Cleveland Characteristics – American Travel

BEFORE leaving home we were presented with a variety of gifts, ranging all the way from ear muffs to advice. Having some regard for the esthetic, we threw away the ear muffs, determining to buy ourselves fur caps when we should need them. But the advice we could not throw away; it stuck to us like a poor relation.

In the parlor car, on the way from Buffalo to Cleveland, our minds got running on sad subjects.

“We have come out to find interesting things—to have adventures,” said my blithe companion. “Now supposing we go on and on and nothing happens. What will we do then? The publishers will have spent all this money for our traveling, and what will they get?”

I told him that, in such an event, we would make up adventures.

“What, for instance?” he demanded.

I thought for a time. Then I said:

“Here ‘s a good scheme—we could begin now, right here in this car. You act like a crazy man. I will be your keeper. You run up and down the aisle shouting—talk wildly to these people—stamp on your hat do anything you like. It will interest the passengers and give us something nice to write about. And you could make a picture of yourself, too.”

Instead of appreciating that suggestion he was annoyed with me, so I ventured something else.

“How would it be for you to beat a policeman on the helmet ?”

He didn’t care for that either.

“Why don’t you think of something for yourself to do ?” he said, somewhat sourly.

“All right,” I returned. “I ‘m willing to do my share. I will poison you and get arrested for it.”

“If you do that,” he criticized, “who will make the pictures ?”

I saw that he was in a humor to find fault with anything I proposed, so I let him ramble on. He had a regular orgy of imaginary disaster, running all the way from train wrecks, in which I was killed and he was saved only to have the bother and expense of shipping my remains home, to fires in which my notebooks were burned up, leaving on his hands a lot of superb but useless drawings.

After a time he suggested that we make up a list of the things we had been warned of. I did not wish to do it, but, acting on the theory that fever must run its course, I agreed, so we took paper and pencil and began. It required about two hours to get everything down, be-ginning with Aches, Actresses, Adenoids, Alcoholism, Amnesia, Arson, etc., and running on, through the alphabet to Zero weather, Zolaism, and Zymosis.

After looking over the category, my companion said:

“The trouble with this list is that it does n’t present things in the order in which they may reasonably be expected to occur. For instance, you might get zymosis, or attempt to write like Zola, at almost any time, yet those two dangers are down at the bottom of the list. On the other hand, things like actresses, alcoholism, and arson seem remote. We must rearrange.”

I thought it wise to give in to him, so we set to work again. This time we made two lists: one of general dangers—things which might overtake us almost any-where, such as scarlet fever, hardening of the arteries, softening of the brain, and “road shows” from the New York Winter Garden; another arranged geographically, according to our route. Thus, for example, instead of listing Elbert Hubbard under the letter “H,” we elevated him to first place, because he lives near Buffalo, which was our first stop.

I did n’t want to put down Hubbard’s name at all—I thought it would please him too much if he ever heard about it. I said to my companion :

“We have already passed Buffalo. And, besides, there are some things which the instinct of self-preservation causes one to recollect without the aid of any list.”

“I know it,” he returned, stubbornly, “but, in the interest of science, I wish this list to be complete.” So we put down everything: Elbert Hubbard, Herbert Kaufman, Eva Tanguay, Upton Sinclair, and all.

A few selected items from our geographical list may interest the reader as giving him some idea of the locations of certain things we had to fear. For example, west of Chicago we listed Oysters, and north of Chicago Frozen Ears and Frozen Noses—the latter two representing the dangers of the Minnesota winter. So our list ran on until it reached the point where we would cross the Great Divide, at which place the word “Boosters” was writ large.

I recall now that, according to our geographical arrangement, there was n’t much to be afraid of until we got beyond Chicago, and that the first thing we looked forward to with real dread was the cold in Minnesota. We dreaded it more than arson, because if some one sets fire to your ear or your nose, you know it right away, and can send in an alarm; but cold is sneaky. It seems, from what they say, that you can go along the street, feeling perfectly well, and with no idea that anything is going wrong with you, until some experienced resident of the place touches you upon the arm and says: “Excuse me, sir, but you have dropped something.” Then you look around, surprised, and there is your ear, lying on the sidewalk. But that is not the worst of it. Before you can thank the man, or pick your ear up and dust it off, some one will very likely come along and step on it. I do not think they do it purposely; they are simply careless about where they walk. But whether it happens by accident or design, whether the ear is spoiled or not, whether or not you be wearing your ear at the time of the occurrence—in any case there is something exceedingly offensive, to the average man, in the idea of a total stranger’s walking on his ear.

I mention this to point a moral. However prepared we may be, in life, we are always unprepared. However informed we may be, we are always uninformed. We gaze up at the sky, dreading to-morrow’s rain, and slip upon today’s banana peel. We move toward Cleveland dreading the Minnesota winter which is yet far off, having no thought of the “booster,” whom we believe to be still farther off. And what happens? We step from the train, all innocent and trusting, and then, ah, then

If it be true, indeed, that the “booster” flourishes more furiously the farther west you find him, let me say (and I say it after having visited California, Oregon, and Washington) that Cleveland must be newly located upon the map. For, if “boosting” be a western industry, Cleveland is not an Ohio city, nor even a Pacific Slope city, but is an island out in the midst of the Pacific Ocean.

Nor is this a mere opinion of my own. Upon the mastodonic brow of the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce there hangs an official laurel wreath. The New York Bureau of Municipal Research invited votes from the secretaries of Chambers of Commerce and similar organizations in thirty leading cities, as to which of these bodies had accomplished most for its city, industrially, commercially, etc. Cleveland won.

No one who has caromed against the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce will wonder that Cleveland won. All other Chambers of Commerce I have met, sink into desuetude and insignificance when compared with that of Cleveland. Where others merely “boost,” Cleveland “boosts” intensively. She can raise more bushels of statistics to the acre than other cities can quarts. And the more Cleveland statistics you hear, the more you become amazed that you do not live there. It seems reckless not to do so. The Cleveland Chamber of Commerce can prove this to you not merely with figures, but also with figures of speech.

Take the matter of population. Everybody knows that Cleveland is the “Sixth City” in the United States, but not everybody knows that in 1850 she was forty-third. The Chamber of Commerce told me that, but I have prepared some figures of my own which will, perhaps, give the reader some idea of Cleveland’s magnitude. Cleveland is only a little smaller than Prague, while she has about 50,000 more people than Breslau.

If that does not impress you with the city’s size, listen to this : Cleveland is actually twice as great, in population, as either Nagoya or Riga ! Who would have believed it ? The thing seems incredible ! I never dreamed that such a situation existed until I looked it up in the “World Almanac.” And some day, when I have more time, I intend to look up Nagoya and Riga in the atlas and find out where they are.

A Chamber of Commerce booklet gives me the further information that “Cleveland is the fifth American city in manufactures, and that she comes first in the manufacture of steel ships, heavy machinery, wire and wire nails, bolts and nuts, vapor stoves, electric carbons, malleable castings, and telescopes”—a list which, by the way, sounds like one of Lewis Carroll’s compilations..

The information that Cleveland is also the first city in the world in its record, per capita, for divorce, does not come to me from the Chamber of Commerce booklet—but probably the fact was not known when the booklet was printed.

Besides being first in so many interesting fields, Cleve-land is the second of the Great Lake cities, and is also second in “the value of its product of women’s outer wearing apparel and fancy knit goods.”

It is, furthermore, “the cheapest market in the North for pig iron.”

There are other figures I could give (saving myself a lot of trouble, at the same time, because I only have to copy them from a book), but I want to stop and let that pig-iron statement sink into you as it sank into me when I first read it. I wonder if you knew it before? I am ashamed to admit it, but I did not. I didn’t consider where I could get my pig iron the cheapest. When I wanted pig iron I simply went out and bought it, at the nearest place, right in New York. That is, I bought it in New York unless I happened to be traveling when the craving came upon me. In that case I would buy a small supply wherever I happened to be—just enough to last me until I could get home again. I don’t know how pig iron affects you, but with me it acts peculiarly. Sometimes I go along for weeks without even thinking of it; then, suddenly, I feel that I must have some at once—even if it is the middle of the night. Of course a man does n’t care what he pays for his pig iron when he feels like that. But in my soberer moments I now realize that it is best to be economical in such matters. The wisest plan is to order enough pig iron from Cleveland to keep you for several months, being careful to notice when the supply is running low, so that you can order another case.

Apropos of this let me say here, in response to many inquiries as to what the nature of this work of mine would be, that I intend it to be “useful as well as ornamental”—to quote the happy phrase, coined by James Montgomery Flagg. That is, I intend not only to entertain and instruct the reader but, where opportunity offers, to give him the benefit of good sound advice, such as I have just given with regard to the purchasing of pig iron.