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Michigan history

Michigan History Center

Big outdoor stadiums hosting hockey is a trend that’s been on the rise over the past decade. The 2014 NHL Winter Classic, held in Michigan Stadium, drew more than 100,000 fans to watch the Red Wings play the Toronto Maple Leafs, the largest crowd ever to watch a professional hockey game.

But the Wings' very first outdoor game wasn’t at a stadium or even in a big city. It took place in 1954, at the self-proclaimed “Alcatraz of the North.” The opponent: the Marquette Prison Pirates.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A museum dedicated to honoring Michigan women is moving to a new home, near to the food court in a Lansing area shopping mall.

Last week, movers were busy loading cardboard boxes at the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame.   For 3 decades, the museum has called the Cooley Haze House home.   But the building, overlooking downtown Lansing from its perch next to General Motors Grand River assembly plant, is showing signs of its age. 

Michigan History Center

100 years ago this week, the United States officially entered what was then called "The Great War." We know it today as World War I.

Wikimedia Commons

 


“All she wanted to do was leave.”

 

That’s how Barbara Niess-May, executive director of SafeHouse Center in Ann Arbor, described the case of Francine Hughes of Dansville, Michigan.

Michigan History Center

The story of how Lansing became our state capital starts when Michigan is in its infancy – back in the early 1800s.

When Michigan became a territory in 1805, Detroit was named territorial capital – and for good reason.

“It was the largest city, certainly, and it was also accessible by water, which was very important in an era when roads are, at best, terrible in most places,” said Valerie Marvin, Michigan state Capitol historian.

corktown sign
Robert Duffner / Wikimedia Commons / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan’s Irish traditions go back nearly 250 years.

The first Irish immigrants largely settled on the East Coast, in large cities like Boston and New York. But they soon started heading west.

Because Detroit was founded by the French, it was an established as a Catholic city, which was attractive to many of the Irish facing persecution by Protestants back home.

Courtesty of SEEKING MICHIGAN OF THE MICHIGAN HISTORY CENTER

All Thornton and his wife Lucie Blackburn wanted was freedom when they came to Detroit in 1831. The African-American couple came to what was then still Michigan territory to escape the inhumane, but legal institution of slavery in Kentucky.

Little did the couple know, but their escape to Detroit was just a prelude to a bigger story; a story that would impact tens of thousands in the future.

Schaetzl said glaciers carved out all of Michigan's peninsulas.
Screen grab Google Maps / Google

What's the story behind Michigan's Thumb?

Courtesy of David Kiley

Two young people kept their love alive throughout World War II with letters – hundreds of them.

David Mertl / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Get a group of Michiganders together, add a deck of cards, and chances are pretty good you'll wind up with a game of euchre.

It was once dubbed "the queen of all card-games" and was wildly popular in the late 1800s. But its popularity waned through the 20th century. That is, except in Michigan and a handful of Midwestern states, nicknamed the “Euchre Belt.”

Courtesy of the Michigan History Center/Archives of Michigan

Happy birthday, Michigan!

On Jan. 26, 1837, 180 years ago today, Michigan became the 26th state to join the union.

Before that could happen, there was some housekeeping to do, namely: to settle the fight between Michigan and Ohio over a narrow strip of land known as the Toledo Strip. The conflict is otherwise known as the "Toledo War."

State Archivist Mark Harvey from the Michigan History Center joined Stateside to look back at how the state of Michigan got started.

Today's silent march in Ypsilanti.
Courtesy of Lynne Settles

There is extra special importance to this Martin Luther King Day in Ypsilanti.

Remarkably, it was 150 years ago on this day that abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass spoke in Ypsilanti – one of three visits Douglass made to the town.

Today, Ypsilanti High School students are marking both MLK Day and the Douglass visit with a silent march to the site of that speech that happened in 1867. In commemoration, they’re also opening an art exhibit.

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.

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