Ohio Historical Markers Program

Day 3: Marking Ohio History is a Remarkable Achievement

Many Ohioans get their history not only from books or their teachers, but the signs that dot the state’s highways and streets.

For 52 years, the Ohio Historical Society’s Ohio Historical Markers Program has been a vital and vibrant educational tool that informs residents and visitors about significant aspects of Ohio’s past. Ohio Historical Markers, located in every county in the state, identify, commemorate and honor the important people, places, and events that have contributed to Ohio’s rich history. The Ohio Historical Society works with local partners and sponsors to produce historical markers. These partners, such as local historical societies, choose topics, research historical materials, draft marker text, and submit applications for markers.

History on a Stick

The markers, made of cast aluminum and erected along roadsides in all 88 counties, pay tribute to Ohio’s natural wonders, Native Americans and settlers, government and politics, entertainers and artists, athletes, inventors, struggles for freedom and equality, business and industry plus other diverse topics.

“Ohio has many things to appreciate, even to brag about,” said William K. Laidlaw, Jr., executive director and CEO of the Ohio Historical Society. “Historic markers have transformed our landscape into a history lesson of interesting places, people and events.  These signs are a passport to the state’s historic places like Serpent Mound in Adams County, the birthplace of Thomas Edison in Erie County and to the Battle of Fallen Timbers in Lucas County. They are a vital educational tool, informing residents and visitors about significant aspects of Ohio’s past.”

About the Ohio Historical Markers Program

In 1953, the Ohio Sesquicentennial Commission began erecting Corporate Limit Markers, the blue, Ohio-shaped markers erected at a town’s or city’s corporate limits noting in 13 words or less something historically significant about the place. By 1957, however, many people felt these brief descriptions were not enough to describe all the historically significant events, people or sites within a community. The original Markers Committee, developed by the now decommissioned Sesquicentennial Commission, established the Ohio Historical Markers Program to be coordinated by the Ohio Historical Society.  The new markers could have 90 to 300 words on them to denote significant events, people, and sites in or near communities.

The first Ohio marker, erected in Akron in 1957, tells of the significance of Portage Path, the famous portage or carrying-place between the Cuyahoga and Tuscarawas rivers, to the settlement of Ohio. At the close of 2007, there are more than 1,200 markers statewide that provide a tangible record of Ohio’s history.

“Although the Ohio Historical Society sets standards to ensure that the subjects of Ohio historical markers are historically significant and that the information included on the markers is accurate, the program is a true grassroots effort where local people decide what’s historically important about their communities and work together to make the marker a reality,” Laidlaw said.

The program, administered by the OHS Local History Office, allows individuals, public agencies or private organizations to nominate historic properties, persons and events of significance on a local, state or national level for consideration. Nominations should address at least one important aspect of Ohio’s historical, natural or physical development in one of the following areas: history, architecture, culture, archaeology, ethnic associations, natural history or folklore. The text for the marker is researched and written by the nominator. Once approved by the Ohio Historical Society, the sign is then manufactured by Sewah Studios in Marietta.

A grants program was established in 2006 to help organizations and communities defray the cost of historical markers. Up to 20 marker applications each year are selected to receive $750 to defray the total cost of a historical marker, which ranges from $1,900 – $2,150.

“History is important,” Laidlaw said.  “Knowing the past helps us know ourselves and our place in today’s world.”

Visit www.remarkableohio.org and plan your next history vacation in Ohio.

Local History: Worth the Investment

Ohio’s historical markers program is recognized as one of the best and most democratic in the nation. State funding for the Ohio Historical Markers is leveraged to attract nearly $100,000 of private revenue, nearly doubling the state’s investment. However, if OHS funding for this longstanding local history program is cut, no more new markers will be erected and Ohio will not be so remarkable any more. Please contact your legislators today and ask them to support the Ohio Historical Society’s Marker Program.

Tomorrow: Meet Two Mules and General Harrison…


2 Responses

  1. I was born in Ohio and still consider it as my home state, even though I haven’t lived there for many years. We moved to Virginia when my father enlisted in the U.S. Army and was stationed at the beginning of World War II. He had served in WW I and was a recipient of the Silver Star and Distinguished Cross. He donated his uniform and other items to the Ohio History Museum. as the Harold J. Gordon Collection. So I have a very personal interest in all things Ohio.

    Please keep me informed about any progress you make and any suggestions you have about how those of us who are concerned but no longer reside in Ohio, may help.

    Thank you.

  2. Does anyone know the history of the historical markers in Ohio that were apparently erected by historical society(s) other than the Ohio Historical Society? The one I know of is at the site of the Millfield Mine Disaster in Athens County and although the 1980 marker states The Ohio Historical Society, they have no record of it. OHS does know of the existence of “several of these throughout the state.” The background is generally black instead of brown and they were not manufactured at Sewah Studios. I am a graduate student at Kent State who would appreciate any information.

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