New Temporary Exhibit at National Museum of the Great Lakes

Posted Jun 14th, 2017 by Anna M. Kolin  Category: Other


Toledo, Ohio – The National Museum of the Great Lakes is pleased to announce a new temporary exhibit titled Col. James M. Schoonmaker: A Life Lived With Honor. The exhibit will explore the history of Col. James M. Schoonmaker, who was the original namesake for the museum ship operated by the National Museum of the Great Lakes. The exhibit kicks off with an Opening Reception on the 175th Anniversary of Schoonmaker’s birth on Friday, June 30 at 6:00pm. The exhibit will be on display through the month of July and will be included in the cost of admission. There will be a special MEDIA PREVIEW on Friday, June 30th from 10-11am.

“If you search for Col. James M. Schoonmaker, the first fifty entries are about the boat. We think people should understand the history of this American hero and entrepreneur. This exhibit is going to do that with rare images and incredible artifacts.” stated Christopher Gillcrist, Executive Director of the National Museum of the Great Lakes. “Included in the list of rare artifacts is the Colonel’s Medal of Honor—the highest military honor available.”
Among the artifacts included in the exhibit are:

· The Colonel’s Medal of Honor (on loan from the Virginia Military Institute, Lexington City, VA)
· A Confederate Saber taken by Schoonmaker from a captured officer (on loan from Sailors and Soldiers Memorial Hall, Pittsburgh, PA)
· Manuscript material from the J. M. Schoonmaker Coke Company
· Manuscript material from the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Company
· The Colonel’s retirement gift from Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Company
· A Schoonmaker signed P&LE Stock Certificate to Charles Vanderbilt, who later died in the sinking of the Lusitania

Since so little is publicly known about the Colonel, we’ve included a listing of facts below to help illustrate the incredible life of Col. James M. Schoonmaker.

· Col. Schoonmaker rose from Private to Colonel in less than two years. It is considered the fastest increase in rank in US military history.
· Col. Schoonmaker, as a Lt., planned, organized and carried out what many thought was a suicide mission to burn the railroad bridge at Rapidan Landing in Virginia.
· Col. Schoonmaker led a cavalry brigade in the largest cavalry charge in American history at the Third Battle of Winchester.
· Col. Schoonmaker was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Third Battle of Winchester.
· Col. Schoonmaker, after the Civil War, became a businessman in the coal industry outside Pittsburgh. He sold his business to Carnegie ally Henry Frick in 1890 for $1,400,000.
· Col. Schoonmaker was appointed Vice President of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad and managed this most important railroad in American history for over twenty-five years.
· Col. Schoonmaker was chair of the Commission for the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and a personal friend of Robert Todd Lincoln.
· Col. Schoonmaker was an early advocate for the blind helping to establish a school for the blind in Pittsburgh.

The National Museum of the Great Lakes is owned and operated by the Great Lakes Historical Society. Founded in 1944, the Great Lakes Historical Society has been preserving our shared cultural history by publishing a quarterly journal Inland Seas since 1945; by operating a maritime museum and research library since 1952; by offering educational programs to the general public since 1956; and by conducting underwater archaeological research across the Great Lakes since 2001.

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Anna M. Kolin - The National Museum of the Great Lakes

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