Happy Father’s Day from Ohio Memory!


“Papa, Ed and Sam,” taken in northeastern Ohio, ca. 1900.

Last month we celebrated mothers on Ohio Memory, and this month it’s time to recognize the fathers in our state’s history, in honor of Father’s Day on Sunday, June 17th. Interestingly, Father’s Day wasn’t declared a national holiday until 1972–almost 60 years after Mother’s Day got the congressional nod of approval!

Courtesy of The Thurber House via Ohio Memory

Now on to the fathers who can be found in our Ohio Memory digital collections. Seen at right is the Thurber family of Columbus, Ohio, with author, cartoonist and humorist James in the back at center. He stands directly behind his father, Charles, a man with ambitions of being an actor or lawyer, but who struggled financially working as a government clerk and minor politician.

Charles was said to have been the basis of the slight, timid man who appeared often Thurber’s stories, and he also features heavily in Thurber’s autobiography My Life and Hard Times. A particularly funny episode is “The Night the Bed Fell,” in which Thurber recounts how, during his childhood, the noise of a tipped army cot led the family to believe Charles had been crushed by a large wooden headboard in the attic (don’t worry, he was safe!)


Courtesy of the National African American Museum and Cultural Center via Ohio Memory

The photograph above, taken ca. 1930, shows Bishop Dougal Ormonde Beaconfield Walker (1890-1955), who served as 10th president of Wilberforce University and 66th Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The daughter leaning over his shoulder, Yvonne Walker-Taylor, followed in her father’s footsteps when she was named the 16th president of Wilberforce University in 1984. This important position made her the first female African American college president in the United States. It also made Reverend Walker and Yvonne the first father-daughter presidents of an American institution of higher education!

Courtesy of Wright State University via Ohio Memory


Another father with famous children can be seen here on the left. Milton Wright wasan influential clergyman for more than fifty years as Bishop of the United Brethren in Christ Church. But he was also more notably the father of two boys named Orville and Wilbur (along with their siblings Reuchlin, Lorin, Otis, Ida and Katharine).

On Ohio Memory, you can see Milton’s diary entry for December 17, 1903, where he talks about receiving Orville’s telegraph about the brothers’ success flying their first aircraft in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Thanks to Wright State University, you can also read through digitized correspondence between Milton and his wife, Susan, as well as his own parents, Dan and Catherine.

Other famous fathers in Ohio Memory include: Jesse Root Grant, father of Civil War general and United States president Ulysses S. Grant, who operated a tannery in Georgetown, Ohio; Peter R. Taft, father of Ohio politician Alphonso Taft and grandfather to president William Taft; Loriston Fairbanks, whose son Charles was vice president to Teddy Roosevelt; and Neil Armstrong’s father Stephen, of Wapakoneta, among many more.

Take a look through Ohio Memory to see who else you can find, and Happy Father’s Day to all of you dads out there, past and present!

Thanks to Lily Birkhimer, Digital Projects Coordinator at the Ohio History Connection, for this week’s post!

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