Center for Archival Collections

Archival Chronicle

March 2002: Volume 22, Number 1

Feature: Ohio Bicentennial | Archival Chronicle Index | CAC Homepage

This issue of the Archival Chronicle Gallery presents the ways in which Ohioans have celebrated and decorated for special public occasions. A special feature of this issue is a selection of views from the F. W. Lawson Company sample book of advertising and festive decorations.

Civic Celebrations

Second Hancock County Courthouse. 
Source: Evelyn Barber Metcalf Brewster Papers (MS 92)

It was during 1885 that bids were taken to replace the Courthouse shown here. Built by John Curdy, this brick building featured a wooden cupola, with spire and lightning rod and four massive wooden columns. A bell was purchased in 1846. The gas and oil boom of the 1880s poured money into the local economy and helped Hancock County finance a much more substantial building.

Hancock County Courthouse dedication
Memorial Day

   Decoration Day, May 30, 1882.
Source: Frank Getz

Perrysburg Union Schools Decorating Graves of Soldiers, possibly at Fort Meigs Cemetery. Decoration Day was a holiday set aside to honor servicemen who had lost their lives during the Civil War. Despite its somber purpose, the day quickly became a festive one marked by picnics and parades. Today's Memorial Day honors servicemen of all American Wars and marks an unofficial beginning of summer.

"I Love a Parade!"

Early Street Scene, Bowling Green

   Main Street, Bowling Green, Looking North, ca. 1880.

Flags, banners, and streamers are much in evidence in this early view of Bowling Green, Ohio. The street is nearly clear of horse and buggy traffic, perhaps in preparation for a Fourth of July parade. This view probably pre-dates the gas and oil boom of the 1880s since many wooden buildings have not yet been replaced by brick structures in the business district.

H. C. Cleaveland, Camp 315, Sons of Veterans. 

The Sons of Veterans was composed of men whose fathers had fought in the Civil War. This group may be preparing for a Fourth of July parade in Toledo sometime around 1910.

Sons of Veterans Group
Parade, Bowling Green, ca. 1890s

   Parade on Main Street, Bowling Green, Ohio, ca. 1890

Parades with brass bands and military veterans marching proudly up Main Street have long been a feature of Fourth of July celebrations and many other civic occasions in the United States. The crowd is decked out in their summer holiday finest to share in the fun.

Firemen's Parade, Defiance, 1924
Source: Mrs. Alva Widmer, Defiance Ohio Fire Department 

The Northwest Ohio Volunteer Firemen's Association held a parade in celebration of their annual convention in Defiance on June 18, 1924. The fire trucks themselves are the centerpiece of the show, and it seems that everyone in town has come out to see them.

Firemen's Parade, Defiance, 1924
Gardner Building, Toledo, 1890

  Gardner Building, Madison at Superior, Toledo, ca. 1895.
Source: Ruth Tucker Fitkin

Toledo's Gardner Building is patriotically bedecked, possibly to honor members of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union Civil War Veterans.

F. W. Lawson Company. Advertising and Decorations (MMS 975)

Patriotic Bunting, ca. 1900-1910

  House Decoration

In a leather-covered post-bound booklet marked "F. W. Lawson, Decorator, Pittsburgh, PA" are a series of twenty-six 8 x 10" black and white photographs showing buildings, streets, and vehicles decorated by this company. Many of the photographs are dated to the 1920s, although the woman's dress and child's clothing in this view suggests a date between 1900 and 1910.

House Decoration 

Patriotic themes fill this sample book. Holidays which suggest these decorations are Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. Other special occasions during the time period of the creation of this booklet would include preparations for United States entry into World War I, Armistice Day (November 11, 1918), or greeting returning American troops in 1919.

House with Bunting
Parade, Defiance, ca. 1900-1910

  Parade in Defiance

A note in pencil on the back of this photograph identifies the location as Dayton, Ohio. Streetcar tracks are visible down the center of the brick-paved street. Straw hats for the men and white dresses for the women place this event in summertime. The length of the women's dresses also suggests a date between 1900-1910.

F. W. Lawson Shop 

Free estimates were provided to potential customers at F. W. Lawson's shop. The company specialized in creating decorations for conventions, storefronts, and homes.

F. W. Lawson Shop, with bunting


Lighting Decorations at Night, ca 1916-1919

  Nighttime Decorations

The advent of electricity gave the Lawson company new materials to work with. This photograph, identified again as Dayton, shows some of the stunning effects that could be achieved with strings of lights. Above street-level, several businesses have erected lighted advertisements. The men in the left-side spotlight may be servicemen, dating this photograph between 1916-1919.

Decorated Automobile  

Automobiles also provided a surface for fanciful decorations. Flowers and doves cover every inch of this car. Perhaps a wedding is the occasion, although the mounted deer's head just in front of the steering wheel is a unique touch. Hats and hemlines suggest 1920 as a possible date. The location is unknown.

Decorated automobile, ca. 1920

THE PHOTOGRAPHS IN THIS ISSUE illustrate public celebrations and decorations in Northwest Ohio.

  MMS 975 The F. W. Lawson Company specialized in the creation of decorative displays for public buildings, stores, and private homes.