history

Stateside
6:59 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

What's on tap? The Detroit Drunken Historical Society

Detroit Drunken Historical Society's recent meet-up explored the Belle Isle history
Credit User: UpNorth Memories - Donald (Don) Harrison / Flickr

Some organizations these days are having a hard time getting new people involved. Classical music groups have been struggling to appeal to new fans. And plenty of arts and culture groups have a tough time attracting members.

It turns out, historical societies are also having a tough time. And that’s something that Michigan Radio’s Kyle Norris has been looking into.

Norris says the problem is that these societies tend to be older, and getting new blood is not going so well in general.

But that’s not an issue for Amy Elliott Bragg, a co-organizer for the Detroit Drunken Historical Society.

It's a meet-up group that hosts monthly activities at local bars in Detroit for people to come out and learn about history. Bragg says there's no commitment, the gatherings are easy to attend, and all are welcome.

“We have found that there are people who might not be immersed in the library in their historic text all night, but they enjoy history, they are interested in it. They want to weigh in,” says Bragg.

* Listen to the interview with Amy Elliott Bragg above.

Stateside
5:20 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

The rise and fall of Michigan's Northland Mall

Northland Mall in the early years
Credit User: Michelle Welter‎ / facebook

“If you want to talk about the shopping mall, there are two things you have to talk about: the car and Detroit."

That’s NPR business reporter Sonari Glinton, who’s looking into the history of malls for a series with youth radio.

In his series, Glinton used Northland Center in Southfield as "exhibit A" of the rise and fall of the American mall.

Northland was one of the first shopping malls in the region. Glinton says its opening represented the moment of change for Detroit.

“1954, when this mall was opened, was the peak of receipts in downtown Detroit. It's as if they built this mall and said, OK, we're moving to the suburbs."

The glory days of Northland were the 1950s and '60s. And for decades, malls in general have been an icon of American life.

Today, the mall is threatened by the Internet and changing consumer expectations.

But that doesn’t mean the malls are necessarily dying. As Glinton explains, “They are going through a transition, and we are going to see the difference in the years to come.” 

* Listen to the interview with Sonari Glinton above.

Arts & Culture
7:15 am
Thu August 21, 2014

3 things struggling historical groups can do to attract more people

Guests at a Romanian wedding reception in Detroit in 1936.
Credit Metro Detroit Ethnic Communities Collection/Walter P. Reuther Library

There’s a joke that historical organizations are stuck in the past when it comes to how they do things. You know, like they don’t have a grasp on using social media, and their museums and events are outdated and uninspiring.

And that joke might extend to the people who run historical organizations – many of whom are senior citizens and have often run their group in the same way for a long time.

Read more
Stateside
6:23 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

Revisiting a moment in time at Michigan's drive-in theaters

The Capri Drive-In in Coldwater, Michigan is still operating in 2014.
Credit User: All Things Michigan / Flickr

Whether you were a little kid jumping into your pajamas before Mom and Dad loaded up the station wagon, or a teenager looking for a little "privacy" on a date, the drive-in theater could be a pretty magical place.

The very first drive-in opened in New Jersey in 1933. But it sure didn't take long for Michiganders to catch on to drive-ins. They opened up in virtually every corner of the state.

Harry Skrdla channeled his happy boyhood memories of going to the drive-in to come up with a book for the Images of America series. It's called Michigan's Drive-in Theaters.

Read more
Arts & Culture
4:48 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Detroit celebrates its 313th birthday next week

Credit Detroit Historical Society

Detroit turns 313 years old next week. The Detroit Historical Society is celebrating with a week's worth of programming beginning tomorrow. 

July 24th marks the day when the French explorer Antoine Cadillac landed on what would later become the city of Detroit.

Each day the group will host a different event- including storytelling, a classic car show, and film screenings.

Bob Sadler is with the Detroit Historical Society. He said celebrating the city is especially important now.

"And based on Detroit’s history of being a hard-working, very creative and entrepreneurial town, I have every reason to believe that we’re reinventing ourselves again," said Sadler. 

Some of the events include: Arsenal of Democracy, Detroit is America’s Motor City, The Streets of Old Detroit, and one of the newer exhibits, the Gallery of Innovation. 

The Detroit Historical Museum is in Midtown Detroit. All of the week's events are free.

– Reem Nasr, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Stateside
5:47 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Michigan fish hatcheries, then and now

A state hatchery in Grayling, MI
Credit Don...The UpNorth Memor / flickr

In early July, state officials approved a significant expansion of a northern Michigan commercial fish hatchery’s operations after requiring additional measures to protect the cherished Au Sable River. It got us wondering: how important are fish hatcheries in the Great Lakes State and what is their role?

Gary Whelan joined us today. He is with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources where he's a Research Program Manager.

Whelan said the first hatcheries began in the early 1870’s. Even back then, fishery resources were in decline. The habitat loss was frightening. Fish were difficult to find, and commercial fishermen weren’t doing very well. One of the responses was to build fish hatcheries.

Today, there are six state hatcheries and three federal hatcheries in Michigan.

Whelan pointed out that fish hatcheries can help bring the lakes into balance.

“Using salmons in water where we have way too many prey species can make it into a balanced system that functions properly, ” Whelan said.

* Listen to our conversation with Whelan above.

Arts & Culture
10:40 am
Wed July 16, 2014

A delicate piece of art history in Jackson, Michigan is geting a little help

Glass mural with moving lights from the foyer of the old Consumers Energy building in Jackson, Michigan, shortly before the building was demolished
Credit Chrystal Weesner / Pinterest

A piece of Jackson’s art history, which narrowly avoided the wrecking ball, may soon have new life.

The 28' x 9' glass mural depicting the history of electric power hung in Consumers Energy’s old Jackson headquarters for more than four decades.   

Preservationists were able to save it from the wrecking ball that brought the building down last year. The mural was disassembled and has been in storage ever since.

The plan now is to reconstruct the glass mural, replace its internal lighting system, and build a new outdoor display to house the mural.

The mural would be placed on the grounds of a new city park being built on the site of the old Consumers Energy headquarters.

“We hope to be able to have the new mural in place by….this time next year,” says Grant Bauman, whose part of the team working on the project.

He says the glass mural will add to the mix of public art in downtown Jackson.

This month, the project received a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Organizers still need to raise about $200,000 for the glass mural project.

A Consumers Energy spokesman says the company has contributed to the preservation of the mural in the past, but has not committed to donating to the current project.

Stateside
11:14 am
Mon July 14, 2014

This Michigan woman was a conductor on the Underground Railroad

Laura Smith Haviland in about 1879.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

When you think of the Underground Railroad, one name you may not recognize is Laura Smith Haviland.

She helped many slaves escape from the South to freedom, and she was from Michigan.

Michigan was a crucial stop on the Underground Railroad.

Before and during the Civil War, many Michiganders helped slaves escape to freedom in Canada by crossing the border in Port Huron or Detroit.

In 1832, Laura Haviland co-founded the Logan Female Anti-Slavery Society and the Raisin Institute, which became a safe space for African American fugitives of slavery and attracted black settlers in Michigan.

In the 1840s and 1850s, Haviland traveled between Michigan, Ohio, and Canada assisting slaves in escapes, teaching African American students, and making public anti-slavery speeches.

Southern slave owners had a $3,000 reward for her capture.

Tiya Miles is chair of the Department of African-American Studies at the University of Michigan and will be a keynote speaker at the National Underground Railroad Conference being held in Detroit this week.

“Laura Haviland was an incredible woman, and she is someone who faced daunting challenges that you and I - I don’t think, could ever imagine,” Miles said.

Miles said that women were not expected to be independent and involved in political issues at this time. There was a lot of criticism of her from her fellow abolitionists. She was seen as someone who outright rejected the conservative gender roles.

The National Parks Service is hosting its annual conference on the Underground Railroad in Detroit from July 16 to July 20. The theme is "Women and the Underground Railroad."

*Listen to the full interview above

Stateside
5:20 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

University of Michigan professor uncovers surprising history of "The Star-Spangled Banner"

U of M School of Music, Theater and Dance Professor Scott Piper and pianist Michael Carpenter at Stamps Auditorium, performing "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Credit Courtesy of Mark Clague

It’s one of the most stirring and glorious melodies ever sung – and it can be one of the easiest tunes to sing badly.

But did you know that our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” started out as an English club song? And it has officially been the national anthem for less than a century?

Mark Clague is a musicologist with the University of Michigan. He’s been working on a project, “Poets and Patriots: A Tuneful History of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’” 

Today, he shared some of that history with us.

* Listen to the full interview above. 

This segment originally aired on February 12, 2014.

Stateside
12:01 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Where do auto museums flourish? Surprisingly, not in Michigan

All F1 Car story in Automobiles Museum of Turin
Credit Wikimedia Commons

There are many different auto museums – some dedicated to displaying cars with unique engineering and designs, and others dedicated to displaying the automobile’s impact on society.

Michigan's auto museums have had little success. Flint’s "Autoworld" theme park closed two years after opening, and the Walter P. Chrysler Museum closed its doors recently.

Europe has had a different experience.

Autostadt, which means “auto city” in German, is in Wolfsburg, Germany. It averages about two million visitors per year. BMW and Porsche also have notable museums in Germany.

Why do auto museums in Europe succeed, while those in the auto capital of the world have not?

“Europeans seem to have such a deep bond with their vehicles,” says Paul Eisenstein, publisher of  The Detroit Bureau. “They are seemingly more interested in the mechanicals and what have you. They have a tendency to be drawn to automotive exhibits, museums, parks, and everything at a much greater rate than Americans are.”

*Listen to our interview with Eisenstein at 3 p.m. today. We'll post the audio for that interview here around 4:30 p.m. 

Stateside
11:49 am
Wed July 2, 2014

"Autoworld" opened its doors in Flint 30 years ago

1913 Studebaker Type 35 Model AA, Autoworld Brussels
Credit Wikimedia Commons

30 years ago, "Autoworld" opened its doors on July 4, 1984 in Flint, Michigan.

It was an indoor theme park and museum dedicated to preserving and spreading automotive achievements.  

Bill Shea, editor and reporter for Crain’s Detroit Business, said that the attraction wasn’t that popular and visitors were confused about what Autoworld was.

Was it supposed to be a museum or a theme park?

This led people to ask why a group of people invested $80 million into the endeavor.

Organizers hoped Autoworld would revitalize the inner city of Flint, develop Michigan’s tourism industry, and preserve the automotive history in the city.

But, in 1987, the attraction closed its doors permanently. Here's a video of them imploding the building from ABC News:

*You can hear our interview with Bill Shea today at 3 p.m. We'll add the interview to this post at 4:30 p.m.

Stateside
7:38 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

Sharing the songs that saved your life

You get a taste of a bigger story as people mention the songs that saved their lives, such as this one – Summer of '69 by Bryan Adams.
Credit User: Klaus Hiltscher / flickr

Today we’re starting a new series about music. We’re calling it "What’s the Song That Saved Your Life?"

Stateside’s Kyle Norris asked a lot of people that question. She found that sometimes they have an immediate answer. And other people really have to think about it.  Kyle talked with folks at a bowling alley in Wayne, Michigan, and shares their responses.

*Listen to full interview above.

All this week we’re going to hear from people who say one song saved their life. And we want to hear from you. Do you have a song that saved your life? Tell us the story! Call us and let us know at 248-962-3806. And you can also use #song-saved-me on twitter. Stateside's Kyle Norris produced our series, and she may even use your story on the air.

Opinion
10:16 am
Fri June 13, 2014

Detroit pulled off a miracle during WWII; can it do the same thing today?

For months, we’ve been embroiled in Detroit’s bankruptcy and attempts to save what there is worth saving.

It is hard to pick up any national publication without finding stories about Detroit, few of them good. There are a spate of new book titles too, which mostly chronicle the city’s decline and fall.

Yet I’ve just been reading an utterly fascinating and inspiring new book about a time when Detroit really did save, or at least help save, the world.

The book, just published by Houghton Mifflin, is The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Ford Motor Company, and Their Epic Quest to Arm an America at War.

This is a book with characters larger and more bizarre than life. It tells the story of a Detroit-based triumph that the experts said was impossible. And every word in it is true.

Read more
Stateside
5:05 pm
Mon January 20, 2014

Preserving today's digital record for future generations

SpecialKRB / flickr

Think, for just a moment, of the many ways we capture moments of our lives and share them with everyone.

Snap a photo on your smartphone and in seconds, it's up on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram for friends, family and followers to see.

But what is going to happen to those moments and memories someday in the future when Instagram or Tumblr or Facebook or Flickr no longer exist?

Read more
Stateside
4:29 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Michigan historian tells us how polio shaped FDR's presidency

One of the few photographs of Franklin D. Roosevelt in a wheelchair. Taken at Top Cottage in February 1941.
user Doco wikimedia commons

Michigan historian James Tobin has written a new book on Franklin Delano Roosevelt and how polio shaped the president he became. FDR was our 32nd president, and on his Inauguration Day, in the darkest days of the Great Depression, FDR sent out a timeless challenge to Americans.

*Listen to the audio above.

Arts & Culture
4:31 pm
Thu October 31, 2013

Want history, architecture and beheadings? Try Detroit's haunted bike tour

Outside Wheelhouse Detroit.
Mercedes Meija Michigan Radio

Wheelhouse Detroit, a bike shop right next to the Renaissance Center, puts on all sorts of guided bike tours through the city — tours of churches, urban agriculture, and painted murals. But for those looking for something, well, a little more creepy, the shop also offers a haunted bike tour that takes brave riders through cemeteries, ghostly spots, and long-gone homes with a murderous past.

The ride takes you to the cozy, produce-filled confines of Eastern Market down to St. Aubin Street, which, as the tour guides will tell you, was once a hot spot for the Purple Gang, a gang of bootleggers and hijackers who ran booze from Canada to Detroit. The gang, which got its start when Michigan banned alcohol in 1917, remained active up until the early 1930s.

Read more
Stateside
5:09 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

Remembering the Lewis Brothers Circus based in Jackson, Michigan

Ella Sharp Museum

In 1929, Paul and Mae Lewis founded the Lewis Bros. Circus.

The traveling circus was based in Jackson, Michigan and traveled throughout the state. They even went to Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, dazzling small towns with exotic creatures and acrobats.

I sat down with Grace Wolbrink. She’s a professional storyteller who collected memories from the family.

“The circus was a world that was different…they had animals that came from other countries that nobody could see. And so life was around the small towns, but the circus helped them cross into another world and dimension that way,” said Wolbrink.

Paul and Mae’s nieces, Barbara and Winona Stanton, toured with the circus during the summer as young girls. Barbara’s stories helped create a museum exhibit about the Lewis Bros. That exhibit is currently on display at the Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson, Michigan.

Read more
Arts & Culture
12:14 am
Mon July 1, 2013

Michiganders taking part in Gettysburg sesquicentennial

This painting depicts the Iron Brigade at Gettysburg. Composed partly of the Michigan 24th, it played a prominent role in the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, repulsing the first Confederate offensive.
Artist Don Troiani

A large number of civil war re-enactors from Michigan are in central Pennsylvania this week to mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Michiganders heard the first shots fired at Gettysburg.   And they were there a few days later, as the Confederates launched the ill-fated Pickett’s Charge, which failed to break the Union lines.

Don Everette is among the Michigan civil war re-enactors in Gettysburg this week.

He says he’s been to previous re-enactments of Pickett’s Charge that were highly emotional.

Read more
Stateside
5:37 pm
Wed June 12, 2013

Hamtramck is no stranger to hardship, according to a city native

Andrew Jameson Wikimedia commons

An interview with Greg Kowalski, chairman of the Hamtramck Historical Commission.

One of the cities that has been in the headlines of late is Hamtramck. The 2.1 square mile city within the city of Detroit is facing a financial emergency and the prospect of once again being under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager.

But facing tough times is nothing new to this tiny but tough enclave. And, starting from its beginning as a home for Polish immigrants, Hamtramck continues to be one of the most diverse communities in the entire state.

We wanted to find out more about the unique history of Hamtramck, and so we turned to someone who was born in Hamtramck.

Greg Kowalski’s family roots in the city go back to when his grandfather first arrived, and he's the chairman of the Hamtramck Historical Commission. He joined us today to discuss Hamtramck’s unique past.

Listen to the full interview above.

Newsmaker Interviews
4:16 pm
Tue January 22, 2013

The Jemima Code uncovers real life of African-American cooks

Author and journalist, Toni Tipton-Martin visits Ann Arbor.
Website screen shot. http://tonitiptonmartin.com/

For many people, the name Aunt Jemima immediately brings a certain image to mind - pancakes anyone? The image -- with the broad smile, round face, and hair wrapped in a bandana -- is powerful, and often controversial.

Author Toni Tipton-Martin examines the image of Aunt Jemima through the recipes and histories of real-life African-American cooks. The Jemima Code is a blog, book project, and traveling art exhibition that looks beyond the bandana.

Tipton-Martin will be a special guest at Zingerman’s 8th Annual African-American dinner tonight. She will also present a special talk on food and diversity on Wednesday January 23rd at 7:00pm. You can visit this link for more information.

Pages