Stories of
Cleveland’s Pioneers

While there are many great pioneers in Cleveland’s past, these are summaries of a few of the people and stories you’ll learn about in Dan Ruminski’s talks and on this site.

The Storyteller’s presentations are the result of research, passion and great satisfaction relating to Cleveland’s exceptional history from 1875 to about 1929.

Millionaires' Row and Cleveland Firsts

Millionaires’ Row was more than the center of the world’s wealthiest people in its heyday. During the gilded age, there were many inventions and firsts including:

  • The first traffic light was patented by Garrett Morgan, with the first one installed at the corner of East 9th and Euclid.
  • The first automobile sold in America, the Winton, by Alexander Winton in 1898.
  • The first billionaire in the world was one of Cleveland’s most famous residents, John D. Rockefeller.

Millionaires’ Row has always been one of Dan’s most popular talks, but his research has continued to uncover new information and insight design to educate, impress, and amaze audiences. The new people Dan will talk about will highlight how Cleveland changed the world, making the audience proud of its unique and meaningful history.

Winton Auto Ad

Laura Mae: From Fortune Hunter to Heroine

The Cleveland Storyteller’s new talk focuses on a true heroine that has been largely ignored by history. Laura Mae started as a laborer, was dismissed by Millionaires’ Row society as a gold digger, and later hobnobbed with royalty. But that only tells part of the story. The Cleveland Storyteller will share:

  • The want-to-be socialite who outsmarted The Avenue’s finest
  • Her legendary parties and feats
  • Her redemption as the American Angel during World War II and heroic efforts

This new talk will make you wonder why Hollywood hasn’t turned this into a movie!

Laura Mae Corrigan

The Avenue, Cleveland's Millionaires' Row

The Cleveland Storyteller’s new talk looks at daily life on Cleveland’s Millionaires’ Row in the late 1800s to early 1900s. The Avenue includes tales of Rockefeller’s secret passion, scandals, and a want-to-be socialite who outsmarted all. The new talk features tales of:

  • John D. Rockefeller’s secret passion
  • Scandal on The Avenue
  • The ghost of Julia Drury, who many claim to still see today

This new talk is sure to entertain and leave a lasting impression.

Sleigh Races on The Avenue

The Famous and Infamous Women of Cleveland's Millionaires' Row

Much has been written about the men of Millionaire Row—John D. Rockefeller, Samuel Mather and his brother William, Mark Hanna and Thomas Howard White to name a few—but for the most part little is known about the wives of these great individuals. Dan Ruminski, Cleveland’s Storyteller, thought it time to feature some of the better known women of the time, including:

  • Mrs. Rockefeller, her accomplishments and influence on her husband
  • Cassie Chadwick, an outlandish swindler, who died in prison
  • The Storyteller’s personal experiences with the ghost of Julia Drury

These are fascinating tales you’ve probably never heard that will both enlighten and entertain.

Cassie Chadwick, Swindler

Millionaires Row ~ Euclid Avenue

  • A story that will amaze in its scope, wealth and effect on Cleveland, Ohio.
  • A personal side of the great avenue and how it came into being
  • That which created also destroyed, the rest of the story
  • What made Euclid Avenue unique?
  • What were the residents like, other that extremely wealthy?
  • Were they much different than you and I?

Euclid Avenue, Early 1900s

The Famous Whites of White Sewing Machine and White Motors

  • A very personal look at this genius of the Thomas Howard White Family
  • A detailed account of his sewing machine company and The White Motor Company.
  • A look at the grand homes and estates that were created from wealth earned
  • Surprise revelations about the individuals that made up this famous White family

Walter C. White, 1929

The Famous Whites of White Sewing Machine and White Motors

  • A very personal look at this genius of the Thomas Howard White Family
  • A detailed account of his sewing machine company and The White Motor Company.
  • A look at the grand homes and estates that were created from wealth earned
  • Surprise revelations about the individuals that made up this famous White family

Walter C. White, 1929

The Great Estates of Wickliffe ~ Millionaires Mile

  • A story that ties Cleveland to the now famous movie The King’s Speech
  • The Four families ~ A very personal touch for I knew Mrs. Boler ~  Frank Rockefeller’s daughter
  • Learn in great detail of how four Wickliffe estates’ owners became involved in a story that would rival any Greek tragedy
  • Once heard, one will never look upon Wickliffe, Ohio the same way again

Frank Rockefeller

The Francis Drury Story, Drury Theater and The Cleveland Playhouse

  • A very personal presentation of a man and his family few know about
  • Learn details of this building of his great Cedar hill Farm, now Gilmour Academy and his great home on Millionaires Row across from the playhouse.
  • A great story with an unexpected ending
  • The Drury connection to John D. Rockefeller

Francis Drury

The John D. Rockefeller Story Myth Verses Fact

  • Surprising details of Cleveland’s wealthiest citizens
  • Learn where folklore and fact differ in a most fascinating story of great ambition, success and charity
  • Hear about John D.’s passions, his  unusual disease and what he really thought of Cleveland at the end of his life

John D. Rockefeller

The Theatrical, a Very Famous Cleveland Landmark

  • Short Vincent Street and the Theatrical Restaurant were featured in the movie, “The Danny Green Story.”
  • The Theatrical, a Cleveland landmark, was a place where men met future wives, lawyers and those pursued by the law, sat to have lunch or dinner. Movie stars and the great entertainers of the day mingled there on an everyday basis.
  • Hear how some of our nation’s greatest entertainers got their start in Cleveland, Ohio.
  • Learn about the beginning and sad ending to this legendary place.

The Theatrical

Did You Know?

This series of stories will give you a glimpse into Millionaires’ Row and Cleveland’s greatness in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We invite your comments, or if you have your own stories to share, please contact Dan with the form on this page.

The Avenue

Cleveland’s Millionaire’s Row, Euclid Avenue, was one of the grandest streets in all world history. This is my conclusion based upon hours and hours of research.  That being said I probably could write or talk about this great Cleveland legacy for months and months. And indeed I do give up to 40 speeches a year on Cleveland’s Millionaire’s Row and its residents. But today my purpose is somewhat different. I thought it might be of interest to the reader to learn about little known facts about the “Row” and the very original families that made Euclid Avenue their home at this time, 1845-1929.

This process of informing will be done on a very regular basis in the hopes that our reader will keenly look forward to new additions of rarely known facts about “The Avenue.”

Thus, let regularity begin today with our first gem of information. It is our wish that you write, call or email us if you enjoy these items, or care to share something about them.

Did You Know?

The name “The Row” or Millionaire’s Row first came into existence as it applied to the group of mansions on Euclid Avenue between East 20th and 40th Streets. Today and for a long while now the definition has expanded to include the 4-mile length from Public Square to East 105th street.

Most are unaware that the “Row” over its lifetime contained over 300 homes most of which we today would consider mansions. Some were built and torn down and then on the same ground a newer, bigger, more expensive version was built. Thus there may not have been a time when all 300 or so could be viewed at once. We speak of a cumulative number.

No wonder Mark Twain considered Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue one of the grandest streets in the entire world.

Price McKinney Mansion

John D. Rockefeller

Did You Know Cleveland’s World Famous Euclid Avenue, Millionaire’s Row contained over 300 mansions, about 250 up at any one time? Many were built and torn down, property sold and a new one was built.

If you were truly somebody in Cleveland during this period, 1870 – 1929, you built your mansion on the north side of the street. This would allow you to see Lake Erie from the back of your home.

John D. Rockefeller, Cleveland’s wealthiest citizen, was not one to stand on ceremony. Thus, he purchased his home on the south side of Euclid Avenue and East 40th streets for a mere $40,000.00 in 1868. Most homes on Euclid Avenue, just a short time after, were valued at many times over what Jon D. spent.

Some 11 years later, 1879 Rockefeller purchased a mansion next door to him, moved it around the corner so that he now had a country estate of over 2 acres to enjoy.

John D. Rockefeller had in his will that the family home was to be torn down upon his death. The land was then sold and turned into a parking lot and a gas station, not one of Standard Oil’s.

John D. Rockefeller, Age 74

Augusta National Golf Club

Did you know that a famous resident of Cleveland’s’ Millionaire’s Row was one of the founders of what I believe to be one of the most famous and truly beautiful golf courses in all the world.

Francis Drury founder of the Cleveland Play House lived with wife Julia on Euclid Avenue at Euclid and East 87th Streets. Francis and wife wintered at their grand home in Augusta, Georgia. As it turns out Francis Drury knew famous golfer Bobby Jones. In the late 1920’s and early 1930’s Bobby began and finished his dream, the building of now famous Augusta National Golf Club.

Bobby needed funds to fuel his dream and thus approached 28 of his friends with an investment opportunity. Each contributed $5000-$25,000, the funding Bobby Jones needed to complete the dream.

Francis Drury, investor, also it is said, traveled with Bobby Jones as he played golf in Europe. Francis Drury liked nothing more than to support young people who were dedicated to their dreams. This was the case with not only Bobby Jones but, the young folks dedicated to forming what became one of the greatest little play houses in all the land, The Cleveland Play House.

Francis Drury

Life Savers and Other Cleveland Innovations

What little candy with a hole in the center, invented here in Cleveland, made enough money to allow the buying of American Broadcasting Company?

Clarence Crane of Cleveland invented Life Saver candy. In 1913 Ed Noble from New York purchased Cranes Candy Company for $2900.00. Thirty years later in 1943, Noble bought ABC for $8,000,000 cash with proceeds made from Life Saver candy.

The early Cleveland area had many innovations in food products early on which became national success stories. For example Harry M. Stevens was the first person to think of wrapping a frank forte in a piece of bread. The name “Hot dog” came from an actual dog, a dachshund, in 1900.

A fellow by the name of Dr. James H. Salisbury was the inventor of Salisbury steak. A medical research doctor by profession, it appears the good doctor liked his beef.

Cleveland chemist Graham W. Clarke was the first to liquefy carbonic acid gas that made the soft drink industry possible.

Yes, early Cleveland was involved in all things inventive. Many thanks to the late Earl R. Hoover and his book, “Cradle of Greatness,” for documenting so much about our early Cleveland.

Clarence Crane