The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center is comprised of a museum, a library (the first presidential library in the country, for the record) and Spiegel Grove, the house that Hayes and his family lived in. The entire complex is located in Fremont, Ohio.
Hayes was the country’s 19th president. He is sandwiched in between two other Ohio Presidents – Ulysses S. Grant, and James Garfield. While Hayes has a muddled legacy (he famously ended the controversial acts of Reconstruction, but was also a fan of the Gold Standard) one thing is for certain – he left quite a physical legacy behind. Part of this legacy is the Armaments Room in the Rutherford B. Hayes Museum. Most of the weaponry in this room was collected by Hayes’ son, Colonel James Webb Cook Hayes, commonly referred to as Webb Cook.
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Web Cook served in the Ohio National Guard for 20 years, and fought in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American War, and World War I. His service took him all over the world, and provided him with a chance to collect the many armaments in the museum – which he also is credited with starting.
The armament room in the museum is located below the bottom floor. You have to go down a set of stairs to reach the space, which is entirely enclosed, except for a door on one side. (Note: in 2016, the museum installed an elevator to make the room more accessible.)
The first thing that visitors notice when entering the room is the large cannon in the center. The walls are covered with glass-fronted display cases that contain everything from guns to bows and arrows. Some of the items were collected while Webb Cook was in the Philippines and China, so the objects are made in ways not seen in U.S. weapons.
The cannon is from China, and is made of wood and iron. It dates back to the Boxer Rebellion, which took place in Northern China around the turn of the 20th century.
There are also cannonballs up against the walls, all of the which are inscribed with information about the wars that they were used in. This one was used by the British during the War of 1812.
Others are from the U.S. Civil War, such as this one, which is from a brass cannon. There are a number of smaller musket balls in the collection, as well, plus an entire display case filled with bullet cartridges of various shapes, sizes, and ages.
Some of the bullets pictured here were made by different manufacturers, and obviously for different guns. Some of the guns are in the collection, and can be seen in other display cases.
One of the most interesting parts of the exhibit is a case containing swords. Some of these are from the Philippine-American War, and are made of unique materials in styles utilized by the various indigenous tribes in that country.
These are weapons used by Major General George Crook during the U.S. Civil War. Crook was a close friend of Hayes. The two men were such good friends that Hayes named one of his children after him – George Crook Hayes.
Another important namesake is the bell from the USS Spiegel Grove, a navy landing ship that was named after Hayes’ estate. The USS Spiegel Grove was decommissioned in 1989, and the ship’s bell was donated to the museum. It’s a fitting tribute to this past president, and a great addition the armaments room at his museum.
A tour of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Museum can take several hours, but it’s absolutely worth it. The armaments room is only one small part of this building filled with history.