Let’s get a rough idea of what life was like in Sandusky around a hundred years ago. Following the recent library video history Under the Baton: Music at Old Cedar Point, I have produced a brief review of daily life in the era and location where the music was created.
The city of Sandusky had nearly as many people in 1915 as it does today (1915: about 22,000; today: about 25,500), but the surrounding area was much less populated. (Erie County in 1915: about 39,000; today: about 77,000) Some would reasonably argue today that the heart of the region has migrated south along Milan Road, but clearly the heart of the region – demographically, commercially, industrially, and culturally – was clearly to be found in downtown Sandusky. (Some might argue, as New Urbanists often do, that the traditional downtown will once again become the heart of the community, but I will leave that argument for
The years around 1915 were a time of significant transition in Sandusky. In 1915, Sandusky’s last elected executive mayor, Jacob Dietz, was completing his term. The city manager/commission system took over in 1916, after a vote to change local government. Today we have debates over whether to build a new city hall or to renovate the existing city building, but in 1915, the city government rented space in an office building, the Kingsbury Block, on Columbus Avenue and Washington Row. A fire had destroyed Sandusky’s city hall in 1913.
As for business, industry was easy to find along the waterfront and elsewhere. Some of the larger companies in Sandusky in 1915 included the American Crayon Company, the Hinde and Dauch Paper Company, the Jarecki Chemical Company, and the Bay View Foundry. Other important businesses included eight fisheries, eighteen wineries and wine dealers, thirteen cigar factories, and five ice dealers. Once an important local industry in the nineteenth century, there was only one brewery remaining in Sandusky in 1915. The Cleveland and Sandusky Brewing Company, created locally from the former Kuebeler-Stang Brewery continued to make beer until the advent of Prohibition in 1919.
If you wanted to shop, you probably went downtown to buy your clothes at one of several clothing and dry goods stores, including the Engels Store, the Wilcox Company, or the Nobil Bargain Store. Instead of going downtown, women might choose to buy their clothes from one of the more than one hundred women throughout town who advertised their services as dressmakers. Men might prefer to go downtown for their clothes, and maybe get a haircut at the Acme Barber Shop, buy some cigars, and stop off for a game of pool at one of the city’s fourteen billiard parlors. If you wanted some refreshment, there were still about forty saloons in town – less than a quarter of the number of saloons only thirty years earlier, but still plenty to go around (and around, if you drank too much).
If you were interested in the news, you could of course read the Register, but others might prefer to read Sandusky’s other English-language daily, the Star-Journal. And if you were more interested in reading about political battles, you might choose Stubig’s Weekly, although I suppose not enough people did, because the paper did not survive for very long. If you would rather read the news in German, the Sandusky Demokrat was for you. You had to be careful, though – with the Great War devastating Europe at that time, and Germany increasingly blamed for the war by the pro-British majority in the United States, the popularity of the German language and culture in Sandusky was nearing its end.
Overall, it is probably fair to say that Sandusky 100 years ago was a rather vibrant and diverse community, was many differences from today’s Sandusky, but at its heart, not all that different. The people of 1915, and generations before and after, helped to shape the Sandusky of today. (To learn more about this era, if you read this in time, see my presentation on Monday at 6:30 in the Sandusky Library, or come in and do your own research in the library’s historical collections.)