Made in Michigan

An original Raggedy Ann doll.
User: Muskegon Heritage Museum

If there's been a little girl in your life at any point, chances are pretty good that Raggedy Ann made her way into your home.

The cloth doll with the yarn hair and the candy-cane-striped stockings has been a part of America's toy scene for a century.

Raggedy Ann has some very strong roots in West Michigan.

Anne Dake is a curator at the Muskegon Heritage Museum. She says almost 90,000 Raggedy Ann dolls were handmade in Muskegon from 1918 to 1926.

According to Dake, the story of Raggedy Ann began when cartoonist Johnny Gruelle's daughter found a red doll at her grandmother's house. They painted her a new face, and Gruelle's daughter named it "Raggedy Ann."

"Her iconic smile, her joy ... Every time you see one, you can't help but smile and be happy," says Dake.

* Listen to our conversation with Anne Dake.

User: Matt Carey / Flickr

The Aeron Chair: It's the instantly recognizable mesh-backed, ergonomic office chair.

Nearly seven million Aerons have been sold to date by the Herman Miller Company of West Michigan.

But the chair that epitomizes today's office actually began life as something designed for a completely different consumer.

Don Chadwick and Bill Stumpf designed the Aeron for Herman Miller. 

Chadwick joined Stateside today. He says that the they believed that what had been done before and what was currently available would not satisfy their approach.

That's why they set out to take a totally different look at how an office chair looks, how it works, and how it responds to the environment it's to be used in.

"To be blunt, a lot of them were boring, because they were predictable," says Chadwick.

* Listen to the full interview with Don Chadwick above.

User: #96 / Flickr

    

It's hard to imagine driving without the guidance of the tri-color traffic light, isn't it?

Turns out, that tri-color light that keeps us from crashing into each other at intersections was the brainchild of a Detroit police officer.

Matt Anderson is curator of transportation at The Henry Ford museum complex. Anderson says there had generally been two lights – one telling us to stop and the other telling us to go. But William Potts, a Detroit police officer, found a way to make the lights safer.

“It was Potts’ inspiration to put in the third light, sort of amber caution, letting you know the signal change is imminent, so that you can prepare to slow down,” says Anderson.

Today, there are more than 3oo,000 intersections with traffic signals throughout the U.S.

And where was the first four-way traffic signal tower installed in the world?

It was at a corner of Woodward Avenue here in Detroit, says Anderson.

* Listen to the full interview with Matt Anderson above.

Andrew Filer / flickr

When you think of Jiffy Mix, you may think biscuits and corn muffins. But did you know they are also Michigan made?

Howdy Holmes is the president and CEO of Jiffy Mix. His grandmother is the one who started it all.

When Howdy’s father and uncle, Howard and Dudley, were young, they had a friend who was being raised by a single parent. The young boys invited their friend over for lunch, and he arrived with a bag lunch made by his dad. Howard and Dudley’s mother was concerned about what the father had made for his son.

“She opened the bag and right on top was a biscuit, which she said looked more like a white hockey puck,” Howdy said.

user: ParentingPatch / Wikipedia

One of the longest lasting durable brands on the store shelves in America is Gerber. 

Its Michigan's roots have been strong since the very beginning, in the town of Fremont.

The Gerber family came to Michigan in the mid-1870s, and by 1928 they began manufacturing baby food under the name Gerber Products Company. 

Aileen Stocks, head of integrated marketing for Gerber, joined us today to explore the company's Michigan roots.

*Listen to the full interview above. 

Carhartt was made in Michigan.
Carhartt / Facebook

Carhartt got its start in southern Michigan when the company's founder, Hamilton Carhartt, set out to make the best pair of overalls he could for railroad workers.

The company is still family owned and remains in Michigan.

We spoke with the company's current CEO, Mark Valade. He's Hamilton Carhartt's great-grandson.

Listen to our interview with him above.

Mark Sebastian / Flickr

The American office used to be rows of desks in a huge room with zero privacy.

All that changed when a Michigan-based company unintentionally invented the cubicle.

What led to the redesign of American offices?

We talk to Mark Schurman , of Herman Miller, to talk about how Michigan shaped the way offices across America look today.

Listen to full interview above.

The sweater that will be worn by the U.S. team at the closing ceremony for the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Stonehedge Fiber Mill

At the 2012 Summer Olympics, the U.S. team got a lot of criticism for wearing Olympic clothing made in China to the opening ceremonies. 

For the Winter Games, designer Ralph Lauren used American material. The yarn for the sweaters and hats that will be worn in the closing ceremonies at the Winter Olympics in Sochi was spun in East Jordan, Michigan.

Here's what the sweater and hats will look like:

 

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As the world watches the U.S. Olympic hockey teams in Sochi, they’re getting a good look at some real, made-in-Michigan artistry.

The masks worn by goaltenders Ryan Miller, Jimmy Howard, and Bianne McLaughlin were all painted by artist Ray Bishop at his shop in Grand Blanc.  

“I started painting masks mostly for young players,” said Bishop. “My first professional mask was for the Detroit Vipers.”

He worked his way up from there. This is not the first time Bishop's handiwork has been featured in the Olympics. He painted goalie masks in 2002, 2006, and 2010.

For this year's games, Miller’s mask features Uncle Sam holding the Sochi torch. Howard's has a stars-and-stripes pattern. Brianne’s mask sports the shield from the U.S. jerseys. 

“It really just gives you goose bumps ... to think how many people actually can see a piece of artwork that you’ve done," Bishop said. "I can say I’m pretty fortunate to have the opportunity to do it.”

You can listen to our conversation with Bishop below.


user andrewmalone / Flickr

Some might argue there's nothing more American than baseball. 

Well, did you know those Ball Park Franks that go with it are Michigan-made?

Back in 1958, the owners of Tiger Stadium were not happy with the hot dogs served at the games. So they asked Detroit-based company, Hygrade Food Corp., to come up with a better version. 

Gus Hauf, a Hygrade employee, had already developed his secret recipe for the hot dog that decade. His co-worker, Mary Ann Kirk, came up with the "Ball Park" name, cementing the relationship between baseball and hot dogs. For her out-of-the-park idea, Mary Ann earned $25 and a leather chair

"Michigan had kind of the best frankfurters in the country," said Joel Stone, the curator of the Detroit Historical Museum. "And the Ball Park was a perfect example of that."

Listen to the full interview above.

Screen capture from YouTube

The Sochi Winter Olympics are just days away.

One of the most popular competitions is undoubtedly snowboarding, which joined the pantheon of Olympic winter sports in 1998. 

But there might have been no Shaun White, the "Flying Tomato," grabbing Olympic gold for the U.S. without a man from Muskegon looking to give his little girls a reason to play outside in the snow.

The snowboard is another "Made In Michigan" story.

"I took these two small skis and put them side by side and put a brace across them to hold them together, and something to put your foot against," said Sherm Poppen.

Poppen was the dad who got creative in his Muskegon garage some 48 years ago. "We literally started sliding down a hill standing up."

His wife named the new toy "snurfer" by combining the words "snow" and "surf."

Fourteen years later, Jake Burton Carpenter came to a contest in Michigan and saw the snurfers. He then went back to Vermont to make his own "snurfboards." 

"I wrote him saying the word 'snurf' and any derivative thereof belongs to Sherman Poppen and if you want to keep making these things you're going to have to pay him a royalty," Poppen said.

"That was probably one of the dumbest things I ever did, because he stopped making 'snurfboards' and started making 'snowboards.'"

Here's a longer interview with Poppen:

We want to hear from you. What surprising things do you know of that were invented or made in Michigan? We want to feature them as part of our "Made in Michigan" series.

You know this guy, right?

The beloved Gumby was created by animator Art Clokey. His son Joe Clokey joined us on Stateside today to describe how Michigan inspired his dad to come up with Gumby.

Listen to our interview with him here: