Saturday, January 30, 2016

Artifacts of a Neglected President: Rutherford B. Hayes

Ohio is known as the “Mother of Presidents” counting eight of her sons as having been elected Chief Executive of the United States.  Some like Ulysses S. Grant and William McKinley have received considerable attention through ensuing years.  Others are more obscure figures.  Among the latter, I have a special interest in Rutherford B. Hayes and here provide some Hayes memorabilia.  

My interest stems from the fact that the Hayes home, shown above, memorial, museum and library are located on a estate known as “Spiegel Grove,” in Fremont, Ohio.  The site fronts on a street named Hayes Avenue and a block away on that same street was the home of Mary Quilter Sullivan, my grandmother.   Although her family was fiercely Democrat, as a child she played with the Hayes children on the estate grounds.

Although Rutherford is remembered by some as the U.S. President who bargained for the job by promising the South to end post-Civil War Reconstruction, thus ushering in the era of “Jim Crow, in his own day the war hero and former Ohio governor was a popular figure.  As a result during his lifetime time, a number of artifacts, like this souvenir plate were issued.

At the time he ran for the Presidency, Hayes was represented on numerous campaign items.  Particularly popular at the time were tintype — sometimes called ferrotype — photographic buttons and pins.  Some featured both Hayes and his vice presidential running mate, New York Congressman William Wheeler, an obscure politician selected by the Republican convention.  Hayes reportedly asked, "I am ashamed to say: Who is Wheeler?”
Hayes obviously found out by the time his picture with Wheeler was plastered all over America, including one printed by the famed lithographers Currier and Ives and another on an oilcloth with Uncle Sam. above.  Rutherford retired in 1880 after only one term and returned to Fremont and Spiegel Grove.  Eventually there would be Rutherford B. Hayes tiles, pendants and other artifacts.
A glass paperweight commemorates the 1892 Grand Army of the Republic encampment in Washington, D.C.   Issued by a shoe company, the item featured a medal with the face of Rutherford who led the parade of Union veterans down Pennsylvania Avenue “to great crowd applause. 
Another paperweight  has a tinted photograph of the R. B. Hayes Steamship .  Crowded with people in the picture, this craft plied Lake Erie, taking tourists to and from Cedar Point in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The Hayes presidential museum and library are notable as the very first in the Nation, established and maintained only with private funds.  As interest in Hayes has waned, the library has widened its scope to include the history of Ohio, resource books on virtually every Ohio county, and genealogy on Ohioans.  Anyone doing research on Ohio bottles or family genealogy might check in with Hayes curators.  They are very helpful. Moreover, the their charge for copies of documents is reasonable.

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