A recent two-day visit to Cuyahoga Valley National Park (never heard of it? You’re not alone!) was the perfect jumping off place for several other lesser-known attractions in the Ohio Region.
Warren G. Harding Tomb & Home
Presidential candidate Warren G. Harding ran a “front-porch” campaign from his Marion, Ohio, home, giving speeches—newly enfranchised women, laborers, African-Americans, Native Americans, and many other citizen groups—numbering as many as ten thousand individuals at a time. They arrived by train to undoubtedly overwhelm this small town. His neighbors rapidly saw the opportunity, however, and set up lemonade and baked-goods stands.
Years before, when he was 18 years old, he’d bought a struggling local newspaper with three friends. He made a success of it and was a prominent newspaperman before running for state and national office.
A handsome man, he was notoriously unfaithful to his wife, Florence Kling, five years older than he. In recent years, DNA testing has proved that he fathered an illegitimate child and disproved the persistent rumor that his great-grandmother was African-American.
The origin of the phrase “the smoke-filled room” as a place where political decisions are made refers to how he was selected to receive the Republican party’s 1920 presidential nomination. Many considered him a weak candidate, and his reputation has been further tarnished by numerous scandals in his administration (Teapot Dome scandal being the best known), the extent of which emerged only after his death.
Harding died in 1923, partway into his first term, and was buried in an elaborate tomb at the city’s cemetery, with Florence now alongside him. A sign says the tomb is maintained by a local technical college, but the grass inside was in need of cutting and weeding. It was shameful, really.
The Mazza Museum
About an hour north of Marion is Findlay, Ohio, home of the University of Findlay, a private liberal arts college with more than 4,000 students. Its best-known programs are in education and equestrian studies [!].
In keeping with the campus’s emphasis on education, its Mazza Museum houses what at first may seem an unusual collection: artwork from children’s literature. The museum has some 11,000 illustrations, collages, paper sculptures—indeed, works in every medium—that have been used over the generations in children’s books. About 300 of these are on display at any one time.
Although weekends are crowded and during the school year, classroom groups frequent the museum, when we visited, we were the only visitors. It was really fun, with an enthusiastic staff member to show us around.
If you’ve shopped for a child’s book any time in the last five decades, you may have noticed how beautiful and effective the artwork is, but perhaps, like me, you haven’t thought much about it. A visit here is an astonishing visual treat!
From Toledo, 47 miles to Findlay (45 minutes) and 97 miles to Marion (1.5 hours); from Cincinnati, 160 miles to Findlay (2.5 hours) and 145 miles to Marion (2.5 hours)
You can order any of these books through the Amazon affiliate links below (yes, I get a few cents if you do!):
- Warren G. Harding by John Dean – a 170-page bio that tries to refute Harding’s reputation as “worst ever” president
- Beloved by Tony Morrison – the legacy of an African-American slave’s flight to the free state of Ohio; winner of the Pulitzer Prize
- June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore – a novel set in small-town Ohio in which a terrible mistake changes a family forever
- Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson – a classic collection of interlocking short stories that de-romanticize small-town life; published in 1919 and now considered one of the last century’s best novels