John Amato, left, and Josh Wagy display the winning slogan that won the Toledo Commerce Club’s competition in 1913. A much larger sign was first illuminated on Dec. 17, 1913, on top of the Valentine Theatre. The two created a pro-Toledo party today at Wesley’s Bar & Grill, 1201 Adams St.
Happy “You Will Do Better in Toledo” Day.
It might be a head scratcher if you were not among the thousand-or-so people invited to the #YouWillDoBetterInToledo Day Facebook event or if you haven't seen the buzz on other social media sites for the inaugural celebration of civic pride and a still-popular city slogan of yesteryear.
Even if a virtual invitation hasn't made it to your inbox, you’re still invited.
The entire Toledo-loving population is welcome and the two young entrepreneurs behind the movement are hoping that will include all of the 285,000 people who call this city home.
At the very least, they’re hoping for a social-media movement of tweets and Instagrams and Facebook posts tagged with #YouWillDoBetterInToledo to create a database of just how people do better in Toledo.
“Essentially, what it’s going to do is create this space where you can go and see and hear all of these great things that people love about Toledo, and that’s a good thing for Toledo right now,” said John Amato, a Toledo native and owner of JupMode, a T-shirt and screen printing company in Perrysburg. “We need to be reminded why we love Toledo and this slogan, ‘You will do better in Toledo,’ is so positive.”
The slogan was one of more than 7,000 entries to a contest sponsored by the Toledo Commerce Club.
In 1913, the slogan was made into a massive lighted sign and presented to the city by the Toledo Railways & Light Co., according to You Will Do Better in Toledo: From Frogtown to Glass City, a book published by The Blade that incorporates postcards that capture Toledo’s vibrancy and quality of life 100 years ago.
The size of the sign varies based on the source: anywhere from 78 feet by 68 feet to 100 feet by 58 feet, and reportedly weighing 25 tons.
According to Blade archives, the sign had 7,000 light bulbs that blinked out the message, and featured illustrations that include a freighter ship and a train that highlighted the city’s transportation facilities.
"You Will Do Better in Toledo" original sign.
On Dec. 17, 1913, an estimated 8,000 people met on downtown’s St. Clair Street, between Madison Avenue and Adams Street, to watch as the sign on top of the Valentine Theatre, was lit for the first time, according to Blade archives.
The sign stayed in place until 1926 when the Commerce Club moved its offices from the Valentine to the Safety Building.
What, exactly, happened to the sign is unknown.
Today, 100 years later, Mr. Amato, 31, prints a T-shirt that bears the slogan — it’s his most popular design.
In that way, the slogan lives on. It is also prominently displayed at Wesley’s Bar & Grill, 1201 Adams St.
The bar is also hosting a happy hour, starting at 5 p.m. today, to celebrate the awesomeness of Toledo.
“All the things we’re doing in Toledo about making it a more exciting city and a good place to live, it all comes back to little things like this,” said Mr. Amato. “We look at our history, and history of our city, and we realize that we’re of the age and generation that we need to be creating the great things to happen for our city and this slogan has to ring true for people in order for that to happen.”
Just as people are meeting at the bar, Josh Wagy, 34, of SmashToledo.com, who has teamed with Mr. Amato on the planning and preparation, will show a short video featuring Toledoans of all walks of life sharing their favorite parts of Toledo — the Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo Zoo, Mud Hens, Walleye, and Metroparks, and some of the lesser-known nooks and crannies.
“I just think there’s a lot of opportunities that people overlook in Toledo, and I suppose that’s the big thing for me,” Mr. Amato said.
Already, the festivities are having ripple effects.
Monday night, a group of about a dozen people met downtown to discuss interest in rebuilding the sign, fund-raising, and a permanent home.
“I think that when it was built in 1913, it had a completely different message,” said Adam Sattler.
He was one of several people who thought about a sign rebuild, referring to the focus then on transportation and industry.
“It feels like, in the last 10 years … people have this renewed sense of Toledo pride and the sign, if it was rebuilt, takes on a completely different meaning,” he said.