25 Intriguing Facts About Ohio

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron / Chloe Effron

Was Ohio really the the "birthplace of aviation"? How did Dr. Seuss insult Lake Erie? And what, exactly, is a buckeye? Here are the answers to these and more of your burning questions about Ohio.

1. Ohio is known as “The Mother of Presidents” due to its knack for producing POTUSes: seven of our 43 presidents have hailed from there. For those playing along at home, that would be Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft, and Warren G. Harding. William Henry Harrison was born in Virginia but settled in Ohio.

2. While we’re talking about William McKinley, let’s discuss the state flower of Ohio. It was well-known that the 25th president liked to keep a red carnation in his lapel—in fact, he gave one away to a little girl just minutes before he was shot in 1901. To honor the assassinated president, Ohio later voted to make McKinley’s iconic scarlet carnation the official state flower.

3. At 900 pounds, the massive poplar tree drumsticks that honor Warren, Ohio's own Dave Grohl are the biggest in the world. After the city dedicated the drumsticks in 2012, Grohl tweeted his thanks: “To the wonderful city of Warren, from the bottom of my heart I'd like to thank you all so much ... For the childhood memories. For my family. For my very own alley. For the world's largest drumsticks! And for all of your support ... But most of all for being such a great community. One that makes me proud to say ... I am from Warren, Ohio!"

4. After seeing a pill-making machine quickly pop out pellets, Ohio candymaker Clarence Crane realized he could make mints with it the same way. The machine happened to have a defect that punched a hole in the middle of the round, but Crane capitalized on that fact by naming his new mints “Life Savers.” He sold his invention for just $2900 in 1913. Crane, by the way, was the father of famous poet Hart Crane.

5. Kelleys Island, located in the middle of Lake Erie, is where you’ll find Glacial Grooves State Memorial—the largest easily accessible set of glacial grooves anywhere in the world. The grooves are the result of glacier movement that dates back to the Pleistocene era; the largest one is 400 feet long, 35 feet wide, and up to 10 feet deep.

Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

6. Joining the likes of Loch Ness and Lake Champlain, Ohio has its own lake monster. “Bessie” was allegedly sighted several times in the 1980s and 1990s, with one family reporting that the serpent-like creature was up to 35 feet long. But if we’ve yet to find definitive proof of Nessie, proving that Bessie exists will be even harder—Lake Erie is more than 10 times as long as Loch Ness. Regardless, Ohio seems to have embraced its cryptid: The professional American League hockey team in Cleveland is called the Lake Erie Monsters.

7. Speaking of Lake Erie, it made it into—and out of—a Dr. Seuss book. Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, once referenced how dirty the body of water was. In early editions of The Lorax, Seuss addressed the plight of the “Humming-Fish,” saying, “They’ll walk on their fins and get woefully weary in search of some water that isn’t so smeary. I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie.” Conditions in the lake had improved by the 1980s, so employees at Ohio Sea Grant put in a request to Seuss to change his prose on that particular page. He complied.

8. The state flag of Ohio is unique in a particular way—it’s the only flag out of all 50 states' that isn’t rectangular. It’s believed that designer John Eisenmann may have been inspired by the shape of a pennant carried by the U.S. Cavalry. In addition to its unusual shape, there’s also quite a bit of symbolism in the flag. The red circle represents the buckeye, while the white ring around it is an “O” for “Ohio.” The triangles are meant to symbolize the state’s hills and valleys. The 17 stars remind us that Ohio was the 17th state to join the Union.

9. Presidents aren’t the only thing Ohio is good at creating. As of 2013, 25 NASA astronauts were from the state. Astronauts from Ohio have been the first to walk on the moon (Neil Armstrong), the first to orbit the Earth (John Glenn), the first woman to walk in space (Kathryn D. Sullivan), and the first to take a spacewalk from the International Space Station (Michael L. Gernhardt), among other illustrious achievements.

10. If just watching 24 hours of A Christmas Story isn’t enough for you, you can visit the Parkers' house and gaze upon Ralphie’s Red Ryder for yourself. The house where the movie was filmed in Cleveland is now a museum filled with authentic props such as the family car and Randy’s immobilizing snowsuit. Here's hoping you don't run into the Bumpus hounds.

Stacy Conradt

11. Ohio is one of the country’s leading producers of tomato juice, and is one of America's top producers of the juicy red fruits. (And now you know why tomato juice is the official state beverage.)

12. Columbus is home to an 8-foot, 600-lb, bronze statue of mostly-naked Arnold Schwarzenegger. But there’s a good reason for it. The depiction of Arnie from his bodybuilding days is an acknowledgement of the Arnold Sports Festival, an athletic and sports competition he started in 1989 with sports promoter and Columbus native Jim Lorimer.

13. Newark, Ohio, is probably the only place in the world where hundreds of people work in a basket.

Stacy Conradt

The Longaberger basket company headquarters is world-renowned for its distinct shape. The massive “Medium Market Basket” stands 7 stories tall and covers about 180,000 square feet, with handles that weigh more than 150 tons.

14. Thanks to the Wright Brothers, Ohio claims to be the "birthplace of aviation." But that claim is disputed by two other states. Contender #1: North Carolina. Although the Wright Brothers were from Dayton, Ohio, and made many prototypes in their bicycle shop on the west side of town, the famous Kitty Hawk flight took place in North Carolina. In 2003, however, Congress officially ruled that Ohio was the birthplace of flight, not NC. Then, in 2015, Contender #2 popped up. Connecticut lawmakers have recently argued that one of their own, Gustave Whitehead, beat the Wright Brothers to a successful flight by more than two years. Nothing has yet been resolved, but Ohio State Representative Rick Perales has asked his state to officially repudiate Connecticut’s claim.

15. The One and Only Presidential Museum in Williamsfield, Ohio (yes, that's its real name) contends that there were at least eight presidents before George Washington, and it’s the only museum in the U.S. that recognizes those pre-Washington leaders. (This may be a matter of semantics: there were other presidents, but they weren’t Presidents of the United States.)

16. Professional baseball was born in Cincinnati. Prior to 1869, baseball was mostly a game for amateurs. There were a handful of men who made a living playing the sport, but for the most part, it was strictly a fun side gig. Then the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings came along with their all-star starting lineup—all nine men were paid professionals. Their expertise certainly showed. The team embarked upon a road trip later that year where they played against any town willing to put a team together. The Red Stockings won all 57 games.

17. Cleveland may seem like a strange place for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but it makes more sense than most people probably realize. Alan Freed, a disc jockey at Cleveland’s WJW station, coined the term “rock and roll” on his radio show and was also instrumental in introducing a larger audience to rhythm and blues. New York City was also in the running, but in the end, Cleveland lobbied harder (and ponied up $65 million in public funding).

Stacy Conradt

18. You may have noticed that when people talk about the state university in Columbus, they often refer to it as THE Ohio State University. That particular “The” has existed since 1878, when the university switched its name from the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College. Although the “The” has always been there, university officials started placing an emphasis on it in 1986 to distinguish it from the other OSUs: Oregon State and Oklahoma State.

19. The first-ever police car was used in Akron, Ohio, in 1899—and it was an electric car, at that. The patrol wagon could travel about 30 miles on one charge and could reach speeds up to a whopping 18 mph. Its first assignment? To pick up a drunk guy.

20. The state of Ohio is chock-full of Aesculus trees, a genus that grows very large seed nuts. Native Americans noticed that the nuts resembled the brown, large shape of deer eyes, which is why Ohio is now known as the Buckeye State.

21. The Pennsylvania Dutch get all of the glory, but Ohio actually has the largest Amish population in the U.S. In fact, one expert believes that Ohio’s Holmes County will become the first majority Amish county in the U.S. within 10 to 15 years.

22. If you’re a fan of popcorn, you’re a fan of Ohio. The state is one of the top producers of popcorn in the U.S., which they celebrate every September at the world’s largest popcorn festival in Marion, Ohio.

23. Marion has another claim to fame: It’s where Ohio’s official state groundhog resides. Meet Buckeye Chuck, Ohio’s answer to Punxsutawney Phil. Chuck has been prognosticating since the 1970s, and has lately developed a penchant for predicting an early spring.

24. Metropolis, Illinois, may have the giant statue, but Superman was actually born in the Glenville neighborhood on the east side of Cleveland. That’s where two high school kids named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created the first-ever Superman comic strips. They later sold the rights to DC Comics for just $130.

25. You’ve heard of New York-style pizza and Chicago-style pizza. But how about Ohio Valley- or Steubenville-style pizza? While the biggest argument in NY vs Chicago pie is in the crust, the Steubenville difference lies in the cheese. Instead of layering it on and then baking, like the vast majority of pizzerias do, bakers of Steubenville-style pizzas toss the cheese on after the pie exits the oven. According to one pizzeria owner, this method better preserves the flavor of the cheese.