The big events commemorating the bicentennial of the Battle of Lake Erie have all finished, but that does not mean that we should not keep talking about it.
One hundred years ago, the centennial of the Battle of Lake Erie was observed in Sandusky for the entire summer of 1913, beginning on July 4th at Put-in-Bay, when the cornerstone was laid for the new Perry Victory Monument, and culminating locally with the visit of the flagship Niagara to Sandusky on September 8 and 9, and Put-in-Bay on September 10 and 11.
Other cities and towns along the Great Lakes, and elsewhere, hosted events that summer for the centennial, usually when the Niagara visited their ports on its tour of the lakes. Detroit, Green Bay, Milwaukee, Chicago, and even Louisville, held events in their cities, with all but Louisville hosting the Niagara. Of course, several Ohio cities participated in the celebrations as well, including Toledo, Lorain, Fairport Harbor, and Cleveland. The Toledo Museum of Art presented an exhibition of works related to the Perry centennial, and Cleveland hosted a four-day celebration in September.
As you might assume, the Perry Victory centennial was a rather significant event of its time. The Inter-State Board of the Perry’s Victory Centennial Commissioners was created in 1910 by appointment of the President and state governors. The commission planned and presided over the commemorative events of 1913, and was responsible for overseeing the construction of the Perry’s Victory monument. Unfortunately, none of the commissioners was from Sandusky, although S.M. Johannsen was from Put-in-Bay. Commission members did meet in Sandusky at least once, holding a banquet at the Sloane House Hotel on January 14, 1913 (recorded in a photograph in the library’s collections).
Regattas and other maritime activities were among the several official events held in commemoration, including both sailboat and powerboat races near Put-in-Bay. But a more somber event occurred on September 11, 1913, when three American and three British officers who were killed in the Battle of Lake Erie were reinterred in a crypt under the floor of the rotunda of not yet completed monument on Put-in-Bay. The library has pictures of the event taken by a minister in attendance.
There were many informal and continuing activities in Sandusky as well. Downtown Sandusky was decorated with bunting and electric lights strung across the road (still a relatively new technology at the time). Local businesses and individuals also got into the spirit: a photo in the library’s collection shows two men posed alongside a truck decorated with garland, as if for a parade. The Kuebeler-Stang Brewery (by then part of the Cleveland Sandusky Brewing Company) apparently brewed a commemorative “Perry Brew” beer, as noted on a serving tray, but we have been unable to find more information about it.