constant political undercurrent during the Gilded Age and into the early twentieth century.  National party candidates such as Eugene Debs and local candidates like Charles Ruthenberg polled well — well enough to be perceived as a threat to American ideals and government, particularly at the municipal level in industrial cities like Cleveland.     

Trying to Govern Growth

Cleveland entered the Gilded Age with a city government structure dictated by the state and which perhaps would have functioned reasonably well in a small city.  The General Municipal Corporation Act of 1852 essentially reduced the mayor to a figurehead with no real authority over a ward-based city council and more importantly, placed much decision making and spending power in the hands of the council and a series of administrative boards and commissions.  The act also made previously appointive positions, such as the commissioner of waterworks and the police judge elective.  Essentially, this created a system lacking in strong central direction and peppered with smaller power centers in the council and boards.   

Cleveland’s leadership within this system echoed its New England ethos.  The “best” citizens undertook civic duties as expected.    Cleveland’s mayors during the period from 1870 to 1890 included Frederick W. Pelton (1870-1873), a banker;  Charles Otis (1873-1874) head of Otis Steel;  Nathan Perry Payne (1875-1876) coal merchant; William G. Rose (1877-1878, 1891-1892) a refiner and real estate investor who was independently wealthy by age 45; “Honest” John Farley (1883-1885, 1899-1901) a contractor, investor, and banker; Brenton D. Babcock (1887-1888) a coal merchant; and George Gardner (1885-1886, 1889-1890) commission house broker and banker.  Many of these men had also served as council representatives or on some of the boards and commissions that truly wielded power in the Gilded Age city.[xx]   One of the most noted figures to come out of Gilded Age Cleveland, Myron T. Herrick, began his political career as a city councilman (1885-1890) in Cleveland and would then go on to become governor of Ohio (1903-1905) and eventually ambassador to France (1912-1914, 1921-1929).  Herrick’s political career was engendered largely by Marcus Hanna whose entry into politics was as an organizer at the ward level.

Despite the figurehead status of the mayor, two managed to navigate the city through its labor troubles.  Rose played an important role in seeking accommodation between the owners and workers during the railroad strike of 1877 and Gardner ordered William Chisholm to restore wage cuts in order to end the 1885 Rolling Mill Strike, but only after threatening to use artillery against the strikers.  But, others recognized the frustrations of the office.   Otis and Payne refused second terms so they could return to manage their businesses and Babcock argued for moving to a Federal system in which the mayor would have true authority to work with council representatives in governing. That would occur in 1892 when, after four years of effort, the city’s leading citizens convinced Columbus to approve the change.

Even with the change the effort to deal with the urban infrastructure necessary to  support the growth and gilt of Gilded Age Cleveland was an enormous task.  Mayor Rensselaer Herrick gave some sense of  that in 1881 when he commented that the Cuyahoga River was an “open sewer” running through the city[xxi].  On a bad day the residents of Euclid Avenue could easily sense the origins of their good fortune when lake winds blew the smoke from the Otis Steel mill on the lakeside at E. 33rd Street their way — the fact that many of the stone mansions turned black so quickly testified to the environmental degradation created during unregulated expansion during the era.   Once known as the Forest City, Cleveland began to lose many of its trees to pollution during the era. The solution was to plant more resistant species such as sycamores.  Over and over again, arguments against air pollution in the coal-powered city were seen as anti-growth.  How could Cleveland compete with Pittsburgh if it hamstrung its industries with fines and regulations?

As the city grew in population and size the task of creating infrastructure became enormous.  By 1880 Cleveland had over 1,200 roads, streets, lanes, alleys and “places,” many of which remained unpaved.  Wood block streets had to be replaced with stone and stone eventually gave way to brick.  But even by 1889, when the street network totaled 440 miles, less than two miles per year were being paved with brick.   Similar needs related to expanding the water and sewer system, a project compounded by the need to continually construct water intakes further into the lake to find water unpolluted by industrial and human waste. [xxii]

Similarly, the increase in population dictated other changes. In 1866 the public schools enrolled  9,270 children.  By 1900 the enrollment had risen to 58,105, but that number represented only 54.5 percent of the school age population.[xxiii]   While the city had done reasonably well in erecting new school buildings it, like many other cities, found it difficult to foster education in an economy where the income of working children formed an important part of many family budgets.   The need for family income often trumped an education beyond the elementary level.

As the city grew it became both an employer and more importantly the source of lucrative municipal contracts to create and maintain its expanding

infrastructure. In 1876 the city’s annual budget totaled slightly under $625,000.  Nine years later it was over $3,000,000 and at the turn-of-the-

century, just below $7,000,000.  By 1885 the municipal payroll was over $99,000 per month.  Contractors found the city to be an excellent customer and made money by providing services  ranging from the removal of nightsoil to street paving.[xxiv]  The amount of money flowing through city hall was tempting.  In 1886 treasurer Thomas Axworthy suddenly disappeared.  He had fled to Canada after using public funds to make a series of private loans.  The loss totaled over $500,000.  His whereabouts were revealed in a letter he sent to the mayor some days after he vanished.  He closed the letter as follows:  “Good bye and God Bless Cleveland”.[xxv]

Perhaps the most valuable municipal “investments” of the era were the franchises awarded to private companies for running street railways and providing new modern utilities such as gas or electricity to residents and businesses.  In many Gilded Age cities, such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati, this process became a sort of “largess” (or to use the then contemporary term, “boodle”) distributed by a political machine, such as Tammany Hall in New York or Boss Cox in Cincinnati, in return for bribes, votes, or other favors.  Cleveland lacked a true urban political machine of the Tammany type during this period.  Ironically, it would develop a nascent one when it achieved a Federal structure of governance in 1892.   The election of Robert E. McKisson as mayor with true authority and power in 1895 gave the city its first boss.   By buying immigrant votes and rewarding” loyal” workers and councilmen, the “boy mayor” began to build an empire.  He persisted despite the protests of good government organizations which represented evolving Progressive ideas of municipal management, but he came to grief when he challenged another type of boss, Mark Hanna, for a US Senatorial seat.   Hanna won by a whisker and used his power as a national Republican kingmaker, along with pressure from the good governance groups, to ensure McKisson’s defeat in 1899.[xxvi]

Hanna knew the Gilded Age system better, perhaps, than any other local political leader and was able to manipulate it better than others because of his growing wealth.  That wealth and personal acumen, along with Cleveland and Ohio’s close connections to Washington, allowed him to become one of the power brokers of the era.  Although not a resident of Euclid Avenue (he was a west-sider, his home was in Clifton Park) Hanna had a profile similar to many of those who lived on the Avenue.  He had been born in New Lisbon, Ohio, and came to Cleveland with his family in 1852 at the age of 15.  After attending Central High school and a brief stint at Western Reserve College (then in Hudson) he worked at his parents’ wholesale grocery business.  When he married he joined his in-law’s (the Rhodes) iron and coal business — commodities that built a number of local Gilded Age fortunes.  He became head of the business in 1885 when his father-in-law died.  The company, renamed M. A. Hanna and Company,  which was run in conjunction with his brothers, provided him with the funds he needed to indulge in a prominent Gilded Age  endeavor,  political organizing.  

Hanna’s political activities and his connections to the Republican monied elite in Cleveland and, later, in Ohio, and then nationally, helped him make Joseph Foraker governor in 1885; John Sherman a US Senator in 1892; and William McKinley President in 1896.  After dispensing with Boy Mayor Robert McKisson’s challenge, he won appointment  to the US Senate in 1897.[xxvii]

But there was another aspect of Hanna’s life that fit more neatly into the Gilded Age.  Before he became the head of M. A. Hanna, he dabbled in street railways.  While his political mechanizations  of are integral and well recognized parts of Cleveland’s Gilded Age story his streetcar ventures are, perhaps, of more consequence in understanding the intersection between it and the city’s Progressive era.   Hanna, like other entrepreneurs around the nation, understood that urban transportation in the expanding industrial metropolises of the US had a huge potential for profit.  In the pre-automotive age the equation was simple — the end of the walking city dictated that people of almost all strata needed an easy way to get around town.   Street railways, first horse-drawn and then electric, had a large clientele which needed to get from home to office or home to factory five and six days a week.   To operate such a system one needed only to build it, but one could only build it after getting a franchise from the city government.  That process, which was based on bids, could also involve bribes and other political power plays.

In 1879 Hanna, along with business partner Elias Simms, found himself bidding against a newcomer in the local franchise contests. Born to a wealthy family in Kentucky, Tom L. Johnson had run successful street railway franchises in Indianapolis and Detroit, Brooklyn, and St. Louis.  Cleveland was his next target, but he lost the competition for a franchise (despite a low bid) to Simms-Hanna because of a technicality.  No one really knows what role bribery may have played in the contest, but savvy local businessman courted local council men.  Elias Simms once noted that all that local councilmen wanted was money and added that he constantly had to have his pocketbook at hand.[xxviii]

The Hanna-Johnson battle went on for three years in what has come to be called the Cleveland Railway Fight.  Johnson eventually bested Hanna.  The contest, however, brought him to Cleveland in 1879 where he later took up residence on Euclid Avenue.  As a wealthy newcomer to the city and an entrepreneur of note, he was a perfect addition to the glitter of the Gilded Age, but though of the same class he and Hanna had no love for one another.

That animosity would spill over into their political views which were colored by their somewhat contrary personal visions of society.  Johnson had a conversion experience.  Inspired by the writings of Henry George, he went from an entrepreneurial plutocrat to a social reformer and anti-monopolist.   He used his fortune to engineer a political career, first as a Democratic representative to Congress and later as a four-term mayor of Cleveland.  He fully engaged himself in what he defined as “…the struggle of the people against Privilege.” [xxix]   Gilded Age Johnson morphed into one of the most significant figures of the American Progressive era. 

Hanna remained firmly locked into the mainstream of the Republican Party.  He was part of the monied class in Cleveland who strongly opposed Johnson and who were particularly troubled by his advocacy of the municipal ownership of utilities, such as streetcars and the evolving electrical grid.  It seemed to border on Socialism.   When Myron T. Herrick, a close friend, whose career was closely linked to Hanna’s power ran against Johnson in the gubernatorial race of 1903, Hanna could easily cherish that triumph. The joy was short-lived.  Hanna died early the next year and Herrick turned out to be a one-termer.

Despite the gulf that separated them, Hanna and Johnson shared one important desire — that was to find a way out of the chaos and contention of the Gilded Age.  Albeit conservative, Hanna was seeking some accommodation between labor and capital in the latter part of his career.  Absent that accommodation, the American system would remain open to the challenges of “foreign” systems of government and societal organization.  Johnson, an astute businessman, also realized that the “system” was not working and that societal divisions were dangerous and damaging to society.  His solution was to create a more complete and informed democracy and to expand and professionalize the responsibilities and management of government.  His long-standing battle for municipal ownership of utilities may have echoed the demands of Leopold Palda, Charles Ruthenberg,  and other area socialists, but it represented a vision of efficiency — efficiency that would lower prices and improve the ability of everyone to get to their job easily and heat and light their homes within the limits of a their budgets.   In their own ways Hanna and Johnson sought ways to find a way to move out of adolescence into a maturity that would allow the new industrial, urban, polyglot America to survive in concert with the founding ideals of the nation.  During the next two decades the more Progressive ideals of Johnson would prevail both locally and nationally and would make Cleveland an example of good governance and progressive thought, an accolade that would receive more national attention that those once lavished on the splendors of Euclid Avenue.


At the end of the nineteenth century,  Solon and Emily Severance were residents of Euclid Avenue.   Their home, near what is now E. 88st Street was close to the one which their nephew, John L. Severance built in 1891.  Solon’s brother, who had made his fortune with Standard Oil, initially planned to build alongside Solon and Emily, but changed his mind[xxx].  But by this time the Avenue was in decline.  The expansion of the downtown business district was making the western end of the street less tenable for residence and more valuable (and taxable) for commercial development.  In other places air pollution and the encroachment of less exclusive neighborhoods on the borders of the Avenue lessened its appeal.   Many of the families who had made their fortunes during the Gilded Age, and their next generations moved to newer exclusive developments — Wade Park, Cleveland Heights, and Shaker Heights — during the early decades of the twentieth century.  Others retreated to what had been lakeside summer homes in Bratenahl or country estates in and around the Chagrin River Valley.  By the 1920s Euclid Avenue had lost its luster or, if you will, its gilding.   The demise of the grand street after a heyday that lasted only an average human lifetime is perhaps the most potent symbol of the chimerical nature of Gilded Age America and Cleveland — it was transient and ephemeral.

But, it was also real. The social and economic dislocations created during the era were painful and often resulted in violence and unknown numbers of very personal tragedies.  The era’s challenge to conceptions of the United States as a Jeffersonian agrarian Eden was upsetting. It opened wider an existing rift between city and countryside, one which still remains apparent in maps of contemporary red and blue America.  It also created an industrial aristocracy antithetical to early conceptions of the United States as a classless democracy.

Yet, for Cleveland it functioned as an adolescence that evolved into one of the most enviable Progressive maturities in the United States.  The seeds of Progressivism in Cleveland can be found in many aspects of its Gilded Age experience.  There was no abrupt transition from one era to another.   The local Progressive era had begun over a decade before the close of the century. The continued service of “good” men in the office (albeit absent of much power) of mayor was significant.  That involvement served as a model for good government organizations such as the Municipal Association of 1895 which counted many leading citizens among its members.[xxxi]  Equally significant was the ability of local leadership to transfer aspects of rational corporate and business management to politics and the handling of social problems.   Tom Johnson ran his administration as a business.  The creation of the Charity Organization Society in 1881, which became Associated Charities in 1900, was the first stage in a movement toward a rational, secular approach to poverty and need in the city.[xxxii]   In a similar manner the business-friendly Chamber of Commerce championed building codes and other reforms that brought some order to a community that had often expanded in a helter-skelter fashion. 

Whether the motivations for change in the waning years of the  Gilded Age represented altruism or enlightened self-interest or, indeed, a form of co-option,  will always remain debatable.  What cannot be debated is that many who saw the strife and inequality of that era, or who smelled and breathed the pollution within the city were either appalled, or frightened, or both.  Lincoln Steffen’s statement that Tom Johnson was the best mayor of the best governed city in the United States is often quoted as testimony to Cleveland’s importance in the Progressive Era.  The fact that he made that statement only some twenty years after city treasurer Thomas Axworthy fled to Canada after misusing  city funds is not only a testimony to Johnson, but to a city that understood it had problems to solve.  Enlightened self-interest and good intent have to be recognized as unified factors that propelled Cleveland’s transition to a community noted for good government, rationally organized charities, and cultural sophistication during the first two decades of the 1900s.  It was a change that was both evolutionary and revolutionary.     

While written accounts of the past tend to seem abstract and distant, there is a place in Cleveland where one can view the tangible synthesis of the Gilded and Progressive eras.  It happens to be located on Euclid Avenue.  It is University Circle.  Those who are determined to relive the splendor of Gilded Age Euclid Avenue can do so by visiting the museums, educational, and cultural institutions whose foundations rest on the fortunes that came from Gilded Age Cleveland and which house collections of art, costume and decorative arts that once were graced Euclid Avenue mansions.   Annually, curators purchase new materials for display and scholarship by using funds from acquisition endowments created by families, such as the Wades and Hannas, who built their fortunes in Gilded Age Cleveland.  But, visitors need also to recognize that that the institutions and collections also represent a progressive mentality, one which saw them as benefitting the common good of the community.  A good number of the institutions were built in the circle after 1900, in the city’s post adolescence.   

Here too, one can debate motivation for such altruism, whether it Gilded or Progressive.  Does it represent, for instance, the imposition of particular cultural tastes, on the broader community?  But the fact that the Cleveland Museum of Art, for example, is not named after an individual, like the Frick or the Freer galleries is significant as is the fact that in its first decades it also embraced the cultures and arts of the city’s immigrant communities.[xxxiii]   The product of multiple bequests, it is a “Cleveland” museum.  Similarly, the city’s world-renowned orchestra is the Cleveland Orchestra, and the institutes of art and music are “Cleveland” as well.   Of course, the Cleveland Orchestra plays in Severance Hall, but that ensemble’s long history of educational work says much about its purpose — it was to educate and benefit the entire community. Certainly, Samuel Clemens, who dearly loved children and who easily sensed the deceptions and vanities of his age, might be delighted to know that he, as Mark Twain, could — had he miraculously lived into the 1930s — join an auditorium filled with schoolchildren at a concert in a hall built by John L. Severance, the nephew of his traveling companions, Emily and Solon.

                  [1]Diana Tittle, The Severances: An American Odyssey, from Puritan Massachusetts to Ohio’s Western Reserve, and Beyond  (Cleveland: Western Reserve Historical Society, 2010), 126-135.  The Clevelanders accompanying Twain on the trip were Emily and Solon Severance, Timothy and Eliza Crocker, Solomon Sanford, Timothy S.  Beckwith, and Mrs. Abel Fairbanks.   William Ganson Rose, Cleveland: The Making of a City  (Cleveland: World Publishing, 1950) also ( 344) lists William. A. Otis as a member of the group.

                  [2] Population statistics noted in this paragraph and elsewhere are from Van Tassel and Grabowski, The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, web-edition,, specifically from the timeline 9 and the immigration statistics chart (

                  [3] “Civil War” Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.  

                  [4] Ibid.

                  [5] See Albert A. Nofi, A Civil War Treasury (Cambridge: DaCapo Press, 1992), 381-383, for military pay scales during the War.

  [6] James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 442-443   provides an excellent overview of the financing of the war.    The possible impact of bond investments on Cleveland’s Gilded Age history is something that was explored by Dr. Edward J. Pershey when he was researching an exhibit on Cleveland in the Civil War for the Western Reserve Historical Society.  

                  [7] “Civil War,” Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.  

  [8] James Beaumont Whipple.  “Cleveland in Conflict: A Study in Urban  Adolescence, 1876-1900”.  (Ph.D. diss, Western Reserve University, 1951).

  [9]“Timeline,” Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.

  [10] Rose.  296 and 617.

  [11] Rose, p. 376 and p. 617.

  [12] Jan Cigliano, Showplace of America: Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue, 1850-1910,  (Kent: Kent State University Press, 1991).  This volume provides a solid social and economic history of Euclid Avenue and the families who resided there and serves to counter much of the local mythology that has come to encumber the history of the street.

  [13] Grace Goulder Izant, John D. Rockefeller: The Cleveland Years, (Cleveland: Western Reserve Historical Society, 1973) provides an excellent overview of Rockefeller’s life in the city, including the period up to 1884 when he was a fulltime resident and the subsequent period after he had established residency in New York City, but continued to return (until 1915) to Cleveland annually.   Ron Chernow,  Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., (New York: Random House, 1998) adds nuance to the Izant volume and, importantly, outlines his business strategies and innovations. 

  [14] “Cleveland Rolling Mill Strikes” of Cleveland History.  See also Henry B. Leonard, “Ethnic Cleavage and Industrial Conflict in Late Nineteenth Century America: The Cleveland Rolling Mill Strikes of 1882 and 1885,”  Labor History 20:4 (Fall, 1979), 524-48.

  [15] Whipple, 85-89.   “Labor” of Cleveland History

  [16] “Labor,” Streetcar Strike of 1899” Whipple, 177-189.

  [17] Whipple, 111-120.   Full on-line text of The Breadwinners is available at Project Gutenberg.

  [18] Whipple, 163-174

  [19] “Labor” “Socialist Labor Party”,  “Ruthenberg, Charles,”, Encyclopedia.   

                  [20] Thomas F. Campbell and Edward M. Miggins (eds), The Birth of Modern Cleveland, 1865-1930 (Cleveland: Western Reserve Historical Society/Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1988), 298-299.  Additional biographical information on mayors during this period was taken from their biographies in the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.

                  [21] Carol Poh Miller and Robert Wheeler,   Cleveland: A Concise History, 1796-1990,  (Bloomington: Indiana University Press), 95.    See Whipple, 259,  for the full statement by the mayor.

                  [22] “Streets” and “Water System”

                  [23] “Cleveland Public Schools” for the 1866 figure; Campbell and Miggins, 356 for the 1900 attendance.

                  [24] Whipple, 337, 339, 343.

                  [25] Ibid., 346.

                  [26]Campbell and Miggins, 300-305.

                  [27] Marcus A. Hanna,

                  [28] Tom L. Johnson, (Elizabeth Hauser, ed),  My Story,  (Kent: Kent State University Press, 1993),  17. 

                  [29] Ibid., li

                  [30] Tittle, 236-237, Cigliano, 174-175

                  [31] Campbell and Miggins, 303-305.  See also “Citizens’ League of Greater Cleveland”

                  [31] “Associated Charities” and “Philanthropy”

                  [32] Campbell and Miggins, 214-216.

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