A Match Made in Cleveland: Corydon Bell and Thelma Harrington

Corydon and Thelma H. Bell
Corydon and Thelma H. Bell | Source
Thelma Harrington, about 1915, before she married
Thelma Harrington, about 1915, before she married
Corydon Whitten Bell
Corydon Whitten Bell
Thelma Bell's first book, with illustrations by Corydon Bell
Thelma Bell's first book, with illustrations by Corydon Bell | Source

Once upon a time, in a faraway land called Ohio, a baby boy was born to a railroad station agent and his wife. It was July 16th, 1894, the town was Tiffin, and the railroad man was Alvin J. Bell. He and Lillian Snyder Bell named their baby Corydon Whitten Bell.

Two years later and a hundred miles north of Tiffin, Mr. and Mrs. James Harrington of Detroit, Michigan welcomed a baby girl and named her Thelma. It was the 3rd of July, 1896, still a few years before Henry Ford would introduce horseless carriages (automobiles) to America. James B. Harrington was an insurance agent and his wife Sarah stayed home with the children, apparently teaching them the value of art and literature. One of Thelma’s sisters became a librarian and another a teacher at the local art school. Thelma herself was destined to become an author.

Back in Tiffin, little Corydon was growing up and dreaming of the big city, riding the trains with his dad and probably hanging around the station. By the time he was a teenager, the family had moved to Franklin Street in Sandusky, about forty miles away, and became part of a blue-collar community.

He enrolled at the University of Michigan in 1913, but after a year of study, got an opportunity to attend Western Reserve University in Cleveland, where he began to develop an interest in medicine, and where he also met a fellow student named Thelma Harrington.

War has a way of disrupting lives all over the globe, and World War I certainly had an impact on Corydon and Thelma. He attended Army Medical School from 1917-1918, and served as a Medical Corps bacteriologist and instructor during the war. Thelma was finishing her education at WRU, graduating in 1919 with a double major in Psychology and English. In 1931 she produced her first book, Black Face, a story about a black-faced lamb.

After the war, Thelma went to work as an advertising copywriter in Cleveland. After a couple of years, she and Corydon married and built a house in Shaker Heights. While their three children were growing up, they both worked in the commercial advertising industry. Corydon had decided against a medical career after his wartime experiences, and worked as an illustrator of his wife’s books, until World War II was underway and he was in his fifties, when he began writing his own books.

In 1944 this interesting and prolific couple moved from Cleveland to “an old farm in the mountains of western North Carolina”. The town of their choice was Sapphire, N.C., near Qualla reservation where he visited with Cherokee Indians and wrote about them. In the 2004 edition of Contemporary Authors, he is quoted as saying, "Immersed in undiluted nature on our remote mountain, I evolved the idea of writing about some of the fundamental aspects of natural science. The result was The Wonder of Snow, Thunderstorm, and The Riddle of Time. John Rattling-Gourd of Big Cove was written as the result of many delightful conversations with my Cherokee friends on the neighboring Qualla Reservation." Bell's is the first collection of these legends to appear in print since the 1890's.

Corydon Bell passed away in June 1980 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Thelma Harrington Bell passed away in May 1985, also in Knoxville.


Books by Thelma Harrington Bell

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Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America

These are very interesting people form my own state and I am glad to learn about them. As a child, I one time saw the book cover of "Black Face" in the library book sale but never had a chance to read it.

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