michigan history

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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Plans for a massive history festival in Ludington have hit a massive snag.

History Prize is modeled after ArtPrize, the massive art competition in Grand Rapids. Instead of art, this 19-day event would celebrate history.

Small community, big event

The small lakeshore community of Ludington won a competitive bid process to host History Prize, which is still scheduled to launch in the summer of 2016. But if it does, it will move forward without the support of some key players – including the Ludington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the local board that formed to build History Prize.

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.

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.

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.

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.

  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.

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Ludington will host a new 19-day history festival when it launches in the summer of 2016.

Several Michigan communities were vying for the festival, called History Prize. Organizers are modeling after the hugely successful ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids.

“We’re still early in the planning stages but very hopeful this is going to have a huge impact, not only for Ludington and Mason County, but the surrounding region as well,” says Brandy Henderson, of the Ludington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

If you grew up in Michigan, your history books showed you images of slavery: black men and women picking cotton in the South.

Michigan, we learned, was a very important part of the Underground Railroad, helping African-Americans across the border to freedom in Canada.

But what we weren’t taught was this: Slavery helped build Detroit.

Some of the best-known names used for roads, counties, cities and schools around Southeast Michigan belong to old families who owned slaves.

Bill McGraw dug into "Detroit's Big Bad Secret" for Deadline Detroit.

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.

Is there anyone who hasn't scanned the radio dial on a long road trip and endured noisy static,  angry talk shows, and music that disappoints  in a desperate search for a classic rock station?

But who knew the classic rock concept was born in Michigan almost 30 years ago?

Fred Jacobs, an Oakland County-based radio consultant, was part of that birth in 1985. He said WMMQ in Charlotte, Michigan, was the first classic rock station, and the format quickly spread across the country.

Jacobs said he was inspired by complaints from listeners who couldn't find the music they had grown up with and loved. 

Jacobs said classic rock is not the same as "golden oldies." It is about the golden age of rock – music people will still be listening to in 100 years. 

Jacobs said classic rock started with music from the 60s and 70s and musicians like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, and Eric Clapton. 

But he said it's all about the music of your youth that you never get tired of hearing.  And as generations move on, classic rock has added 80s and even more recent music to its roster.

You just never know what that summer job during college might do. It just might affect the course of your life and send you down a path you'd never expect.

Dennis Cawthorne's summer job in 1960 found him on Mackinac Island. He was a kid who was standing on the street and enticing tourists onto horse-drawn tour wagons and taxis.

That humble summer job led to some 50 years of living and working on Mackinac Island for Cawthorne. He has been a lawyer, a state legislator, the chairman of the Mackinac Island State Park Commission and much more.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/History-Prize/146759932084035

Ludington and Traverse City are on a short list for a new 19-day festival being planned for 2016.

History Prize would be modeled after ArtPrize in Grand Rapids. Organizers of the new event hope to offer cash prizes in the tens-of-thousands of dollars for the best exhibitors.

We’ve got Cass County, Cass City, Cassopolis, and Cass Tech High School in Detroit.

There's also Cass Lake, and many other cities, townships, and streets around the country all named after Lewis Cass, a towering figure in Michigan and the United States in the 19th century.

But most of us don't know much about Lewis Cass.

Historian Bill Loomis wrote a story published in the Detroit News titled "Lewis Cass, the titan of Michigan’s early years."

“His writing was not as fiery as lot of other people, so he wasn’t quoted often,” Loomis says. “He was also temperate; he didn’t drink, so he wasn’t a real sociable type of person.”

Moehle family photo

Imagine this: you head out for a quick paddle on a small lake, someplace really close to home. And what do you discover sticking out of the muck on the lake bottom? A rack of antlers so big your first reaction is to call them “dinosaur bones.”

That’s what happened to a girl and her dad in Benzie County last Easter. Now they have test results that show they’ve likely landed on a museum piece. Evidence is very strong this is a rare example of an extinct elk that disappeared from Michigan around 1875.


Linda Stephan / Interlochen Public Radio

 Sand dunes immediately surrounded the Lake Michigan Beach House when it was first built back in 1935. These days almost a million visitors trample the shore every summer at the Ludington State Park Beach and that traffic has flattened the immediate dunes to sugar sand beach.

But a piece of that 1930s landscape has been restored, the beach house itself has stepped back in time after a painstaking restoration that began back in 2008.

Winds Wearing Away History

Maritime Heritage Alliance

  A replica of an armed sloop from the 1700s is leaving the waters of Grand Traverse Bay and heading to Emmet County. The Maritime Heritage Alliance will begin the process of moving The Welcome this week. Thursday they’ll use a crane to pull her mast.

The Welcome was built in Mackinaw City. It’s no longer safe for passengers, so Emmet County is now hoping to build a museum around it as a welcome center to the Headlands International Dark Sky Park.

We told you last year about the uncertain future of the Michigan factory where the iconic Rosie the Riveter and thousands of other women built B-24 bombers during World War II. Sadly, it could be the end of the road for the Willow Run plant in Ypsilanti Township.

The Associated Press reports Tuesday:

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.

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