Wooster theater proprietor Ed Mott and the ‘Coffin Caper’

A few years ago, Wooster historian Harry McClarran sent me several old newspaper articles about Ed Mott – the theater owner who showed films in Wooster for more than 50 years.

One of the articles was written by the late Daily Record columnist Elinor Taylor and was all about Mr. Mott’s “Coffin Caper”. Another article about the event was written by former Daily Record Editor Vic Dix.

I found the story fascinating.

‘Bury Hitler Here’ coffin placed at Schamplatz

It was the summer of 1942 and, to encourage sales of war bonds during World War II, Mott had the DC Curry Lumber Co. build a wooden coffin. A local funeral home provided authentic hardware and handles for the box, and the coffin was then painted with the words “Bury Hitler Here”.

On July 1, the coffin was displayed in the Wooster public square and a large crowd gathered. Anyone who has bought a war bond or a stamp must drive a nail into the coffin. Within a few hours the wooden box was almost covered with nail heads.

“Bands played, sirens blew and bells rang,” explained Taylor. “Planes flew over town, dropping leaflets saying ‘This could have been a bomb’.”

Over $ 2,000 worth of bonds had been sold in 15 minutes and the sound of hammering was constant. By July 18, two weeks later, Wayne Countians had purchased more than $ 125,000 worth of bonds and postage stamps.

Continuation: The coffin is lost

However, Taylor went on to state that there was an amusing – if unfortunate – sequel to Bond and Stamp Drive. When it was over, Mott had the nail-embedded coffin returned to Schines Wooster Theater on East Liberty Street, where it was kept in the basement.

Twenty years later, the 83-year-old theater exhibitor had the coffin dragged into the lobby so that it could be photographed. After a janitor removed the accumulated dirt, the coffin was temporarily placed in front of an exit door.

“Then,” said Taylor, “someone with a perverted sense of humor walked away with the box.”

So … if you ever come across a coffin covered with nails, you will know the story behind Ed Mott and the infamous “Coffin Caper”.

Cities formed

A 2005 Wayne County Historical Society exhibition on transportation listed the following local towns that arose as a result of the railroads:

• Orrville – Founded by Robert Taggart in February 1851, where Cleveland, Mount Vernon and Columbus crossed Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago. Both lines later became part of the vast Pennsylvania Railroad.

• Shreve (Clinton) – Planned January 8, 1853 by Stewart and Dan Foltz in Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago.

• Creston (Pike Station) – Clad on May 12, 1865 by Isaac Wells and BV Benjamin at the crossroads of the Atlantic and Great Western, and Wheeling and Lake Erie.

• Rittman (Milton Station) – Plated on December 31, 1869 by Joseph Knupp and Henry Elliott in the Atlantic and Great Western.

• Sterling (Amwell, Russell Station) – Clad in January 1880 at the junction of the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Western, and Lake Shore and Tusky Valley.

For your information

One of the oldest buildings in Wayne County is the Morgan Homestead north of Moreland, where the county’s first wedding took place on April 12, 1809. It was the wedding of Rebecca Morgan and Thomas Butler. (Incidentally, during the ceremony, the Indians burned down the nearby log cabin of the groom’s family.)

I thought you should know

Columnist Ann Gasbarre can be reached at agasbarre@gmail.com or 330-345-6419.

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