Michigan history

The Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
USACOE

We've been hearing from the experts that, thanks to the great winter and our friend the polar vortex, this is going to be quite a year for allergy sufferers.

Perhaps it might be time to revive The Ca-Choo Club.

The Ca-Choo Club was a very unique way to attract visitors to Sault Ste. Marie.

Beginning in 1928, it welcomed allergy sufferers who turned up to breathe that clean, cool, pollen-free air that swept in off Lake Superior.

Writer Deidre Stevens dug into the history of this quirky Ca-Choo Club for Michigan History magazine, and she joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Arsenal of Democracy book cover.
http://wsupress.wayne.edu/

There is no question that Detroit and the automobile industry played a major role in the Allied victory over Germany and Japan in World War II. We’ve often heard southeast Michigan described as the “Arsenal of Democracy.”

But not so well known is the struggle it took to turn the auto industry toward war production, particularly as women and African-American workers stepped up to take their places on the assembly lines.

Charles Hyde, professor emeritus of history at Wayne State University, joined us today. His new book is Arsenal of Democracy: The American Automobile Industry in World War II.

Listen to the full interview above.

When it comes to support for emergency care services, the U.S. just barely squeaked by with a passing grade, at least according to a new state-by-state report card put out by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

And how did Michigan measure up, you might ask? Well, it turns out we're failing in access to emergency health care. We heard some recommendations about ways to move forward.

Then, we met a woman who’s trying to help people come together to have some uncomfortable, but enlightening, conversations about race, class and more.

And, we spoke with Daniel Howes about Tom Lewand, Detroit’s job czar.

Also, “Saturday Night Live” just hired its first black female cast member in five years. Will this bring more attention to other black comedians?

And, a Michigan historian gave us a closer look at how Michigan milkweed helped us in World War II.

Also, the Michigan Human Society has a new way to find homes for their animals: social media.

First on the show, how do you best measure the progress of students in Michigan's classrooms and, by extension, the effectiveness of their teachers?

It's one of the thorniest challenges being debated in Michigan education.

For years, the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) and the Michigan Merit Examination (MME) have been the assessment tools. Now, with the move to the Common Core Standards, it's out with the MEAP and MME and in with the what?

Districts around Michigan are gearing up for an online adaptive assessment test in the spring of 2015.

The Michigan Department of Education says the state has only one option for testing students on the Common Core State Standards for the next three years.

And that option is the Smarter Balanced Assessment – the SBA.

But state lawmakers haven't made that official.

We wondered how districts  are preparing for the SBA or whatever test they're told to administer next year.

William Heath is the superintendent of the Morrice Area Schools and principal at Morrice Junior and Senior High School located in Shiawassee County. He joined us today.

Flickr user keithcarver / Flickr

Think about World War II and the ways Michigan helped the war effort: The Arsenal of Democracy, Rosie the Riveter, heavy bombers rolling off the assembly line at Willow Run.

And milkweed.

Yes, the common weed found in the northwest Lower Peninsula went to war.

Gerry Wykes is a historian and freelance author/illustrator who recently wrote about milkweed for Mlive and Michigan History Magazine. He joined us today to explain how this weed helped in the war effort.

Listen to the full interview above.

Credit Goldnpuppy / Wikimedia Commons

As Michigan cities age and populations shrink, some say that demolishing  abandoned buildings is essential to reviving these cities and stabilizing neighborhoods.

Take Detroit, for instance. One estimate puts the number of buildings set to be demolished at 10,000.

But amid the demolition, is there room to preserve historic structures? How do we determine what should be torn down and what's worth rescuing and restoring?

To help answer those questions, Preservation Detroit and the Michigan Historic Preservation Network just completed a survey of six historic areas in Detroit. They're hoping to bring a preservationist's point of view to decisions about blight and demolition.

Emilie Evans is a preservation specialist with the Michigan Historic Preservation Network, and she joined us today.

*Listen to the story above.

The Great recession and the accompanying housing meltdown changed the way many of us think about home-ownership. For decades, owning a home seemed to be part of the American Dream, but that dream has changed. On today’s show -- the rise of renters and what it means for the state’s housing market.Then, this month marks the 100 year anniversary of one of the most painful chapters in Michigan’s labor history. We explored the Copper Country Strike of 1913 later in the hour.

And, the U.S. birth rate is at a record low as more and more married couples choose to remain child free. We spoke with the director of the Childless by Choice Project about what goes behind this choice and what are the future consequences.

First on the show, Back in 2010, the State Board of Education approved the Common Core State Standards for Michigan — a set of math and English goals for K-12 students.

School districts across the state have spent the past three years integrating the standards into their curriculums. At the same time, we've heard a lot of political debate about Common Core, mostly about the involvement of the federal government in our classrooms.

But in October of this year, state lawmakers OK'd funding for Common Core, and now it is becoming a reality in Michigan classrooms.

We wanted to find out: What does this mean — day-in, day-out — for Michigan's students?

What does a school year under Common Core really look like?

Joining us is Naomi Norman, the executive director of Achievement Initiatives at Washtenaw Intermediate School District and Livingston Educational Service Agency.

This month marks the 100 year anniversary of one of the saddest chapters in Michigan history. It’s called The Italian Hall Disaster, a terrible tragedy that happened on Christmas Eve, 1913, in the Upper Peninsula town of Calumet. Someone yelled "Fire!" in a packed hall and the resulting stampede killed 73--60 of them children.

It happened during the Copper Country Strike, one of the most painful chapters in Michigan's labor history.

The Copper Country Strike of 1913 and the Italian Hall Disaster is the subject of new documentary called “Red Metal,” soon to air on PBS. It is drawn from a book about the disaster called Death’s Door, written by Steve Lehto. He’s a historian with ties to the Copper Country that go back to that bitter time.

Steve Lehto joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Flickr user Terry.Tyson / Flickr

 You drive around most neighborhoods these days and there is absolutely no doubt we love Halloween.

Once upon a time, you carved a pumpkin, popped in a candle and put it on your porch to greet trick or treaters.

Now, homes are decked out with giant webs and big spiders, ghouls and witches, and don't forget the lights. Halloween is now second only to Christmas for consumer spending.

Just when and where did this all begin? And how far back does Halloween go here in Michigan?

We turn to historian and contributor to the Detroit News Bill Loomis for the answers. 

Listen to the full interview above.

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.

Flickr user uzvards

When it comes to connecting with those who have gone before us -- learning from them, discovering the differences and the similarities between us and great-great-grandma's generation -- you just can't beat a letter.

The words and thoughts that someone puts down on paper can speak clearly through the years and the centuries. And they're worth heeding.

That's the idea behind Michigan In Letters, an online collection. One of the contributors to Michigan In Letters is John Fierst with the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University.

Fierst joined us today to discuss the collection.

Listen to the full interview above.

pcs-lodging

GRAYLING, Mich. (AP) - Camp Grayling is 100 years old.

Gov. Rick Snyder and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow are participating in events Saturday to celebrate the camp's centennial. There will be military ceremonies, music, food and fireworks. More than 4,000 active Michigan service members are expected to attend.

Camp Grayling covers 230 square miles, primarily in Crawford County in northern Michigan.

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.

http://anthropology.msu.edu/

We live in a complex world of technology, of instant communication with just about any spot in the world.

So it is all too easy for us to lose track of our roots, our history.

Who were the first people to call Michigan "home" and what can we learn from those first Michiganders?

Bill Lovis is a professor and curator of anthropology at Michigan State University.

“They came from the South,” Bill said of the first state inhabitants.

Around 12,000 years ago, Michigan was under ice, with several lobes of glaciers covering the state. As the ice receded and melted, people moved up into the state and the Great Lakes began to form.

It was still several thousands of years before Michigan’s terrain began to resemble what it is today. Glaciers left the land very cold, barren, and wet, and it took a long time for forestation to begin. The earliest inhabitants were families who moved across this landscape going from resource to resource.

While these early settlers maybe seem very distant to modern Michiganders, they still touch our lives today.

“Anyone who has a corncob with their braut in the summer is being impacted by Native American society,” said Bill. “The food crops are exceptionally important contributions to the world economy.”

Listen to the full interview above.

The U.S. Senate has passed its 2013 Farm Bill, a huge piece of legislation - totaling almost a trillion dollars. We'll found out just what's in the bill, and why, as Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow likes to say, "Michigan is written into its every page."

And, we got an update on the Detroit mayoral race after one of the front-runners got kicked off the ballot.

First on the show, we continue our look at the Great Lakes. Yesterday, we talked about the state's "blue" economy, using our water resources to create jobs and boost industry here in Michigan.

So, today, let's turn to some encouraging news about our lakes from the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. They've just released an interactive map that pinpoints success stories across the region, efforts to restore the lakes with projects funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

To get an idea of what these success stories are and the challenges to the lakes that still remain, we turned to Andy Buchsbaum, the director of the National Wildlife Federation's regional Great Lakes Office.

On a pleasant spring day in Lansing, exactly 100 years ago today, then-Governor Woodbridge Ferris struck a blow for history. He signed a bill creating the Michigan Historical Commission.

Today, the current commissioners are celebrating the commission’s 100th anniversary. Governor Ferris is long forgotten and the original commissioners are all long dead.

But the commission is still hanging in there, trying to make us conscious of our state’s fascinating past. They are the folks, by the way, behind the Michigan Historical Marker Program. Nearly everyone has seen some of the more than 1,700 green and gold markers in front of buildings from the old Model T plant in Highland Park to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

You might say it‘s been quite a century. When the historical commission first got going, there were still people living who had been alive when Michigan was just a territory.

This story includes historically racist language that some readers may find offensive.

We're in the midst of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

So your great uncle, the war re-enactor, is probably having the time of his life.

But for those who have trouble sitting through all nine episodes of the Ken Burns “Civil War” documentary, now there’s something for us, a new online archive is bringing Michigan’s Civil War letters into the Google Age.

Library of Congress

"Thank God for Michigan."

It’s supposedly what Abraham Lincoln uttered in May of 1861 as 75,000 Michigan volunteers marched into Washington – the first to answer his call for help from what were then the western states in preserving the union.

But there’s no proof Lincoln said that, according to Bob Garrett.

He’s an archivist who researched Lincoln for the Michigan Historical Center in Lansing.

“Who knows? A lot of things like this get passed around and, you know … I don’t know. I would call that apocryphal. Maybe he said it. He might have. He very well might have, but I have not seen any evidence that he said that,” Garret said.

Birg Niagara. The tall ship can be seen during the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 celebration in Detroit Sept. 4-10, 2012. The ship will be outside the GM Ren Cen.
Flagship Niagara League / Facebook

There's a huge party happening right now on Detroit's Riverfront!

It's the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812.

The War of 1812 was when Great Britain and the new United States of America slugged it out over trade, over the British habit of grabbing American ships and sailors and forcing them to serve King George (yes, THAT same King George we beat in the Revolutionary War!!)

The War of 1812 Bicentennial and Navy Week are being celebrated this week with events happening from downtown Detroit to Lake St Clair.

Tom Hayden, co-author of the Port Huron Statement
user KCET Departures / Flickr

A group of university students wrote the Port Huron Statement fifty years ago at a UAW retreat center, north of Port Huron. They called themselves “Students for a Democratic Society.” One of the main participants was political activist Tom Hayden, who was in his early twenties at the time.

The statement begins with these words: "We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit."

Michigan Department of Natural Resources / Michigan.gov

This morning, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson unveiled two new Michigan license plates.

(Click through the photos above to see Michigan plates through the ages.)

Standing on the Mackinac Bridge, Johnson revealed two newly designed plates that promote the state's Pure Michigan campaign.  A simple blue and white version will eventually replace the state's standard plate, but another more colorful option featuring the Mackinac Bridge will also be available.

The plates will be available beginning early next year.

Michigan Olympians

Jul 20, 2012
Betsey Armstrong
Michael Larson / USA Water Polo

In the opening ceremonies next week, when the United States’ flag bearer declines to dip the Stars and Stripes for Queen Elizabeth, he or she will be following the lead of Ralph Rose, a Michigan alum who refused to lower the flag in the 1908 London Olympics, for King Edward VII. 

Rose explained, "This flag dips for no earthly king." 

Wolverines have also made their mark on the podium, winning 138 medals, including 65 gold. This year, Michigan is sending 26 athletes and coaches to London, who will compete in nine different sports. 

The list includes Betsey Armstrong, a graduate of Ann Arbor Huron High – widely considered the greatest high school in the history of Western Civilization —who will play goalie for the water polo team.

Tiffany and Jeff Porter both set hurdling records at Michigan, before getting married – even as Tiffany was becoming a doctor of pharmacy. 

There’s Connor Jaeger, an engineering student who walked onto the swimming team, and finished as a three-time NCAA All-American.  

There’s Sam Mikulak, a gymnast, who broke both ankles at a meet last year on the same landing.  He finished his remaining events – and learned afterward he’d fractured both ankles.  Not all tough guys play football.

And there’s Jerome Singleton.  When he was just one year old, doctors amputated his right leg below the knee.  He went on to become an engineering student, and a world-class paralympian – Michigan’s first.  

Jada Hahlbrock / Ann Arbor DDA

The Downtown Development Authority is getting ready to open the new Library Lane parking structure on Ann Arbor's South Fifth Ave. In the process, the group hopes to preserve a snapshot of the city's zeitgeist sealed beneath the structure's Division St. staircase.

DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay estimates that the time capsule will be reopened 100 to 200 years from now. She sees the project as a way in which all Ann Arborites can participate in the parking project.

"It's a chance to say 'hello' to people in the future," she said.

DDHS website

A new group of history lovers has been meeting to talk about Detroit’s history. The Detroit Drunken Historical Society started three months ago and the group meets at a different Detroit bar each month.

At the group's meetings, a speaker usually gives an informal presentation. Recent topics included Native American Chief Pontiac and Detroit Catholic priest and politician Gabriel Richard

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry describes the history of Michigan’s primary as both fascinating and bizarre.

According to Lessenberry, Michigan held its first presidential primary in the early part of the 20th century. At that time people voted for Henry Ford in two separate primaries. To be exact, those primaries took place in 1916 and then in 1924, according to the Michigan Department of State Bureau of Elections.

I have on my desk a beautiful, red-bound hardcover book published by our state exactly a century ago. It’s the Michigan Manual for nineteen eleven and nineteen twelve, sort of a one-volume encyclopedia of politics, government and life in our state.

This particular one has beautiful, fold-out maps of railroad line and judicial circuits and photos and biographies of all the state officeholders. I can find out exactly how people voted, or how to get  information about vacant swampland from the state land office.

This is a fascinating book, more than nine hundred pages long, and I bought it at a used book store for a dollar. Michigan has been publishing the Manual every two years since statehood, and I own all of them since eighteen sixty nine. Old timers in Lansing just call it “the red book.“ If you want to research our history, they are a  good place to start. Also on my desk is the most recent Michigan Manual,  published two years ago. Frankly, it isn’t nearly as nice as the century-old version, though I had to pay fifty bucks for this one. To save money, they dropped a lot of information.

Happy birthday Michigan!

Jan 26, 2012

Happy Birthday Michigan - you don't look a day over 175... Well, that's because the state is, indeed, celebrating its 175th birthday today as Governor Snyder has declared it, "Michigan Statehood Day."

Michigan was "admitted to the union in 1837 as the 26th state," the Associated Press notes. The Detroit Free Press' Ron Dzwonkowski has a nice piece this morning on the state's history.

And, if that piques your interest, check out Michigan Radio Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry's story about the early days of the state, including the incredible history of Michigan's "boy governor" Stevens T. Mason who, as Lessenberry describes, "flashed across history like a comet, accomplishing more at a younger age than anyone could have dreamed possible and then burning out even faster. He made Michigan a state, fought the Toledo War, won the Upper Peninsula, established public education, and otherwise put the mitten on the map before his career collapsed. He died at a tragically young 31."

And, if you're a real Michigan history buff - check out the state's Constitution from 1835. Or, check out this "tourism map" from 1839.

Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

The North American International Auto Show opens to the public tomorrow.

The show has been a time for automakers to roll out new models and concept cars, letting consumers know what to expect in the future. The Detroit Three are heading into the year’s auto show with positive sales figures.

Joining us to take a historical look at the auto show and the Detroit Three is Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry.

You can read Michigan Radio reports and see photos and video here.

 

 

wikimedia commons

They called him the "boy Governor" because he was elected to be Michigan's first Governor at age 23.

Today is Stevens T. Mason's 200th Birthday.

At noon today, a statement from Michigan's 48th Governor, Rick Snyder, will be read about the state's first Governor. The governor's offices says the statement will be read "during a ceremony honoring Mason hosted by the Michigan Historical Commission." 

The ceremony is at noon today at Detroit’s Capitol Park, "the location of Michigan’s first Capitol and Mason’s burial site."

Here's Governor Snyder's statement:

“The story of Michigan’s first governor is the story of Michigan’s birth.  Although his actions often made him unpopular in his time, today we owe Stevens T. Mason thanks for his relentless pursuit of statehood.

“When Congress refused to act on a petition to grant statehood, Mason initiated a territorial census to prove the territory qualified under the Ordinance of 1787.  When Congress refused to seat Michigan’s delegates, Mason reached a resolution that ended the dispute over the Toledo Territory and gave Michigan the western reaches of the Upper Peninsula.  And when Michigan’s own people refused to accept the terms of this agreement, Mason forged ahead and led a new convention that resulted in Michigan joining the Union.  All by the age of 25. 

“Michigan has a rich, fascinating history of innovators, builders and leaders like Stevens T. Mason who helped turn Michigan’s unsettled wilderness into a state that eventually became an industrial powerhouse.  When we remember them, we remember and are inspired by the qualities of the people who made our state great.” 

The state is holding a series of workshops to get the public’s feedback about historic preservation. A meeting is planned in Traverse City on September 21 and in Detroit on October 12. Another meeting will take place in Lansing in January.

People have already attended workshops in Kalamazoo and Midland. Their biggest concern so far is the lack of funding for preservation programs.

Laura Ashlee is with The State Historic Preservation Office.

“As part of the governor’s restructuring of taxes in Michigan for businesses he eliminated the tax credits for historic preservation. There will be a new program, we believe, and we’re going to work with the governor to implement that program.”

Ashlee says historic preservation also makes economic sense. She says people are employed when working on restorations. She also says historic buildings attract people and businesses to that area. 

The State Historic Preservation Office is in the process of writing its plan for the next five years. And the public’s feedback will help shape its plan.

Screenshot from UAW website / www.uaw.org

Once again Michigan Radio’s political analyst Jack Lessenberry unleashes his knowledge of Michigan history. This time we get a historical perspective about negotiations between the United Auto Workers and Detroit automakers.

Contract talks have already started between the UAW and General Motors, Chrysler and Ford. But these talks are a little different this time around.

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