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Tag Archives: Millionaires Row

Stories of Cleveland’s Past, Storyteller Dan Ruminski

Many of us have wonderful hobbies, hobbies that we are often times passionate about, work hard at and really have no ambition above the shear joy that such endeavors bring.

So it was with me, Dan Ruminski and my passion for early Cleveland history, let us say, 1875-1929, you know the Millionaires Row era. My hobby was and is experiencing of the great enjoyment of learning of this history and the wonderful cast of characters that made this period great, a John D. Rockefeller for example.

While doing some research at the Gates Mills library one day a very nice lady saw what I was doing and asked if I would be willing to give a talk at the library on this history. This wonderful lady was Sally Burke, president of the Gates Mill Historical Society.

This request was interesting especially since Katherine Malmquist, head of the library, was also enthusiastic about the project. I agreed to prepare a 45-minute talk, an April date was set up and I must say the rest is history.

Audience expected was to be between 30 and 40 people, so I prepared accordingly. My, oh my, did we not get nearly 100 people, enthusiastic people who wanted to hear my story. And indeed I delivered it as a story, no power point, no computer, just a marvelous story. The audience stayed for 2 hours asking great questions as my talk concluded.

Since that first memorable talk, I now have given over 10 presentations to various audiences. In each case there is noticeable enthusiasm. Audience size always exceeds any expectation, which tells me that folks are very interested in a very dynamic early Cleveland.

Thus my little old hobby has bloomed into a larger endeavor. I now have made myself available to all types of potential speaking opportunities as my quest to inform while promoting Cleveland continues.

If you group or organization has interest in experiencing the Cleveland history experiences please feel free to contact me, Dan Ruminski, The Cleveland history storyteller at 1-800-876-1312 or email me using the link at the bottom of the page. A small fee is charged.

A John D. Rockefeller Story – Teenager in Charge of Building the Family Home

Eliza & William Rockefeller, parents of John D. Rockefeller
Eliza & William Rockefeller, parents of John D. Rockefeller

Cleveland, Ohio home to John D. Rockefeller, the world’s richest individual at one time, was a man made from many experiences afforded him as he grew into manhood. Each experience was a stepping stone of sorts building the stairway to his Standard Oil Company. The glue that held Rockefeller together I believe was a work ethic of unbelievable proportion coupled with a self discipline that boarded on beyond remarkable. Those who knew Rockefeller at the time also knew that Standard Oil was no accident.

John D. Rockefeller was raised by a devoted mother, Eliza, and an often times absent father, William Avery Rockefeller. Because of his fathers long absences John D in many respects became the head of the household at a relatively young age. This experience proved a good one for John. At one point, John age 18 was given the task of building the new family home on Cheshire Street, East 19th, in Cleveland, Ohio. John’s father assured his son that funds were available and that he would not be there for planning or construction. John thus began organizing the planning and building of the new brick home for the family. Estimates for the work were received from at least 8 contractors. Obviously the low bidder got the job and it is said when the home was completed the builder actually lost money as John meticulously reviewed all invoicing. Upon completion this house served the family for many years.

Now, I believe one could ask, what might todays 18 year old do when faced with a similar task to John’s? In an age when we all think our children are growing up all too fast, I believe measured against Rockefellers result most of today’s generation may not succeed in a similar endeavor. Truly we may suggest that John D. Rockefeller was a superior individual with talents far, far above the average. I believe the point here is that although John achieved something less than a high school education, his father knew that a big part of real education did not take place in school. John’s father believed in both formal education and practical education forged together with the creation of responsibility in the real world.

Education in real life experiences may even ellipse the classroom on occasion. The point of this story seems to be, do parents today give their children enough real world experience? Do we educate them to use one of the most important senses they have, common sense? I would lean to the side that says, “No”; thus my story of John D. Rockefeller. The building of the family home made him responsible for outcome, an outcome of great importance to his family. John also learned what he was capable of and this experience remained with him for the rest of his life.

John’s home building experience led to the building of a grand company housed in a grand city, Cleveland, Ohio. During John’s time Cleveland, Ohio, by many accounts was the greatest city in the world. In sports terms of today it would be like winning the World Series, Super Bowl and NBA Championship all in one year. You know, Cleveland was just that great.

Credit: Photo from the book John D. Rockefeller, The Cleveland Years, by Grace Goulder, courtesy of the Western Reserve Historical Society

Cleveland – The Heart of the Industrial Revolution

White Manufacturing Workers
White Manufacturing Workers

I believe it safe to say that most of us love a good story. Stories can entertain, as well as inform, enlighten and, in some cases, motivate people to an action.

Knowing the power of a good story, I have decided to embark on a mission: the telling of the great story of Cleveland, Ohio from 1875-1929.

Cleveland was considered by many to be the wealthiest city in the world – home to John D. Rockefeller and the grand Euclid Avenue, “Millionaires Row.”

If our reader knows Cleveland only through nationally-used, uncomplimentary stereotypes, our story will be particularly enlightening and fascinating.

Most important to our story is the examination of what led to this great success, and our answer will be found in the not so obvious: the grand families of Cleveland and the philosophies they held, which together made Cleveland the heart of the Industrial Revolution.

Many families made Cleveland’s heyday happen.

One of the most prominent of the time was the White family of White Sewing Machine fame and who eventually built the vast White Motors Empire, rival to Henry Ford. (Talk show host Jay Leno owns a White Steamer as part of his vast auto collection).

I chose the White family for a reason: they embodied characteristics that are universal in achieving success. Their philosophy and their work ethic, if duplicated, remain keys to success, regardless of where we are in history.

The Whites loved Cleveland and worked hard to make it the great city of their time. The story of the White family is one of those gems we sometimes find in the past – a gem because the reader will find contemporary application in many of the things the Whites did and believed in. They were an example of what made America great.

Our story, I believe, will unlock keys to success and, hopefully, move our reader to look at Cleveland, Ohio in a somewhat different light.

We invite our readers to respond and share with us their reactions as our story unfolds over time.

Consistent throughout our tale will be a common thread that ran throughout America during this period, Individuals of great talent going into business and creating thousands of manufacturing jobs that made Cleveland the center of the industrial revolution.

It was a time when risks were taken and job creators took personal responsibility for their actions, when customer was king and quality was sacred. How refreshing!

Could it be the Whites and their contemporaries knew something we have worked hard to forget? We will let our reader be the judge.

Preserving History – Who is Doing it Right Today?

Mooreland Mansion at Lakeland Community College
Mooreland Mansion at Lakeland Community College

Cleveland in 1885 was one of the most innovative and wealthiest cities in the world.

Euclid Avenue, dubbed “millionaires’ row” and by many accounts one of the most prestigious avenues in the world, was home to John D. Rockefeller and some 500 mansions, each more outstanding than the last.

Looking at this time in depth, we begin to see a pattern for success. Examination of one Cleveland family in particular, with its White Motor empire, further refines why Cleveland was so successful during this time period.

That being said, we need to on occasion address a current entity that we feel exhibits the qualities of the White family. We have found one in Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, Ohio.

The college is located just 25 minutes east of Cleveland on land formerly owned by Edward Moore. This location, encompassing nearly 3,000 acres, was his country estate in the early 1900s. Edward knew the Whites, for they rode and hunted, socialized and did business together.

Edward Moore was a dreamer with credentials; he, with partners, developed an inter-urban electric rail system which connected Cleveland and the surrounding farms. Moore and his partners had recognized the need for such a state-of-the-art transportation system.

Edward Moore was rewarded for his vision, for he lived in a fabulous home now located on the Lakeland campus. This beautiful piece of history could easily have been demolished to make room for the new construction.

Instead, Lakeland recognized the value of preserving the history and went about the work of restoring this magnificent structure. Thousands of folks now enjoy Mooreland Mansion, taking in a grand patron of Cleveland’s past.

Lakeland Community College, a junior college, appreciates the role history can play in the development of its students. The college set an example by preserving Moore’s home, showing its philosophy that we in this country are too quick to destroy that which can never again be duplicated. Lakeland teaches by setting the example –  not by expanding a philosophy of “Do as I say, not as I do.” How refreshing in this day and age.

Through innovation, filling today’s need and living by example, Lakeland is doing it right – and will play a major role in returning Cleveland to greatness.