Cleo-Redd Fisher Museum of the Mohican Historical Society
Upon entering the Cleo Redd Fisher Museum of the Mohican Historical Society, the first thing I noticed was a Hotchkiss Gun, a gas-powered machine gun designed in 1893 by Austrian cavalryman Adolf Odkolek von Augezd that was used primarily in World War I. My impulse was to take a closer look but I got sidetracked by something odd. No one was around. I called out and made a quick walkthrough of the first floor but not a soul did I find. Seeing a staircase going up, I climbed it and on the second floor found the two Kens. One, Ken Libben, was the museum’s curator, the other a volunteer.
Volunteer Ken did not give a tour per se but he wandered about and stepped in to demonstrate how some of the museum’s artifacts worked, such as the 1927 Reproducto Player-Piano-Organ that was once used to produce music for silent movies in Loudonville’s Ohio Theater. Guided by a paper reel, this self-playing instrument was quite loud and, surprising considering its age, in tune. Another item Ken showed off was a model village made by Walker Lee from nearby Perrysville. Having took twenty years to build, it is filled with moving parts and qualifies as both a mechanical wonder and a work of art.
With this being a family friendly museum, I was surprised to see a Vibro-Life Vibrator on display. It was supposedly used to cure female “hysteria” in the Victorian Age. The accompanying information sign reported, “Hysteria was a ‘catch-all’ diagnosis … caused by a mythical fluid thought to turn poisonous when in the womb for too long … that was originally ‘relieved’ manually by doctors.” Doctors, it went on to say, performed this procedure so often that their fingers cramped, prompting the invention of a mechanical substitute.
This idea first appeared in Rachel Maines’ 1999 book The Technology of Orgasm. Since then it has cropped up in popular culture, documentaries, articles, and books. Although some writers disputed parts of her book, it wasn’t until a 2018 article by Hallie Lieberman and Eric Schatzberg that appeared in the peer-reviewed Journal of Positive Sexuality that Maines’ “hypothesis” (which she insists was no more than this) was thoroughly debunked. They looked at her sources and found them wanting, determining that doctors rarely performed this treatment on women.
Although Loudonville was never a hotbed of industry, in 1913 one of its most successful enterprises, Flxible, was founded by Loudonville native Hugo H. Young, a Harley-Davison dealer, and his partner Carl F. Dudte. Two years earlier Young had invented a much safer motorcycle sidecar with independent suspension that kept it on the ground when the motorcycle turned sharply or negotiated tight curves. Incorporated in 1914, the Flxible Side Car Company capitalized at $25,000. Its first rented factory space in Mansfield had a limited production capacity that stymied the company’s growth.
Enter Charles Kettering. His investment of $160,000 allowed the company to construct a much larger factory in Loudonville from which it was able to build sidecars for sale around the world. During World War I it made them fitted with machine guns, and when the GIs who rode in them came home, they bought their own. The popularity of the Flxible sidecar faded as more people purchased Model Ts. It also didn’t help that in 1925 a national ban on motorcycle sidecar racing was enacted, this having been prompted by a series of accidents.