Battleship Maine bathtub history interesting

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier.

 

By R.L. HEMINGER

 

The Hancock County Museum is now the home of the bathtub from the battleship Maine, which tub has been located in Findlay for nearly 60 years now.

The bathtub has had an interesting history over the last six decades. It has traveled about the community from time to time and it is now believed that it is in its final resting place.

It was on Feb. 28, 1913, that the bathtub arrived in Findlay. The Maine blew up in Havana harbor Feb. 15, 1898, triggering the Spanish-American War. Its equipment became available to members of Congress for distribution to their localities as mementoes of the affair.

Rep. Frank B. Willis, of Delaware, was the 8th Ohio member of Congress, and he arranged to get the bathtub for his district. Champaign County was then in the 8th district and Urbana, its county seat, became the recipient of the tub, which was understood to have been in the quarters of a Captain Sigsbee on the Maine. But Urbana did not seem to care much for the bathtub, club women of that city especially taking a stand against it as a war relic.

Rep. Willis then offered the bathtub to Findlay, and Mayor E.L. Groves accepted it on behalf of the city. This was in January 1913.

When Boston heard about Urbana not wanting the bathtub, it entered an appeal for the fixture, pointing out that Captain Sigsbee’s home was there. But Boston’s claim did not succeed. Urbana had been given some cannon shells and some brass from the Maine in place of the bathtub, it seems.

Mayor Groves sought the interest of local patriotic societies in the bathtub, asking them to raise funds for shipment of the tub to here from Urbana, the latter city refusing to pay the bill and also deciding to hold the tub until its 10-inch shells from the Maine put in their appearance there from Washington. The shipping bill came to $4.63.

Finally on Feb. 28, 1913, the bathtub arrived over the Big Four railroad from Urbana.

“Now that the bathtub is in Findlay, no one knows exactly what to do with it,” said the Morning Republican of March 3, 1913. “For the present it will be stored in the city hall. The tub has been viewed by many persons. Its appearance makes it easy to believe that it was under water for some 14 years.”

The bathtub continued to remain at the municipal building for the time being. A year after its arrival here, it was still at the city hall, awaiting final disposition of some kind.

“Since its arrival a year ago, efforts have been made to find a suitable location for the mounting of the relic, but with waning interest in historical collections, the article has been practically forgotten,” said the Morning Republican of Feb. 15, 1914. This refers to the fact that the bathtub arrived here not long after Findlay and Hancock County had celebrated the 100th anniversary of Fort Findlay in the summer of 1912.

Lima heard of Findlay’s delay in doing something with the Maine bathtub and started a movement for removal of the tub from Hancock to Allen County, but nothing came of these plans, it appears.

There were many suggestions as to just what to do with the bathtub. Riverside Park was suggested as a place to have it permanently located.

Findlay Spanish American War veterans eventually entered the picture and began to raise funds with which to make possible a permanent suitable location for the bathtub. Burt Dukes started work on a case for the relic, when the county commissioners gave their permission to place the tub in the lower hall of the courthouse. The case was to be largely of glass.

The 17th anniversary of the destruction of the Maine was appropriately observed by placing the bathtub in its new glass case and installing the case in the courthouse, where it was located in the corner of the left wing of the first-floor hallway. Into the case also went an American flag which had been presented to Company A, Ohio National Guard, when it left Findlay in 1898 for the Spanish American War. The flag had been given to the company by the Findlay Bicycle Club.

The bathtub relic stood in this location in the courthouse without any marking for quite a time until Joseph Swab, courthouse custodian, finally placed a card on the case, explaining the background.

The case was moved on Dec. 11, 1929 from the courthouse first floor to the rotunda on the second floor, where it was situated for some years until it was given to Findlay College’s museum. The college museum continued to possess the bathtub until some months ago when all the possessions of the college in its museum were turned over to the new county museum on West Sandusky Street. The bathtub is now on display there. Again, we’re indebted to (the late) Don Smith for the data with regard to the Maine bathtub.

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