Toledo competes against its past as much as it competes against other cities.
That challenge is more daunting when you consider that in the 1840s Jesup W. Scott, editor and publisher of The Toledo Blade, called Toledo “The future great city of the world.” He was not alone in that assessment. Toledo was seen by many experts as a regional trade center that could surpass Chicago in size and importance.
That never happened. However, as Toledo continues to lose population to the suburbs, Gregory Miller, the librarian in charge of the Images in Time Project at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library, and Turner Publishing Company have published Historic Photos of Toledo. The coffee-table book provides a nostalgic sobering look at what many may call Toledo’s glory days.
Turner researchers and Miller selected nearly 200 historic scenes from a cache of some 150,000 photos to depict the everyday life of a “unique and prosperous city.”
The most striking thing about the book are the throngs of people at downtown events such as the Wamba Parade, the Knights of Columbus parade and in front of the Lucas County Courthouse in 1910 on a work day.
Miller wrote the text and the captions for photos that not only captured everyday life but also some of the most memorable events in Toledo’s history. There are visits from Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Marlene Dietrich and Danny Thomas. There’s a photo of a man heaving an incendiary device on a “beastly hot” day in 1934 during the infamous Auto-Lite strike and another of Ohio National Guardsmen carrying one of their own to safety at the Battle of Chestnut Hill.
One of the most eye-opening photos is of the Lucas County Armory featuring the stunning architecture of a medieval fortress. The armory was built during a time of industrial unrest and housed the Ohio National Guard troops brought in to quell the strike. These dramatic images helped cement Toledo’s reputation as a militant union town, an image that today still persists, whether it still applies or not.
Miller’s favorite photos are of Jack Dempsey landing a right to the jaw of the “Jamaica Kid” in front of thousands of spectators standing in the hot sun; aviator Roy Knabenshue launching his dirigible from the top of the Spitzer Building in 1905 to win a $500 prize; the replica of The Niagara, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s lead ship during the Battle of Lake Erie, which visited Toledo in 1913 and the boardwalk at Lake Erie Park and Casino, an amusement and gambling center located in Point Place.
“ Toledo was well-known as a gambling mecca for many years,” Miller says.This picture shows the park around the turn of the century.
East Toledo is represented with these five photos: the sixth grade class at Franklin School in 1887; Charles Lindburgh making an unscheduled fuel stop in Bono in 1928; the last streetcar in Toledo which made its final run in 1939; workers at Interlake Iron and “Prosperity Row,” a “Hooverville shanty settlement along the banks of the Maumee where those who lost their homes in The Great Depression found shelter. Ironically, Miller places this photo across the page from the Frank D. Stranahan mansion on River Road in Perrysburg.
A collection of 200 photos cannot depict the total history of any city and this collection is no exception. Missing are such East Toledo landmarks as the Weber Block, Waite’s Mollenkopf Stadium and the Willis B. Boyer.
Maybe in the next book, Miller says. That is, if this one sells well enough. Also missing are photos of Oregon’s past such as The Tabernilla and Coy’s Cider Mill. The only Oregon picture is of a fishing rodeo held at Pearson Park in the 1950s.
As the Marina District is being developed, it’s noteworthy to see a photo of The City of Toledo, a cruise ship that used to make daily excursions from a dock on the Maumee River to the Lake Erie Islands. Maybe, the past can be recaptured when a new cruise ship starts taking us from East Toledo to the islands.