Cleveland, Ohio, USA - 1901 - Cleveland - The Pleasant City by Charles F. Thwing
The first thing to be said about Cleveland is what, with the change of a pronoun, a Cambridge poet said about one of whom he wrote: "It is so pleasant." Its streets are pleasant to live in and to look upon; its parks are pleasant to stroll in or to ride in; its houses are, on the whole, pleasant to the aesthetic sense; its libraries are pleasant for their selectness though not for their bigness; its people are, above all, pleasant for their dignity, graciousness, genuineness, simplicity and appreciation. In the year 1838 the late Asa Gray spent a short time in Cleveland, and wrote from Cleveland to a friend, saying that the city would "ultimately be a very pleasant place"; he adds: "The people show some signs of civilization,; they eat ice cream, which is sold in many places." I wish I were able to assure my old friend and neighbor, as he now lives with the immortelles and other fadeless flowers, that he has proved to be a true prophet: Cleveland has become a "very pleasant place," and possibly I might be allowed to assure him that signs of the ice age of modern civilization still linger.
In that relation in which men commonly use the word "pleasapt," the weather, Cleveland is not pleasant. It has as much cloudy weather as almost any part of the world; and yet it has a pleasant climate. Its summers are not hot, its winters not cold. To the worker of any sort this pleasant climate of much unpleasant weather is very pleasing, for in it, as in the climate of London, one can get much work out of himself.
Cleveland is a singular creation of contrast. It is an inland town, but it builds more vessels, and owns more vessels than almost any other in the United States. About a quarter of all the steel vessels, rated in tonnage, built in the United States in the last fiscal year of the Government were constructed in Cleveland, the order of precedence being Cleveland, Newport News, Chicago, and Detroit; and almost three quarters of the modern, steel ships in service on the Great Lakes are owned or operated by Cleveland vesselmen. It is a city of four hundred thousand people, but it impresses both the visitor and the resident as a big village or a series of big villages. From it can be reached in a long or short night's ride, New York and Chicago, Buffalo and St. Louis, Detroit and Cincinnati; within seven hundred miles of Cleveland dwell more than half the entire population of the country, and yet Cleveland has been called provincial. Its homes are among the most palatial of the world, but the owners of not a few are more at home in New York and Paris than on Euclid Avenue. It is distinguished for its iron, steel and coal interests, but it has scholars and teachers who are known where its steel rails have never been carried. It is a city of the East, and it is also a city of the West, of the East it is the newest, of the West it is the oldest. It is often called conservative, but it is also distinguished by its sense of power and of progress. It represents in its citizens a pure New England type; but it has also gath ered up folks from all over the world, "Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians," who read their newspapers in a dozen different languages. But, be it said, the New England, the Connecticut and Massachusetts type still dominates. The names of the families which are most representative of the things of the spirit include a large number of New England names.
This city of contraries and of contrasts is yet made a great city by only one or two simple elements. One may say that Lake Erie makes Cleveland. Were there no Lake Erie there would be no Cleveland. But Lake Erie is the occasion and not the cause. One may say that the age of steel makes Cleveland. But that this age is the age of steel is only the condition, not the cause. The cause that makes Cleveland Cleveland is that at or near Cleveland the various elements that are necessary in the manufacture of iron and steel can be most economically and efficiently assembled. The iron ores from the Lake Superior region, the coal from the Massillon, Mohoning and Pennsylvania region, the limestone from the Lake Erie islands and southern shores, can here be most profitably brought together. Cleveland is, too, by rail and by boat a good point for the distribution of the finished product as well as a good point for the bringing together of the crude material. Here ore, coal and lime meet and mingle as naturally as the heat of the sun and the life of the seed unite in the springtime. Nothing can prevent their meeting, and little can subsidies or other artificial stimulus do to promote it. From this union spring forth factories making nuts and bolts and sewing machines and engines and the thousand products and by products of this age and place of steel. Therefore Cleveland is Cleveland.
It may not only be said that Cleveland is herself; it should also be added that Cleveland has done some things first which are worth doing anyway, and which are especially worth doing first. As among the colleges Williams and Harvard have done not a few first things, so among the cities Cleveland may claim a certain priority. The, city was, if not the first, among the first to adopt the federal system of municipal government, a system which, after ten years of usefulness, has proved to be like every other form of democratic government, good if good men are in control, and bad if bad men are in control. Cleveland was the first to adopt the proper method for the government and administration of its public schools, namely the separation of the business side of the administration from the educational, a system, too, which, like the more general plan of government, finds its efficiency in the character of the men who administer it. In Cleveland, too, was organized the great Epworth League of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Here, too, one of the first women in America to enter the medical profession was trained in the old Medical College, now a part of the Western Reserve University. Here the recondite experiments were made by Morley for determining the atomic weight of oxygen, and practical experiments by Brush for giving the best light, as well as the important experiments also made by Brush which resuited in adding "etherion" to the elimants. Here, also, important facilities in the use of the public library and in the making of finest machinery, such as is used in astronomical apparatus, were first applied. One, too, should not in a commercial age be suffered to forget that in Cleveland the Standard Oil Company was born and grew to be a lusty youth.
This city of first things had as its first man and founder, one whose name it bears, Moses Cleveland. A Connecticut man, born in Canterbury, Windham County, in 1754, graduated at Yale in 1777, admitted to the bar, interrupting his professional practice by service in the Revolutionary army, serving in the Connecticut Legislature and also in the State militia, Moses Cleveland was made agent for the Connecticut Land Company in 1796, and came into the historic territory of New Connecticut, or the Western Reserve. He seems to have had those elements which usually are found in founders of states and builders of cities. Reserved in speech, vigorous in action, friendly with all, grave, shrewd, he was born to command. His career was brief: he died in the town of his birth in 1806; but he lived long enough to entertain a rational hope of the future greatness of the city he founded and named. It is said that he once remarked: "While I was in New Connecticut I laid out a town, on the bank of Lake Erie, which was called by my name, and I believe the child is now born that may live to see it grow as large as old Windham." Moses Cleveland was a prophet at once true and false. Cleveland became as large as old Windham and even larger, in the lifetime of children born in the last decade of the eighteenth century. The method by which Cleveland has attained the first place in its State, and the seventh place in the United States, is a process, a growth, and not a manufacture. In the year 1830, thirty four years after the coming of Moses Cleveland, it had only a thousand people: but the one thousand had increased to six thousand by 1840, and in the next ten years the six thousand increased threefold. In the next ten years the number more than doubled, becoming forty three thousand in 1860, and yet again doubled in the following decade. By 1870, it had become ninety two thousand. The doubling process could not long continue, but it came so near it that in 1880 there were one hundred and sixty thousand inhabitants, in 1890 two hundred and sixty thousand and more, and in 1900 almost four hundred thousand.
A growth more normal and steady, a growth which has also carried along with itself elements far more precious than mere size, it would be hard to find. For these folks do not deserve the epithet which Carlyle: applied to London's millions. They are a people of vigor, initiative, progressiveness, carefulness, wealth, work, comfortableness, and good heartedness. Cleveland may be conservative; but it is the conservatism of the English nation which Emerson describes in saying: "The slow, deep English mass smoulders with fire, which at last sets all its borders in flame." Cleveland's fires are the fires of anthracite and not of straw.
A city of comfort, Cleveland has no London's East End. I do not believe that in any other population of the world of its size can be found so few hungry stomachs or homeless bodies. Work abounds. All men work. Its rich men are, workers, and, what is far more exceptional, the sons of its rich men are workers. Its wealth is of the solid sort. It represents investments which pay dividends every six months, and which represent the advancement of every commercial and manufacturing interest. But Cleveland is obliged to acknowledge that not a few of its rich men are legal citizens of New York City, ostracized from its pleasant borders by what they and others regard as the unjust tax laws of the State.
The city has not yet reached the condition in which it is understood that in case a will is probated representing a large estate which fails to give at least a considerable sum to charity or, to education, the court shall set it aside on the ground that the testator was of unsound mind. Of course money is given away both by gift and by bequest, but more, on the whole, by gift than by bequest, and in large amounts, but not in amounts so large as prevail in communities of an age of two hundred and seventyfive years rather than of one hundred. The rate of increase which money may make for itself is so great, that the holder and the maker hesitate to part with such a remunerative agent. Yet the beneficence viewed in the light of decades is great. A noble school of science, a noble college and university, including professional schools, a noble foundation for an art school, are easily found among the more obvious tokens; Hospitals and orphanages, private schools, endowed churches, Young Men's Christian Association buildings, parks and college settlements, are ready proof of private beneficence for public ends. Testimony should also be borne to the wisdom as well as the generosity which characterize the giving of this people. My pen refuses to write names, but it is free to say that to find beneficence which is, it shall not be said so little harmful, but which is so gloriously efficient, as the beneficence of some of Cleveland's noblest women and men would be difficult. With the gift, before the gift, and after the gift goes the wisdom as well as the graciousness of the giver. One, too, should not neglect to say that in not a few of the great manufacturing concerns of Cleveland prevails a spirit that the employer owes to the employee something more than wages. The dividend to labor consists, in the more obvious relations, in providing rest and recreation rooms, facilities for eating the midday luncheon, and in doing what can be done in creating associations and conditions which make for the enrichment of life and the betterment of character.
Of course Cleveland has societies and clubs: clubs into which the worthiest life of the community naturally organizes itself for worthiest purposes, and clubs which represent the life that is simply worthy and of which the purposes are not the highest. Clubs of women and clubs of men, clubs social and clubs professional, clubs literary and clubs commercial, clubs anthropological and clubs sociological, clubs chemical and clubs engineering, clubs collegiate and clubs pedagogical, clubs athletic and clubs aesthetic clubs piscatorial and clubs ecclesiastical, clubs architectural and clubs of free traders, clubs for municipal improvement and clubs for no improvement of any kind, they all and many others are found in this very pleasant city.
And underneath all these associations and organizations it is easy to discover the growth of a distinctly civic spirit, also manifest in special movements and conditions. The endeavor to build in one group buildings so important as a county court house, a city hall, a public library and others reveals the willingness to surrender individual advantages to the public weal. The attempt to deal largely and justly with all municipal franchises proves the presence of a desire to serve all as well as each. The Municipal Association, an organization of a few gentlemen of high purpose and of patience as well as of great influence, has, in recommending or in ref using to recommend certain candidates for office, promoted the growth of a public sense out of which it has itself sprung. The determination that the public schools shall not be used for partisan purposes is perhaps as strong an illustration as could be given of the presence and potency of the civic spirit of Cleveland.
In the three great professions are found noble members. In this triple service is manifest a high tableland of general excellence rather than a level broken by high and distinct peaks of individual conspicuousness. The highest relative standing belongs, I judge, to the members of the medical profession. This prominence may be the result of the presence for more than fifty years of a medical school which has numbered among its faculty some great investigators and teachers. But not a few of those who are examples of highest service have been unwilling, it must be said, to remain in Cleveland. As the Atlantic draws down the level of the Great Lakes, so the territory of the Atlantic draws away some (not all) of the more eminent members of the great professions. The supply however never becomes exhausted, nor does it deteriorate.
But the most eminent of Cleveland's people belong to the literary or political class rather than to the strictly professional. The earliest of the writers who spread Cleveland's fame and his own was Artemus Ward. It was a short career enough which Artemus Ward had, and its Cleveland part covered only two years, but while it lasted it bore one of Cleveland's daily papers round the world on the wings of his wit. One cannot forget that here lived and wrote John Hay, beloved as among the best of men as well as honored as the most efficient of Secretaries of State. James Ford Rhodes here fitted himself while engaged in business to begin his career as a fascinating writer of later American history. Constance Fenimore Woolson was a Cleveland child, although not born here, and the Great Lakes are the scenes of her stories. Mrs. Sarah Knowles Bolton, writer of useful and pleasing biographies and other books, divides her residence between Boston and Cleveland. Charles W. Chesnutt, too, is esteemed not only for his sketches but also for a distinct charm of character. Cleveland would like to claim that rare poet and great soul, Edward Rowland Sill, for his home was only a few miles away, and in Cleveland he died, in 1887. One should not decline to say that books written by college professors may not only be the material for literature but also literature itself. Such books, written in Cleveland, are neither few nor barren.
The eminence in politics of the Cleveland man belongs rather to the present than to the past. If one should name the gentlemen who have served the city in the national Congress the names would to most prove to be without significance. The name of Senator Payne and he had been long associated with the life of the city, one recalls, but no name has the meaning of the name of Wade or of Giddings, who came from the little town of Jefferson, a few miles east of Cleveland, or of Sherman, who came from the south. Hayes, Garfield and McKinley might be called citizens of the Greater Cleveland. At the present time, however, in both the Senate and the House the city is not without able and significant representation.
Like a piece of music the chapter returns upon itself. It began with the argument that Cleveland is so pleasant. From the breakwater which the Government builds to keep Cleveland great and to make it greater, along the avenues of residence or of trade, even through its smoky and sooty atmosphere, sign of prosperity, out mile after mile to the city of the dead where the well beloved Garfield sleeps in nobly wrought sepulchre, in all and through all, Cleveland is pleasant. Pleasant to live in, pleasant to work in, I know, and pleasant to go to heaven from, I hope, is Cleveland.
American Historic Towns Edited by Lyman P. Powell, G. P. Putnam' Sons, Knickerbocker Press, 1901
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