Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cleveland: Birthplace of the First Electric Traffic Signal?

Morgan's Patented Design

Some sources claim that the first traffic light was NOT in Cleveland, as earlier signals had been used in London England in 1868, and another version in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1912. But, there is one consistent design and name that comes up, Garrett Augustus Morgan, whose design was patented on November 23, 1923. Morgan, born in 1877 in Kentucky, was the son of former slaves. He later moved to Cincinnati, and then Cleveland, where he owned and operated a sewing-machine repair business. He also went on to establish the newspaper The Cleveland Call.

During the early 20th century, the streets in Cleveland, as in other major U.S. cities, were jammed with pedestrians, bicycles, animal-drawn wagons, and then later with cars. This often meant that all these vehicles and people were trying to use the same stretch of roads and intersections at the same time, all with no traffic signals to help control the flow. This made for frequent accidents. After Morgan witnessed one such traffic accident, he felt the need to come up with a solution. This resulted in his invention of a traffic signal. Looking different than traffic lights we have today, the Morgan design was a T-shaped pole unit that featured three positions: Stop, Go and an all-directional stop position. The “all stop” position halted all road traffic in all directions to allow pedestrians to cross streets. Morgan’s invention, with the "all stop," essentially allowed for a third “caution”-type signal, which was something new from previous designs. He eventually sold the rights to his invention to General Electric, and received a government citation for his invention.

Other sources say the first traffic signal came even before Morgan’s invention. The American Traffic Signal Co. installed, on August 5, 1914, the first set of traffic signals, at East 105th street and Euclid Avenue in Cleveland. It was based on the patented (January 1918) design of James Hoge, which displayed the words STOP and MOVE. It was a system of electrically powered stop-go indicators, each mounted on a corner post, wired to a manually operated switch housed inside a control booth. The signals were electrically interlocked , making conflicting signals impossible.

There are some web sites that debunk Morgan as being the inventor of the first traffic signal, (one example is here. ), but generally many agree that Morgan’s design was a precursor of what we use today in modern times. There are several others who claim to be the first and many have had earlier patents than Morgan’s. As a result, it’s hard to say who really was the first, but for Clevelanders, it seems that the first basic traffic signal – at least in Ohio – was the light at East 105th and Euclid on 1914, based on Hoge’s design.

Here’s a link to an article on the first Cleveland traffic signal.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Cleveland’s Slogans,Catchphrases, and Monikers

In my 53 years living here in the Cleveland area, I’ve heard a lot of city slogans and catchphrases. Some have been very positive for the city, some have been downright negative. Some of the best ones have gone by the wayside while people seem to remember all the bad ones, and some make no impression at all.

The best one I think I ever heard, which sadly the city seems to have completely discarded, is “The Best Location in the Nation”. Every now and then, you hear someone in the national media mention this slogan, usually when they’re covering some sporting event. This slogan always seemed so uplifting and I don’t know why the city doesn’t go back to using it. There are so many good things about the city that can make one feel like it really IS the best place to be. OK, except in the winter.

Another slogan that had possibilities was “America’s North Coast”. The North Coast moniker is still used a lot by businesses and organizations; it’s also a nice regional reference. But, apparently it's not good enough for the city, who really should be capitalizing on its accessibility to Lake Erie.
There’s the very succinct yet accurate “Cleveland Rocks!” Funny, I hear this one a lot from people outside the city. It has very positive connotations and makes the city seem young, hip, and vibrant. We can all thanks local boy Drew Carey for using the song of the same name by Ian Hunter for his show’s theme. In fact, I think Drew captured the "essence" of Cleveland very well in his show, in a way that wasn’t entirely horrible. As I also spent some time growing up in Brooklyn, I think I can recall having the younger versions of Oswald and Lewis for neighbors.

Drew Carey's Full Version of Cleveland Rocks

The city has also had quite a few duds, though. Let’s not forget “New York's the Big Apple, but Cleveland's a Plum.” I always hated that slogan, because it made New York sound like it was still better anyway, and dried plums are prunes and you know what eating too many of those can do to you…Let’s just say I thought a plum was a lame analogy.

Of course, we’ve had some names bestowed on the city because of burning rivers, burning mayor’s hair, and the city going into default. The Cuyahoga River will probably never live down the ‘Burning River” moniker. But, at least we have the local Great Lakes Brewing Company's Burning River Pale Ale, so we can drown our sorrow in that. The one negative name we will probably never shake, maybe because it was so accurate at the time it was conceived and because, well, it just plain sounds catchy, is “The Mistake on The Lake.” This name seemed to spawn at the time Dennis Kucinich led the city straight into default. Why Dennis still has any influence in this area is beyond me...but I digress.

Many, many years ago the city had the name of ‘The Forest City.” Since there’re really aren’t many trees left in the city we can see why that name died out, although it is still used by some local businesses.

The name the city is trying to brand itself with now is Cleveland+, or Cleveland Plus. The name is an attempt to bring the cities of Akron, Canton, and Youngstown into the mix, something that I’m not quite sure people from Akron, Canton, or Youngstown really want. It does try to take a regional approach. To me, it completely ignores Lake and Lorain Counties, and takes the focus away from potential tourist attractions for the “North Coast.” I think Lake and Lorain have more tourism possibilities than, for example, Youngstown. And frankly, the name is a dog. It isn’t catchy and it really doesn’t speak to anything positive about the city. It sounds like an unfinished equation, like Cleveland + X = Y?. I give it an F.

I also thought you’d be interested in reading the article from The Scene which talks about some of the Cleveland sports teams slogans and their religion overtones. I always thought it was just me who felt this way.

Why Does Every Cleveland Sports Slogan Have to Be So Jesus-y?
Tue Dec 18, 2007 at 11:19:36 AM

Associated Press, Heaven Bureau, Dec. 18, 2007 – Just days after the Browns unveiled their new “Believeland” campaign, officials here have asked Cleveland’s sports franchises to stop using religious-sounding slogans to promote their sports teams, citing fear that local fans might think actually God cares about sports.

The Heavenly Committee for Slogans and Signage penned a lengthy letter to Cleveland’s three professional sports teams, asking them to consider more secular language in future campaigns. The committee acknowledges that “religion and sports have a long and cordial relationship – from hockey’s ‘Miracle on Ice’ to Pittsburgh’s ‘Immaculate Reception’ to the White Sox’s 'Don’t Stop Believein.'"

"But," it goes on, "don't you guys think you're over doing it?”

The letter cites several recent examples, including: ...

“Believeland,” Cleveland Browns, 2007. The Browns recently unveiled T-shirt slogan is “an obvious reference to the faith many religious people have in the existence of one all-knowing God,” the committee writes. Also, “It’s a little premature, don’t you think? I mean, you guys are one new Kellen Winslow hobby away from missing the playoffs. Couldn’t you at least wait until there’s that little ‘x’ next to your name in the standings?”

“We Are All Witnesses,” Nike/LeBron James/Cleveland Cavaliers, 2006-Present. Although coined by Nike, the Cavs and their fans adopted this phrase in 2006. The committee calls it "an obvious reference to Jesus Christ, which is troubling on multiple fronts. First, to compare the ascension of one human, whose existence is erasable at God’s whim, is tenuous at best. Second, Jesus is a way better post player than LeBron. Seriously. Dude's a monster on the block.”

“The Chosen One,” LeBron James, origin unknown. “This is a tattoo on James’ back and not actually the work of team officials, so we're hesitant to suggest changes to this slogan. But, seriously, the Chosen One? That's just plain stolen. Could you at least encourage him credit us somehow? Do his tattoos have a bibliography or something?”

“Rise Up,” Cleveland Cavaliers, 2007. The battle cry of the Cavaliers’ 2007 playoff run, the committee found the slogan on its own to be acceptable, since “LeBron does have huge ups.” But alongside the previously outlined Cavs slogans, this “is just patently false. It insinuates that after being chosen, and after being witnessed, James will one day 'rise up' from the dead. And while, in the event of the star’s untimely death, we would consider the franchise’s request to resuscitate James, thus saving the people of Cleveland from having to watch Ira Newble run the three, there’s lots of paperwork involved in that, and we’re just not sure we’re up to it. So knock it off.”

Here’s the Cleveland+ video – rather uninspiring:

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cleveland's Firefighters Memorial

Every year on St. Patrick’s Day in Cleveland, the city celebrates with a parade through the city’s downtown streets, including police and firefighters as staples of the parade procession. The Cleveland Firefighters Shamrock Club also hosts the annual Memorial to Fallen Firefighters at this time. But the memorial itself stands year round between Cleveland Browns Stadium and the Great Lakes Science Center. Dedicated on June 15th, 2007, it includes the names the 76 firefighters who died in the line of duty since the Cleveland Fire department formed in 1862.

Before the memorial could be finished, the artist who originally designed the statue, Luis Jimenez, known for his polychrome fiberglass sculptures, died in June of 2006 in an accident in his studio. A piece of one of his own sculptures fell on him, severing an artery in his leg. The Cleveland Firefighters sculpture was later completed with the combined efforts of Rob Hartshorn, the art director on the project, along with Ron Dewey, a sculptor, and Ralph Brussee, a painter.

Next time you’re near the stadium or the Science Center, stop by and visit the firefighters memorial and pay respects to your local firefighters, who work hard to keep us safe from fire and help us in other emergencies.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cleveland’s Local News Commercials

Newscasts in Cleveland are a competitive business. With four major networks in town (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC), there is an on going battle to draw viewers to local programming. Viewers often remain steadfastly loyal to their on-air news talent, until something nudges them to make a change. For me, I used to watch Channel 5 (WEWS) a lot, but something happened several years ago – maybe the overkill on weather, maybe I became tired of Ted Henry – but now I’m pretty much a Fox 8 and a Channel 3 viewer. Sometimes WOIO gets in there at 4:00 PM, but only when I really really really really have no other options. OK, I actually like (a little) Jeff Tanchak’s weather. That could be considered an illness in some circles.

The sad thing is that even with the struggle for viewer’s eyeballs being so fierce, the station news promotions have gotten pretty boring. So I thought I’d go back and see if I could find some of the real “oldies but goodies” that were interesting. I apologize in advance for some of the video quality – I’m just using the best I can find.

Enjoy the trip down memory lane!

This is probably the best news promo that I can recall. The quality isn’t great, but you’ll get the point. It’s a promo for WEWS featuring Ted Henry and Dave Patterson. There are actually two promos here, the first being the original and the second, I believe, aired later as a spoof of the first. The second commercial really was actually more impressive and funny.

Here’s one from WJW for their City Camera News, where they spoof the character "Mother Nature" from the Chiffon Margarine commercials:

“Catch 5” from WEWS, probably from the early 1970s. It reminds me a little bit of a bad migraine I had, but featured the talent on the channel at the time. Of course, when you look at the set and the weather “graphic”, the on air talent is all they could feature. Dull by today’s standards but flashy and eye catching for it’s time.

And despite that I don’t have a high opinion of WOIO’s 19 Action News, I do like these two relatively recent spots (from about 2 years ago) that featured Jeff Tanchak. They were creative and amusing.

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Friday, March 7, 2008

The Old Stone Church

The Old Stone Church on Public Square
© allthingscleveland

The recent collapse of a major water line at Cleveland’s Public Square made me have a fleeting thought if the Old Stone Church escaped damage, as it was very close by. (Thankfully, it was safe.) The church is one of those Cleveland buildings that everyone knows about, but we often take for granted.

First of all, its original, more formal name is not the Old Stone Church; it’s really the First Presbyterian Church, which was incorporated in 1827. It is considered the oldest structure on Public Square. But, the building we see today is not the first church of that congregation built on that site, and it has an interesting background.

According to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History:

‘The oldest structure on Public Square it is one of Cleveland's few early churches remaining in its original location. The sandstone church building, which became known as "Old Stone," was the second within the Cleveland limits, built at Ontario St. and Public Square between 1831-33.

This Georgian Revival-style building was razed and the cornerstone laid for a larger Romanesque Revival church in 1853 (completed in 1855), designed by the local firm of Heard & Porter, assisted by Wareham J. Warner, masterbuilder. The building, with a 228' steeple, was severely damaged by fire in 1857. The exterior walls survived, but the steeple did not; the interior was entirely rebuilt the next year. A spire added to the east tower in 1868 was removed following a second fire in 1884. Charles F. Schweinfurth designed the rebuilt interior in the Romanesque Revival style, with an arched ceiling, stained glass windows by Louis Tiffany and John LaFarge, and frescoes by Julius Schweinfurth.”

But, as the church’s web site says, “The history of Old Stone is much more than that of a building.” It goes on to add:

“The impact that this church and its members have had on the Greater Cleveland community is immense and widespread. In the area of education, Old Stone members are credited with organizing the first free public school and beginning the first English classes for immigrants. Both Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State University owe their origins to the generosity of Old Stone members. Likewise, the medical community has strong ties to Old Stone. Cleveland's first doctor (David Long) and America's first neurosurgeon (Harvey Cushing) were among its members. The first lectures of Western Reserve Medical School were held at Old Stone in 1843 and the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing is named for its patron, an Old Stone member. Both University Hospitals and the Visiting Nurse Association can trace their beginnings to programs at Old Stone.

Ten Old Stone members have headed Cleveland's government, among them the first mayor and first city manager, and members have served in all levels of city, state and federal government, including at least one governor and a United States Secretary of State. Old Stone members founded many of Cleveland's prominent businesses; e.g. Sherwin-Williams, Higbee's, the Winton Automobile Co., Stouffer Foods, Society Bank, and Meldrum and Fewsmith. The Old Arcade was built by an Old Stone member and another member was the first president of the Union Club. Many church members have chosen to put their time and treasure into social service. Seeking as Flora Stone Mather put it, "to be the dispensing hand of a Father's bounty," they created settlement houses like Goodrich-Gannett and the Rainey Institute, and organized such pioneer social institutions as the YMCA, the first orphan's home, and the first women's shelter.”

The current steeple on the building was raised in 1998. It replaced one removed in 1896. It was also part of a $2.4 million renovation project, which included conservation of the La Farge window.

If you’d like to know more about this interesting Cleveland landmark, visit the Old Stone Church’s web site, here.

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Monday, March 3, 2008

Cleveland’s Wind Power

I think it was almost two years ago I saw a strange sight while driving on the I-90 spur between I-271 and Route 2. A large semi truck was carrying a very long, oddly shaped load, which looked like a huge white propeller. Since the truck was moving slowly, I passed it, and shortly came upon another truck, heading in the same direction, with the same type of load. As I neared the Route 2 section of the spur, heading west, I came upon a third truck, carrying the same cargo. Needless to say I gave it lots of room as it turned west for I90/Route 2.

I realized that it had to be for some sort of wind turbine, and found out later in the day it was headed for The Great Lakes Science Center. I have to say that those turbine blades look a lot bigger when they are at ground level and you’re driving next to them.

According to the web site for the Great Lakes Science Center:

“The Science Center intends to use the turbine as an accessible and tangible way to demonstrate wind power technology, create a greater public awareness of renewable energy and educate its visitors and the public about the benefits of alternative energy for our region…The turbine is expected to provide an estimated seven percent of the Science Center’s annual electrical needs, but energy cost-saving is not the primary objective according to Science Center President and Executive Director Linda Abraham-Silver. “The project brings our mission of demonstrating the interrelationship between science, the environment and technology to life,” said Abraham-Silver. “We decided to install the turbine on our front lawn for its visibility – for pedestrians visiting North Coast Harbor attractions, motorists on the Shoreway and downtown workers and visitors. We want to raise awareness, engage curiosity and encourage discussion, just as we do with our indoor signature exhibits and programs.”

According to, “Cleveland's Great Lakes Science Center installed a 225 kW Vestas V27 wind turbine in 2006 on the city's harbor front between the Cleveland Brown's football stadium and the science museum. The V27 is no longer manufactured and this unit was bought used and then reconditioned. The Science Center has done an excellent job of installing the turbine to maximize its aesthetic appearance and the unit provides a dramatic visual attraction on the city's harbor front skyline.”

The turbine has been up and running for a while, and adds a real point of interest to the area. Recently, during a very windy weather pattern, some were perplexed as to why the turbine wasn’t moving. After all, you'd think that lots of wind would make lots of power, right? High winds, though, are not necessarily good for all types of turbines. Turbines like the one at the Science Center have a braking mechanism, which protects the turbine when winds reach speeds that could cause instability and damage. If you want to see what happens when a turbine fails, check out the video below, of a wind turbine in Denmark failing during a storm.

The Cleveland area could be a great location for more wind turbines. With the almost constant breeze off Lake Erie, and the equally almost constant hot air coming from local politicians, we should have no shortage of air moving. Let’s bring in more turbines!

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