From the Archives: Happy Holidays from…the Roosevelts?

Happy holidays from the Sherman Room! At this point, many holiday cards have been sent and received to friends and family members across the United States, but we wanted to share one more from the Sherman Room archives with you.


Previous Sherman Room blog posts have discussed the career of Mansfield’s Henry Brunner, a local Democratic politician who was the mayor of Mansfield from 1917 to 1923.

Among a collection of items from Brunner’s personal papers that were donated to the Sherman Room this year, we discovered this holiday card. So now it’s time for a US history question: the card reads is “From The Governor and Mrs. Roosevelt;” but how were this couple better known?

US history buffs will likely remember that one Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected governor of New York in 1929 and served in that role until he was elected United States president in 1932, a post to which he was re-elected three times and in which he served until he died in 1945 and was succeeded by Harry Truman. So this holiday card was sent to Henry Brunner by Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, sometime between 1929 and 1932. The original envelope is missing, so it is not possible to say exactly which year it was sent.

The building pictured is not the New York governor’s mansion, in fact, but a different estate known as Springwood, and it was Roosevelt’s family home. He was born at Springwood in 1882 and spent his youth there, rebuilding the family home into the impressive building it remains today in 1915 with his mother. As evidenced by this card, was proud of his family home throughout his political career and life. After he died in 1945 in his fourth term as president, his body was brought back to the rose garden at Springwood to be buried as he had requested.

The Mansfield Connection

So how did it happen that “Governor and Mrs. Roosevelt” sent a Christmas card to a politician from Mansfield? As it turns out, Henry Brunner was a rather prolific politician despite never holding a higher publicly-elected office than mayor. Rather, he used his skills and knowledge behind the scenes to support the Democratic party in Ohio and the nation, and gained many notable political connection in the process. In 1923 after he was no longer mayor, he was still chairman of the Richland County Democratic party. By 1925, Brunner was a member of a special committee for the Ohio Democratic party’s executive committee, and in 1927 he became the chairman for the Ohio Democrats. He held this position until 1933. Upon his resignation, one person commented that his successor “has the handicap of going in as chairman of the Democratic party in Ohio in that he succeeds Henry Brunner who has been a great chairman. He is one of the beste [sic] leaders the party has ever had” (Findlay Morning Republican, 14 September 14 1933, page 5). Given Brunner’s position as the state chair for a state known for being important, sometimes pivotal, in presidential elections, it is perhaps not surprising that a Democratic governor of New York with presidential ambitions would send him a card at the holidays.

Sources

  1. National Park Service, Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/presidents/fdr_home.html
  2. Athens Messenger Newspaper Archives April 7, 1927 Page 27 (became chairman)
  3. Findlay Morning Republican Newspaper Archives September 14, 1933 Page 5 (resigned chairman)

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Mansfield Today, 97 Years ago

Periodically we will spotlight items from the archives! So today, let’s take a look at some snippets from an interesting item, namely the Mansfield Chamber of Commerce newsletter, Thanksgiving edition, from 1925.

The Mansfield Chamber of Commerce (which is now known as Richland Area Chamber and Economic Development) has a very long history full of local notables working to better the resources available to Mansfield and promote the local economy. In this particular example, a 1925 newsletter published by the (then) Chamber of Commerce, the newly elected president of the Chamber was none other than Henry (“Heinie”) Brunner, who was mayor of Mansfield from 1918 to 1924. In fact, the annual reports of the Chamber from 1919 and 1921 show that Henry Brunner was a member of the Chamber’s board of directors even during his tenure as mayor of Mansfield.

Henry Brunner, “Newly Elected President of the Chamber of Commerce,” Mansfield Today Vol. 2 No. 1, 1925.

Local history aficionados may recognize many of the names of the officers and board members of the Chamber of Commerce.

One particularly interesting section of this newsletter are the statistics of Mansfield included, covering everything from birth and death rates to miles of sewers to number of churches.

See the whole newsletter in the digital archives here.

Curious and want to know more? Visit the Sherman Room or send me your questions at genealogy@mrcpl.org or call at 419-521-3115!

Mansfield’s Summer Amusement: Luna-Casino Park

Summer has officially begun!

Today many people flock to large amusement parks like Cedar Point and Kings Island for summer break fun, but in the history of Mansfield that distinctive roller coaster thrill could be found much closer to home at Luna-Casino Park, on what had been the Sherman-Heineman Park and what is now North Lake Park. The following are postcards depicting various aspects of this park from the Sherman Room Digital Archive postcard collection.

In 1899, the Mansfield News published an article reflecting on the “Growth of Mansfield,” in which it was noted that Mansfield had two well-kept parks, Central Park and Sherman-Heineman Park. At the time, Sherman-Heineman Park consisted of 80 acres with 25 acres being forest, and it boasted nice walkways and artificial lakes. With these amenities, it was a popular spot for picnics and other outdoor social gatherings [Mansfield News, 05 Feb 1899, pg. 9].

By 1905, when the roller coaster began operation, the Sherman-Heineman park had gained an additional two names, Casino Park and Luna Park, as well as a number of new attractions. Now in addition to the water and the walkways, the parks boasted a dancing pavilion, a “figure eight” roller coaster, a shooting gallery, the Casino theater (complete with a fresh coat of paint), a merry-go-round, and a swimming pool [Mansfield Daily Shield, 08 May 1905].

The roller coaster opened in 1905, just in time for a debate around Blue Laws, or laws restricting activities that can be done on Sunday (a common Blue Law was a prohibition against selling or purchasing alcohol on Sunday). A group of four local reverends petitioned Mayor Huntington Brown to ensure that many of the amusements at Luna Park would be kept shut on Sundays, specifically including the shooting ranges and the merry-go-round. Even though the roller coaster was not yet operational, the group also stated that they wanted the roller coaster to be prohibited on Sundays as well [Mansfield Daily Shield, 27 Jun 1907, pg. 6].

However, the owner of the “amusements” at issue, G. W. Bahl determined that the summer fun would indeed continue on Sunday, despite anticipating that at least one arrest might result, as the local group had threatened. And it appeared that the summer fun won out, because on Monday it was reported that all the amusements had been open and well-attended on Sunday, and no arrests had been made.

Get to Know Your Mayors: Huntington Brown

Huntington Brown was born in Trumbull County, Ohio on December 30, 1849, to James Monroe and Mary (Hicks) Brown.  His grandfather was the Hon. Ephraim Brown, who, along with Thomas Howe, was the original owner of Bloomfield Township, Trumbull County, Ohio.  Ephraim Brown built the first saw-mill in that vicinity in 1815 and the first flour-mill in 1823.  In addition to this, he assisted in the founding of the town library and worked in the Ohio legislature to secure a good common-school system.  This hard work was passed down to Huntington and his other grandchildren, all of whom made their way to Mansfield, Richland County, Ohio in the 1860s and 1870s.

Bloomfield1856

Bloomfield Township, Trumbull County, Ohio 1856

James and Mary’s first child, Ephraim, was born on April 1, 1845, and died in infancy at the age of 1 Month, 8 days.  Their next child, James Ephraim, born on March 21, 1846, arrived in Mansfield around 1878 after gaining employment at the Aultman-Taylor Company as the assistant to M. D. Harter, his sister’s husband.  The eldest sister, Mary Lucinda, was born on December 21, 1847, and would go on to marry the Hon. M. D. Harter on March 4, 1869.  That same year, the couple would move to Mansfield, Ohio where Harter had secured a position managing the Aultman-Taylor Company.  Huntington’s twin brother, Hicks, would arrive in Mansfield, Ohio around 1875.  Hicks would go into business with John Staub opening a flour-mill.  In a short time, the partnership was dissolved and the Hicks Brown Company was created.  Hicks was a senior partner in the company until his untimely death of typhoid fever on December 17, 1884.  One other sister, Annie, born on August 18, 1856, died at the age of 8.

BROWN_Huntington - Centennial Bio

The Brown family moved to Massillon, Ohio when Huntington was young and it was there that he attended public school.  He would later go on to attend Nazareth Hall, a Moravian academy in Pennsylvania.  It’s believed Huntington arrived in Mansfield, Ohio around the same time as his sister, Mary, in 1869, shortly after his father’s death in 1867.  The first time he is mentioned in local Mansfield newspapers is on October 22, 1873, where it was reported he went to Fulton County on a hunting trip with J. C. Burns, V. Gutzwiler, Jr., Richard Smith, and Prosecuting Attorney McCrory.  He first showed up in city directories in 1873, living at 236 West Market St.  Huntington, like his brother James, was employed at the Aultman-Taylor Company andm by 1879m was superintendent of the company.  He stayed there until around 1888 when he became one of the owners and the manager of the Hicks Brown company.

hicks brown

It was during this time, in 1887, that Huntington Brown became involved with the Mansfield Electric Street Railway, helping to erect the first electric streetcar line in the city.  He would become Vice President of the company.  It was around 1895 that Huntington Brown retired from active management of business, but he still maintained a presence on many boards and committees, including the Mansfield Savings Bank.  Brown was very popular and very well-liked in the city, a member of numerous lodges including the Freemasons.  In 1899 he was elected Mayor of Mansfield running as a republican against democrat J. P. Henry.  Brown was one of two republicans elected that year in the normally democratic city, speaking to his reputation and ability to speak to both parties.

dowie1898

Shortly after his election to office, Mansfield was thrown into chaos.  In August of 1899, a traveling apostle and faith healer by the name of Cyrus Fockler was arrested after Dr. Boles said he interfered with his care of the two-year-old child of Frank D. Calver.  The Calvers were members of John Alexander Dowie’s Christian Catholic Church of Zion, which believed that all that was needed to cure the sick was prayer and faith in God.  Things got worse in July of 1900 when a six-week-old child who was “being treated with prayer” died.  The resulting riots quickly threw Mansfield and Mayor Brown into the national spotlight.  Fockler was run out of town, barely escaping with his life.  Two other church elders were painted blue from head to toe and two more were later tarred.  Dowie said Brown and Ohio Governor Nash were doing nothing to protect his church elders and suggested the national guard be sent to “Devils” field, as he called it,  to do the job local officials refused to do.  It became a weekly parade of Dowieites being escorted through the town to the train depot by police and Mayor Brown with mobs of hundreds and at times thousands of citizens throwing stones and spoiled produce.  For a full account of the riots check out Robert Carter’s book The Mansfield Riots of 1900.

brown leaves of healing

In 1901, Mayor Brown lost reelection to democrat Thomas R. Robinson but regained the office in 1903 by beating former mayor Robert McCrory by 119 votes.  Robinson would go on to later become Prosecuting Attorney.  In 1905, Brown again lost reelection to William F. Voegele, Jr.  Brown was again chosen by republicans to run in 1907, this time defeating Voegele by 131 votes.  Brown again defeated Voegele in 1909, this time by 151 votes.  Huntington Brown lost the republican primary in 1911 to S. F. Bell.  Bell would go on to lose the election to William E. O’Donnell by only 46 votes.

After his retirement from politics, Huntington Brown’s health began to decline.  He made trips to health springs and Europe in order to ease his suffering and at times his spirits appeared to improve.  On January 20, 1914, while returning from a business trip in Philadelphia, PA, he fell suddenly ill.  He was taken to the home of his sister-in-law, Mrs. Carrie Brown, in Massillon, Ohio.  Brown lapsed into unconsciousness and died on February 8, 1914.  Huntington Brown never married and in his 40 plus years in Mansfield, lived in hotels or lodged in others’ homes.  The 1900 and 1910 census shows him lodging with Melissa A. Barbour, the mother-in-law of John C. Burns, who was one of his companions on his 1873 hunting trip.  Brown’s body was brought to Mansfield so citizens could pay their respects, then returned to Massillon to be buried in Massillon City Cemetery.