Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Cupid Draw Back Your Bow....

Lansing's "lost generation" author John Herrmann met his spouse to be, Josephine Herbst, at a romantic cafe in Paris. He was hungover. Betty and Ange Vlahakis (proprietor of the former Jim's Tiffany in downtown Lansing) met on an airplane returning from Greece. Susan Kitzman married her boss, Matt Kitzman, after working with him at Schuler Books; Ray Stannard Baker, muckraker extraordinaire, married his botany professor's daughter, Jessie Beal; and Scott Harris and his spouse Marcy, both grieving losses, met in a bookstore.

You'll hear more about these pairings in the days leading to Valentine's Day as the Historical Society of Greater Lansing and the Lansing State Journal cooperate in the "Love Lansing" promotion to identify the most unusual romantic circumstances which brought two people together.

Judy Putnam, the award winning columnist, for the Lansing State Journal, has already written about other unusual pairings in her column, which you can read here.  One of them is downright eerie and involves an auto accident which brings a couple together 20 years later.

Tell us about the quirky, fateful, or romantic meeting between you and your significant other. The Lansing State Journal and the Historical Society of Greater Lansing will select one winner and nine runners up. All ten stories will be featured in the Historical Society's "Dating, Love, and Marriage" portion of the "Lansing Has Fun!" exhibit in Lansing City Hall. The winner will receive a box of chocolates from Fabiano's.

Submit your story by using the Lansing State Journal's letters to the editor option here. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Life in Greater Lansing 100 Years Ago

Life in Greater Lansing 100 Years Ago
Thursday, January 28, 2016 - 7:00 p.m.
Downtown CADL, 401 S. Capitol Ave.

President of Historical Society of Greater Lansing Valerie Marvin will present a talk 7:00 pm, Thursday, January 28 on "Life in Greater Lansing 100 Years Ago" which will explore the Capital City during an era of immense growth, the prelude to World War I, and an influx of immigrants. The address will be in the lobby of City Hall and will be preceded by the opening of the Society's newest exhibit.

The discussion complements the Society's new exhibit on Prohibition: the Wets vs the Drys, which is the first installment of the year-long celebration "Lansing Has Fun" which will be on display in the Lobby of Lansing City Hall. Marvin said each month during 2016, a new thematic mini-exhibit will be added. For example, February will celebrate love, dating, and marriage.

The Prohibition exhibit covers the period 1874-1933 and includes the prelude to Prohibition, the Temperance Movement, which was very active in Lansing and 1920-1933, which saw the emergence of speakeasies, stills, flapper girls, and police busts.

Marvin said one police bust ended with a life sentence for Etta Mae Miller for alcohol violations and created a national furor which contributed to the end of Prohibition. The Chicago Tribune compared it to the Salem Witch Trials. 

"It also surprises people that Lansing was "dry" well before prohibition," Marvin said.

Included in the exhibit are artifacts from the Women's Christian Temperance Union, Lansing Brewing Company, Carrie Nation, and some unique items from Lansing taverns.

Marvin said the decade of 1910-1920 brought about the construction of many of the buildings, churches and homes that are still part of Lansing today. She also said that even given some of the anti-German sentiment in the U.S. Lansing still elected a German born mayor who served during World War I, Mayor Reutter. Interestingly, the City renamed the old City Park in his honor during World War II.

She also said that then, as now, Michigan Agricultural College was beginning to grow and influencing the community.

Marvin said that immigration was an important issue in the 1900s and immigration of Southern and Eastern Europeans, along with the Great Migration fromt eh South, and the general movement from rural areas to the cities helped fill the need for workers driven by the expanding auto industry.

"A REO newsletter from that era reported that 87 Syrians who worked for the company became U.S. citizens through the company's night school program," Marvin said. "Also, in 1916 the largest number of students at MAC from any one foreign country were from China!"

"It's interesting--it seems the world should be so different, but it really wasn't!" she said.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

At the Crossroads of Fear & Freedom

At the Crossroads of Fear and Freedom

Dr. Robert L. Green
Tuesday, January 19 - 7:00 pm
Downtown CADL
401 S. Capitol Ave.

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing is hosting Dr. Robert L. Green, a civil rights activist and friend and colleague of Martin Luther King, 7:00 pm, Tuesday, January 19 at the downtown branch of the Capital Area District Library for a discussion and book signing of his new book, At the Crossroads of Fear and Freedom." The event is free and open to the public.

Green, while completing his PhD at Michigan State University, not only worked locally to assure open housing in East Lansing, but was recruited by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965 to serve as the education director for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. 

In the role he advocated for educational equity and led the crucial 1966 March Against Fear which, despite Ku Klux Klan threats and attacks by southern state troopers, advanced Civil Rights legislation.

At the book release, Green will not only describe the time he spent with King, but also will provide his views on relationships with MSU President John Hannah, Walter Adams, and Clifton Wharton.

In the 1970s, Green would become the first Dean of the newly formed College of Urban Development at MSU. He later became an expert implementing court-ordered desegregation for previously segregated school districts. He continues the role of education consultant from his home in Las Vegas, Nevada, and, in 2012, he participated in President Obama's education summit.

Valerie Marvin, President of the Historical Society, said his memoir is a virtual who's who of the Civil Rights Movement in this country, as well as internationally.

"In addition to being on the front line of momentous change, Green also advanced the use of persons of color in textbooks which until the 1960s showed only white faces," she said. "He changed how children see history."

"His passionate dedication to Civil Rights has touched so many people's lives and the Historical Society is proud to be a part of the launch of this important book," Marvin said. 

"If you ever doubt the impact one person can have you much read this book."

Marin said that although Green was already active in social justice concerns and knew Martin Luther King prior to King's visit to MSU's campus in 1965 it was there that King turned to Green and said, "Brother Green, you ought to join us in the struggle."

Former Mayor David Hollister, a friend of Green and himself an activist  in the 1960s Civil Rights battles will welcome Green.

Books will be available for purchase at the event. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Humanity in Photography of the North American Indian

Humanity in the Photography of the North American Indian

Saturday, December 12, 2015, 1:00 p.m.
Library of Michigan
702 W. Kalamazoo Street
Lansing, MI 48933

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing in partnership with the Library of Michigan is sponsoring a program on the early photography of the American Indian at 1:00 p.m., Saturday, December 12, at the Library of Michigan, located at 702 West Kalamazoo.

The program is being held in conjunction with the photo exhibit "From Sepia to Selfies; 150 years of Lansing Photographic History” featuring more than 300 professional and vernacular photographs of life in Lansing. The exhibit is free and will be on display until December 30.

Photographic collector and seller Doug Price of Ann Arbor will present “Humanity in the Photography of the North American Indian” and will display and describe the context of original photographs by numerous early 20th century photographers including Edward Curtis, Frank A. Rhinehart, Karl Moon and Grace Chandler Burns, a Michigan photographer who at the turn of twentieth century shot photographs in and around Harbor Springs and Petoskey of Indians performing in the Hiawatha Pageant. (Hiawatha pageants were dramatized enactments of Longfellow's "The Song of Hiawatha" performed by American Indians in the early 20th century for the tourist market.) Chandler was a photographer in Petoskey from 1899-1923 before moving to California.

Chandler also shot photographs of American Indian women going about their daily chores, Price said.

Price said that he will display original photographs from his collection that are representative of each photographer and provide the context within they were shot.

He said photographs of this type were virtually lost in time until the 1970s when Edward Curtis was rediscovered.

Curtis and the other famous photographers of that era worked in a technique called pictorialist photography which stressed the beauty of an image rather than its realism.

Price said pictorialist photography is sometimes criticized because the photographs were highly stylized and often posed for dramatic effect. Photographs were manipulated and retouched and often hand colored. Pictorialist photography was popularized by Edward Steichen as a way to put photography on the same plain as fine art.

Price began his interest in collecting and selling photography while working for the old Jocundry’s Books in East Lansing after he purchased a collection of Curtis photographs brought to his attention by a customer. He has bought, sold and collected prints since.

He believes what critics of pictorialist photographs often overlook is the photographers also shot as much as possible American Indians in everyday life going about work and recreational activities.

Curtis in particular was meticulous about Indian lore and life and did recordings, sketches and language interpretation. Curtis also allowed the particular Indians to choose their own traditional dress and artifacts to be photographed with.

“Some of his photography was the only record of some rituals which at the time were banned by the federal government. He was allowed by the Hopi to photograph the Snake Dance ceremony,” he said.

"Photographers who recorded traditional American Indian rituals and culture saw the value and beauty of cultures that were, at the time, largely discounted by most Americans. Their work is invaluable to historians and collectors alike," said HSGL President Valerie Marvin.

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing’s exhibit “From Sepia to Selfies: 150 years of Lansing Photographic History” is on display until December 30 on the fourth floor of the Library of Michigan. The exhibit is open during regular Library hours 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. weekdays and the second Saturday of the month, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

From Sepia to Selfies - 150 Years of Lansing Photographic History Exhibit

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing
150 Years of Lansing Photographic History

Library of Michigan
4th Floor
Sponsored by the Library of Michigan, Central Michigan University Clarke Library, and Studio de Danse, Lansing

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing, the Library of Michigan and Central Michigan University’s Clarke Historical Library are presenting “From Sepia to Selfies: 150 years of Lansing photographic history,” an exhibit that explores the roots and evolution of photography in Lansing.

Included in the exhibit are more than 300 rare, iconic and vernacular photographs representing virtually every aspect of Lansing from selfies to early cabinet photographers. The exhibit is free and on display until December 31. It also includes examples of rare, unusual and everyday cameras and photographic equipment.

Valerie Marvin president of the Society said more than 60 photographers, collectors and individuals loaned photographs and equipment for the exhibit. The Clarke Library provided interpretive panels on the history of photographic processes which provide an important timeline for the advancement of photography.

One highlight includes more than 60 cabinet cards from 60 individual Lansing photographers representing the full spectrum of portrait photography from the 1850s to 1930s in Lansing. The collection is from Jacob McCormick of Holt who has set his goal to collect a photograph from all of the 130 Lansing photographic companies who plied their trade in Lansing from the 1850s to 1930s.

Another segment of the exhibit focuses on Demonstrations and Celebrations at the State Capitol which was assembled by photojournalist David Olds and features both black and white and color photography of demonstrations as varied as bikers rallying against the helmet law to the massive right to work demonstrations.

Marvin said what is unusual about this exhibit is it blends both professional and vernacular (amateur) photography in showing events across Lansing’s history. She said an example is the photographs of the 1951 Cass fire which includes numerous images shot by bystanders and a professional photographer.

One particular Lansing amateur photographer Clara Heldemeyer was discovered through “lost” photo albums that turned up at an out-of-city estate sale. The three albums show some of Heldemeyer’s rare ability which led her to become a celebrated salon photographer and to exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. A number of her salon photographs including a portrait of Anais Nin are in the exhibit an on loan from.

The exhibit also has several salon photographs of Gerald Granger who competed and won recognition world-wide for his photography. At one time in the 1940s Granger was recognized in the top five of salon photographers, world-wide. Granger is also considered the first full time Lansing State Journal photographer.

Marvin said any exhibit on Lansing photography would not be complete without showcasing photography of Leavenworth Photographics which documented the 20th century history of Lansing as the premier commercial photographer. “

Their slogan “Anything Photographed. Anytime. Anywhere” does not give their talents and breadth of work justice. The firm, in its ninth decade, continues under the third owner Roger Boettcher who loaned several rare images and a panoramic camera belonging to the R.C. Leavenworth.

Other topics covered in the exhibit include Lansing disasters; daredevils; planes boats and trains; parades; aerial photography by Abrams; I-496 construction and deconstruction; how we see photography and how photography was used to record important events and life passages.

“Photography is one of the ways we have of recording and analyzing our history and this exhibit has opened the door to many more similar exhibits for the Society,” Marvin said.

“Visitors to the exhibit will walk away with their own favorite image and the photos will help us recall both good times and difficult times,” she said.

Two special events are planned focusing on news photography and photography of the American Indian.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Glendale Cemetery Tour on Sunday, September 13

This Historical Society of Greater Lansing is hosting a walking tour of Glendale Cemetery at 2 pm on Sunday, September 13 at 2500 Mt.Hope Rd., Okemos. The tour is free. The cemetery is located west of Okemos Rd.

Jane M. Rose, author of the recently published "Meridian Township" part of the "Images of America" series, will give a brief history of the cemetery and highlight a few women pioneers. The cemetery which currently has 9,000 gravesites was established in 1887 on land provided by R.P. Soule and J. Blakley.

Valerie Marvin, President of the Historical Society of Greater Lansing, said the tour will highlight the first African American to be hired by the City of Lansing, a member of the Polar Bear Expedition of World War I, the Commissioner of the State Police in the 1950s, and three victims of the Bath School Disaster of May 1927 where 44 individuals were killed and 58 injured in bombings by a disgruntled school employee. The tour highlights include:

Charles Henry Doane, who was the first African Americans to be hired by the City of Lansing. His son Charles H. Doane Jr. Married Nettie Thompson. Nettie's brother was William Thompson who was the first person of color to graduate from M.A.C. in 1904. Nettie's other brother Paris Thompson was one of only 10 African Americans to serve in WW1 from Ingham County.

James Mckane was a World War I Veteran, serving in the Polar Bear regiment which was used to guard the Trans-Siberian Railroad during the Russian Revolution. His father James Sr. came to the U.S. in 1866 from Northern Ireland and the Mckane family settled in Meridian Township sometime before 1900. In 1920, James Jr. worked as an inspector in an auto body shop in Ingham County. In 1930, James was living in Detroit and working as a contractor. By 1940, he moved back to Meridian Twp. and was self-employed in sales.

Michigan State Police Commissioner Joseph A. Childs, who was Commissioner from 1952-1965. He was born in 1909 and died in 1976. More than 10 Michigan State Police veterans are buried in Glendale. His predecessor Donald Leonard had just submitted his paperwork for retirement when the Jackson prison riots broke out in the spring of 1952. The papers were withdrawn quickly and Leonard commanded the efforts to bring the prison back under control, an effort that involved over 300 troops coming in from all across the state.

Childs also led disaster relief efforts in 1953 after a deadly tornado struck Flint and several communities eastward. One hundred and fifteen died and nearly 900 were injured. Troopers relocated to Flint for several weeks to help with disaster relief, receiving commendation from across the country for their efforts. To that end, he was part of the organization of the Michigan Civil Defense Emergency Team under Gov. Williams in 1954 for the purpose of putting in place a statewide team to handle disaster relief and recovery efforts.

He also introduced the blue police car, the diving team, and the canine patrol that we still know today, and saw the force grow to exceed 1000 for the first time.

Valerie Marvin said "Childs and others buried in Glendale are symbols of public service and a reminder that East Lansing, as the longtime headquarters of MSP, has been home to many who have served the state through MSP. Childs relatively simple gravestone gives little indication of the important work that he did to keep Michiganders safe and improve the quality of life in our state."

Monday, August 31, 2015

Eaton County Courthouse Tour

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing and Courthouse Square are hosting a tour of the historic Eaton County Courthouse and Museum, Thursday, September 3. The tour is free and participants should meet at the front of the Courthouse at 100 West Lawrence, Charlotte. A tour of the grounds and exterior architecture begins at 6 p.m. and the building tour at 7 p.m.

The Courthouse was constructed from 1882-1885 and was used for county business until 1976 when it was replaced by a new courthouse and county facilities.

Valerie Marvin, President of the Historical Society of Greater Lansing, said the Courthouse tour will cover everything from the architectural style to topics such as construction materials, how rooms were arranged and the symbolism represented in the structure.

Following the Civil War many counties in the North chose to celebrate the victory by erecting new and impressive public buildings. County courthouses were not only practical buildings housing important government business, but also were designed to elicit respect for the law and government, Marvin said.

In addition to touring the various rooms which served the court and government offices, the tour will explore how the architect David W. Gibbs of Toledo, Ohio, designed the brick and iron structure for efficiency in heating and cooling. Gibbs most notable work was the Wyoming State House, designed not long after the courthouse opened.

Marvin said the building was almost destroyed by fire in 1894 when fire caused the dome to crash to the floor, but the three side structures were unscathed and the Courthouse was restored.

In addition to public space the Courthouse included nine private offices for judges and public officials such as the register of deeds, county clerk and supervisor. It also contained water closets which Marvin said likely were a great surprise especially to rural residents at that time.

The Courthouse also included wood floors, doors and trim work constructed of pine, walnut and butternut harvested from nearby forests.

In 1976 the Courthouse was repurposed as a museum and a venue for weddings, parties and banquets.
Marvin said, Public structures were built in this time period with intent of celebrating civilizations accomplishments.

The residents of Eaton County are to be commended for saving this glorious structure, she said.

The HSGL will also host a tour of the Ingham County Courthouse on Thursday, September 17.

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Walking Tour of Old West Circle on MSU's Campus

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing will join with Stephen Terry, author of the postcard book “Michigan Agricultural College: 1900-1925,” for their first-ever walking tour of MSU's West Circle at 10 a.m., Saturday, August 22. The tour is free and begins at Beaumont Tower. Attendees should park in the ramp adjacent to the Olin Health Center just off Grand River.

Terry said the area to be covered in the walk was called the College’s “sacred space” where most of the earliest buildings and activities took place.

The tour will cover both standing buildings and those that were lost to demolition or fire such as Engineering and Wells Hall which both burned.

Terry said it is important to discuss MSU’s earliest days from the perspective of its architecture.
“There are only 12 buildings on the current MSU campus that were erected before 1925,” he said.
Included in that are the original Library-Museum building which anchors part of the east end of the Circle.

The building, which was built in 1881 and was repurposed over time for uses such as the Administration Building, was a place where students in the 1960s could go for a $5 loan to tide them over. It is now called Linton Hall.

Other sites on the walk include the newer Museum building, Agricultural Hall and numerous building and sites on what once was called Laboratory Row including Eustace-Cole Hall, Old Botany, Cook Hall, Chittenden Hall, Marshall Hall and Morrill Hall which was torn down in 2013.

Terry said the construction of Morrill Hall in 1899-1900 was really the marker for the establishment of the first Women’s College on campus even though there was a women’s curriculum as early as 1896 and women first attended the College in 1870. He said it served both as living quarters and classroom space for teaching domestic arts among other classes.

One example of the varied history of the buildings on the Circle is Chittenden Hall which was originally built in 1901 at the cost of $15,000 to house the dairy program and in 1913 was renamed the Forestry Building. It was recently renovated and now houses the University’s graduate programs.

Terry also will discuss the area where Gilchrist Hall is now located which was once home to Faculty Row, a collection of faculty residences. Only Cowles House is now remaining and that only has fragments from the original structure.

The “sacred ground” was also the site of many memorable gatherings and student events including the 1907 visit of President Theodore Roosevelt.

The author also will point out numerous quirky items along the tour including a horse watering trough which was a Senior Class Gift of the class of 1907 and was near where President Roosevelt delivered a speech titled “A Man Who Works With His Hands.”

Valerie Marvin said that the walking tour is one way to learn about the earliest architecture on campus but also about what went on inside and around the beautiful buildings.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Walking Tour Highlight West Side Neighborhood's African American History

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing will conduct a walking tour of Lansing’s near west side 7 p.m., Thursday, August 6 focusing on sites reflecting African American life before desegregation.

Sites include the Lincoln School, the Dungey Subdivision, the Moon House, Union Missionary Baptist Church and I-496 and the neighborhoods representing the color-line.  

The Dungey Subdivision encompasses Huron, Kalamazoo, Hillsdale and Martin Luther King and is named after Andrew and Ray Dungey who developed the first subdivision by African Americans in 1915.

The Lincoln Elementary/Community Center was located at 1023 William Street (corner of William and Logan). The school was torn down in the mid-1960s. Students at the school were almost entirely African American.

The Darius Moon House at 213 Huron Street is being recognized because Moon employed African American tradespeople including William Allen, a mason, and William Prute, a carpenter.

The Union Missionary Church, 500 S. Martin Luther King, which dates to 1909 is one of several churches in the area which were predominately African American. The site on Martin Luther King is the church’s third building with the first two located at 1024 W. Hillsdale.

Also the significance of Lansing’s “Color-Line” will be explored. The line which stretched from Butler Street west to Westmoreland St.; south to the Grand River and north to W. St Joseph by construct became the neighborhood where African Americans were expected to live prior to desegregation in the 1960s.

The tour also will explore the impact that the construction of I-496 in the mid-1960s had on the predominately African American neighborhood including the displacement of hundreds of African American families.  Nearly 900 homes and commercial buildings were torn down for construction of I-496 which bisected Lansing’s African American neighborhoods.

"As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Right movements, and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it's important for our community to reflect on the historical challenges faced by African-Americans in our own city. It's also a chance to remember a very vibrant community, where people lived, learned, laughed, and worshiped,” said Valerie Marvin, president of the Historical Society.

The tour will meet at the Union Missionary Baptist Church parking lot at 500 S. MLK. The parking lot is to the south of the church. The tour is free.