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Michigan history

Jeremy Sorrells / Flickr, http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The 2016 presidential election was one of the tightest in history, and nowhere is that more apparent than in Michigan.

According to the Michigan Secretary of State, Donald Trump won the state by only 13,107 votes. That’s a tiny .27 percent margin, the closest in state history.

When was the last time a race was so close in Michigan? Way back in 1940.  

This train wreck was big news at the time
Jodi Westrick/Michigan Radio

People from the Adrian area and local historians know the story of the “wreck on the Wabash.” But outside of those circles, the train crash that took place in 1901 isn’t especially well-known.

There are many tragic elements to this story and for a thorough sense of what took place, you can read historian Laurie Perkins’ book, “Wreck on the Wabash” (written under the name Laurie C. Dickens).

7,100 bodies are buried at the former Eloise mental hospital in Westland, near Detroit. But you'd never guess that from walking around the property.

That’s because the cemetery, which was never meant to be a traditional cemetery, looks more like an empty field. But look down, and you'll discover rows and rows of cement markers the size of large bricks with numbers stamped into them.

“This person buried here is number 5,632,” says Felicia Sills, as she gets on her knees and gently traces her finger over each number.

Courtesy of Lynne Settles

When Ypsilanti High School art teacher Lynne Settles first arrived in town, she was unaware of the city's history. After a walking tour with a local historian, Settles was amazed by Ypsilanti's rich yet little-known African-American heritage.

"I was totally blown away and shocked by how much history was here," Settles tells Stateside host Cynthia Canty.

That experience ultimately led her to organize students to work together to create murals to celebrate Ypsilanti's African-American history. 

With modern, accurate maps, it's clear how Michigan came to be known as "the Mitten State"
Ryan Grimes

It’s not hard to see why Michigan is often referred to as “the Mitten State,” but it is a little more difficult to figure out when folks actually started calling it that.

Stateside production assistant Cass Adair tells us he became curious about Michigan’s nickname over a Thanksgiving trip to Tennessee.

“John W. Hoag, Daguerrean Artist, Lansing, Mich., Dec. 14th, 1849.” This daguerreotype self-portrait with sign-board indicates the sitter’s profession. Likely the earliest known portrait of a Michigan photographer.
William L. Clements Library

There are many ways to revisit the stories of our past. Textbooks, journals and diaries, audio recordings and photographs – they all tell tales that might otherwise slip into the white noise of history.

David Tinder has been collection early Michigan photographs for all types for roughly 40 years now.

His collection of some 100,000 vintage images will be preserved at the University of Michigan Clements Library.

Tinder tells us he was always a collector of many things, but started gathering photos in 1964 when he bought a book on stereoviews.

Michigan State Capitol Commission

Future state Capitol historic preservation projects will benefit from a unique lottery next Monday. 

One hundred pieces of decorative stonework that have adorned the Michigan state Capitol for more than a hundred years are destined to become conversation pieces on people’s bookshelves and breakfast nooks.

The ornamental brackets, called modillions, were removed as part of a recent renovation at the Capitol. The decorative pieces have suffered significant damage from the weather during their century on the Capitol building.

The statue of Orville Hubbard at Dearborn City Hall was taken down today.
Anne B. Hood

Updated at 5:30 pm The city of Dearborn quietly removed a controversial statue of former mayor Orville Hubbard this morning. 

For years, the 10-foot-tall bronze monument stood outside of the City Hall building. 

Now, it’s on its way to the Dearborn Historical Museum.

Hubbard, who ran the city for more than three decades, from the 1940s through the late 1970s, was an outspoken supporter of segregation. 

By Umdet (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Many from the region may not know it, but Detroit once was home to a thriving financial district with its very own Detroit Stock Exchange.

Founder of HistoricDetroit.org Dan Austin recently wrote about this part of the city's history for the Detroit Free Press.

Logging camp near Cadillac, MI, ca. 1904
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM


There’s a new living history park in Whitehall that’s giving visitors a unique way to discover the history of Michigan.

Michigan’s Heritage Park is part of the Lakeshore Museum Center in Muskegon.

This section of the Mitchell Map, circa 1755, shows the area that is now Michigan
flickr user FotoGuy / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Just what is the Lost Peninsula?

Don Faber tells us it’s a little strip of land in the very southeast corner of Michigan.

And here’s the kicker: The only way to access it is through Toledo.

Faber tells us that when Michigan and Ohio were still young states, they each performed a geographical survey to determine their boundaries.

Ohio’s survey placed Toledo in Ohio. Michigan’s placed it, well, in Michigan.

What followed was the Toledo War, a short conflict that ended in military stalemate.

Screenshot/Chrysler

The Next Idea

In 2009, the headline of a Time magazine cover story read “The Tragedy of Detroit” with a shadowy photo of a blighted factory in the background. The national press was brutal.

Fruehauf Trailer Historical Society

The name “Fruehauf” is an iconic one in American transportation history. 

It was 1914 when a Detroit blacksmith named August Fruehauf came up with a creative way to help lumber barons haul even more lumber and make even more money.

The result became the semi-trailer. Its descendants can be seen to this day, rumbling across the highways of the world.

Ruth Ann Fruehauf is August’s granddaughter.

The press arrives to grab images of the Giant Tire.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

When we heard that the Automotive Press Association was holding an event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Giant Uniroyal Tire along 1-94, we couldn’t resist.

Not only because, well, it’s the GIANT TIRE – who wouldn’t want to see inside of it?! – but also because it gave us a chance to look into a question put to our M I Curious page.

The Michigan meridian is clearly visible in the map of Native American land cessions in Michigan.
wikimedia commons

This month marks the 200th birthday of something that helped make Michigan the state we know today.

It's the bicentennial of the Michigan meridian.

That north-south line was the reference point for the Michigan Survey. Every single piece of property in Michigan is defined by that meridian and two east-west baselines.

Wikimedia Commons / Wikimedia Commons

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most devastating weather events in Michigan history: the Palm Sunday tornado outbreak.

It happened with virtually no warning on April 11, 1965. Killer tornadoes smashed through the Midwest over a 12-hour span, killing 271. Michigan was one of the hardest-hit states with 53 deaths.

The U.S. National Archives on Flickr / Flickr

Patricia Majher's book Great Girls in Michigan History profiles 20 girls in Michigan who accomplished great feats before the age of 20.

Majher says while the girls were from all over the state with different areas of expertise, they all shared some personality traits. She describes them as precocious, self-driven, and not allowing obstacles to stand in their way.

The book includes stories of Betty Ford's dedication to dance at a young age. Ford founded her own dance studio in Grand Rapids at the age of 15, where she taught little girls and their mothers too.  Her career eventually led her to dance at Carnegie Hall.

Flickr user Chris Smith / Flickr

The Detroit Public Library turns 150 years old this week and will be celebrating Wednesday with an event that includes architectural tours of the historic main branch. The 1921 building is an architectural wonder, and is the fourth-largest library in the nation, with more than 7 million books.

Flickr user Julie Weatherbee / Flickr

There's a lot of attention and talk directed at start-ups about attracting new business to Michigan.

But writer Ilene Wolff pays tribute to some venerable long-time Michigan businesses. Her story, The Century Club: Michigan firms and businesses that have truly withstood the test of time, is in the current March/April print edition of DBusiness.

Flickr user Marion Doss / Flickr

One of the oldest structures in Detroit is being moved. The house, built in 1837, is the former home of Ulysses S. Grant.

Grant's residency in Detroit began when he was a young army officer when he was fresh out of West Point and transferred to the Detroit Barracks, according to Dan Austin of the Detroit Free Press and HistoricDetriot.org.

Bill Haney has spent many years in communications and book publishing in Michigan. 

His new memoir What They Were Thinking: Reflections of Michigan Difference-Makers tells the stories of the many special Michiganders he's come to know throughout the years.

The book includes profiles of 18 Michigan men and women, including the legendary sportscaster for the Detroit Tigers Ernie Harwell.

Wikimedia Commons

February 7th marks the 130th birthday of the American writer Sinclair Lewis, whose 1925 Pulitzer-prize winning novel Arrowsmith was the first novel to focus on the life of a medical scientist.

University of Michigan physician and medical historian Dr. Howard Markel says it's a wonderful historical analysis of everything that is great and problematic with American medicine.

Flickr user Joel Dinda / Flickr

Ghost towns don't only belong to the Old West. You can find them scattered all over Michigan, including Glen Haven, located in the Leelanau Peninsula right inside the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Marie Scott is a park ranger in the area. She says the town began before the civil war as a stop for steamers to pick up wood for fuel. As the traffic picked up, it grew from only a dock to a fully functioning town.

Alden Jewell / Flickr

Got milk? Well, back in the day, milk trucks drove door-to-door delivering the all important staple to your home.

Twin Pines, Sealtest, Borden’s, Washtenaw Dairy and Guernsey Farm are just a few of the companies that sent hardy little delivery trucks out every day, serving up home delivery of milk, cream, eggs and cheese.

grosse point lighthouse
Flickr user Teemu008 / flickr

West Michigan historian Larry B. Massie's book Blue Water, Red Metal & Green Gold: The Color of Michigan's Past includes 27 colorful human interest stories from Michigan's past, ranging from the 1800s to the 1950s

It is the 12th in his series Voyages into Michigan's Past, and his 21st book.

Priscilla and Larry Massie

If you're dashing around trying to take care of your holiday to-do list, it might be time to think back and remember a time in Michigan when a bowl of oyster stew was your Christmas dinner and a $1.75 pair of gloves took care of your Christmas gift for the wife!

Curwood reviewing his film, The Flaming Forest
Mitchell Speers

  Author, filmmaker, and conservationalist James Oliver Curwood was a Michigan native in the late 1800s whose stories gained popularity all over the world. When he died in 1927, he was said to be the highest-paid per-word author in the world, with much of his passion for writing about nature coming from a close encounter with a grizzly bear.

We talked to filmmaker and historian Mitchell Speers, who explores Curwood's life and works in an upcoming documentary, God's Country: The James Oliver Curwood Story.

Toledo, Ohio
OZinOH / Flickr

This weekend's Michigan-Ohio State game not only focuses attention on one of the longest, deepest rivalries in college sports, it also reminds us that Michigan and Ohio have been at loggerheads for the better part of 200 years.

Internet Archive Book Images / Flickr

Sometimes it’s a persistent annoyance that leads to a great solution. In this case the annoyance was cleaning up sawdust. It led to the creation of one of the most enduring ‘Made in Michigan’ brand names: Bissell. If you’ve ever shampooed or vacuumed your carpet with a Bissell machine, you can thank sawdust back in 1876. Mark Bissell is CEO of the Grand Rapids based company that bears his name.

People will be watching their old home movies, all over the world, on "Home Movie Day." The big event happens Saturday, October 18th. Organizers call it "an annual, worldwide celebration of amateur films."

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