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Akron History Returns to Canal


City Of Akron News Release
July 2, 2003


The propeller of the airship Akron, the desk used by Dr. Benjamin Franklin. Goodrich, toy marbles by the hundreds and even a 1960's board game featuring Hugh Downs will beckon visitors to Lock 3 Park in downtown Akron during the 4th of July weekend.

"Akron: City of Invention" is a new exhibit of history and historic artifacts that opens Friday, July 4th in the O’Neil Commons area of Lock 3 Park.


"Akron has such a rich and diverse history of invention, innovation, and ideas that as we celebrate the country’s heritage, we wanted to showcase some Akron originals," said Mayor Don Plusquellic from his home. "This collaborative exhibit shows what is best about our city’s past and shows what Akron is still about today - - the origination of ideas that create jobs."


The exhibit features Akron’s industrial history and reveals the innovations that made Akron "first" in many areas for more than a century-and-a-half.

The Ohio & Erie Canal Corridor Coalition exhibit recalls Akron’s earliest industry---canal boat building. There is also an intriguing focus on the types of skills that were later transferred to bring about the construction of giant cereal mills when Ohio was America’s agricultural center (1865-1890). The display also highlights Akron’s glory period as the center for the design and manufacture of farm implements such as mowers and reapers that were made possible through patents for improvements to farm machinery by Lewis Miller.


The stand-up desk used by 19th century rubber company pioneer Dr. Benjamin Franklin Goodrich leads visitors at the exhibit into Akron’s pioneering days as the Rubber Capitol of the World. We also learn how the industry was supported by turn-of-the century tire-making machines used at Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. Visitors will enjoy seeing some of the industry’s early specialty tires including Harvey Firestone’s patented "non-skid" tread design are on display, along with the balloon racing tires that set world land-speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.


Some may not realize that Akron’s aerospace industry, created by Goodyear Chairman Paul Litchfield during World War I, remains very much alive today. Lighter-than-air vehicles used by the U.S. government remain an innovation being pursued at its Akron plant by Lockheed Martin.


The Akron-based Lighter Than Air Society exhibit features the propeller from the giant airship USS Akron, launched from the legendary Akron airdock in 1931, along with photos and memorabilia from the city’s 90-year history of building balloons, blimps, and airships.


The rubber industry’s contributions to what has been referred to as America’s "second" Manhattan project---the search for synthetic rubber---is remembered in exhibits devoted to the work of Goodrich scientist Dr. Waldo Semon, an inductee into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Interestingly, the Lock 3 site itself covers lands once occupied by two companies that helped put Akron on the map in the late 19th century as the center of manufacture of America’s quality clay products. The American Marble & Toy Manufacturing Co. was founded by Samuel C. Dyke who was truly the "father" of the American toy industry. Dyke’s vision put a handful of ceramic marbles---a simple manufactured toy--- in the hands of every child who had a penny. The company made one million marbles every day according to Michael Cohill, president of the American Toy Marble Museum, whose exhibits are also on display at Lock 3. There is even a ring for kids to learn the game of marbles!


Another bit of history…Merrill Pottery occupied the site of the M. O’Neil Department Store building prior to 1927. Made there were most of the clay smoking pipes used by the Union soldiers in Matthew Brady’s famous Civil War photographs. Merrill also produced ceramic beer bottles. Visitors to the exhibit will find artifacts discovered a couple of years ago during the removal of buildings along Main Street to prepare the Lock 3 site.

Akron collector David Blewette, president of the TV Dinner Club Museum offers innovations from the Saalfield Company, once the world’s largest publisher of children’s games and toys, including Akron-related items such as a game featuring Akron-born Hugh Downs.


The Museum site is separated in the O’Neil Commons space from students in the Lock 3 Summer Arts Experience by ornamental iron gates in storage for decades at the Summit County Historical Society and restored to life by Akron artists P.R. Miller and John Communale. The gates also provide an iron canvas for a montage of early tools, ephemera, and memorabilia about the city which greet vistors upon entering the museum space.


The City of Akron coordinated the new exhibit with the Summit County Historical Society, with generous contributions of labor and artifacts from: the Lighter Than Air Society, the American Toy Marble Museum, the University of Akron Archives, the Akron-Summit County Public Library, TV Dinner Club Museum, and the Ohio & Erie Canal Corridor Coalition.


The curator for the exhibit is Guy Pernetti of GMP Multimedia, who also serves as Director of the Kent Historical Society.


This week, hours are: Thursday, July 3 from noon-7; Friday, July 4, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturday, July 5, 10 a.m-7 p.m.


Following the Fourth of July Holiday weekend and running through Labor Day, the exhibit will be open during Lock 3 events: Thursdays beginning at noon; Fridays from 5 p.m.-7 p.m.; Saturdays from 9 a.m.-noon during the farmer’s market we call Homegrown Saturday Mornin’ and from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Saturday evenings.





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