Mummies & Elephants, Oh My!
Mummies & Elephants, Oh My!
Fantastic Tales from the Golden Lamb
by John Zimkus, Historian of the Golden Lamb
In the late 1920s, when a young Bob Jones purchased the “Lebanon House,” he had several goals for the old inn. Among them was to restore to the hotel its historic name — the “Golden Lamb.” Another was to make it a destination restaurant with a strong enough appeal to draw customers from beyond Lebanon, Ohio area.
He succeeded with both objectives.
Under Jones’ guidance, the Golden Lamb developed the stellar reputation it still enjoys today. Among its many recognitions, Cleveland Scene named the Golden Lamb an “Essential Ohio Destination Restaurant” and Food & Wine titled it as one of the “Best Classic Restaurants in Ohio.”
However, while Jones revitalized the inn to its former glory, its uniqueness has a history that dates back even further. Approximately 100 years earlier in the 1820s, another innkeeper attempted to make The Golden Lamb the 19th century equivalent of a destination restaurant. His name was Henry Share.
Henry Share was born Henrich Sherr in 1763 in the colony of Pennsylvania. In 1820, he and his second wife, Mary, took over the management of The Golden Lamb in Lebanon.
At the time, the hotel was about a quarter of its current size. Two stories high, it included what is today, the lobby, the Dickens Dining Room, the dining room section of the Black Horse Tavern and the guest rooms on the second floor.
Under Share’s direction, the Golden Lamb was known for its fine food. One “review” came after a Fourth of July dinner in 1826. The Western Star reported, “A large and highly respectable number of gentlemen sat down to a most excellent dinner prepared by Mr. Share. Too much praise cannot be bestowed on Mr. Share for the elegant preparations he made for the occasion.”
Two years later, in 1828, the paper reported that at Washington’s birthday dinner guests “sat down to a sumptuous collation prepared at the Golden Lamb Hotel by Mr. Share in his best style.”
Henry Share, however, was not satisfied. He wanted to increase business. To him, the answer was to introduce theatrical and sideshow attractions.
In February 1824, Henry advertised in The Western Star that a “Grand Natural Curiosity — A large & learned female elephant will be exhibited at Mr. Share’s in Lebanon...Hours of exhibition from 9 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. Good music at the time of performance. Admittance 25 cts. Children under 12 half price.” ($0.25 in 1824 would have a buying power of about $6 today.)
In August of 1824, Henry brought to Lebanon its first theatrical troupe. Its leader was a young Edwin Forrest. With his dynamic voice and very athletic approach to acting, Edwin Forrest would eventually become the first true star of “the American theatre.” Henry Share is said to have “hastily constructed [a] theater, in the hall of the Golden Lamb Hotel,” what is now part of the Black Horse Tavern. The cost of a ticket: 25 cents.
On April 10, 1830, The Western Star announced, "Egyptian Mummy — To be exhibited for a few days only, in the new frame building on the public square, near Mr. Share’s Hotel...[The Mummy] stands in the back part of the coffin, wrapped with numerous thicknesses of the twined linen of Egypt… The proprietor flatters himself, that no person who has not seen a Mummy, will let this pass without viewing it. Admittance: 12 ½ cents.”
Side Note — The “12 ½ cents” coin was referred to as a “bit” was equal to one-eighth of a Spanish dollar. This is why the U.S. quarter is sometimes referred to as “2 bits.” The Spanish dollar, also known as a "piece of eight,” could be used as legal tender in the U.S. until the passing of the Coinage Act of 1857.
Despite all these “attractions,” though, Henry Share was perhaps proudest of the fare his Golden Lamb offered.
In 1827, he advertised in various newspapers within 100 miles of Lebanon that his hotel was “not excelled by many in the West, [and] he will endeavor by diligent attention to provide his table with the best the country affords, and his bar with the choicest liquors.”
Today’s Golden Lamb pledges to its patrons many of the same fine amenities… minus the occasional elephant or mummy!