139 Toledo, OH: The Black Swamp

After the museum, I headed back to the heart of Toledo. In 1833, two rival villages where the Maumee River comes in off of Lake Erie merged to form Toledo, named for the Spanish cathedral town famously painted by Van Gogh.

The local Natives defeated two U.S. armies sent to oust them but were finally defeated just outside Toledo at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, right near my uncle's house. The winning general was so ruthless and unpredictable that he was dubbed "Mad" Anthony Wayne, and many local streets, schools, and other institutions now bear his name.

Toledo was the Lucas County seat, named for Governor Robert Lucas, who championed Ohio's cause in the "Toledo War." Both Ohio and Michigan claimed this area. The Ohio legislature created Lucas County in 1835, and hurriedly convened the first court session knowing that the Michigan Militia was on its way to claim the land. Luckily, the Michigan Militia got lost in the local swamps. By the time they arrived, the Federal government had intervened in Ohio's favor and granted Michigan the Upper Peninsula as compensation.

During my visit, the city corners were dotted with the local variation of Chicago's 1999 "Cows on Parade" sculpture exhibit: frog sculptures. Toledo was founded in the Great Black Swamp. The muddy roads through here were so bad that this part of Ohio was developed 100 years after the rest of the state. It also earned Toledo the nickname "Frog Town" and their baseball team the moniker the Mud Hens.

In its heyday, Toledo was a key port with a shipbuilding company down on the docks, just like in Hopper's hometown of Nyack, New York. It was also known for the scales, auto parts, and, most of all, glass. In a downtown plaza, signs for "The Glass Capitol" honored the inventor of the first automatic bottle-making machine and other local inventions like glass tubing, fiberglass, and sheet window glass. In Hopper's day, plate glass was a relatively new invention. Glass making technology was fairly primitive until the late 1800s. Single plates were made in square forms that were essentially pans. The resulting panes were held together by grooved wood tracks called mullions. Machines that could roll out glass in long sheets only were invented around the turn of the century. For an artist in general and one as voyeuristic as Hopper specifically, this afforded a look into people's domestic scenes that was previously unthinkable. The lack of glare on Hopper's windows reflects how clear it might have looked to someone used to old mullioned windows.


sandylakeerie said...

Have you researched fishing in the Maumee River and Bay or do you know of anyone who has - also anything about Presque Aisle?

The Hopper Guy said...

I did not research that. Luckily, my brother fished the Maumee. He said March and April the walleye run and to use 3-inch white twister tails (Ohioans calls them pearly tails).