Loving the Light
Are you now, or have you ever been, a phillumenist — a practitioner of phillumeny or phillumenism?
And what is this phillumeny, you may well ask? Read More
by Terry Woods
[Introductory note: After learning about the West Virginia Northern Community College Alumni Association’s Hazel Atlas Glass Collection currently on exhibit in the Board Room at the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling, Terry Woods, from Texas, decided to loan his own amazing collection of more than 100 Hazel Atlas milk glass mugs to the library archives. These cups are painted with important themes for children of the fifties and sixties like Mr. Woods, including early TV westerns and space shows, as well as Christmas. After receiving the disappointing news that two-dozen of the fragile mugs were broken in transit, Mr. Woods worked tirelessly to replace them via online auctions. As a collector, he admitted to having a great deal of fun doing so. We thank Mr. Woods for sharing his collecting story.]
The collection started when I found a blue Hoppy just after my wife and I got married in November of 1988. I then found a green Hoppy and a children’s circus themed mug. The quest was on! Read More
October 24, 1944. 5 o’clock p.m. South China Sea.
The nearly 7,000-ton Japanese freighter, Arisan Maru, is churning toward Formosa. Packed in the stifling heat of the ship’s holds are 1,782 mostly American and some Allied war prisoners of the Empire of Japan. The men are destined for forced labor camps.
Seeing only an unmarked enemy vessel, a U.S. Navy submarine, the USS Shark, fires three torpedoes. Direct hit. Split in two, the Arisan Maru slips beneath the waves in less than two hours. While most of the POWs escape the sinking ship, they are left to die on the open sea. The Japanese navy attempts no rescue. Only nine men survive. It is the largest loss of life at sea in American history.
Among the dead is 42 year-old Private First Class Frederick William Elkes, a 17-year veteran of the U.S. Army Air Force, 17th Pursuit Squadron, 24th Pursuit Group. Stationed in the Philippines, the South Wheeling boy who grew up on McColloch Street, was captured during the fall of Bataan. Read More
In the Shreve High football stadium,
I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,
And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes.
All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.
Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other’s bodies.
–Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio by James Wright
One of the most tragic stories in Wheeling sports history is the 1916 murder of Robert Lee Ritz of Wheeling.
In an interview with a relative, 98-year-old Roberta Lee Mitchell of Colerain (who was named for her cousin Robert), a photograph of this outstanding and popular football player was donated to the Ohio County Public Library Archives.
Known as “Lee,” Robert Lee Ritz was the only child of Lee and Anna Ritz. His father died at an early age and his mother, a Stobbs, later married Theo Camp and lived at 1014 Vine Street in East Wheeling.
Lee was captain of the football team at Wheeling High School, and according to the Wheeling Intelligencer, he was one of the best athletes in West Virginia. Selected to the all-state high school football team, he planned to attend Cornell University. Read More
Glory, W.Va., 1935.
It wasn’t exactly a parade.
It wasn’t a time for celebration.
It was a time to run for your life.
—Movie tagline, The Fools’ Parade
The night was finally here. After months of anticipation and preparation, the streets of Wheeling were packed with more than 12,000 fans awaiting glimpses of their favorite Hollywood stars.  Wheeling’s own Court Theatre was hosting the world premiere of The Fool’s Parade, and an elaborate parade had been staged to lead the stars and other dignitaries through downtown to the corner of 12th and Chapline Streets. Read More
Through a partnership with the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Honors students of Christina Fisanick, Associate Professor of English at California University of Pennsylvania, have learned to create digital stories using archival materials from collections throughout western Pennsylvania and the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. You may remember the videos her students created last fall about Earl Oglebay and his contributions to the agriculture industry, the Oglebay glass collection and Sweeney Lead Glass Punch Bowl, the Benwood Mine Disaster, West Virginia Independence Hall and its role in the Civil War, and West Liberty’s Rare Books Collection.
“Most history lovers are familiar with Ken Burns’ epic documentaries, including The Dustbowl and Baseball. His abilities to make still photos and two-dimensional objects come alive are world renowned. Now, even Luddites can achieve similar, engaging effects with archival materials using a much shorter medium called digital storytelling,” Fisanick wrote when her students came to Wheeling last year. “Started as a grassroots movement to help people who might otherwise go unheard tell and share their stories, digital storytelling has become a vehicle for change around the world. To create a digital story, the storyteller needs a computer, iPad, or Smartphone, free digital storytelling software, a microphone, and digital images. The aim is to write a script that can be told in about three to five minutes. Once created, the digital story can be shared on the Internet, especially through social media, which broadens the audience reach exponentially.”
This past spring, Fisanick’s students traveled back to the Northern Panhandle and down into Marshall County. Archiving Wheeling is pleased to once again have the honor of showcasing their digital stories. We hope you enjoy their unique takes on some well-known and beloved subjects from our neighbors to the south — Fostoria Glass, the Strand Theater, Grave Creek Mound, the Cockayne Farmstead, the West Virginia State Penitentiary, and Marx Toys. Read More
by George S. Jones II and Seán Duffy
“A golf course is the epitome of all that is purely transitory in the universe; a space not to dwell in, but to get over as quickly as possible.” -Jean Giraudoux
One of the best things about doing local history research and exploring local archival collections is learning about the wonders of old Wheeling that are now lost to time. And some of the most interesting stories about “Lost Wheeling” are often the unlikely ones—the ones that stretch the imagination, like the amusement park on the Lower Sisters Island, the beer garden at Wheeling Park, the town’s old German singing societies, and the Mozart Incline.
Another one of those wonders was a short-lived, championship caliber golf course located “out the crick” on Big Wheeling Creek Road—a place called Cedar Rocks Country Club—where one of the greatest golfers of all time won a tournament 78 years ago today, on September 17, 1938.
And if you’re like me, you’ve probably driven right through this long gone golf course hundreds of times without even realizing it. Read More
On Tuesday, May 15, 1883, in what was probably a small, rural cabin in Helenwood, Tennessee, a young woman named Mary gave birth to a son, Andrew Jackson Harness, who would in turn give life to a legacy in Wheeling.
The Mt. Wood Castle Overlook, located across the street from the Mt. Wood Cemetery in North Park, has long been the subject of a mystery well-loved by many Wheeling natives. Time and again, stories have circulated discussing the tall tales behind the strange structure and the doctor – Andrew Jackson Harness – who built it.
The notorious William Magear “Boss” Tweed visited Wheeling 143 years ago today on September 6, 1873, but the reason for his visit was then, and remains today, a mystery.
Who’s the Boss?
Tweed was a Democratic politician and the “Boss” (circa 1858-1871) of New York City’s infamous Tammany Hall, one of the most overtly corrupt political machines in the nation’s history. Tweed used a system of cronyism to make sure members of his inner circle, the “Tweed Ring,” were appointed to positions of power in city government; he essentially controlled city elections by awarding jobs to mostly Irish immigrant constituents in return for votes, as well as through outright fraud; and he used inflated building contracts, bribery, and kickbacks to embezzle tens of millions (hundreds of millions in today’s money) of taxpayer dollars. Political cartoonist Thomas Nast launched a relentless crusade against Tweed, principally in the pages of Harper’s Weekly.
According to legend, the power of Nast’s satirical depictions of Tweed caused the latter to despair, “I don’t care a straw for your newspaper articles, my constituents don’t know how to read, but they can’t help seeing them damned pictures.”
His corruption fully exposed, and his support badly eroded, Tweed was arrested in 1871. The jury at his first trial deadlocked in January 1873, but Tweed would be tried again in November of that same year, and this time, he was convicted.
It was during the period between trials, in September of 1873, that Tweed, for some still unknown reason, visited Wheeling. Read More
-Everett A. Lee, 29 Augusti 2016, Malmö, Sweden
“. . . Local friends of the parents of Everett Lee who have watched the musical progress of young Everett since leaving the city received this bit of news joyfully last week.”
– Wheeling News-Register, 1955
Everett Lee has an impressive resume. A graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music, a student of conducting at Julliard School of Music and Tanglewood, Fulbright Scholar, founder of the Cosmopolitan Symphony, first African American to conduct a major Broadway production, first African American to conduct a major symphony orchestra in the south, first African American to conduct a major opera company in the United States, conductor of a traveling Munich Opera House in Germany, the Symphony of the New World in New York, the Bogota Philharmonic and Bogota Symphony in Columbia, the Musical Director of Norrköping Symphony Orchestra in Sweden, and guest conductor at symphony orchestras such as the St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Paris, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Berlin, Cordoba and New York Philharmonics, the Albany, Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Hamburg, Bergen, Barcelona Symphonies, and the Boston Pops, to name a few. And it all started here in Wheeling, West Virginia when a young Everett Lee began taking lessons from a violin teacher on Wheeling Island.
Everett Astor Lee was born 100 years ago today, August 31, 1916, right here in Wheeling, WV. The first-born son of Everett Denver Lee and Mamie May Blue Lee, who lived in East Wheeling, young Everett showed an early aptitude for playing violin. Read More